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Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Rats are evil. They spread disease, they destroy plants, and they leave their filth where it can do the most damage. So it's perfectly acceptable for the same person who employs an extensive catch-and-release program for spiders to show no such mercy when a rat feels so relaxed on the back porch that it waddles along, smelling the flowers like an invited guest.

As many as half a dozen feral (or wannabe-feral) cats roam the countryside around my house. Sometimes I run them off, because they bother the birds. But at other times I leave them alone in the hope that they'll take care of my rodent problem. Gophers, moles and rats thrive in the yard. I haven't been able to flood them out, and the vibration control system was defunct before I even moved in here.

To be honest, I don't know for sure that the cats have been totally useless in this regard. Maybe they've killed so many pests that I should be grateful the situation isn't any worse than it is. But they could do better. I expect it of them. It's why I put up with them.

Today I did the cats' job for them. I didn't expect to catch up with this rat. In fact, I walked outside with the thought of merely following it to its home, just so I'd know where they were all coming from. But it scampered heavily into the camellia bush and then just stood there on its stubby legs, looking up at me defiantly and sniffing my scent as if I were the one invading its territory.

So I grabbed the shovel and slammed it down on its head. One blow is all it took (which was a big surprise and relief to me). I could almost see the cartoon X's in its beady little eyes. Now it was just a dead rat, and I scooped it up with the shovel and flung it over the fence into the abandoned field. That's the direction the cats usually come from. Maybe they'll get the message.

It was the sight of this creature on my porch, where I sit in the afternoons and read Oprah novels while sipping diet Mountain Dew, that made me crazy enough to take such drastic action. This was no cute little white mouse. It was a big, ugly, hairy brown rat. Guilty by reason of ewwww. (Shudder.)

I didn't think I had it in me. I was still shaking, my heart pumping madly, hours after the incident. Wait a minute, that's not right. Hours after I killed the rat. There, I said it. I'm a rat killer. Please don't hate me.

no rats allowed

My house, from the middle of the driveway.

I'm a peaceable man. But apparently I'm not a pacifist.

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