It was the sound of a spring snapping shut. It came from the kitchen. I knew then and there I would never cook there again.
FIVE DAYS EARLIER
My saga started when I arrived home from Atlanta, to find a kitchen that was full of dirty dishes - dark and abandoned for two weeks. In South Tampa, near the water. The perfect recipe for a home invasion.
Half-inch sized droppings were all over the place. RATS! Uuuggghhhh…
But it was late, and I'd had two Sam Adams Hefeweizens and a Butalbital on the plane, and I was just too tired and grossed out to do anything about it. I plopped on the couch for some Ali G time, with my usual, totally-pathetic lonely-girl no-kitchen dinner of grocery-store sushi and a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz. (See, this is a wine column too!)
I was just getting to that comfortable spot - you know, half way through the bottle - when I heard it: a monster ripping through metal, gnashing away with razor teeth at the water heater in the corner of the kitchen. The rat had awoken.
I crept to the kitchen, leaning forward, with my hands cupping my thighs. I stopped. And listened. And heard it again (!) and ran into the main room where I tried to find those blue sneakers from college weightlifting class so if the thing ran out and touched my feet at least I would have shoes on and they would be shoes I wouldn't mind throwing away and ew ew ew ew a fucking rat in my kitchen!!!
I hopped up and down in the middle of my living room. To go or not to go into the kitchen? I decided this was something I could avoid.
So I sat back down on the couch and poured myself another glass of wine, ready for the Ali G extra features. It was just when I began to relax that I saw it: a quick flash of brown, dashing into the room, touching a corner, and then dashing back out. Fucker was doing the goddamn Rat Olympics in my house!
After the rat ran a couple laps, I wised up and closed the door, locking Rizzo in the kitchen. I took up my siege position on the couch - still wearing the blue sneakers - and poured another glass. It was a long night.
"You're not going to let the vermin win, are you?" queried friend Larry. "That would mean he's better than you. And he's not better than you."
Larry was right. It was time to take action. D-Con-rat-poison-bet-your-ass-is-gonna-fry-I-kill-you-dead kind of action. I climbed into my 10-hole green Docs from high school, and put on the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic. I started off with that infectious "Techno Song," and all of a sudden I felt bold and brave and able to attack that damn thing whenever it showed up. I put the D-Con out.
All that was left to do was wait.
All is quiet on the kitchen front. I eat all my meals away from home. I manage to sleep without wearing shoes.
With a sharp rap, Todd the exterminator came into my kitchen and forever ruined it for me. Getting on his hands and knees with a flashlight, he pointed at the trail of aquamarine pebbles that led from the box of poison up into my oven. That rat had been planning to live in my oven! His droppings were in a gap underneath the burner - theoretically, I could have lit the damn thing on fire trying to make pasta!
After telling me that I was most likely not in danger of the rat chewing its way into my mattress or my couch and taking naps there while I sat on it unknowingly, Todd the exterminator set up two giant, wooden rat traps like the ones in cartoons. But, he assured me, the rat had eaten so much D-Con it would probably be dead in a matter of days. I'd find it when I smelled it, he told me.
Emboldened by the poison that the rat had ingested, I was feeling secure. I was on the phone, gabbing, when I heard that fateful snap. I didn't see it, but I can picture it - the wire frame of the trap, swinging up and crushing the fearless vermin. I couldn't look. I couldn't even venture into my kitchen. I held my breath, ran outside and upstairs to the apartment of my neighbor, who kindly came down with a trash bag and a broom, and disposed of the loathsome beast.
I'm finishing up this column in Atlanta but, even this far away I'm shuddering at the mental image of a dead rat, next to my stove, in the kitchen that had once seemed so cozy to me.
That's it, rat. I'm out. I'm moving.