Patsy Porco

Two-Hundred-and-Thirty-Eight Dollars

In Humor on December 29, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Back in the day, when I worked in the radio industry, talk-show hosts would compile a reel-to-reel tape of shows that they had done throughout the year, which they called their “Best of” reel (e.g., “The Best of the Tom Jerry Show”), and during the last week of the year, the radio station would play one show a day. The shows were rarely their best, but the hosts just wanted their voices on the air during their vacation week. In the spirit of the “Best of” week, I’m rerunning some of my old blog posts. In my case, I think they really are my best ones. This one was published six years ago, so only my hardcore fans have read it. It’s been searched for, via Google, over the years, so I think people like it. I hope you do, too.

It all started in the middle of the night. A bag of bread, which was on our kitchen table when we went to bed, had been relocated to a kitchen chair and half-eaten when we awoke the next morning.

Being the brave rodent hunters that we are, we immediately summoned an exterminator. The guy showed up, said, “You’ve got mice,” put out some bait and said, “That will be $238. You have a four-month guarantee.” Then he told me to plug up areas under the sink with steel wool and ended with, “Call us in a month if you see any more activity.”

“Two-hundred and thirty eight dollars for bait?” my husband and I asked each other … after the guy left, of course. We didn’t want to look cheap. “We could have bought bait for a lot less than that,” my husband noted. What made the deal worse was that we were really only getting a three-month guarantee since we had to observe “activity” for a month before calling in reinforcements.

Of course we saw activity during the exterminator’s grace period. I was greeted every morning by black rice-sized excrement that I had to sweep up before I served my son his breakfast. One morning, I had to sweep up a dead field mouse. The problem seemed to be over at that point and we all forgot about it. Then, one morning, my husband found a gnawed banana on a dining room chair. The fruit bowl was on the dining room table, so something had dragged it down onto the chair before eating it.

Once again, we called the exterminator. A different guy showed up this time—their “wildlife expert”—and he told us that we still had mice, and that he had seen “activity” in the basement. So, he re-baited the traps. He then pointed out additional gaps that I had to fill. He told me that steel wool wasn’t good enough and that I had to buy foam insulation that turned hard once it was sprayed into crevices, and that I had to fill every hole with it. I told my husband what he said and my husband asked why we had to do the work when we were paying the exterminating company. I told him that the exterminator obviously had his limits as to what he would do for $238. Then I headed out to buy the foam insulation.

The next day, despite the insulation, the invader had again visited our dining room, where he took an apple from the fruit bowl, carried it into the kitchen, and nibbled on it under the kitchen cabinets. When my husband asked why in the world I had left anything edible out, I told him that we were trapping an animal, and this particular animal liked fruit, so of course I would leave fruit out.  He just shook his head and threw out the fruit that was still left in the bowl.

Later that day, on a walk with our dog, I spotted a cache of acorns at the base of an oak tree. I scooped up about thirty or forty and put them in a bag for my friend who likes acorns. When I got home, I put the bag on the dining room table. The next morning, the acorns were gone. The bag was still there, ripped to shreds, but the nuts were nowhere to be found. My husband and son claimed that they knew nothing about the acorns and even insinuated that the acorns were never there in the first place. If it weren’t for the ripped-up bag, I might have believed them.

Later that night, the dog started sniffing around the base of the stove. I peered under the stove and saw an acorn. I knew that whatever happened next wasn’t going to be good. My husband had the good fortune to be at work, so my son and I pulled out the stove. What we saw was horrifying: a real-live rat’s nest comprising a mass of insulation and steel wool, and piles of acorns, dog food, and excrement … plus a measuring cup, a stick of gum, and a Frisbee. It was like the Borrowers had moved in. As we stared in horror at the mess—while holding the stove in mid-air—the mess moved. Slowly, a very large, very black rat emerged from the piles.

We almost dropped the stove. Then the rat ambled over to a hole behind the stove and disappeared. The rest happened in a blur. We pulled the stove all the way out and started cleaning up the nest. After a large trash bag was filled with the detritus, we had to clean up the hole, which was crammed with acorns and steel wool, which made us wonder how the rat had gotten through the hole in the first place. Then the scouring and disinfecting began.

The next day, the head exterminator came and pulled out all the stops. He apologized for his team’s botching of the job and told us that he wouldn’t charge us the rat extermination fee. Apparently the $238 only covered putting out mice bait and making us do all the grunt work. He put out spring traps that could catch a horse and told us to call him after the weekend was over. We were supposed to, once again, observe “activity,” and if necessary, “finish the rat off” with a hammer if he got caught in a trap and didn’t die. T0 hell with that. We put the dog in the kennel, packed bags, and moved into a hotel. The rat won. He could have the house.

On Monday morning, after dropping our son off at school, we called the head exterminator and told him that we’d meet him at our home. We all crept into the kitchen, not knowing what we would encounter. Thankfully, the rat had met his maker, down in the basement. The exterminator offered to show us the dead object of our terror. I declined, but my husband reasoned that it couldn’t bother us now, so he looked. He later told me that the rat was bigger than his foot. After disposing of the rat, the exterminator returned and re-set traps. He also told us that we needed to have a “cement guy” reinforce our foundation so that nothing else could venture inside.

Wouldn’t you think that we would have done that immediately? Nah, spring seems soon enough. We still have a few months left on our four-month guarantee. We want to get our 238 dollars’ worth.dollars-in-bunches


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