It should have been a warning that something was amiss when Gabi found a cracker in her dresser drawer. I mean, finding a cracker among your shorts is kind of like finding a sneaker in the fridge – something’s a bit off camber.But when the second cracker appeared in the same place one day later, my dear wife firstly accused me of a practical joke and then, since she views all food as fair game, she ate it. A few days later, when we put the cracker-in-the-drawer thing together with the presence of the rat I was chasing around our apartment at 10 p.m., the idea of nibbling on a misplaced cracker suddenly seemed less appealing to my wife. I doubt I’ll ever forget the look on her face when she realized that she’d unwittingly shared a snack with a rodent. Said rat had discovered our cache of bus snacks we’d carried back from our trip to Siem Reap, and, as rats do, had apparently been tucking them away amongst Gabi’s shorts for safe keeping. The little bastard first made his real presence known early one morning while I sat before my laptop, scanning Facebook for messages and sending emails to family and friends. It scurried along the wall, seemingly unaware of my presence, and when I rose, horrified and, I’ll admit, a little scared, it scampered up first one set of drapes and then another, seeking an exit. I sprinted to the kitchen for a weapon and returned a moment later, armed with a broom and a mop. Envision: A middle-aged guy in a tank top and shorts, bathed in the light of dawn, scowling as he searched, threateningly brandishing cleaning equipment. Like a paunchy Mr. Clean declaring a jihad on the rodent population.
The rat had disappeared, for the moment avoiding me and the inevitable showdown.That was several days ago, but once I knew we had a visitor I went on a mission to find its point of access, it’s resting places and dining habits and I began to plot its demise. What Kirsty had thought was “gecko poop” turned out to be excreta di ratta, and suddenly the tiny droppings went from being quaint reminders of life in Southeast Asia to disgusting evidence of vermin within. So I was off to Pencil market, and returned moments later with a boxful of pink rat poison which I spread on a piece of cardboard near the buffet in our dining room. That oughta do it, I thought to myself, envisioning a poison-ladened rat stumbling its way to a quiet place to die, hopefully a few miles from our doorstep. Kirsty was the next to spot the troublemaker one night later, and, after asking me to describe the dimensions of the rat I’d seen, declared the rats we’d witnessed to be one and the same. “So what, was it wearing a nametag?” I inquired, since I’d armed myself online with the knowledge that, where one rat treds, others normally follow. It was back to Pencil, this time to buy rat pad adhesive so I could not only kill the critter(s) but also see the evidence. (Online sources warned of rats’ tendency to eat poison, retreat inside your walls, and torment one’s dinner guests for months as they maladorously decompose.)
The translated instructions on the rat adhesive outlined a horrible ending for the critter: “rats quickly become stuck on adhesive surface and let out panic scream that attracts other rats who also become quickly stuck. The rat hair and adhesive should be burn but will not harm crops as there are no pesticides.”Sullen with the pressures of my cause, I deposited the adhesive-covered cardboard wtihin inches of the PeptoBismol-looking rat poison. The floor in the corner looked a bit like a landfill, but we headed out to dinner to let the traps work their magic. We had little interest of being within earshot when the “panic screaming” began. Back a couple hours later, I inspected the empty rat traps and then headed into the bedroom, where I began to remove my walking shorts and instinctively reached for my tank top and gym shorts, my standard attire for languishing before the TV bit before bed. A furry blur scampered across the headboard of our bed and I, with walking shorts at half mast, headed for the hills. The rat made for safety while I booked it for the kitchen to retrieve my trusted mop and broom and headed back to the bedroom to do battle. It was a search and destroy mission, while Gabi watched from the safety of the attached bathroom, her nose thrust through the tiny crack she allowed in the open door, Kirsty safely ensconced atop our bed. I went through the stuff on our floor bag by shoe, box by backpack, looking for a showdown with Mr. Rat. Apparently sensing nothing good in my approach, the rat broke cover and headed for the dresser, and, apparently for the safety of Gabi’s shorts. I wacked the dresser with the broom, as one does, I suppose to alarm the rat and convince it to move on. Nothing. I ripped out all five drawers, one by one, and the rat scampered out the bottom and across the room and up the leg of my bedside table. In hot pursuit, I reached the table soon after the rat had disappeared inside. I pulled out the drawer and saw a huge tail disappear over the back edge, and I realized that the rodent had run itself into a dead end.
Aha! I slammed the drawer shut, leaving the critter scrunched between a drawer and a hard place, so to speak. It was trapped, and at my mercy.Now what to do? Outside, rats go outside, I thought, and I’ll admit that I also desperately wanted to kill it, quickly forgetting all the influences of living in a Buddhist country – acceptance, tolerance, respect for all life forms. Fugeddaboutit. This rat is toast, I thought, while I contemplemplated my next move. What if I’d angered it, turning a scared oversized mouse a fraction of my size into a rabid attack rat bent on seeking its teeth into my calf? What if, in its injured state, it’s “fight or flight” instincts focused exclusively on the former and ignored the latter? I had to get the table outside, rat and all, and I grabbed it on either side to make the journey across the apartment. Holding the table at arms’ length and carrying the load as if it were radioactive waste, I waddled out of the bedroom and into the living room, then out the french doors and onto the balcony. Resting it carefully on the deck, I opened the drawer, slowly. Just a bit. Nothing. A bit more. Nothing. More. A flash of brown fur and the sound of feet scampering across wood preceded the last I saw of the little guy, and he disappeared off the edge of our balcony and into a nearby tree, bound for safer climes and apparently having had second thoughts about nesting in Gabi’s shorts. Celebrating our pyrrhic victory, we gathered in the living room, sweaty combatants with trembling hands and, as I assessed, a broken mop. We went through the apartment, turning off the 734 lights we’d illuminated to assist our search, and relived the harrowing experience. Bedtime brought fitful reminders of the battle, and Gabi’s furtive tossing evoked images of the return of the killer rat. I awakened with a start every time she moved, all night long. Why?
About a foot above my head and slightly to the right, a magazine lay wedged between the bars on the window and the screen, blocking a hole our little pal had chewed in the screen which is just big enough for a good-sized rat to crawl through.