Thursday, March 11, 2010
Last October, a NY friend of mine recounted a story to me that sent chills down my spine and lumps into my throat. Every city dweller's worst nightmare had actually happened to her. The story began with "I heard scratching in the wall" and ended with "and then a giant rat ran across my face while I was sleeping."
These things ACTUALLY HAPPEN.
I left the conversation feeling terrible for her living in NY and grateful for my vermin free Parisian apartment. I thought about all my previous apartments....Los Angeles where I used to see cockroaches the size of small cars that would send me into screaming fits of madness as my two fat cats just sat and watched with feigned looks of interest.
FAT OVERFED CATS: "Oh...you didn't expect US to chase that thing, did you? Look, can you just open another can of Sheba please cause your screaming is REEEEALLY making us hungry."
New York where my band rehearsal space was on a street we called Rat Alley because everyday at dusk like some horror film, the vacant lots on the street would fill with a swarming mass of giant rats, an ocean of vermin playing among trash cans and broken children's toys. Terrorized by the horrific squeeking sounds I pretended NOT to hear, I used to sprint to rehearsal down the middle of the street as though I was running from my death.
New York where the lack of bug size was made up for in sheer numbers when each summer rolled around and the 24 hour cockroach party would kick into full swing in my kitchen and where the occasional mice passing through were met with the same look of disdain from my lazy cats.
FAT OVERFED CATS: "Hey Dana, I think I just saw something scurrying all over the apartment. I don't really know what you are doing screaming with that broom but I'm just gonna sit here and squint at it while I lick my ass, ok?...sigh....this is soooooo boring.....oh hey, do you have anymore of those Friskies treats?"
Ahhhhhh, the good 'ole days. How very lucky I am here in Paris, living on the 7th and last floor to have never seen anything close to vermin in my living quarters, not even a cockroach. Nothing. I don't have cats anymore but it's ok because there's nothing to fake chase anyway.
So with that, I shrugged off her story along with my nightmares of Rat Alley and went to bed. The next night I had a friend over to play some music. As she opened the front door to leave, we both saw it at the same time. Something black came scurrying inside and into my kitchen. Praying it was just my overactive imagination, I was utterly shattered to see my friend's face curl into a "wow, that is really gross" grimace...meaning.....it was real. This was happening.
Cue jump onto chair followed by screams of "FB!!!! FB!!!!!! A RAT!!! A RAAAAAAAT!!!!!! KILLLLLL IIIIIT! OH MY GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!"
My friend calmly looked at me hysterical on the chair and merely said "aw, that's so cute. You're doing the cliché jump on the chair thing. OK, I'm going home, byeeee!"
While I stood on the chair hyperventilating and crying and marveling at how my NY friend's story was seemingly just a precursor to my own horror, FB tried to root out the....THING. He couldn't find it and I quickly realized that it was not going to die tonight. It was going to live. In my apartment. Somewhere. And that sleeping on top of a chair was not an option for me. I'd have to eventually make my way to our bed.
Our futon bed.
ON THE FLOOR.
Where we sleep eye to eye with whatever crawls around ON THE FLOOR.
Oh God, I wish I had a Xanax.
I made it through the night and the next few nights without seeing any more signs of...the THING. I refused to call it a rat, instead trying to picture a little black mouse with cute eyes and who talks and says cute little things in a French accent like "si'l te plaît, may I have a bit of fromage?" When in doubt, delusion is the place to go. We mouse-proofed our kitchen the best we could and tried to figure out where this little French fellow came from. Reverting to my knack for fantasy storylines, I decided I knew EXACTLY where he came from. We had just been in the countryside and had brought back with us a giant box of apples picked directly from the field, loaded into the box and packed into the car to bring back to Paris.
THAT'S IT!!! It's a little field mouse!! Of course!!!! My very own little Ratatouille, probably scared, alone and wondering why there is a 5 foot 9 monster with a broom screaming "DIEEEEE!!! DIEEEEE!!!!" at him. Maybe he even plays a little country mouse banjo at night to remember his time in the fields.
I suddenly felt sorry for it.
And with that, I left for NY on a three week trip with not a thought about mice.
FB is a friend of the vermin. He grew up in the country and they don't bother him in the slightest. When I first met him, he had a family of mice living with him that he had named things like Newton and Matilda. He got rid of the mice only after I refused to come over anymore. So it should come as no surprise on my return from NY, he announced "oh....uh.....so.....the little mouse is still with us, I've seen it a few times and it seems to really like your music studio area." OK. OK. ENOUGH. Listen, you little poor country mouse. I KNOW you must be terrorized but I am NOT sharing an apartment with you and my keyboard is NOT A MOUSE LITTERBOX so CUT THE CRAP. Just pack your shit and GO, ok? GO.
I went into a cleaning frenzy, upending every corner of my apartment and finally I found it....his food stash. Under my stereo speaker. He had been picking berries off a flower arrangement in the apartment and had stacked them all very neatly in little piles. Eaten, half eaten, and ready to eat. Hey, at least he is organized. After dumping all the berries in the trash and vacuuming every corner as loudly as possible, I pronounced to the mouse "MAMA IS BACK AND MAMA DOESN'T LIKE MICE OK? TIME TO MOVE OUT. NOW."
And I never saw him again. I occasionally pictured little country mouse with his little kerchief tied to the end of his little stick, making his way through Paris after being thrown out by a cold and heartless me. Maybe he was playing a tiny violin on the subway somewhere and had made new friends. At any rate, he was out of my apartment and I had my own cute little Ratatouille story. Oh ho ho ho, how absolutely adoooooooorable!
Last week I was in Burgundy spending a week with my mother in law. As I wandered through the field where my little Ratatouille used to live, I sighed and said "I'm sorry little one for taking you away from your home. I hope you are ok wherever you are." I phoned FB that night. At the end of our conversation, he cleared his throat and said...
FB: Um, I have some bad news.
FB: Well....it seems as though....well....I've seen another mouse.
FB: Yyyyyeah, he was in the kitchen last night. A very cute little brown one and he looked so scared and....
FB: Look, calm down, I'm just as upset as you are about this and..
ME: YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW UPSET FEELS!!! WHY IS IT EVERY TIME I LEAVE OUR FRICKIN' APARTMENT THE VERMIN MOVE IN? WHAT DID YOU DOOOOOO, SEND OUT INVITES FOR ANOTHER MOUSE PARTY???
FB: ME? I didn't DO ANYTHING!! We have mice, OK? I will deal.
ME: KILL IT. KILL IT NOW. KILL EVERYTHING.
FB: Yeah, ok. I'll kill everything.
My delusional field mouse story came crashing to a grinding halt when I told my mother in law about it and she simply replied "oh, no, that wasn't a field mouse, a field mouse doesn't eat apples like that". But.....but.....
Upon return to Paris, I marched into my apartment and yelled to any vermin within a half mile earshot.
OF MY SIGHT.
You DO NOT want to meet me.
I HATE YOU and I will KILL YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY, OK??
ARE. WE. CLEEEEEAR?
It seemed to go ok for a few days until night before last when I was sitting on the couch and I heard a noise in the kitchen. My blood ran cold, my heart stopped and my eyes widened like saucers as I saw something fly across the room and into the wall behind the radiator.
Pick up phone.
"Get home. NOW. I am going to DIE."
We searched in vain. No mouse. Nothing. Our traps are empty but my heart is full of anguish and rage. The most delusional story can't save me now. In bed last night I awoke at 3AM to the sounds of scratching. I thought of my friend in NY whose story began with "I heard scratching in the wall".
I know how this story ends.
And it's not good.