Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Yikes! A visit from the rat whisperer

The “rat whisperer” as he had been jovially described to me by his co-worker who performs my regular pest control service, had been summoned. He was admirably punctual, masked and wearing starched khakis and a logo Polo shirt, the picture of professionalism. His assignment: To get to the bottom of a curious, er, dropping I had found on my kitchen counter and placed in a sandwich bag.

“Here it is,” I said, holding it like it was, well, rat droppings. Head turned to the side, full arm extension. “I’m so sorry.”

The rat whisperer accepted my strange offering like it was a fine bauble, examining it thoroughly before looking up.

“Definitely a rat,” he said in plus or minus one second.

I swayed a bit. “No, no,” I said. “Let’s take another look. Perhaps a tiny mouse?”

“Nope, rats have no control over their sphincters so you may find this anywhere. It’s encouraging this is all you found.”

Clearly his idea of “encouraging” didn’t match mine. Also, the more he talked I was worried about my own sphincter capabilities. Critters inside when they should be outside makes me significantly woozy.

“B-b-b-ut I have CATS!”

The rat whisperer looked briefly at Joey and Chandler, weighing in at 16 pounds each of mean, lean, fighting machine…oh, who am I kidding? He saw right through their dull, disinterested stares.

“Yeah. Well, anyway…”

J&C looked at him with what approximated hurt feelings, I thought. And then immediately went to sleep at his feet.

Sensing my fear, the rat whisperer sought to console me, the embarrassingly hysterical housewife.

“You know,” he said softly, “When you live in this part of the world, it’s really not a question of IF you have a rat; it’s a question of when.”

What part of the world was he referring to? The abyss into Hell?

Wait. Hold on. He said “a rat.” Like just one random rat who had accidentally wandered through a plaster wall and into my kitchen for a look-see. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all.

“What’s this!” he said, crouching with a flashlight that revealed… some mighty sloppy housekeeping.

“Oh, I spilled an entire container of black peppercorns the other night. Thought I got ‘em all…”

He picked up three peppercorns and gently placed them on a white paper towel. “See? These look exactly like squirrel poop because it’s completely round…”

Stoptalkingstoptalkingstoptalking.

As the rat whisperer, an extremely knowledgeable and helpful fellow, scoured attic and basement and exterior, I fretted.

A rat? In my home? I was nauseous.

As if he was reading my mind, the rat whisperer raced in to comfort. Kidding!

“It’s highly unusual to just have one. There are usually many more where that one came from.”

OK, off you go, then.

“No!” I said, holding up my hand. “Did you ever consider he’s just a bachelor rat? A bit of an introvert with no friends?” Yes. I actually said that.

“A bachelor rat? That’s funny! But, seriously, there are usually lots more around, like a colony. They’re actually fairly social creatures if you think about it.”

Which now I must. Rat tea parties somewhere in my 100-year-old walls. Pinkies up!

I want to say this young man is very, very good at his job. When I confessed I had heard a “scritch scratch” in the wall the day before the, er, present was left on the counter, he nodded empathetically.

“Yeah. You know their teeth never stop growing so they just chew through walls and wiring and their teeth just keep getting sharper and longer as needed…Hey, you OK? Do you want some water?”

Stoptalkingstoptalkingstoptalking.

His thorough inspection revealed a point of entry he could easily seal up. Whew.

I guess we can postpone the whole selling the house thing. For now.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Her email is [email protected].

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