the rat

08 Jul

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 what?”

“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.”

“How 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.


Posted by on July 8, 2010 in Uncategorized


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13 responses to “the rat

  1. knowoneyouknow

    July 8, 2010 at 11:54 am

    First of all, I’m glad you’re back… I was thinking maybe you were out having a mini-nervous breakdown (ages 22-25 are nototious for those) or perhaps you were getting so into drawing that you were neglecting writing for awhile. But to find out you’ve been eating pickles while watching Dr. Who in your underpants…! Woman, you are living the dream!!

    ..and the ‘dead’ Rat: “Maybe it was some kind of false death. That happens in comics all the time.” <– too cute, so you. Definitely hazard pay is required here – eeeeek! Zombie Rat!

    I'm still making my way through your archives – *joy* – on my slow work days I search for good reading material on the interwebs, you know, so it still looks like I'm working. Your writing has inspired me to tell better stories, you know, spread the joy… My blog is not yet searchable (I'm Shy) but it will be once my husband and I take off on our boat and sail the seas (counting the days!)

    Looking forward to much happy blogging!


    • knowoneyouknow

      July 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

      ha ha – nototious=notorious, although “nototious” sounds like a cool word. I’ll see if I can’t make it catch on. Dictionary Revision 2012, here I come!

  2. ellipsisknits

    July 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Sorry, I skipped the rest of the post so I’d remember to add netflix recommendations. I am all about my streaming netflix-ness. I too found and finished Dr. Who that way (though I don’t get the whole Tennant obsession…)
    There is the whole old Dr. Who stuff on there, but I’m not brave enough to try that either.

    Other british things:
    Blackadder (very funny – though start on season two unless you like Mr. Bean)
    The IT crowd (ha, techno-comedy)
    Top Gear (hilarious. Bonus, Richard Hammond looks like David Tennant, if you’re into that sort of thing [actually, he looks so much like Tennant that for the first few Dr. episodes I kept getting confused everytime Tennant was taller that someone] {super bonus, the one season on streaming includes the episode with Tennant as a guest – again, if you’re into that sort of thing.}) ahem. Enough about top gear.

    Other things
    Firefly (awesome)
    Heroes (watchable enough it seems, I’m only starting this)
    the Office
    Arrested Development

    • rubybastille

      July 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      I LOVE TOP GEAR. The celebrity lap is the coolest idea ever (and Leno totally snagged it).

  3. ellipsisknits

    July 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    ok, I finished: ew.
    We looked at some pretty nasty run down houses when we were shopping, but they never crossed the dead animal line. (I am now thankful)

  4. Kelly

    July 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    EW! I am impressed that you went into that creepy basement in the first place!

  5. Alyssa

    July 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    That….is a truly horrifying story. Good god.

    I don’t get weirded out easily – dolls, clowns, mimes, dead stuff, bugs, snakes….whatever. No biggie.

    But THIS creeped me out – just the whole gestalt of the thing. Because I was falling in love with the house too, from your description. And then…crayon stick figures, spray painted doom messages, and a zombie rat.

    You are one tough chick.

  6. Jen

    July 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    AWESOME. 🙂 You brought it back with flair, Sophocles!

  7. rubybastille

    July 8, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww you did not mention the beetle in your text.

  8. flory

    July 9, 2010 at 12:12 am

    eeeeew rats. you have guts! recently discovered and finished Doctor Who too… but Torchwood (an anagram of the former!), starring Jack Harkness, is not a bad fix 😀 and am working my way through Tennant’s works – Hamlet (pure <3), Blackpool (the Scottish burr) and CASANOVA. TENNANT AS CASANOVA.

    /end random reader comment

  9. Vanessa

    July 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Like I said to Amanda of Dear No One when she called herself Amanda Baby Gear Ranger: If you pitch Jessica Rat Wrangler to TLC or Animal Planet or something I will watch the hell out of it because it will be awesome.

  10. MK

    July 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Matt Smith is pretty cute, too, so while you will miss Tennant, you will happily continue to embrace the Doctor.

    And old houses are continually surprising. Just a fact of their long history.

  11. Julia

    August 17, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Ack! I am just now catching up on your summer blogging, but loving Doctor Who and David Tennant puts you in my good books pretty much forever. As if you weren’t awesome enough before, now you are just super uber fantasmical. Yes, that is a new word for me, too. Where do you live now? Salem? Corvallis? I will be rampaging around Oregon in September, and we should totally have some sort of Doctor Who fest (thanks to Trish, I may also own a copy of the BBC Casanova). We should invite Jerry, too, if he’s not too busy being a responsible nerdy high school teacher to have fun any more.


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