|The Catcher Goes Awry
2018 by Charles Berkoff
heard it said that, for many women, the emergence of a rat in the
manner described below is their worst nightmare. I'm sorry to say
that this story will bring them no comfort.
a creature was stirring, not even—a rat?
Charles! Come quick! Come quick!" she screamed.
not "Come Quick," I thought, as I hurried
her from the other side of the house. It's "Come Quick-ly!"
An adverb. What's the language coming to? I guess I shouldn't end a
thought on a preposition either.
then I'd reached the bedroom. I opened the door.
she said, "Come in and close the door." She was wearing a
simple but fetching nightgown. I then noticed her ashen face, and
knew that, whether it was quick or quickly, a quickie was obviously
not something she had in mind.
a rat in the bathroom. And it's gigantic!"
you sure?"…thinking, yeah, right...a mouse,
by the toilet," she said, ignoring my question and my thought.
here. I'll be right back," I said, trying hard to convey what I
had very little of, confidence in handling potentially rabid and
vicious wildlife. In my search for some kind of weapon, I hurried
into the garage. I grabbed my fishing net and a nearby fly swatter. A
note saying: "Dear Rat. Please jump into this net," might
have been just as effective as a fly swatter, but panic-driven
necessity can clearly be the mother of poorly conceived
in the bedroom she elaborated: "I was sitting on the toilet,
peeing, when I felt something splashing underneath me. I stood up and
this humungous rat jumped out of the toilet...dripping wet...ran
around the bathroom, and is now behind the toilet."
thought, this could have had a very different ending. Boggles
mind—could have boggled other body parts too. Hers.
I'll...go look," I said. With net in one hand, and fly swatter
in the other, I cautiously opened the bathroom door and peered in. A
pair of angry, beady eyes looked back at me from behind the toilet
pedestal. I closed the door. Quietly. I didn't want to disturb
a huge rat" I announced to my wife.
right. Well…er…I suppose I’d better go back in,"
although ninety-nine percent of me was convinced we should just wait,
and starve him out.
the door quickly behind you," she instructed, as I reentered the
bathroom. I nodded, knowing that I needed to keep the rat contained;
unfortunately, I was contained with him.
towards the monster. Or, more accurately, brimming with reluctance, I
millimetered towards him, net outstretched, as if I were offering him
boy," I heard myself whisper. When I was about three feet away,
the rat hunched up, propelled himself out from behind the toilet, and
with lightning speed, flashed round and round the tiled floor of the
bathroom like a proton beam whizzing around The Hadron Particle
Accelerator looking to collide with something. In the rat's case I
didn't want that something to be me. On the third cycle around, I was
released from my paralytic state, when the rat took a sharp turn into
my wife's walk-in closet leading off the bathroom.
was indeed gigantic. Of prehistoric proportions,
thought. Three feet long and another three feet of tail. Or close to
it. And close to it was where I certainly didn't want to be. I
quickly closed the pocket door of the closet, and went back into the
bedroom to report on my extraordinary bravery.
was quite a struggle," I announced.
sure it was. Now what?" she asked.
it's nearly midnight. Can't do much more," as if I had any
intention of doing anythingmore. "We'll
him in there and get the rat catcher over in the morning. He has the
proper equipment to handle jobs like this."
like courage, I thought.
gap at the bottom of the pocket door was only about a quarter of an
inch, but I'd read stories of monster rats crawling through holes the
size of the eye of a needle. So I sealed the door with duct tape.
hold him, I thought. And
I hope he likes
shoes, because the lucky bastard has access to at least a thousand
absurdly expensive pairs: every conceivable style, shape, color, and
designer, all neatly boxed, stacked, and grossly underused. Shoes to
match every possible type of dress, every possible occasion.
slippers for the big ball? Shelf 8. Section IIB. Location 29R.
in bed, we both pretended to sleep. But oh, that incessant
scratching, nibbling, and gnawing...and that was my wife! Mr. Rat
was, I imagined, fully occupied checking out the Mefistos and
the Weitzmans, chewing one pair, tasting another. If my wife had the
same vision I had, I'd be forced back in there to protect her
treasure. I decided not to share the
3:46 a.m. she turned towards me and asked: "Are you awake?"
it too early to call the rat catcher?" she persisted.
pest control people finally answered their telephone at 7:58 a.m. Big
Al would be right over.
am. Al, obviously Big Al, filled the doorway. Six feet five, two
hundred and fifty pounds, jeans, cowboy boots, rippling muscles and,
under the sleeve of his black T-shirt, a pack of cigarettes. Camels.
