The Rats in the Walls
When I was a resident in New Orleans, we lived in this cool old double shotgun 2 story house uptown. We were the only renters on St. Joseph. All of the other houses were owned, and we were HORRIBLE neighbors. One half of the house was, basically, occupied by an off-campus branch of a Loyola frat house. The other half, my half, was occupied by a bunch of diverse and intrepid Ultimate Frisbee players. I did not really play frisbee. I had a boyfriend who LIVED Ultimate, and who badly wanted me to play but I sucked, and I did not play. Our side was occupied by a mixed racial couple, an ice climber, a PhD student in Mayan studies, and me, an Ob/Gyn resident. Our house looked like hell. The lawn was full of weeds. The gates were sagging. The paint was peeling. We had loud parties, often overflowing into both sides of the house, and people camping in the front and back yards at Mardi Gras time. We were, in short, complete nightmare neighbors. We sat on the front porch swings all night, even on week nights, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer and wine until 2 or 3 in the morning. And another thing. There were RATS in the WALLS.
We were no more pleased about the rats than the neighbors would have been, had they known. In reality, they probably had rats too. New Orleans is famed for its rats, evil, beady eyed giant things who originally arrived in ships and disembarked on the wharfs. You could sit on the porch at night and watch the rats run along the power lines from house to house, and kitchen to kitchen. But we had SPECIAL rats. Because our landlady didn’t give a crap about the house, and we certainly didn’t give a crap about the house, an exterminator was out of the question. None of us were anywhere near able to afford one. And the kitchens were a disaster all the time, with crumbs and dirty dishes and beer bottles and all the sorts of things that rats really love. I was on a diet. I had just discovered the Atkins diet from a 70-something year-old infertility specialist and had bought several bags of sugar-free candy. A word about the candy. One quickly learns, when dieting on sugar-free candy, not to eat too much, because the stuff gives you GAS and DIARRHEA. Well, one night the rats found the sugar-free candy. I’m surprised they would even eat it, but that’s a rat for you. The scene in the morning was hysterical. There were a few hard droppings leading up to the candy bowl. LEAVING the candy bowl, which was full of chewed wreckage, the droppings got looser and looser as the rats got further and further from the bowl. That stuff had made them dog sick. We had to keep all uncanned or unbottled food in the refrigerator, or they would get into it.
The worst part about them though is that they were in the WALLS. And they stomped. I have never heard any living thing, save maybe an angry husband, that STOMPED like these damn rats. And they crunched. I’m not sure what they were crunching in the walls, food, or probably the insulation off our ancient wiring system. They probably thrived on copper. At night they would come in the walls and VISIT. You’d be lying there in your bed and you would hear stomp stomp stompstompstompSTOMP. Stop. Right across from the pillow on the bed. Silence. That thing would just be sitting there, listening to you breathe. Plotting God knows what. If you got your nerve up, you would yell and bang on the wall to get rid of them. You would quickly discover, however, that this actually attracted more rats. Stomp stomp stomp stompstompstompSTOMP. Stop. Crunch crunch crunch. Right in front of your pillow. It was HORRIFYING. Especially if you were in the house alone. It was like being in some kind of horror movie: The Rats in the Walls. We never got rid of them. We eventually all moved out, and they got rid of us.