I was just going through my normal morning routine. I toasted my seedy bread just like my wife always suggested. I slathered on butter like I always like, and made an almost healthy ham sandwich with five or six slices of bread and butter pickles on each half and then cut it in two. I pulled a Roma tomato out of the fridge and sliced it into eight rounds. Then I over-shook some Mrs. Dash over the slices and placed my sandwich and tomatoes, on separate plates on to the breakfast table. I added an empty glass and a pitcher of cold water, a fork, and a banana to the table before stepping outside for the morning paper. I had already seen most of the news online.
Out the front door I perused the porch and the front lawn. I went down the steps and cooed in response to the nest of doves in the neighbor’s yard. I decided to search the right side of the yard for the newspaper. It almost always arrives around five o’clock (after many complaints and delivery people), but I’m never really sure where it’s going to be. It was nearby, but balanced on the limb of a rhododendron, I missed it in the first general look-see.
Back in my kitchen I put a cup of water in the microwave for sixty seconds. Rosie always needed her’s nuked for two full minutes. I added a well rounded spoonful of instant coffee from Dollar Tree and sat down. I opened up the paper and read the comics, the weather guesses for the week, and started the simple crossword puzzle. Old habits are hard to shake. I completed my half of the puzzle. I looked out at the bright blue of the day and started to stand up to get a second cup of coffee and saw a dead rat on the floor a few feet away. I froze.
I wasn’t afraid of the dead rat, it looked well dead, but how did it get there? When did it get there? It was at the base of our small island of sink and cabinet shielded from view across the room, but a little more than an arm’s reach from my chair. Had it been there even since I had walked into the kitchen? I took a sip of water and looked at our louvered duct work from our furnace. The ones I could see were all screwed tight. I had thought perhaps the rat had found some old d-Con bait and crawled towards the light looking for water. But after a quick walk around the living room, dining room, and Rosie’s quilting room, I found no magic doors for a rat to enter.
I went to the basement for a shovel and returned to the kitchen and collected the dead rat and took him outside and buried him near the Rhodie, which seemed appropriate. I gave him no kinds words, no prayers, no exaltations. I merely buried him one foot deep and then went back inside and got out of my red plaid jammy bottoms and my Lord of the Rings tee-shirt. I showered, dried, and slipped on a wrinkled pair of jeans and a fairly clean shirt. Fully dressed I drove to Ace Hardware for a rat trap . . . two, just in case.
I hadn’t been to Ace in sometime, but I got a nod of surprise recognition. Back home I baited the spring traps with some old chocolates. I placed one trap under the sink and the other in a dark corner in the basement. The walls of the house seemed to close in on me and my rat memory, so I walked around the block. I stopped at a community garden and was just admiring the flowers and plants. Staring is more accurate. I finally realized that I was looking at a friendly face. The older woman, well, around my age anyway, gave me a tour. I asked if rats came and ate there. She looked at me like I was weird, but answered “Rabbits sometimes, but no rats that I know of. Two legged maybe.” I chuckled and nodded and said, “Nice pea patch.” She nodded . . . I nodded again and walked away. I glanced back and she waved.
Back home I sat down at the computer and looked up community gardens, AARP, and rats. I hadn’t been on Facebook for sometime. I had a ton of comments, well wishes and the latest jokes. I visited my brother-in-law’s page and “liked” a few of his posts and then moved on. I looked over my friends on FB and noticed one. We had been in Toastmasters together as well as Rotary. Toastmasters was always a little scary, having to speak in front of people, but I always enjoyed listening to others. Toastmasters aside, I logged out of Facebook, the internet, and my computer.
The yard was looking a little shaggy, so I pulled out my electric mower and my two one-hundred foot cords. By the time I finished mowing, I found myself whistling and was quite pleased. Thoughts of golf even passed through my mind. I decided a nap was in order. I laid down and got comfy, but the dead rat kept running through my mind. He wasn’t really running, being dead and all, but still I kept thinking, “How did it get in my kitchen?”
After my nap, well, I didn’t finally get to sleep, I got up and thought about dinner. I looked at the canned veggies in the cupboard and frowned. I finally pulled open a pack of Top Ramen and ate some canned green beans and ramen soup for dinner. Unsatisfying would be high praise, indeed. Unfulfilled, would be more like it. I must has been eating like this for some time, but after seeing the beautiful flowers and plants at the community garden I felt let down. “Tomorrow, I’ll get some fresh fruits and vegetables,” I promised myself. I watched a couple of comedies online before dropping off in my chair. Waking up at midnight I crawled back into bed.
I woke up early and hungry. First thing, I checked the traps . . . no rats, and then started my breakfast routine. I did keep looking around and behind me for a rat. Maybe the rat was a dream? Maybe I was going crazy. A toss-up for ten.
When I stepped out looking for the morning paper, I ran into my brother-in-law. He was beaming. He said, “Wow, good to see you up and about. I saw that you visited my Facebook page and I was shocked. I hadn’t seen you online for some time.” He caught me slightly off-guard.
I asked him in for coffee. I thought for a second and confessed, “Yesterday was a great day and it all began with a dead rat.” He looked at me and said, “A really large dead rat?” He looked at me with eyebrows reaching up four or five inches. I hesitated and said, “uhhhh, yes. Why?”
He said, “I got a new dog, yesterday and we were out for a walk. Bruno sniffed and took off running and eventually came back with a huge dead rat. He snapped the leash. Bruno already had the trophy in his mouth. We stopped by here and the door was open. I looked around outside and saw no one. I came back to the front yard and Bruno was ready to move on, but he no longer had the rat. Did you find it in the yard? It looked like a prize winner.”
I said, “Oh, I found it alright . . . Thanks for the gift.”