A Rat Among Us

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I found a dead rat under our barbecue a few weeks ago.

By Sugar Mama

asksugarpic-finalBWI found a dead rat under our barbecue a few weeks ago. While this shouldn’t have surprised me given our rodent-friendly climate of Doritos crumbs in the backyard, it did. Rats are supposed to live in alleys behind restaurants that serve dog for breakfast in Mumbai. Not in Orange County, where it’s illegal to even have a dog unless it’s a golden, Yorkie or labradoodle, or if it matches perfectly with your HOA-approved beige stucco. So, yeah, the rat was a shocker.

Especially since we have a cat.

Upon closer inspection by an exterminator, it looked as though it had been there awhile, or “for however long it takes for rat skin to become petrified,” the guy said, “which could have been 100 years ago.” This surprised me. A hundred years ago rats had to have been a lot hairier due to the colder climate, and quite a bit bigger to fight off dinosaurs. But who was I to flip the bird at science, so I promised I wouldn’t toss my wooden-looking rat corpse into the trash until I’d contacted an expert.

(NOTE: They’re called rat mammalogists, if ever in the market, and the closest one who will take your call lives in Oklahoma.)

“A petrified rat …” repeated Dr. Randall from Oklahoma after I told him my story. “This will certainly be a first for me.”

After I sent him a bunch of photos of the rat in various lighting on an assortment of colorful blankets, it took him 12 days to get back to me. Twelve days of mounting realization that I had been storing a bit of mammalian history in one of my favorite Tupperwares and that I had better get my roots done soon.

When the call finally did come, I was at my son’s soccer game.

“What you’ve got there, ma’am, is a member of the superfamily Muroidea; genus Rattus,” Dr. Randall began.

“Wow, he’s Latin. He’s older than I thought then,” I said, wishing I had more than Gatorade and orange slices to commemorate the event. “Will you be sending photographers?”

“I’ll be sending you a rolled up newspaper for you to toss it,” he said. “He’s just a ho-hum rat who fried his skin on your barbecue.”

People say that when you win the lottery, it takes awhile for the shock to subside and to adjust to your new reality. One guy from Nevada won more than $20 million, yet he continued to go to the laundromat for 18 months before he bought himself a washer and dryer. Not so with my realization that I had been harboring a rat carcass in my bedroom and that I had probably exposed my entire family to the bubonic plague.

Nope, that profound awareness was pretty much instantaneous.

Rats. LBM

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