Our gardener, Barry, warned us.
We hadn’t paid much attention. After all, he was the one who’d encouraged us to kill the ivy that blanketed the house, spray weedkiller on it, along the walkway to eliminate the daisies while we were at it.
We figured our ivy-covered walls looked classy, sophisticated, and established. Until the shit ate through the mortar and broke apart the molding, crept in through any semi-available opening. We pulled it down by hand because weedkiller would only wind up in our well water. We haven’t been poisoned, but we can’t find the walkway anymore either.
Move the compost heap well away from the house, Barry had said, or you’ll wind up attracting rats. Get a rat in the house, and it’s all over. You’ll never get him out.
Despite placing the compost heap on the other side of the yard, we now have ourselves a rat living in the attic. Not one of those filthy New York City street rats that eat children, but a country cousin that probably does just as much damage. I can hear him chewing incessantly above my head, from behind the walls. Right now, as I type. He’s probably working on the family pictures, our climbing gear, or the electrical wires.
Rattigan, that’s what we’ve named him, because after all this time, we’re on a first name basis. I‘d considered calling him Willard, after the 1971 horror film, but decided I needed to able to sleep at night while he’s at his most active.
There’s a reason scientists study rats. They’re ridiculously smart.
A rat can spot a set up from a mile away. He can navigate a hair-trigger trap, pull a hunk of pear off the platform—by the way, rats love pears, cheese not so much— all without so much as a snap. Walt, he’s nearly lost his fingers setting the damn thing up, so go figure.
I can picture Rattigan shaking his head, lighting a cigarette, marveling at our naiveté.
We’ve tried everything to get rid of him. We tried being nice, but now we’re going for blood.
Walt read that bars of soap would drive him out. Rattigan, he uses them as hockey pucks. From the sound of things, he’s having the time of his life.
We bought a 20-Euro catch-and-release trap that’s completely useless. Rattigan nips in, grabs the bait, then saunters out without so much as a whisker out of place. (This, by the way, is how I know all about rat dietary preferences. Don’t believe it when you read that they go for peanut butter. They don’t.)
Barry brought over his trap, circa 1957, and let us know that it would have to be up in the attic for a few months before Rattigan would go near it. Rats, they shy away from anything new in their environment, that’s what Barry says. Except, guaranteed, I could put a running lawn mower in the attic and Rattigan would be all over it. He’d even plant his fuck-you flag on the engine block.
My friend Nicky is having similar issues. We write to each other and exchange prescriptives. She bought some spearmint oil off of Amazon U.K—rats apparently hate the smell—and some kind of sonic thing that people can’t hear but drives rats mad. Pretty sure her rats got a laugh out of that. If you sprinkle black pepper around the house, that should keep them at bay as well. Not sure how that stuff holds up given the rain. But it sounds nice and eco-friendly.
Me, I’m ready to try the open bottle of ammonia. Sure, it’s going to be really unpleasant around here for a while, but I think it’s well worth it. We may have to move out to the hunting lodge for the month of March, but it’s starting to warm up around here. Walt and I will light a fire, take turns sleeping on the couch, visit the compost heap when we get hungry.
I’ll let you know how this goes.