I sat up in bed and looked at Roger who was standing in the hallway outside our bedroom on Shamrock Drive. The only light was shining a dim yellow from a small fixture above and behind his head, so I could only see his shape, and not his face. He was about to pull down the stairs to the attic because we just heard a mouse trap snap.
When he reached up and slowly pulled down the creaky stairs, I saw something quite large fall fast to the ground, and it created a thump with a metal tick. Roger stood there for a long pause, looking down. I pulled the blankets up above my nose.
“Was that a mouse?!” I asked Roger.
“I’m pretty sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“It looks like a big mouse.”
Something was off with this “mouse.” It was about three times the size of the mouse trap that took its life, and it looked young, showing us it had more growing to do.
Turns out, it was a baby rat. Our game had to change, and we didn’t know what to do, so we had to research using our dial-up internet on our off-white desktop computer we all shared. We learned that we had Norway rats, also called brown rats. They are about a foot long, can weigh over a pound, and are not always afraid of people.
Because our funds were limited, we decided to tackle the issue ourselves with traps. Rat traps are huge and dangerous to human fingers, and we didn’t realize just how infested our three bedroom ranch was, mostly in the crawlspace under the house, and in the attic above, but not only.
They found their way into the ductwork and would come up to the vents and taunt our dog, Annie. Also, one morning I woke first and went to the kitchen to make coffee. I felt a presence, so I turned towards the pantry area in the laundry room to see one eating flour through a large tear she created, face covered in white powder. When she saw me, she turned slowly to look at me, smirked, then turned back and continued to silently gobble up flour.
“Go!” I yelled. She didn’t flinch.
I read how even although rats are large (bigger than a shovel head), they can contort their bodies and fit through a hole the size of a quarter. Also, they chew through anything except metal, like steel wool, and I read how they have been known to nibble on children’s faces at night if they have food residue on them.
“You’re all sleeping in my room tonight,” I said to the boys. Roger was on duty at the barracks. We set up camp for the night in my room, and I tucked blankets under the door crack so we would be safe.
Also, one day I heard Tyler yelling, “Mom!”
“What!?” I yelled as I ran towards his room.
“One’s loose in here!” Tyler was standing on a step ladder and the rat was frantically running from wall to wall, banking off his bed and a side table, seeking the little hole it came in through. It found it and left.
Because we were tired of the invasion and I knew what Tye meant when he said “one,” we had to make moves. It was time to call someone. The next morning I did and the issue was resolved in less than a week.
I remember that time of dread, though, and the feeling of helplessness that Roger and I both shared. We were worried about the financial aspect of it as well, because our purchases of steel wool, rat traps, and professional pest control, had to be put on one of our many high-interest credit cards, increasing our already large debt. Plus, we had many repairs to make of walls, ductwork, and the attic insulation, that would have to wait until later. We also lost many items we had in storage like Christmas decorations, baby clothes, and the kids’ old schoolwork due to rat nibbles.
People with financial issues must simply coexist with rodents or insect invaders. It’s just another one of those elite purchases, another tiny step on our multi-story socioeconomic ladder that some can’t afford while others don purses worth 50K. We almost had to deal with it, but thankfully we managed to have it taken care of. Usually memories like this become funny one day, but for me, it never did. It was simply too frightening, and they still visit my nightmares.