UB40 has a song that goes:
“There`s a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do?
There`s a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna go?
I`m gonna fix that rat thats what I`m gonna do,
I`m gonna fix that rat.”
Naturally it’s called “A Rat in Mi Kitchen”.
Having said that, one spring morning, I woke up, stretched a bit, and stumbled into the kitchen in search of caffeine and grub. I was grabbing a can of Mountain Dew from the refrigerator when I noticed something strange.
I live with two black cats. One older, larger male cat named after the 70′s cheese god himself, “Peter Frampton,” (Frampton for short) and a younger pain-in-the-ass, smaller female cat named “Bella.” Now what initially caught my attention was that both cats were sitting side by side, still as statues in my kitchen, pointing towards my dishwasher.
This was not the typical morning routine for my cats. Usually by the time I’ve gotten out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen in the morning, I’m greeted by a cacophony of meows and squawks and kitty whining that is meant to remind me that their food dish is empty and that a cat’s breakfast is twenty times more important than my own.
So anyway, I backed up a bit in the kitchen to get a better look at whatever had their attention. And I bent down to look under the dishwasher – fully expecting, mind you, to find nothing at all. Perhaps a stray feather or piece of foil or something that a draft of air in the apartment had brought to life. Hell, cats are weird. Sometimes they chase around things I can’t even see: specks of dust or ghosts or people from another dimension or whatever. They’re nuts like that.
But it wasn’t a feather or piece of foil, a speck dust or a ghost though. It wasn’t even a person from another dimension.
It was a:
Two beady eyes and a long protruding rat snout was absolutely the last thing I was expecting to see underneath my dishwasher. Actually, the last thing I expected to see was the ghost of Sonny Bono. So admittedly, this animal was the *second* to last thing I expected to see.
Regardless, the end result was exactly the same. I jumped straight into the air and screamed in a very girly, high-pitched wail. And then like the coward that I am, I ran into my bedroom, slammed the door, and braced it with my shoulder.
My adrenaline was racing… think. Think. THINK! What am I going to do? There’s a freaking rat in my kitchen! A RAT! I’m a bachelor and all, and I know I’m not the tidiest person in the world. But a rat??! That’s a bit extreme.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I’d left my cats in the kitchen. What if the rat bit one of them and gave them rabies or something? So gathering my courage about me, I made two trips to the kitchen, picking up one cat statue and then the next and depositing them in my bedroom. It was on the second trip to fetch another cat statue that the beast came out from under the dishwasher. I guess he felt a little more at home without my kitty security guards busting him.
Now the picture shown above was taken a little later in the story. Because when I bent down to see what the cats were looking at all I saw was his eyes and his snout. It looked like a rat to me. But as he slid out from under my dishwasher it was pretty obvious that while he bore a strong resemblance to a giant NYC subway rat – the rodent in question was actually A POSSUM. Yes, that’s right. Mr. Varmint was none other than The North American Opossum (Didelphis virginiana).
I felt a little better now. I didn’t have a gigantic rat in my kitchen. It was a possum – and a cute baby one at that. Problem is, about this time the cute little baby possum hissed at me which resulted in my hair literally standing on end, and shortly thereafter, my retreat into the bedroom again.
I grabbed my thinking cap from my dresser drawer and put it on. There were two ways out of this situation. Either I called my landlord who would call some animal control agency and, knowing him, probably overreact and call the police too. And suddenly my apartment would be crawling with uniformed animal experts and police and probably the fire department too. Or – I could mount at least one effort on my own to get the thing out of my apartment.
It was not my place to question how the thing got into my apartment in the first place. I would get to that later. Right now I needed to “fix that rat” as the UB40 song goes. And this is the best part, folks. This is the part where you all get to see what a truly clever bastard I am.
First things first, I didn’t want to end up getting bitten or scratched and end up in the emergency room to have a painful rabies shot administered to my ass. So I put on my best pair of possum resistant sweat pants and then I pulled out an old pair of motorcycle boots that rode pretty high up my shins.
Second, I sure as hell didn’t want that possum getting any further into my apartment than the kitchen. If the damn thing got into my bedroom and ran under my bed then I’d have no choice but to call the landlord to bring and have him bring in the big guns. Looking around my apartment, I noticed a very large stack of empty pizza delivery boxes. (Hot damn! I knew there was a reason I had been saving those!) So I used the pizza boxes like playing cards to build a house. I stood them on end and fashioned a blockade – a hallway or chute of sorts that led from my kitchen to my front stairwell. Then I ran downstairs and opened the front door.
