A Mouse Tale

I recently came across a collection of half-finished blog posts and short stories, mostly from my first six months of service. I assume I intended to publish them, but never got around to it. At my mother’s insistence, and possibly against my better judgment, I’ve decided to share them over the next few weeks.

*      *      *      *      *

I live in what is called here a dependencia, a rented out guest house or mother-in-law’s house that shares a yard with my landlady’s (much larger) house. Mine is a fancy house by Peace Corps standards. I have everything but the kitchen sink. Literally. I have electricity, tiled floors, and a full indoor kitchen—reasonably uncommon here, where most people cook outside.

Unfortunately there are a few things I have that I could do without. I have cockroaches, though the geckos keep the population in check, aided by the occasional shoe. I have ants. And there are rats. Go far enough into the alleys of the city market and you can find rat skewers, deep fried complete with hair, 6 rats for about 50¢. I almost wish I had pictures. Although on second thought, maybe you’re glad I don’t.

The rats don’t aren’t too much of a problem in my house. At least, not anymore.

When I first arrived, the house had sat empty for about a month. There was not much of interest inside other than a thick coat of dust. The first week or so here I scrubbed everything from top to bottom. Other than the bare minimum though, I was lazy about cleaning up in the kitchen. I’ve never been great about doing my own dishes, and when I’m living alone and having to haul water… Let’s just say that putting off proper cleanup until I have a reasonable number of dishes seems, well, reasonable. (Even a year and a half in, I argue the same.)

But that first week I started to hear things. Squeals, skittering that was definitely not the pigeons on the roof or hens in the lemon tree outside.

And then I started finding rat poop in the kitchen.

That was not a problem, in itself. I’m used to finding rodent droppings in the kitchen; a hazard growing up in an old farm house. But over the next few days, the volume increased. The rat (apparently just one) grew more audacious. At first, he would only enter the kitchen long after I left. But as time went on, I caught glimpses of him, scuttling into his holes as I flicked on the light. He was fat. I know rats fit through tiny spaces, but I truly don’t understand the physics of how an animal that large fits though a hole that small.

The last straw came when I was moving the gas stovetop (I have a countertop gas burner) to clean underneath only to find the treasure store of rat droppings, orange pips, dried up rice bits of the type my mother is wont to call “goobies”. A thoroughly horrifying sight in a food preparation area. It was decided: the rat had to go.

I asked around, trying to find a mouse trap to do the bastard in. Unfortunately, the only thing I could find at the time were glue traps, which seem to me a horrifyingly inhumane way to catch anything. But that’s what I have, so I set one out. The next morning… nothing, except for a solitary dusty paw print on the outside edge.

The next night, I shoved the trap right up to the hole in the corner, so that it was impossible for the rat to escape without walking through the middle of the glue. I went to bed, fully expecting to find him the next morning.

Instead, not five minutes later, I hear a god-awful squealing as the escape artist realized that he was stuck. Not wanting to leave him trapped all night – I may want it dead, but I’m not that cruel – I picked up the whole thing, took him outside, and found a large rock.

And that was that.

A neighborhood cat got a good meal that night, and I’ve not had a problem with rats since.

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