It’s Sunday–a sunny, puffy cloud sort-of Sunday as far as I can tell by the blinding light pouring in from the plane’s window. I look to my left and Cole is passed out in the seat next to me. He nods off a few times, jerking his head back up every now and then in a sleepy stupor.
I don’t blame him after the last 48 hours we’ve had. I actually envy his ability to sleep on planes. My mind always races and I’m trapped inside a cramped seat (well, not so cramped this time, our clients booked us the emergency exit seats–score!) left with nothing to do but write.
It all started Thursday night around 11pm. We are all but packed up to shoot a wedding in Ohio, and our flight is Friday morning at 6:50 am. We are making our last round through the rooms of our apartment to make sure we have everything we need for the photo shoot.
I open the door to our guest bedroom and I immediately see it. Inanimate objects such as bedskirts don’t ruffle their pretty fabric all by themselves, and seeing as every other object in the room isn’t moving around, my eyes dart fast enough to spot the movement.
And I see it.
For a split second I see a hairy, long tail slither underneath the bed frame. As soon as I see it, it vanishes.
Did I really see it? Am I having a nightmare?
There’s a white-hot, instantaneous fear that burns all the way to my feet, the same feet that made the executive decision to jump on top of our office chair without a moment’s hesitation.
So I’m on the chair. I’m on the chair and I’m screaming to Cole.
“Babe it’s probably just a bug!” Cole chimes back from the other room.
“GET. IN. HERE! This thing is NOT a bug!” I yell back. I start lowly murmuring to him, in a talking-primarily-to-myself kind-of way, “It’s not a bug…not a bug…God let it just be a bug. But it can’t be a bug… What if it’s a–”
“I don’t see anything,” Cole thankfully cuts me off mid-crazy-talk. He closes the door. It’s just us and…whatever that thing is.
We hear it.
Scratching from the dresser on the other wall.
Cole looks up at me on the chair,”What is this thing? And how did it get to the dresser from under the –”
Scratch, claw, scratch.
We both slowly look back at each other and start whispering, as if the creature will forget we are in the room.
“It had a tail it had a tail it had a tail…” I say to myself, going to the crazy place again.
“Let me look around,” Cole pulls out his phone and launches the flashlight app.
“Oh yeah, I see him. There he is,” he whispers after a few seconds of waving the light in the crevices of the dresser.
I panic. “No no no no it’s not. Tell me it’s not a–”
“Yes, it’s a RAT. And he’s a big one too.” Cole says very slowly.
My body makes a complete 180 in the other direction and I ignore the situation behind me. I float off to my own safe place in my mind. I’ll just stay on this chair until the bad dream ends. Rats aren’t real. Or maybe this little guy is the Rattetoui rat from the movie. Yeah. He just wants to be a chef and maybe he’s really nice. Maybe I’ll name him. Animals with names are always less intimidating. Okay… Randy. Randy the Rat. His name is Randy and he is here to learn to cook and he—
“ASHLEY! Get in the game here! I need your help. Turn around!” Cole has been trying to extract me from crazy land again and I finally hear him, snapping back into reality.
My husband has set up a semi-workable trap system of plastic bins all around the dresser, blocking Randy’s ability to run anywhere but inside a bin. I’m impressed. The only thing we have to do is remove each drawer one at a time.
Cole says one of us has to hold the light toward the rat and watch him, and the other of us has to reach toward the dresser and pull out the drawer that he’s in. I quickly decline both offers and leave the room.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Get back in here!” Cole hisses.
I’m in our bedroom and I try to talk sense into my own mind. I’m not getting very far. I start calling every friend we have in downtown Durham, wondering if anyone would come help my husband since I’m officially useless. No one picks up except one friend, who is in a sleepy haze and tells me he doesn’t know anything about rats. Oh yeah, it’s midnight. Blasted!
I look up at God. Is this a team building exercise or something? A roach would’ve sufficed! But a bloody rat?! Why?!
I hear some rustling in the next room and take it as God’s answer. FINE! I get it! For better or worse, in riches and in rats, right?, I hiss up at Him. I rally and then decide to re-enter the rat room. Cole needs me. Maybe I’ll be brave this time.
I enter back into the room and I don’t feel any braver. I perch back on my chair-nest away from the danger. I don’t have to speak to Cole to understand what he needs. I reach toward him, signifying for him to hand me the phone. I agree to shine the light on Randy. But that’s all I’m doing, mister. I’ll hold the light and then when it’s all over, I’m bathing in bleach.
Cole manages to pull each drawer out and I get a little more light-headed each time we hear the rat clawing his way up to the next level of the dresser. All the drawers have been removed except one. It’s game time.
“He’s got no where to go,” I whisper.
“Yeah, he’s done. He has to come down. I mean rats can’t jump off a four-level dresser.” Cole says to me while keeping his focus on the last drawer.
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
A dozen things happen all within a few seconds, all at once. The last drawer rips open. I see a black rodent the size of Cole’s hand whizzing in a blur right in front of my eyes, in mid air. Randy can jump, as in Olympic kind of jumping in a rat-world. In the blink of an eye he catapults himself from the dresser to the closet in the back corner of the room—a distance about 15 times his body length. He scurries up some clothes and is hanging on for dear life, driving his claws into some innocent scarves.
I’ll never disclose the words that projected out of my mouth in the moment that Randy projected himself into that closet.
I’ve lost the art of composure and fly out of the room. I put my ear to the door to hear what’s going on. I hear two or three wacks!—and then a thud and then the ripping of carpet.
“Yes. YES! HaHA I got you crazy little rat invader! I got you I got you!” Cole is singing a victory anthem. Clearly Randy is contained. It’s safe to go back in. Cole had whacked the fool out of the scarves and laid a bin below for Randy to fall into. And after a couple of hard knocks, Randy did just that. He fell from the scarves into the bin and Cole flipped it over just in time.
So there Randy sits, dejected but determined to get out. Digging at the carpet and whistling through his nasty little teeth, the rat is trapped in a clear plastic bin. He starts ramming the sides of the bin to get out. Not going to work, Randy.
My sanity returns to me. Now that the rat is contained, I can think strategically on how to get him out of the house. The box doesn’t have a lid and we are upstairs. How are we going to carry a rat out of this house in a bin with no lid? My wheels start turning again and I create a plan that I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say, we trap him in a smaller, lid-enforced box, and Cole leaves to throw him out into the woods.
“That was a great plan to get him out. I never would’ve thought of that.” Cole says while he brushes off his shoes.
“Well I figured I needed to prove I’m a useful human being after all. Trapping him was the biggest feat, and I was pretty worthless during that part.” I exhale deeply, like I haven’t in years. I must’ve held my breath the entire two hours this was taking place.
So that’s what happened. That’s the story of Randy the rat.
Remember when I told you I looked up at God and asked him why this was happening? If He orchestrates all circumstances for a reason, why did God choose a rat instead of a roach? Well, as He always does, He answered me afterwards. While I thought it all over on this plane ride, He showed me something awful and terrible and awesome and helpful all rolled into one. He helped me see that the way I dealt with Randy is the same way I deal with my own sin, with all the secret parts of my heart that I don’t want anyone to know about.
I will have to explain what I mean by that statement in my next post. For now, I’m being summoned by the staticky speaker above me to exit the plane. And besides, haven’t I put you through enough trauma already?