My goal with the hallway of pizza boxes was to herd the possum towards the front door – kind of like a possum rodeo I guess. Likewise, I wanted to keep that ratty bastard from getting further into my apartment.
With everything ready, the last thing I did was grab the camera and snap the photo you see above. To be honest I snapped a whole bunch of photos but my hands were trembling so bad from adrenaline and flat out pee-pants fear that most of them came out way too blurry to use. But I’m glad I was smart enough to get at least the one photo so that you will believe me and not blow this off as me spinning yet another famousboot.com yarn.
Anyway, I grabbed the broom from the corner and I swear to God! That baby possum’s eyes narrowed as he stared me down. Possum’s must have a lot of stored genetic knowledge concerning human beings and their tendencies towards chasing poor defenseless animals around with brooms. Because he knew exactly what was coming and the bastard hissed at me again.
No matter. I was ready to rumble… I made a running jump and climbed up onto my kitchen counter in my motorcycle boots and with the broom in hand. The counter was yet another brilliant move on my part because I was fairly certain that possum’s couldn’t jump really high in the air – and I knew on the other hand, I could swat at him just fine with my broom from up there.
I took several swipes at him which caused a new round of possum hissing. They’re nasty little guys – even as babies apparently. But eventually he came out from under my kitchen counter and his Didelphis virginiana ass was on the move. I was worried that he would break through my insubstantial pizza box wall and my plan would be ruined. But everything went off like clockwork. He ran down the chute of pizza boxes and straight into my stairwell! Sweet! I jumped down and ran to the top of the landing just in time to see him stumble down the last few stairs and run outside into the sunshine. Then I heard:
“WHAT THA?!!!!” A male voice, yelling loudly outside my apartment. “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT??? WHA…..”
My downstairs neighbor at the time, Mike, had a tendency to stand outside of his apartment smoking cigarettes and shooting the breeze with the neighbors as they came in and out. And imagine his surprise when a baby possum rocketed out of my apartment right next to where he was standing.
“Did you see that bastard?!!!” I said as I came running down the stairs.
“What is that??” Mike stammered. “Is he… is he a pet?” I followed Mike’s gaze. He was now noticing the broom in my hand and my bright yellow sweat pants stuffed into knee-high motorcycle boots. “It’s a freaking baby possum!” I said, trembling. “There was a freaking baby possum in my apartment. I just shoed him out!”
“Man, it scared the living shit out of me!”
I laughed. “I’m sorry, man. It scared the shit out of me too.” I told him the story of how I had found the thing under my dishwasher.
“How’d it get in there?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Hell if I know.”
“Did you come home crocked one night and leave the front door open or something?” he offered, taking a nervous drag of his cigarette. I thought about it but blackout or no blackout, I didn’t remember having woken from a drunk and finding my front door wide open.
Prologue: Let me assure you that I live in a very nice part of town in central St. Louis. Just in case you’re picturing my apartment as some bumfuck clap-shack in Mudhole, Missouri that has tattered trashbags as window shades and large holes in the wall where the varmints have gnawed their way in – let me assure you that I live in a very nice 1 bedroom apartment, in an apartment complex inhabited mostly by young professionals and college students. And I have absolutely no idea how an animal that large got into my very nice, high-rent apartment.
I have some theories though. You always hear about the rat or alligator that came up through the sewer system and got into someone’s house through the toilet. You know the story. They raise the lid to the toilet and there’s Mr. Alligator waiting for them. Roar!!! But I think we can rule that one out. Because though a baby, that possum was way too big to have come up through the toilet.
There is a possibility that I left the front door open at some point and he came in that way. But I doubt it, because the same would have resulted in my cats escaping.
Anyway, the end of the story is that I told my landlord about it and to my surprise, he just kind of shrugged it off. Maybe he thought I was lying… so I showed him the pictures. “You ever have anyone else in the complex end up with a possum in their apartment?” He hadn’t heard of it happening, no. I think he thought I was trying to get some sort of rent reduction for it so he acted like it was no big deal.
He suggested that maybe the possum got in through the sub-wall or sub-floor (or some other weird apartment/house term that meant nothing to me – and still doesn’t) and assured me that he would have a guy come out and take a look at my building. Two days later he called to let me know that no holes or points of entry had been discoved. So still I live with this mystery.
But it’s been well over a year since this happened and luckily I have not found any new varmints in my apartment. No owls, marmosets, or Koala bears. And I guess the possum time continuum portal – that strange once in a life time occurrence that brought him here from the “Possum X-Files” show or the “Star Trek: The Next Possum Generation” universe – I guess it sealed up and vanished.
Personally, I think I will close this X-File by simply coming to the conclusion: “God was fucking with me again.”