Twelve-year-old Pearl, cat in residence, has earned her reputation as a critter-catcher. One night, as my husband and I sat on the deck enjoying a starry sky, Pearl slipped into the house with her mouth full of something dark and furry.
"Chipmunk," my husband guessed, just as Pearl released her toy in the house and resumed the game on her home turf. "She'll get it, "my husband assured me as I groaned about having a chipmunk running loose in the house.
By morning, Pearl was showing no interest in the pursuit, and there was no evidence that the deed had been done. I wondered whether this episode would end with a rodent running across my path or with a smell that would require a search and recovery mission. I didn't like either scenario.
That evening, as my husband worked at his desk in his study, he called out ominously, "It's not a chipmunk." Oh dear. We locked the cat in the study and hoped for the best. No luck. "Call an exterminator," my husband advised.
I called first thing in the morning and waited for his scheduled afternoon visit. About lunchtime, as I walked to the front door to let the dog out, a plump and panicked gray field rat scurried down the hall toward the door. I rushed to open the door and let it out, but by this time the dog was ready to pick up the chase, so off they went into the living room.
It was a blur of frantic skittering and galloping and sliding. I can only imagine my personal soundtrack in the midst of this. Squealing and shrieking come to mind. There may also have been some jumping up and down and arm-waving. I know my adrenaline was in full gear and it was, for heaven's sake, a rat in the house!
The rat took refuge behind a heavy credenza, so I put the dog out in the yard and scrambled to find something to keep the rodent where it was. I plugged the spaces between credenza and wall on both sides with rolled up towels and called my husband to give him an update. "Rats can climb over towels, " he cautioned.
Okay, okay, what could I use to fill the narrow gaps between the credenza and the wall? I scanned the house looking for something rectangular and solid. Eureka. I build barricades with cereal boxes and books, and by the time I was done, that rat was not going anywhere. I figured the worst that could happen was he would eat some cereal while we waited for the exterminator.
For the next two hours I guarded the rat with a broom at the ready. I checked on him every few minutes, and he really wasn't bad-looking for a rat. Certainly he was nothing like the scabrous, vicious predators that are infamous in New York, my home town. He was clean and roly-poly and actually sort of cute.
When the exterminator came, he dismantled the cereal-box barricades and guided the rat into a bucket. "He's a nice healthy-looking rat," I said, "Just let him out somewhere -- but not in my yard."
"Yes, ma'am," the cheerful exterminator assured me, "I'll take him to a field and release him. He'll be fine."
I felt good about the outcome until I related the tale to my husband. He laughed and reminded me how his Dad used to catch chipmunks and mice in a Have-a-Heart trap. Our boys always wanted to know what Granddaddy was going to do with the critters he caught. "I'm going to teach them how to swim," he replied. This satisfied the boys' gentle compassion for little furry things. They never knew that Granddaddy also said, under his breath, "I've never found one yet that could swim."
So now I wonder if my rat is happily roaming the countryside, or if my exterminator has just had lots of practice dealing with soft-hearted housewives.