I shouldn’t feed my dog cat food.  He begs for it even though it makes him barf.  I am like that too.  I beg for things that aren’t good for me.  You don’t always know it’s not good for you until you throw-up.  But after you’ve thrown up and still, you’re begging?  This might indicate to a bigger problem.

top_of_the_world_guyIt’s seven in the morning and I’m awake because of my dogs.  If they hadn’t been the parade coordinators of a licking festival, I would still be sifting minutiae rubble of past relationships in my dreams. Recently, my partner and I split up; I’m beginning to sense a theme.

This change in family dynamic has made the dogs more high maintenance than before, if that’s possible. Even the mice in my walls, appear to be more actively destroying the house as if acting out my inner psyche with anthropomorphic panache.  “No, scrape the interior walls until they’re paper thin, but don’t break the barrier.”  The mice seemed to be saying, “We want this whole scene to be about implied anguish, not total exposure.  Everything is more painful when kept just beneath the surface.”

I call this rodent actor troupe “mice,” but they are really just rats.  I realize the rat subject makes people recoil in horror, which is sort of baffling, considering there are only two types of homes in Los Angeles.  Those who have rats, and those who say they don’t.

So yes, I have rats.  Not a lot, but how can I tell when they move so fast.  I’d have to tag them to be sure.  They’re always in such a hurry.  I assume because they are high-powered, type A, city rats.  Even when they have sex, it feels so rushed.  I think they should slow down or they could give themselves a tiny hernia.  I didn’t think I’d ever get rats again after I tore down my old house and threw up a new one.  I guess I thought they’d take one look at the place and say, “Hey, my shavings and droppings were right here. We must be in the wrong house.”  Instead they seemed to rejoice as I did when the house was finally finished.  “Let’s chase each other and fuck in every crevasse!”

In the old house, I placed a humane cage trap in the attic where I’d catch them with peanut butter and Granola.  The granola was just for texture, but the peanut butter had the unrelenting gumminess to keep them in the trap long enough to trigger the door lever.  I would snatch the cage, drive them down to the beach’s jetty and release them in the rocks.  I could see them dance happily from the cage, waving goodbye.  It was the kind of wave that implied they might see me again someday when their summer frolic had dulled.  They’d return in tiny busloads, piling out, tan and relaxed, carrying minute surfboards carved from styro-foam.  But now it’s a different rat crew from the old days, and I no longer have an attic in which to lure them.  I tried to be civil and issued them an eviction notice but they shredded them into nests. Why don’t I call the exterminator?  I made a pact many years ago that I wouldn’t kill living things.

When I was in college, I lived in a garage conversion behind my Fathers house, which is almost cliché in Southern California.  There were bare studs and open beams running everywhere.  Sometimes rats would hover over me, mocking me while I ate my dinner.  That was when I set the real kill trap.  But these rats were street-wise San Fernando Valley gang-rats. It took months to catch one and I only caught him because he was a new gang initiate.

 

I heard the screams, tiny high pitch squealing that emanated from my shower.  I was terrified of nearing the bathroom, convinced I’d encounter some miniature re-production of a scene from Willard.  I finally managed to slide the shower curtain so I could further assess the situation.  There knelt a dashing young rat with his left leg pinned by the trap. Though petrified with fear, he gazed up at me and surprisingly spoke with and English accent, as he appeared to be saying, “Yes, I’m immensely frightened but that can wait, because mostly I’m in a ridiculous amount of pain.  Would you mind giving me a hand?”

 

Racked with empathy and guilt, I burst out crying.  Here was this surprisingly well groomed and seemingly educated rodent suffering because of me.  I was too sensitive to handle the situation.  I was never allowed to see movies with an R rating, not even Tommy.  I always had a person around to handle anything heavy, but this time there was no one who could solve the problem for me.  I ran outside clutching myself, wailing, staggering in circles.

I finally managed to step out of my own self-indulgent fear, and show up for the little creature behind the curtain.  I tiptoed inside where my rat buddy laid stretched out and exhausted from pulling the trap across the shower basin.  I told him exactly what I intended to do as I slowly reached toward the trap.  It was a difficult operation, maneuvering around the little guys swollen leg.  I finally yanked the miniscule bar off of his body and he sprang up adroitly, bounding outside like a musically trained show rat.

I swore to myself I would never again kill anything intentionally.  I did inadvertently cause a rat to die in one of my humane traps, from a brain aneurism, peanut butter allergy, or some other undetermined complication, but he appeared to be smiling as I set him gently in the garbage.

 

Somehow this strong history and connection I felt with rats, made me feel better about my recent break-up.  Women may come and go, I thought, but rats, they stick around forever. cave