12: The Big, Dead Rat

12: The Big, Dead Rat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

The Big, Dead Rat

There is only one proof of ability — action.

~Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Last winter, we had rain for two straight weeks. It rained almost every single day. I would think, Geez, if I wanted to live in Portland, I’d move to Portland. God knows I’d save money on rent. It wasn’t so bad; I caught up on writing and movies as the rain came down. Nothing could prepare me, though, for what I found one day in my back yard.

I went outside to put birdseed in the bird feeder. On my way back to the house, I noticed a tail. The tail did not look like one of my cats’ tails. It was right behind my miniature tree, which I’d named Brooklyn. I took a deep breath, and then looked behind Brooklyn. It was a rat. A big, dead rat. Like many a woman before me, I yelled, “Eeek!” and ran back in the house. Why I did this, I don’t know. The rat was dead. It would not harm me. I figured out the rat might’ve been killed by my cats, Ida B. or Opal. This was good; they were earning their keep. Or it died from the extreme weather. Either way, I had a big-assed, dead rat in my yard. I had to deal with it.

But I didn’t want to. I had plenty to do around my house, work and life. I kept thinking about a Bailey White essay I had read years ago. Something had died under her house. Mrs. White (Bailey’s mother) called an exterminator to get rid of the dead animal. He said, “Don’t you have something like a husband to take care of that for you?” Bailey had to crawl under the house and get the dead animal herself. Although I don’t mind being alone, this was one of those times I wanted something like a husband.

The next day, I procrastinated. Got work done. Wrote a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, who had died recently. I was hoping maybe the rat’s family had carried him off for a Viking funeral. Finally, I went outside. He (or she) was still there. I sighed. He looked like Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web. He definitely had Templeton’s tummy when he ate too much at the fair.

I went back inside. I washed my hands and then grabbed some newspapers. Put on rubber gloves. Walked outside again. Did the sign of the cross. Dear rat, I hope you had a good life. I covered the rat’s body with the newspaper, and then put it in a plastic bag. I ran outside and dumped it in the trashcan.

I went back inside, removed my gloves and washed my hands again. Afterward, I realized that maybe I didn’t have something like a husband, but I had myself. And there are times when “yourself” is all we need — even when it comes to dead, big rats. Things have to get done, and if we wait around for someone else to do it, we’ll be waiting for a long time.

~Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons

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