Let me start out by saying I am not a violent man.

Sure, I huff and I puff to blow off a little steam when I get frustrated. When I was in grade school, I thought I invented the F-word. I’ve been using it liberally ever since.

But it takes a lot more to make me want to kill. Around Thanksgiving, I found that reason.

To quote Mr. Jinks, “I hate meeces to pieces.”

 

 

It actually began over the summer.

I own a typical Chicago brick two-flat, where the back porch is enclosed with siding. Under our back porch, we have a crawl space with a gravel floor. It is where we store our lawn mower, hoses, a wheel barrow and various pots and gardening supplies. A couple-three times over the summer, I noticed a hole forming around the catch basin in the crawl space and assumed it was erosion. Wishful thinking.

During fall cleanup, Linda opened the lock and caught a mean whiff of rat feces that totally freaked her out. Of course I was called in to help.

I went in with a work lamp and shovel.

I noticed a hole by our wheel barrow and poked my shovel around. Out popped one, but he got away. He was a Norway rat — not very big. At first, I thought it was only a mouse. (After some internet digging of her own, Linda concluded we were not dealing with meeces.)

A second one stupidly popped his head out of the hole. BAM!

Down came the shovel.

Another one popped his head up. BAM!

Down came the shovel.

Smelling blood, I began hauling the pots and hoses out of the crawl space to find the one that got away. The good thing about rats is they’re dumb. I cornered him and after a few swings I gave him the death blow. I bagged the three bodies in a heavy duty construction waste bag and thought I was through.

Then Linda said she thought she had seen signs of digging in another corner of the crawl space. Sure enough, there was another one hiding in a corner.  He was a sneaky little shit and did a good job of evading me under stacks of bricks and heavy stuff. I called him the Jack Bauer of rats.

After working up a sweat, I decided to wait him out and backed out of the crawl space to my observation post. About 15 minutes later, Jack Bauer-rat made his last mistake and I pounced with a fury.

After I bagged the fourth rat, I proceeded to smash the garbage bag repeatedly with my shovel like a scene from Goodfellas.

 

 

But the Norway rat is a persistent little devil. A week or so later I went to check the crawl space only to find signs of more digging.

<Expletive deleted> is what I said. Repeatedly.

Eventually I hired an exterminator to come out and smoke out the rats. Basically, he buried a smoke bomb in the hole and made sure there were no other holes for the gas to escape, thus suffocating the varmints. But that was as effective as George Bush was at smoking out terrorists. A month later, I found another hole.

The exterminator left me with one smoke bomb and I deployed that, hoping this would finally be the end of the problem. If it wasn’t, a permanent solution was going to involve concrete.

A week later, another hole. <Expletive deleted><Expletive deleted><Expletive deleted>

At first, I didn’t want to say anything; I didn’t want to deal with it. But I was found out by my omission.

Linda had asked me to put away a trellis if the crawl space was safe. It is when I followed through on her request that I found the hole. But when Linda came home and saw the trellis was put away, and that I did not mention putting away the trellis, Linda’s spider sense went tingling.

This is when throwing a couple hundred dollars at a problem suddenly grows exponentially.

Today was step one of that permanent solution. The contractor just left. The concrete has been poured and the hardware cloth laid. Next week, we foam. We foam!

 

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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