I've heard the idiom “like rats
fleeing a sinking ship” often lately, and while the metaphor is apt
for what’s going on in the United States, at our house it's even
Merriam Webster notes, “Almost all
the early uses of the 'sinking ship' analogy were in reference to
political scandals.” The phrase goes back four hundred years.
Originally, the rodents, thought to sense impending calamity, were
said to escape from buildings. In the late 17th century, the phrase
changed to sinking ships.
However we choose to describe what’s
happening in D.C., the exodus is welcome. As every type of haughty,
sinister, conniving, autocratic rodent changes course, here at home
we have been under assault by honest vermin: rats and moles. Shudder.
We get a bit of rain on the Oregon
Coast. As a matter of fact, last night we had a drenching storm that
tore yet more shingles from our roof, dismantled the neighbors’
shed, and generally made a mess outside. One can hardly blame
critters for taking shelter.
But not in our house. The wretched
‘Tis the season for rats, but moles?
They are gradually digging bulwarks around our home, or a moat –
it’s hard to tell which. Someone said to leave them alone, they
aerate the soil. That would be fine on a bit of acreage, but our
house takes up most of our land. One of our kind community members is
somewhat of an expert at mole dispersal. He does this only for
friends and we are fortunate in our friends.
“Let’s hope it works,” he said
when I thanked him. All the more so because we just put down a mini
lawn for our unbelievably adorable rescue dog Betty. No moles
allowed. Par for the course, little eight-pound Betty doesn’t care
for the grass potty patch. I suppose we could turn it into a,
L-shaped putting green for my sweetheart.
Meanwhile, a demolition crew has been
taking down the house two over from us. It stood empty for a while,
including a few weeks with no doors. The inhabitants tended toward
the small, gnawing, whiskered mammal type. The ones with long
hairless tails which they neither comb over nor color. The abhorred
Once the backhoe sank its teeth into
that forty- or fifty-year-old home, the rats abandoned ship. Several
of them found refuge under our house. At first, we weren’t sure
what was making those sounds, and we already had a contract with an
exterminator, of whom we’ve become quite fond. As a matter of fact,
the deceased owner of the demolished house always had him in for tea
and conversation during his service calls.
I have a memory from way back in my
university days. There was a crash pad a few blocks from my school,
owned by a slumlord whose son was a fellow student. The school
intellectuals spent long nights there, drinking, doping, and
discussing the urgent matters college kids everywhere worry about.
One of the uninvited residents was Ralph the Rat who, it was
explained, spent his time brushing his teeth behind the walls. That
was the sound we were hearing beneath our subflooring.
Manufactured homes, these days, can be
as permanent as politicians in Washington. We own our bit of land so
the house was installed with the intention of staying put and,
because of its foundation, is considered real property. Our poured
concrete slab sits a few feet below ground level. From there a
contractor secured the house with piers and anchoring equipment,
creating a considerable crawl space. The metal supports are sheathed
in blocks of wood.
Rats like to brush their teeth – chew
– on wood. From there, they might create openings into the
insulation and, unstopped, gnaw through the plywood subflooring and,
like Ralph, gain access to the inside of the walls. I once had a cat
named Poppins, who, when I moved into a house, spent the entirety of
his days chasing the rat that had gotten into the wall while the
house lay vacant. Poor guy never made his capture – the rat was
evicted in a less dramatic way.
It creeps me out even to write about
these creatures who, with equally creepy insects, will likely inherit
the earth once humans destroy it.
Finally, our exterminator was here so
often over a period of about three weeks, he’d practically moved in
with my sweetheart and me. It’s been three days now and no
toothbrushing from the netherworld. Our pied piper will come back to
remove any new little corpses, but we’re hopeful any live critters,
rats or moles, will have fled. If only it were so easy and relatively
quick in our capital.
A problem remains on the home front: we
still don’t know how the rats got in. We urgently need to find that
cursed crevice. But now that I think of it, we even more urgently
need to block the rat route into the White House.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, Rainbow Gap, is available at
Books. You can reach Lynch at LeeLynch@ontopmag.com]
Copyright 2020 Lee Lynch.