Two years ago on Thanksgiving, I was at my sister’s house. She had just come home from the hospital, scarred and sore from her surgery. We all were. I can’t stop thinking about that today. Life is fragile. Health is not a given. Neither is tomorrow.
Yesterday afternoon, I sat at my dining room table, tapping away on my laptop. I was alone, the house quiet except for the hum from the laundry room. When suddenly, what to my wandering eye should appear - was it a reindeer, you ask? Santa Claus?
No, no it wasn’t. Can you guess?
Yes, yes you can. It was a rat. A fairly sizey one, strolling casually (he might as well have been whistling) around the corner from the lounge room onto the landing. We spotted each other at the same moment and the rat took a quick left turn, as if he had spotted a friend at a party and was just popping over to say hello, not at all as if he were a midday marauder, caught out, now going to hide and do disgusting ratty things in my hall closet.
My day was instantly ruined. I called Robyn to complain. I texted Sash (because clearly, he should have been there to deal with this.) I lined the front of the hall closet with glue traps. Then I sat back down and tried to keep working.
About five minutes later, I heard the tell-tale tapping of a rat stuck on a trap. Now my day was REALLy ruined. I’ve said before, these things are horrendous, and I would not use them if I had any other choice - but when rodents are nesting in your desk drawers, stashing food under your refrigerator, and shitting in your tea-towels, there is really no room for moral high-horsing.
I texted Robyn again, who advised me to put on headphones. I texted Sash again, who told me to throw another trap on it. I texted the neighbors, to see if any men were home who might come to my rescue. (This is not the first time I have called on the neighbors for this same reason. Or even the second.) They wouldn’t be home for several hours. So I put the laptop away and started cleaning.
Then Heather texted me and of course couldn’t resist telling her. Here’s how the text convo actually went down, verbatim:
KP: BTW, I caught a rat. It’s alive, on a glue trap. Sitting here listening to it thrash around.
HM: Throw that fucker out in the yard!! Horrible.
KP: No way. I can’t go near it. Waiting for the men next door to get home and save me!
HM: I’d come save you but I have a CL dude coming and I have to move that tanker desk downstairs with only Max** to help. Ugh!
** Editor’s note: It’s a huge desk, not a commentary on Max’s manliness.
Not 2 minutes later, she texted back:
HM: Where is it?
KP: In front of the hall closet.
HM: Want me to come put that fucker outside at least?
KP: Seriously? If you want to that would be amazing. But if not I think the neighbors will be home in about an hour. I’ll survive.
HM: Yeah gimme a sec. U have an old towel and a trash bag and a shovel?
KP: Why yes, yes I do.
HM: Grab em and I’ll run over, super quick.
So I did, and she did. She arrived looking flushed, armed with work gloves and earphones. When I opened my mouth to greet her, she yelled, “I can’t talk! I’m listening to Slayer right now!”
I silently directed her to the problem. That bitch put her gloves on, threw the old towel over it, scooped it up into a trash bag, carried the whole thing out to the driveway and pummeled it with a shovel. Then she put it in the trash, gave me a hug and drove home. Whole thing took less than 2 minutes.
What: Yard Sale/ Party… because we make everything a party.
When: Sunday… because we needed Saturday (plus the last month) to get our shit together.
Where: Our dusty front “yard.”
Why: Because we all needed to clear some shit out. (Who doesn’t?)
Who: The Usual Suspects
Heather - The yard sale professional/ proud new owner of a shell handbag.
Max - Yard sale maestro/ proud new owner of a Members Only suede jacket (camel).
Robyn - The little lady who brings the fun/ proud new owner of a lightly used George Foreman, and a book called “Pilgrims.”
Travis - Who should have his own reality show for wheeling and dealing/ think he sold more than anyone.
Sash - The reluctant host turned last man standing/ proud new owner of several pairs of Levi’s.
Me - Over-excited hostess in a mumu/ proud new owner of a chabby-chic kid’s chair, a white shirt dress, and two new rubbish bins. Top notch.
