I am falling asleep at my desk today because for the past two nights, I have been scheming to kill a rat.
I was excited about killing this rat. Which is rare, because I go out of my way not to kill animals, living in a city and not eating meat and all.
But two nights ago, I woke up in the dark to the sound of something chewing through my walls. The sound of teeth gnashing echoed through the house with horror movie bravado. I don't know how it was so loud—rats have tiny rat-teeth, right?—but the gnawing took over the whole house in the night. I jumped out of bed, grabbed a baseball bat, and flipped on the kitchen light. This wasn't really a plan, I realized, standing there in my underwear with the baseball bat. What was I going to do with that? Whack the rat? I've never even successfully hit a baseball. The rat was nowhere to be seen, though I did use the bat to tentatively open the cupboard door, scared that the rat might be in there, waiting to leap onto my face. Clearly, this was an evil rat. A super rat. A rat that chewed through the walls of my little house. I went back to bed and as soon as I was drifting off, the gnawing started again. The rat. IT'S HERE. IN MY HOUSE.
Throughout the night I jumped up again, woke up again, turned on music to cover the noise of the gnawing. In the morning, I could barely open my eyes. They were puffy. I had barely slept at all. When I had slept, I dreamed I owned a giant cat that brought dead mice to me in bed.
I went to the kitchen and sleepily opened the cupboard door. Ramen was scattered everywhere, its plastic wrapper torn to shreds. Right on the middle of the shelf were two big rat shits. I felt violated. My house is safe, my house is mine. No one sneaks in, steals my food, and shits on things. Fuck you, rat. I will show you who has opposable thumbs and electricity and plentiful Doritos. Rat, you're doomed.
I spent my lunch break at the hardware store, looking at rat traps. I was vengeful. Justice would be served! Give me your largest rat trap! The store was out of regular rat traps like I'd seen in movies, so I had to get a cheap plastic version that had a clamp lined with sharp plastic teeth. I imagined it killing the rat in one quick snap. Fuck you, rat!
"Bait it with peanut butter," said the check-out girl.
"Peanut butter?" I said.
"Rats love peanut butter," she said.
I love peanut butter, is what I thought, but didn't say.
I got home from work and immediately pulled the trap apart and spread some peanut butter on its sneaky triggered platform. Then I ate an extra spoonful of peanut butter myself. It was delicious.
I set the trap on the back porch outside my kitchen door, by the hole the rat had chewed through the wood. Then I waited, a little giddy. When would it die? When would I win? The sun set. It got late. I read a book and loafed around, blasting music.
Hours later, in the middle of the night, I sat in bed, alone and reading. I heard something thump. I turned down my music and listened—robber? rapist? Probably just my neighbor. I turned the music up again but then the thumping came again. Sort of a whacking sound, a flailing.
I ran to the back porch and in the darkness I could see the shadow of an object flopping around on the wood. It looked like a rat with a trap stuck on its head. The object was making mewing noises. Sad, scared, whining noises. I found I really, really, didn't want to turn on the light.
I turned on the light. The rat was very alive. Its head was very stuck in the trap. It wasn't going easy and it wasn't going slowly, thrashing around trying to get its crushed head out of the plastic claws. It lay breathing heavily for a moment on the porch, making its sad noises. It looked soft. It was smaller than I thought it would be. Maybe I should just move out, I thought, off the planet.
I went back inside and grabbed the baseball bat. I stood at the top of the stairs and aimed downward at the rat, its head obscured. I whacked its fuzzy belly. The rat thrashed and whined. I whacked it again. It kicked its tiny feet. I whacked 10 times and with each whack, the rat didn't get any more dead, until the last one. Then it lay still. I sat down and watched its last moments. Rat, you never did me wrong. You were just being a rat. Your only crime was loving peanut butter.
I took a shovel from the wall and walked into the backyard in my bare feet. Where do you bury a rat? I attacked a small, hard spot next to the garden with the shovel and soon reached my hand into the dirt and to feel if the hole was rat-sized. I returned to the porch and crouched next to the rat—I poked it with the shovel. I was afraid of it, this small, dead critter. I lifted the trap and it was, indeed, dead; its body flopped horizontally toward the earth. I walked to the grave and dropped it in and covered it up with dirt. My giddiness was shame.
Then I walked back to the porch and set the trap again, in case.