June 30th: I Smell a Rat…

Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat you over the head about the state of the country/world is in. I’m just going to tell you about my day, and boy, this surely was the wimpiest of days that I’ve had in a long time.

The day started out with the news that a new piece (a judgmental map– all the rage, apparently) by Caroline had been published. You can read her piece here. Looking at the map, this was the first thing I noticed:


You’re right. Caroline Lake does not go to UC Berkeley but to Columbia College in Chicago. The publication, The Black Sheep (like The Onion for college life) editors decided that because Orinda is close to Berkeley, it would be better to just have her go to UC Berkeley for a day so the piece would attract more readers… and holy shit, it was already shared 341 times on FB when I took this screenshot, and that is so much better than her poor bumbling blogger-mom has ever done…

If that didn’t make me feel like a loser, it was looking at the map again that made me feel especially wimpy. People who don’t know us, I realized, now maybe think we live in some obscenely rich white people bubble (which we do) and that we, therefore, are loaded. This is far from the truth. We probably belong in Baja Orinda, and while we do fine compared to some people in Bumblefuck, Idaho, we’re definitely “struggling” when it comes to living up to Orinda Country Club standards (not that that is our ambition).

Pondering all of this, between work and doing my invoicing, I thought I needed to present you with a story to offset the impression that we might be living Stepford lives, or might have become Stepford Wives.

The story presented itself when I heard a noise in one of our drawers (this is a cabinet we never use because rats have been inside it– and living in Orinda means rats are as common as Teslas, and while I have written plenty about rats, and even devoted an entire chapter (There is a rat on my kitchen counter) to them in my debut memoir, I really didn’t want to write about any more rats, but well, I thought maybe this is a good one to tell folks to make sure they realize we live with rats rather than trust funds).

Jon had set a trap in one of those drawers and it had gone off and I heard a screeching, like I had just stepped on a bird. I’ve heard these death struggles before in our house and they usually last less than a minute. This one lasted five. Then it quieted down. But then after half an hour, the poor guy started up again and it became hard to focus on the manuscript I was translating. Traps are usually effective (and believe me, we tried every possible form of extermination) but when it hits in the wrong place, they are inhumane. The squeaking did become a little less and I was too much of a chicken to look, because full-grown rats are as big as my geriatric doxie, Frankie– and he’s tiny for a dog, but huge if he were a rat.

I had to go out, and felt relieved, but then when I came back after an hour or so, there was still a pitiful peeping. I could no longer ignore it, so I opened the drawer, expected a mostly dead and mangled body but as I shone my iPhone light in, this poor little guy turned around, looking at me with eyes so big that I was ready to adopt him. His back side was completely squashed and obviously paralyzed and his little feet were hanging off the trap like delicate hands the size of Donald Trump’s grabbers.

Yes: I’m hearing you all– I should have grabbed that thing and killed it, because that is the humane thing to do. Truth is: I can’t kill a thing and I should be vegan but I’m not. I’m a wimp– pure and simple.

However, I couldn’t let him sit in that ugly and dark drawer, so I took him out on the patio and took him out of the trap (with gloves that reached to my ankles). He was then exploring the patio, dragging his behind him like he had always done that, and I read articles online that paralyzed rats have, with the right treatment, a much better chance of recovering fully than drunken dudes who end up with spinal cord injuries because they dive into shallow pools on July 4th. Part me of wondered whether wild rats were ever domesticated and whether we could “save” him and tame him, wheelchair or not. But since I’m already running a nursing home for doxies, with one dog who has three different pills now plus 2x insulin, taking him to the vet was not an option.

I texted Jon with an update on the situation and a picture, which I won’t show here as I respect rat privacy.

He texted back: “Rats have bad reputations but they are not much different than a hamster or a ferret.”


That didn’t help at all…

I was talking to the rat and Caroline came onto the patio thinking I was talking sweetly to the dogs. We discussed options. Letting him get killed by the dogs was not one of them. Nor was banging his head in with a brick. Sorry. I wimped out. I put him in a secluded part of the garden, in the ivy– if he had to die, it was better to die outside in Nature in beautiful, rustic and rich Orinda than sitting in one of our unused, shabby drawers. He was no longer in pain, because I grabbed his rear when moving him and he didn’t even give a peep.

I felt conflicted and about as cruel as Auschwitz’s Dr. Mengele. Caroline saw my inner turmoil and gave me a hug.

“I’m kinda worried.” She said.

“Worried?” I asked. “Worried about that little unfortunate rat?”

“No worried about that judgmental map of Orinda. It got so many shares that maybe they won’t allow me to be Cinderella [her 4th appearance this year] in the Orinda July 4th Parade.”

“Oh hush,” I said.

Hush is right, for Caroline is as perfect as they come in Orinda.

I myself don’t know what that kind of perfection is.

I’m over fifty, fat, and I just dealt with a rat.

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