Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Squeaking

For the first several years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in a small, yet cozy, loft apartment. The rent was cheap, the water was free, and unlike many Congressmen it had character. One night while we were both getting ready for bed, we began playfully arguing about something and it escalated until we were lobbing pillows at one another. The end result was that the flying pillows dislodged everything perched on the nightstand (lamp, telephone, alarm clock, and even a glass of water) and several of these items fell into the garbage can or on the floor and had to be retrieved.

Calling a truce for the night, we settled into bed and turned off the lights. Now I tend to fall asleep quickly, so I have no concept of how many minutes had passed between the time I fell asleep and when Ashley began shaking me. I just remember her voice laced with horror as she hovered over me and hissed, “There is something under the bed!” As I regained consciousness, I was somewhat reluctant to spring into action due to a similar incident that had occurred earlier in our marriage where she was convinced that my nose whistling as I slept was the attack call of a vicious mouse.

We listened in silence for several minutes, and just about the time I was convinced that she was hallucinating, I heard it. The best way to describe it was intermittent bursts of “Cheep, Cheep, Cheep,” repeating like some sort of secret rodent Morse code and to be fair it did seem to be getting closer. It was at this point I began to panic, as I had once heard stories of a local rat that could consume an entire Pringles can and was large enough to be saddled and ridden by elementary school children.

I managed to reach the lamp on the nightstand and illuminate the bedroom so that we could construct a battle plan and better ascertain the position of our furry nemesis. As we did so, the animal’s calls seemed to grow in frequency and intensity as if it was preparing for its initial offensive campaign. By this time Ashley’s fear was beginning to transition into sheer panic, and I knew from watching Man vs. Wild reruns that our best chance for survival was to remain calm. I did my best to quell her fear while listening for some sort of pattern in the animal’s mantra that would signal an opening for our escape, and after several minutes the great beast grew silent.

I cautiously dangled my foot over the edge of the bed to entice the rodent, and after thirty seconds of uneventful tension, I decided that we had to make our move. Placing my unshielded feet on the wooden floor, I turned and picked Ashley up from our bed and carried her into the living room, since she refused to touch the floor with a rat on the loose. I placed her on the couch and she stood with her back against the wall. Hearing the noise again, I immediately shut the bedroom door so as to contain him while I contemplated my next move. I was certain that I would need a weapon of some sort but was unsure of what would be most effective against this fearsome vermin.

Leaving Ashley standing on the couch, I ran to the garage and began rummaging through the various items I had stored there looking for a lethal accessory. My first thought was that I could spray WD-40 in the animal’s eyes, and while he was temporarily blinded by the petroleum-based lubricant I could ignite his furry little body with a grill match. While this would no doubt bring about the rat’s demise, there was also the possibility that in his frantic search for relief from his agony, he would set fire to our meager furniture collection and perhaps even burn down the entire apartment. Not willing to give up on my security deposit this early in the game, I decided to look at some other options.

Next, I contemplated capturing him with some sort of container. However, this would require me to corner the animal, and if this was the rat of legend I was not sure that I could subdue him unarmed and still manage to herd him into a structurally sound container. Chemicals were always a possibility, but all I had was an old can of Raid Wasp & Hornet Killer and if the rodent was as fearsome as he sounded, he probably used Raid as an aftershave.

I finally settled on my ridiculously-large Maglite flashlight. My plan was two-fold; first, I would use the powerful beam to blind the rat, then I would savagely (yet humanely) bludgeon the beast with the other end before he had time to recover his sight. Armed with the reassuring heft of 4 D-cell batteries packed in an aluminum tube, I returned to the living room and prepared myself for what I was certain would be my finest hour.

As I slowly approached the bedroom door, I began to wonder why this previously silent rodent had become so vocal tonight. Had he just recently made his way into our humble abode or had he been planning this night all along; tracing out floor plans of the apartment with his furry little fingers? Then, just as I was about to open the door, it dawned on me: It must be the pillow fight.

When the pillow knocked everything off the night stand we also spilled a rather large glass of water, and quite a bit of it seeped under the baseboards and into the wall that led downstairs. The apartment was almost 60 years old, and the sloping floor practically channeled the water under the paneling so it was certainly conceivable that we had saturated his nest and instigated this assault.

Despite my quickening pulse, I had to remain focused because if I did not emerge from that bedroom with the carcass of something, it was a metaphysical certainty that I would be putting my wife into a hotel for the night. The door creaked in protest as I slowly pulled it open. As I entered the bedroom and pulled the door closed behind me, I immediately heard the now familiar chorus of “Cheep, Cheep, Cheep” which brought me dangerously close to making wee-wee on myself and losing what little respect my wife (and the rat) had for me to begin with. Taking a moment to gather my urinary-fortitude, I slowly sank to my knees to peer under the bed to size up my four-legged foe.

Sweeping the light back and forth under the mattress frame did not reveal the source of the noise, but apparently the image of me brandishing an attack baton with a bulb on the end of it silenced the rodent as the squeaking abruptly ended leaving me to wonder what the next move was. Perhaps through the kinship of all living things we had reached some sort of mutually beneficial truce that would allow him to return unharmed to his den and I to return semi-victorious to my spouse; never our paths to cross again.

After several minutes had passed without a battle cry, I stood up and walked around the perimeter of the room trying to instigate a reaction, and having never received one, decided that it was time to begin talking my bride down from the couch. Just as I began telling her that everything was taken care of, the squeaking returned with a renewed urgency and this time I could pinpoint in to the left side of the bed. As I closed in on the sound I realized that it was coming from beside the bed and not under it. The rat had been under the night-stand all along!

My senses on high-alert, I readied the flashlight in my right hand and grasped the side of the nightstand table with the other. My plan was to quickly lift the table to expose the animal, and end his hairy little future with a quick flick of the wrist. Mentally counting to three, I rock the table backward and just as I am about to bring down the hammer of destiny on a defenseless loop of phone cable, I realize that the noise was coming from the telephone resting beside my face on the top of the night stand.

At first I could not believe it, but after sitting beside the cradled handset for several minutes and hearing it emit a repeating pattern of squeaks and “Cheeps” I realized that there had never been a rat at all. Apparently when the contents of the nightstand had been scattered, water had gotten into the base and receiver of the telephone and was causing an internal short that was creating the noises we heard. I unplugged the wire from the phone, retrieved Ashley from the couch, and after nearly an hour of chasing the noise from a telephone, in my underwear, finally went to sleep.



    Hysterical! Brilliant writing Brian!

  2. I've been following your hilarious and insightful blog for a
    few weeks now. Love it!

    We had this chirp thing happen once and definately
    thought it was an animal at first. Watch out
    for the smoke detectors too!


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