Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Rat's Tale

Halloween has come and gone, and you probably heard some scary stories. But I’ll guarantee I have one that tops anything you’ve ever heard. Bold claim, you say? Well, read on, my friend, and know that this story is only scary because it’s 100% true.

It was a day like any other day. I was at the office, and heading into the men’s room to take care of some important corporate business. We have a small office, and the bathrooms are “one-holers.” As I stepped through the doorway and flipped on the light, I caught some movement out of the corner of my left eye. I looked down mid-stride, and just milliseconds after my left foot hit the floor, a large, black rat coming at a dead run out from under the cabinet ran directly over the top of my shoe.

Every muscle in my body reacted at once, and while emitting an involuntary, yet very manly, high-pitched yelp of surprise, I recoiled in an impressive reverse long-jump back out of the bathroom. Carl Lewis would have been proud. My right hand was still on the door handle, and the door slammed shut as I vaulted backward to safety.

Our bathrooms are located in a small alcove that connects our offices to our manufacturing shop area. There is a men’s room and a ladies’ room side-by-side on one wall. There is an open breezeway-type door into the offices on the adjacent wall, and a door out to the shop opposite the breezeway.

My extremely masculine exclamation of surprise combined with my acrobatics in the alcove brought two of the salesmen over to see what all the fuss was about. I explained that I had just inadvertently trapped Goliath, the killer rat in the men’s room, and he now needed to be extracted.

We went out to the shop and enlisted John, the shop foreman, to help with the rodent removal. Being steely-eyed men of action, we quickly devised a simple plan. The two salesmen would man a large piece of cardboard in the breezeway, to keep Jumbo from getting into the office and wreaking havoc. John would hold the shop door open, and I would steady my nerves and go back in to the restroom and drive the beast out.

In I went, ready for anything. Our two bathrooms are very simple, consisting of one toilet, one wall-mounted sink, and one short, moveable cabinet on wheels. He was nowhere in sight, so I knew he was back where he had started, under the cabinet. I grabbed the long-handled plunger and gave the side of the cabinet a solid whack. Out came Jabba-the-Rat, bigger than I had remembered, and brandishing long, sharp teeth. He saw that I had a weapon, however, so he made his escape out the door of the men’s room and into the alcove. To his left was a solid wall of cardboard. To his right, an open door to safety. So, naturally, he made a hard right, and ran directly into the ladies’ room.

John, thinking fast, slammed the ladies’ room door shut. We had successfully herded an enormous rat from one bathroom to another. We had a few laughs as we contemplated ending our quest there. The potential ramifications of that decision, however, seemed more dire in the end than another encounter with the beast, so we forged ahead.

We went with our same simple plan, but with one change. We closed the other bathroom door this time. In I went, armed with my plunger of death, ready to do battle with a scared and angry Frankenrat. The ladies’ room is laid out in a mirror image of the men’s room, with the same sparse furnishings. He was not scurrying around on the floor, so he was obviously back in his favorite (and only) hiding place, under the rolling cabinet. I gave it a whack. Nothing. Another whack. Nothing. With nerves of tempered steel, I rolled the cabinet away from the wall, plunger raised, poised to bludgeon the largest rat in the world.

He was not under the cabinet. He was not in the cabinet drawers. He was not behind the toilet tank, which was the only other possible place to hide, if it was even remotely possible that at twelve pound rat could fit in a half-inch space. He was not in the bathroom. Four sets of eyes had seen him enter, yet he had vanished.

Although no one could truly envision it, we all knew there was one other possibility of escape from the bathroom. The very reason for the bathroom does indeed have a hole that goes to the outside world. As we all shook our heads in denial of the only remaining scenario, I walked over and peered into the toilet. There, sitting at the bottom of the bowl, perfectly visible against the stark white porcelain background, was a single, solitary rat poop.

I laughed a nervous, half-scared laugh. The others crowded into the bathroom to gaze into the toilet. They laughed the same shaky laugh of doom. The rat had been in the toilet. Now it was not in the toilet. There are only two ways out of a toilet, and we knew he hadn’t come out the easy way. None of us could really wrap our heads around it. We are intelligent men, and facts are facts, but this was too ominous to fathom. After some thought, it was clear. There was just one thing to do… Flush.

I hit the lever, and we watched the tiny rat poop swirl away. John was the first to speak.

“He’ll probably pop out of the men’s toilet.”

We all looked at each other. Naw. No way! But we had just come to the half-hearted conclusion that the giant rat had gone down a toilet. Why couldn’t it come up? After all, the two toilets were in essence back-to-back on either side of a common wall, sharing a common sewer pipe.

We hustled out of the ladies’ room and I flung the men’s room door open just in time to witness a huge, jet-black, soaking-wet, mad, scared, holy terror of a rat rocket two feet into the air, straight out of the men’s toilet bowl.

I stood frozen in the doorway as he landed back in the water with a sickening splash. He scratched and clawed out two full circular laps around the inside of the toilet bowl until he had enough speed to launch himself out onto the floor

When the dripping wet rat hit the linoleum, all hell broke loose.

I jumped/fell/careened backward out of the doorway waving my plunger in a desperate attempt to fend off the evil beast. He came out through the doorway, and made another hard right turn past the scrambling salesmen who were yelling incoherent epithets and making a desperate attempt to hurl themselves through the breezeway and back into the office. The hell-rat appeared to be trying to make his way back into the ladies’ room, but unfortunately for both of them, John was standing in the way.

The soaked rat was heading straight for John’s right leg. With his leg now being controlled by the primal instinct that is hard-wired into the back of man’s brain, John kicked out, hard and fast. His steel-toed boot caught the freakishly oversized escaped lab rat square in the face, lifting him off the ground and sending him flying across the alcove, slamming into the opposite wall three feet off the floor, leaving a wet, smudgy rat silhouette on the sheetrock. He hit the wall hard and fell to the linoleum… not the least bit fazed.

Up he came with a wild, crazed look in his eye, still running, this time toward the closed shop door. I let the plunger come crashing down toward him in a tomahawk fashion, missing him by mere inches, and leaving a two-foot-long black rubber streak on the door that we would later not be able to remove. The mange-ridden beast made a wild, slippery u-turn and picked up speed heading straight at the breezeway. The second salesman had just rolled onto the carpet, free of the doorway, when Lucifer, the New York sewer rat scrambled through the breezeway behind them and made his way unfettered into the office.

John and I gave chase, as the salesmen scrambled to their feet. As we poured into the office area, we caught sight of our quarry, but Ratzilla was moving quickly. The enormous rat from the bowels of Hades was now twice as fast and agile on the claw-friendly office Berber carpet. He made a right turn into the engineering department, and in a really personally offensive move, disappeared behind MY desk.

That was the last we ever saw of him.

We searched behind every desk, cabinet, workstation, and credenza in the entire department and never again laid eyes on the wet, slimy, massive, bulletproof, degenerate, mean-spirited rodent from hell. We have no idea where he went.

If Houdini did something we don’t know about that angered God, I’ll guarantee He sent him back to earth as a big, black rat. He had vanished into thin air only three minutes after I had first set eyes on him while entering the bathroom to use the facilities.

Funny thing, though. I didn’t have the urge to go to the bathroom again for a whole week!

See you soon,

Copyright © 2010 Marc Schmatjen

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