I’ve been avoiding Saturday Jane a bit. Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you. I’m not avoiding you at all, and that thing you did? It’s cool now. I get it, and I don’t blame you, but you may want to see a doctor. That’s all I’m saying.
Basically, I didn’t have any good ideas for a couple of days, and then when I started having little eensy ideas, my brain went, “NO, IT’S BEEN LONG ENOUGH THAT THIS HAS TO BE THE BEST POST IN THE HISTORY OF POSTING. HAVE YOU SURPASSED THE WORKS OF SOPHOCLES? NO? KEEP TRYING.” I would re-examine my piffling little paragraph about that time the milk went sour and go, oh, well, I guess this has very little to do with Life and the Universe, and I would start over.
I think it’s about time that I got over it, though. I’ve been reading some gushing praise from a new friend (hi, Alexandra, hi!), and it’s sort of given me the mental push to get back on the merry-go-round.
So, the status. Taylor is working happily at a company that rhymes with Mintel. It’s a good fit, because Taylor is brilliant and Mintel offers free bananas in the break room. He’s living in my parent’s basement, which is like one wacky neighbor away from being a sitcom, but thus far there haven’t been any hijinks or shenanigans, and I am counting that in my favor. Any day now I expect my father to show up with a bunch of boxes and announce that he is becoming a bee farmer.
Some of you are giggling at that. The rest of you know my father, and are taking me extremely seriously.
While Taylor is off living the laugh-track life, I am spending my evenings watching Doctor Who in my underpants. The point has been made that I should be spending my time doing something more productive, like drawing or writing or cooking real food for dinner, and I am all, eh. David Tennant is the hottest hottie in the history of hotness, and if I have to eat pickles for dinner every night to watch an extra episode of his hottitude, then goddammit that is what I am going to do.
Unfortunately, I’m nearing the end of the series. If anyone has some good Netflix Watch Instantly suggestions, I’m all ears.
I bet you’re all wondering where the rat comes into this. Okay then. Switching gears.
For those of you just tuning in, I’ve been working for the past year as a secretary in a successful real estate firm. My duties include making flyers, sending faxes, taking photos of houses, and sounding like Judy Garland when I answer the phone. These duties often send me out into the wide world, and I’ve had the opportunity to see plenty of beautiful homes and meet lots of lovely people.
Last Wednesday, I was sent to one of our new properties to prepare it for a tour. ‘Preparing’ means turning all the lights on, making sure the homeowners are not present, and leaving little bowls of goodies in strategic places. Realtors love free shit. If you put a sign outside a house that just says, “HEY THERE IS SOME FREE SHIT IN HERE” then you will have realtors by the barrelful pushing the door down, huffing and puffing up the remodeled stone walkway in their floral pantsuits and casual turtlenecks.
So there I am, on the threshold of the house. It was a beautiful mansion of a home, built in the early 1900’s, with gentle vines climbing around the side and the pink leaves of overhanging trees whispering quietly onto the roof. The inside was a dream. Living rooms with large windows and luscious wood floors, bed rooms with coves and vaults and window seats, palatial french doors in the dining room. It was the sort of house that you could imagine waking up in, early on a Sunday morning, and coming downstairs to find somebody you love reading on the couch. I liked that house.
I wandered through, snapping lights on as I went, making a mental note when a bulb fizzled out or refused to turn on in the first place. I poked my head into the attic (sweltering) investigated the kitchen (cute) and tried to figure out the purpose of the tiny sunroom that couldn’t have been more than four by four square feet. Just before I left, I opened one more door (that I fully expected to be a closet) and discovered stairs. Dark stairs. Concrete steps disappearing completely into the shadow below.
“Well, okay,” I thought. “There is zero possibility that this could go wrong.”
It was the creepiest basement I have ever encountered in my life.
Tenants had erected crude walls to create a maze of rooms. On many of these there were children’s drawings, scrawled in crayon. These drawings were usually crude representations of people, staring with blistering blue and pink eyes through the gloom. On one wall someone had written the words “NEXT” and “COMING SOON” in red spray paint, and a foul-smelling refrigerator sat, unplugged, in the middle of it all.
At that point I was ninety percent sure that some dude in a dress made of cats was about to jump out, all wielding his mother’s letter opener. It was that kind of basement.
The rooms were nearly pitch black, and I groped along the walls, looking for light switches. My fingers kept diving into spider webs, coming out with a fierce crawling sensation that made shivers roll up and down my spine. Eventually I found a single switch, and I flipped it quickly.
And there was the rat.
A step in front of me lay a dead rodent, its eyes open, its mouth peeled back and gaping around a set of plaguey rat teeth. I leapt backwards. I didn’t scream, I’m proud of that, but I did make a strangled sort of sound without any vowels in it, kind of like, “GKKTCHGLLP!”
I regarded the rat.
The rat regarded me, in a dead kind of way.
I called my boss.
“So, uh, hi,” I said. How many pleasantries were necessary, I wondered, before mentioning the rat? “How’s it going?”
“Good, good, it’s going good,” Boss Lady said. “What’s up?”
“There’s kind of…well…it’s like…there’s a big gross dead rat in here.”
There was a long pause.
“A big gross dead rat. At least I think it’s dead.” I nudged the corpse with my shoe. It didn’t move. “Yeah, it’s dead.”
“About a day, I guess. It’s pretty uh…well, it’s stiff. But not rotten.”
“Well…okay.” There was another long pause while Boss Lady considered. “Can you…can you nudge him out of the way? Is there anything you can nudge him under? We can have the owner come pick him up, just not in time for the tour.”
I peered around. In the corner was a pot-bellied stove. It seemed like a good tombstone for a rat.
“Yeah, I’ve got a place. So just…just slide him under there?”
“For now. Remember where he is, so that we can make sure he…gets picked up. I’m sorry, I know that’s an eerie house.”
I sighed as a door creaked overhead.
“Yeah, it’s okay. I’ll see you later.”
I stuck my cell phone back in my bag and stared at the rat. It’s paws were held out in front of it, kind of like it was going, “WHOA whoa whoa, let’s all calm down here.” Whatever, rat. I was calm. I was plenty calm.
In a closet partially hidden by a pile of broken doors, I found a paint roller. I used this to scoot the rat along. His expression of terror indicated that he wasn’t happy about these developments. Deal with it, rat. I’ve got a job to do. I maneuvered him around a corner and stopped.
The rat had moved.
I peered at him closely. He couldn’t have moved. He was all rigored up. But I could have sworn that he had twitched. Maybe it was some kind of false death. That happens in comics all the time. Or he could be coming back from the dead, like a…like a zombie rat. The new plague. I scooted him a little further, eyeing him closely, and positioned him in front of the stove.
The rat shuddered.
I made another voweless sound.
With a soft scrabbling, the rat shifted and an enormous beetle pulled itself out from under him. Upstairs, a door slammed and the luxurious wood floors creaked.
With a heroic golf swing, I catapulted the rat at the stove and ran upstairs, up those terrifying concrete stairs, and didn’t stop until I was sitting in my car. I panted for a few moments. I wondered if I should call my boss again. I swallowed thickly, remembering the clicking black beetle and the rat’s teeth.
I should get hazard pay, I decided. That kind of horror necessitated some kind of change in title. No longer was I Jessica: Secretary.
Now I was Jessica: Rat Wrangler.
It’s going on the resume.