Say It Ain’t So – Rats in the Basement: Part 3

Why Nelson?  Don’t take this the wrong way.  But he’s my rat. You know how they say that only the rats and cockroaches would survive in a nuclear holocaust.  Yeah, well, my son would be right there with them, making a sandwich and watching the only big screen TV to survive the blast. He wouldn’t wonder where everybody went. My other son?  Mr. Social.  Mr. Teamwork.  His lifeblood is his friends and musical theater.  I am mother to them both. The miracle and mystery of adoption.

Nelson is oddly impervious to things that drive other people crazy.  Like spending his work day in a 2 ft crawlspace installing fiberglass insulation that gets embedded in the skin of his arms.  You getting me here?  Not like me or you.  So I needed him to be our rat – I really needed him. I needed him not to be grossed out or scared of the rats.  I needed him to be the front guy.  I just figured that, damnit, I had done so much for him and he couldn’t even fucking answer me when I asked for help. I texted again.  No answer. Now I despise this kid and his lousy father who just called in to report about his bike ride with his friend around Catalina Island.  He was tired, he said.  Sad.

Nelson was standing at the back door.


We have rats. 


In the basement.  We have to get everything out. 


We started.  The three of us – me and my two sons. Hauling everything that could be moved out of the basement and making a huge pile at the curb in the front of the house.  Every now and then I spied a brown flash running from the pile to our house or the neighbor’s house.  I tried to act like we were setting up a garage sale and the hamsters had gotten loose.

Deep in the bowels of our basement, oh, so aptly described, I stood looking at the furniture and the paint brushes, papers, and rags and at my sons loading junk into garbage bags, both with bandannas covering their mouths, and I thought what am I doing here?  A nice Methodist girl from Michigan with two Nicaraguan men? And then I thought of the prayer I heard my husband say at our table and sitting next to me in the synagogue, “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.”

And I thought to myself.  Just stand with me, you guys.  That’s all I ask.  And that’s what I’ll do for you.

In this basement.  With the rats.  And the junk.  Just stand with me. That’s all I ask.

Don’t ask me questions.  Don’t judge me.  Just stand with me down here in this fucking 100-year old basement with the crazy ass rat colony.

And take care of me.  Because I’m your mother.

And they did.


What happened later:

  • Jerry came on Monday and put out poison/traps for the rats.
  • No more dead rats were found.  Jerry hypothesized that word got out in the rat community about the sudden deterioration of the cuisine in our basement.
  • I saw the Batzner truck in front of other houses on our block.
  • My husband came home and we resumed a happy married life.
  • The basement was dead to me for two years.  Which was good because it meant my husband had to do the laundry.
  • In the spring, my husband and Nelson filled all the holes where the rats got in with cement.
  • My sons are still my sons.  And I’m still their mom.  And I know we’ll show up even when it’s a really shitty situation.
  • It’s an oddly happy memory.

4 Comments on “Say It Ain’t So – Rats in the Basement: Part 3

  1. … and to think i was grossed out by a dozen little mice. last year, charlie, who was living with us at the time “took care of them.” more mouse problems this winter, and charlie lives in london, where it turns out he’s had his own mice to trap. herb, much like howard, is inclined to be oblivious of household problems. the company we hired, who guaranteed they would figure out how they were getting in, and do something about it, did not. thus, i have learned to trap and toss. i got rid of them. i expect to see them again next year if we do not repair our garage floor, which has cracked and heaved, creating a gap where the garage door can’t fully close. this requires removing all the crap that has accumulated in our garage over the last 15 years, not a pretty job. ah, the joys of home ownership.

  2. I am singing: You are so beautifullllll, so beautiful to meeeee.

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