With my chair tilted back
… and the cat in my lap,
I thought I might take
…a long afternoon nap,
When out from the kitchen
… there arose such a clatter,
I put on my shorts
… to see what was the matter.
The noise was a rat, and it was big — the size of a baked potato, stuck in a glue trap near the refrigerator. As it contorted, the trap slapped into the wall, and then the bottom of the fridge.
Sure, our house has rats. We flatmates all chip in $5 every few months to buy glue traps, and we've killed a dozen rats, maybe more, in the year and a half I've lived here.
This one was trying to get away, but couldn't. Its belly and back legs were glued to the rectangular trap, and its front legs, still free, were clawing at the floor, but not making much progress.
As I stepped out of my room, the rat saw me and began rat-screaming, which is a loud and awful noise. In extra terror at the sight of me, the rat made more progress, slowly and with great effort dragging the trap across the kitchen and into the bathroom, where it became stuck on the tile floor.
When I stepped within about six feet of the rat, it screamed again, terrified. When I kept my distance, it seemed to forget about me, and the only sound was the glue trap banging on the linoleum. I kept my distance.
* * *
With every trapped rat so far, my flatmates have hammered its skull, peeled the rat off out of the glue, and tossed its body into the dumpster. Then they put the glue trap back on the floor to catch the next one. We save a little money that way, recycling the traps.
All four of the men living here have agreed that hammering rat heads is kinder than simply tossing the stuck but still living animal into the dumpster, to die in the darkness of thirst or starvation.
Besides, how ya gonna pry the rat out of the glue if it's still alive? You'd get bit.
The hammer's been wielded by all three of my flatmates, but never yet by me. With no-one else home or awake, though, today it was my turn to hammer a rat, but… I decided not to.
I've made it through the 60-plus years without hammering any animal's head, so someone else can do it. Instead I grabbed two popsicles from the freezer and returned to my room, leaving the rat in the glue trap, stranded, struggling on the bathroom floor.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, I can't hear the rat, but… It's hard to forget it's in the bathroom, flat on its belly, stuck, frightened out of its rat mind. It'll be in the bathroom for as long as it takes someone else to find it and hammer it.
* * *
Why are we at war with rats? It's startling, yes, to see a rat in the house a few times every month, but they're more scared of me than I am of them. The rats don't eat our food; we keep the boxed stuff on high shelves. They've never come into my bedroom; we only see rats in the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the laundry room. So why are we killing 'em?
If we'd never bought any traps, guess there'd be a dozen more rats in the house than there are. Those rats would've had rat families, and we'd have a rat civilization at our feet. Instead of occasional ratshit pellets to sweep up from the kitchen floor, we'd have drifts.
Maybe. I dunno.
* * *
Thinking all this over and writing about it, I went back to the bathroom to get a more vivid description of the rat in its gluey deathtrap.
When last seen, it had been beside the toilet, 60% of its body stuck in the glue, its front paws still free. But now, the rat is gone.
Instead there's a few inches' of black sticky smudge on the floor, adhesive and rat hairs. The trap has been pulled all the way to the bathroom sink, crinkling the mat on the floor, and now the trap rests beside the narrow clearance between sink and tub, where we've sometimes seen rats scurry.
But the trap is empty, except for five rat turds in the glue, and a single Honeycomb cereal bit.
When the rat dragged the trap to the base of the sink, it must've leveraged itself against that water-warped woodwork to work its way out of the glue-goo. And the damned thing got away alive. Jeez, that must've been something. I wish I'd seen it.
With half its body glued, how long a rat can survive in the walls and under the floorboards is beyond my ability to guess. By now the stickiness must be covered with dust, lint, and asbestos from behind the wall. Maybe the stuff stuck to the rat will nullify the glue's stickiness and it'll be able to move around. Or perhaps it'll die deep in the walls, and stink up the house horribly as it rots.
The varmint earned my respect, though, for a great escape, and I want no part in killing something I respect. I'm done chipping in for the glue traps, and I'll never hammer a rat's head. I'm declaring peace, and me and the rats can share the house.