Scout Thunder & Mila Rose
Mischief makers, heart-breakers. Partners in crime. Could be seen most of the day running around naked. Except when they were wedged into the same dress.
Billie Valentine -
This kid has got her own thing going on. Seen most of the day diaper-less, copying the big girls. Which was cute and hippy-ish… until she took a dump on my couch.
(This photo is from 5:30 am the next morning, when she decided to get up. Which she thought was pretty funny.)
If ever you feel like the world is a boring place, have a yard sale, my friends. You will see that it is a crazy place, full of interesting people.
First come the early-birds, the really serious yard-sale patrons. Some of them will be there before the sun is up. Some will come in their pajamas. Some will come in regular clothes, barter you down from $5 to $1 with intensity you are not accustomed to, then come back an hour later in different clothes, and think they can fool you into believing they are a different person and that you will give away anything you haven’t sold yet. (Which you probably will.)
Some will tell you stories of guns hidden in the walls, and cash stashed in light fixtures. Some will yell at you because, “I don’t SEE any vintage!” Some will remind you of Pretty in Pink. Some will make you mad. Some will make you sad.
The truth is, you’re really not going to make any money, unless you’re willing to give it all away. I mean, 50 cents is better than a trip to Good Will, right? (Or is it, you mean old Russian bitch? Those candle holders are CRYSTAL!)
We waited until after 9am to turn the music on, though we may have poured mimosas before then. Our neighbors to the left, who loaned us folding tables for our wares, were also having a party that day, so it turned into a neighborhood affair. (Kind of. They don’t drink… But they sure like to throw parties. We had a laugh, over the fence, which luckily did not catch on fire. Also, it didn’t occur to me until we were packing up and Robyn pointed it out - they were having a party, and they loaned us their party tables. And didn’t say anything. These are good people. Goddam these rats, I really don’t want to move.)
My neighbors to the other side, who had scavengers parking in their driveway all day, were quietly nice about it. And Gloria, the wee old Filipino lady who (quietly) stole my cat, even joined our party for a while.
I was relieved to see her because I have not seen her in months. I was getting worried. I miss her sticking her head over my fence to ask me intrusive questions.
She padded over and checked out all the tables first. I took Billie over to say hello, and she immediately asked me if I was pregnant again, which she always does. I happily said no and we chatted for a minute then she left. She came back with cash, and bought a fake pearl necklace, and eventually (she drives a hard bargain) several handbags. Then she sat down next to me in a deck chair and we really started talking.
She asked me (several times - language barrier, or possibly slight dementia?) if these people were my relatives. I said no, several times. I said, they are my friends. She said (finally - in her thick accent), “Ooooooh, yes, I know, they come over sometimes and drink!” And she actually did the drinky-drinky motion with her arm when she said that. I laughed hahaha and said yes, because what else could I do.
(Clearly, she spies. But she’s sweet, and I love her.)
Then she said, “You should buy this house, fix it up.” I scrunched up my nose, for so many reasons. She went on, “We would miss you if you move.” This caught me off guard, because we are the black sheep of the block. (Hence why they feel it’s ok to use our yard as a parking lot.) Maybe they don’t hate us after all.
I turned to her asked, “Do you have a problem with rats at your house?”
She didn’t hear me. I asked her like 4 more times before she finally understood. Then she said, “Rats? Oh yes, rats. We have rats around, but I have a cat, she doesn’t let them in my house.”
Ok. If you are new here, or you have forgotten, let me refresh your memory. We had two cats when we moved into this house. The smaller, sweeter one, who never caused any problems, moved in with the neighbors. With Gloria, to be specific, who lured her with tunafish and milk. And who apparently has forgotten that she was my cat.
He name was Giyu. She was around when the rats first made their presence known in our house. The only time she showed ANY recognition of their existence, was one night in the laundry room, when I was folding clothes, and I froze because I heard a rat scratching in the cupboard. Giyu strolled in, froze just like me, stared at the cupboard for all of 5 seconds, then backed out of the room, and we never spoke of it again.