Unfiltered. His massive arms were covered in tattoos. No "Mom,"
"hearts," or "love." Just symbols. Strange,
threatening symbols. Glad he was working for us.
You must be Al," I said.
I'm Al," he grunted in a deep, gravelly voice, shrugging twice.
"Tharathota Petht Sythtemths thent me."
smiled. Boy, either this guy's got a great sense of
thought, or else he's working for the wrong company.
was the wrong company.
What thort of petht you got?" He scowled and shrugged again.
it's a rat," I said.
Big Al sneered with obvious disappointment. "They thaid it was
thomethin' big: a gator, or a monthter thnake." Shaking his
head, he went back to his truck and returned carrying a small black
sack with a drawstring opening.
the tiny sack, I smiled as I recalled Chief Brody’s comment in
the Jaws movie. "You’re gonna need a bigger bag," I
sniffed dismissively. "Right. Let’th go get thith little
a very big rat" I protested, as I
led the way
to the closet.
here," I said.
ripped off the duct tape, slid the door open, and swaggered in. I was
right behind him, but stayed on the bathroom side of the door. The
big man was about to say something, when suddenly the rat leapt from
a shelf near the ceiling on one side of the small closet to a lower
shelf on the other side, a seven foot leap. Big Al grunted a
surprised "ooh!" and quickly stepped back—but not
quickly enough. I was already pulling the pocket door shut.
clothe the door! Open it!" he yelled in sheer panic.
I thought to myself, as I hesitantly slid the door open.
came Al. Not Big Al…just…Al. He seemed smaller. His
shoulders had narrowed; his tattoos had faded. Swagger—gone.
one big mother!" he conceded.
that moment, the mother in question suddenly scampered out of
shoetown, and returned to his spot behind the toilet. He appeared to
challenge Al with come-near-me-and-I’ll-rip-your-face-off
defiance written all over him.
had a thought. "You stay on your side of the toilet," I
suggested, "and I'll go round the other side and shoo him to
you"–with my fly swatter? As I approached
rat's rear end, the monster suddenly turned and glared at me. I
lurched back. The rat then turned again, this time to snarl at Al. He
too recoiled and, back to back, we clashed. Giving away a hundred
pounds, I came out a poor second, and went sprawling across the tiled
floor, back towards the rat. As my head struck the toilet, my
temporary front tooth, placed only twenty-four hours earlier, flew
out of my mouth and skidded across the floor towards Al. He was
unaware that his size fifteen boot crushed it. As I slowly rose to
one knee, minus a front tooth, the rat turned to face me again, but
carelessly allowed his long tail to stick out the other side of the
toilet. Although shaken, Al stirred. Instinctively perhaps, but in
obvious triumph, he grabbed the rat by his tail.
a throaty "Aaaah. Thuccthess." Al pulled the rat out, and
dropped him head first into his patiently waiting black sack. He
quickly pulled the drawstring—but not quite quickly enough. The
rat poked his head out of the bag and bared his teeth angrily at
Al—who promptly dropped the bag.
looked like some kind of grotesque animal sack race, the rat, with
head out of the bag and the rest of his body within, began to hop,
jump, and tumble around the tiled floor. Al was transfixed. In a
moment of reckless abandon, I grabbed the bag, pulled the
drawstring very tight, and tied a
knot in it. Then a
second knot. Then a third—before I ran out of string. With the
rat continuing to kick, I handed the sack to Al, who took it with a
wath thome ecthperienth," I said.
glared. Hard. Belatedly, I realized what I'd said. Or rather, how I
I added, further compounding my embarrassment. I pointed to the gap
in my front teeth. But Al had already turned away, missing my excuse
for my apparent poor taste in humor. He shook his head in obvious
disgust, and returned to his truck and, I wanted to believe, back to
his Big Al persona. I felt awful, but decided to leave bad alone.
Perhaps I could write some kind of apology/thank you note
cleaned up the powdered tooth, and went to report to my wife, who by
then, was waiting outside a neighbor's house, three hundred yards
rat'th gone," I declared. "Tho ith Big Al."
I'm not using that toilet ever
lost the exclusive use of my bathroom for the next two months before
she reluctantly returned to using her own. But now, when she's not
using her toilet, three of her heaviest cookbooks sit on top of the
all those seat-up-seat-down arguments, it's satisfying to realize
that the peeing position of Man is decidedly superior to that of
Woman. From the rat's point of view, however, I'm not sure that it
makes a great deal of difference: he’d be both pissed on and
pissed off regardless.
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