I stewed over this for a minute. Then, in my mimosa-fueled glow, I couldn’t help but ask Gloria, “What’s your cat’s name?”
"My cat? She is female, grey and white. Very small."
Yeah, I know. What’s her name?
"She laid down in front of my house, so by tradition, she is mine."
Okay, news to me. What’s her name?
"Oh!" she cried, with delight. "MingMing! Her name is MingMing."
Eventually Gloria wondered home. The party outlasted the yard sale. The kids melted down. The eskie ran dry. We will be taking more to Good Will than we sold, but a good time was had by all.
And Giyu, the skittish kitty who thought Mila may have been temporary, but tapped out when we brought Billie home, has found a new home and a new name for herself: MingMing, rat killer.
At this point we’re just trying to keep them at bay until we find the magical, rodent free house with central air and a dishwasher that I just KNOW is waiting for us at the end of this horror story, the Years of the Rats. The exterminator was a no show yesterday, and while I was on the phone with the office trying to find out why he wasn’t there, I glanced through the laundry room window and saw a rat pop over the edge of the drawer below the dryer where I keep all my cleaning rags. My CLEANING rags.
The night before, one ran up the rock wall in the living room - hickory dickory dock - with Sash standing right there, talking on the phone.
Two mornings ago we caught one on one of those god-awful, supremely inhumane but necessary if you are prone to accidents and don’t want to break any bones setting the other kind of traps, glue traps. Somehow, Sash was able to remove it without the girls noticing, thank you Mickey Mouse Club.
But the very worst of the worst came this morning when, already on edge (jumpy, you could say) and trying to get myself and the girls ready to leave the house, I peeked through the laundry room window again, thinking I would run in and grab Mila’s blanket from the dryer.
What I saw was this: a cute little rat, (despite the fact that I FUCKING HATE THESE FUCKERS, they really are still kind of cute when you see their faces, which makes the wanting to kill them part harder to deal with) all but rolling around, inside the kitty litter box.
Eating cat shit.
I think it’s a new low… Breaking barriers, yay for us.
On the bright side, surely things can only get better…. Right?
Hello, fellow reader. Have you heard of Longreads? It’s a great resource if, like me, you like reading more than Facebook status updates but, like me, you don’t often find the time to sit down and search the internet for the really good reads you can sink your teeth into.
Subscribe to Longreads and wander through their archives. You will find treasure.
In addition, they will send you a weekly email with their top 5 picks of the week, fiction and non-fiction. They also find pieces written back in the day (meaning - gasp - before the internet) which have never before been published online. I have read some really incredible articles since I joined, which I never would have discovered on my own.
Last bonus - they give you the story length by both pages and by reading time, so you know what you are getting into up front. What a great idea, right?
I invoked Santa today, for the first time this year. (Which is actually quite impressive, if you think about it. I mean, it’s almost November. I held out for eleven whole months. Wait, no ten. But still. Also, I believe that means the holiday season has now officially begun. Fuck.)
After I reminded Mila that he is ALWAYS watching, she asked me if he also goes to Australia, as that’s where we’ll be for the big day this year.
"Oh yes, he goes everywhere," I replied.
"But my stocking is in Cincinnati," she worried. (Because that’s where we were last year.)
"Actually your stocking is here, in a box, in the cupboard. But we’ll take it with us. Or I’m sure Baba will have one for you."
"But how will Santa know we’re in Australia?"
"We’ll tell him."
"Well, we’ll write him a letter."
Quite proud of myself at this point; thinking on my feet, envisioning cute letter writing session - should get a good Instagram out of it, and kill an hour or so next Saturday, bonus.
Then she quickly said, “Or we could just go to the Americana and tell him.”
Well, yes, you do have a point there, kid.
Plus, that way mummy and Auntie RaRa can have a cocktail at the Cheesecake Factory afterwards.