Dead Rat Walking



500 w 43rd Street ny 10036

Neighborhood: Clinton

I electrocuted a rat early this morning. It was approximately 2:20 am. There were no eyewitnesses. I heard the electrical noise. It was a sustained bug-zapping sound that went on for a good thirty seconds. I knew immediately what was happening when I was startled awake. I just listened, victorious, with a great feeling that my vigilante justice had been served.

This is what happened:

My first sighting was around 1:00 am Labor Day morning in the bathroom. I saw its pink fleshy tail flip around the corner when I turned from washing my hands. Had I really seen it? I wasn’t positive when I thought of it later on in the day.

I saw it again early Tuesday morning after turning on the light in the bedroom after hearing a clawing along the floorboards. Yep, it was a rat. Goddamn it. I was really pissed. I had gone a whole year in my new apartment without a problem.

You see, I had had an incident, a whole semi-private war really, with a rat in my old studio apartment in Brooklyn. The evildoer had morphed its body into a pancake and squeezed its way through THE FRONT DOOR. I saw it with my own eyes. I threw a shoe at it. It jumped vertically five inches in the air. It was agile, dexterous and crafty. I fought that mammal for weeks to no avail. I used the sticky stuff, mouse traps, poison, etc. Then one day I found it decomposing on the studio floor. I think it had just literally starved to death. The stench of a decomposing rat is the worst smell you will ever smell. Even in its death I felt it had won in its stinky exit.

There was no way I would lose again. I resolved to kill this new intruder, and as quickly and efficiently as possible.

After work, I went to the hardware store on 43rd and 9th Avenue, conveniently located next to the Cheese Market. They carry everything. The skinny pony-tailed clerk who is always there was helpful as usual and pointed me towards the regular pest control bullshit. I turned to him and said, in the most conspiratorial man-to-man tone I could muster, being a woman, “You know, I don’t really want to deal with this small hokey stuff. Do you have anything, you know, professional, something … in the back?”

He got excited and quickly went and retrieved this big rectangular battery-operated execution device. Ok, he didn’t go in the back, which I think would have been much more dramatic, but he reached underneath the front counter and got it. I would have also preferred if it was hand-made, had sharp little mechanical knives and looked like the jaws of death but that wasn’t the case either. It was in a nice colorful box, but it was substantial.

Suddenly, other guys in the hardware store started collecting around the box.

There was a palpable excitement in the hardware store.

“This thing will work—guaranteed,” the clerk with the ponytail said confidently.

Another guy added, “Yeah, I’m a superintendent of that building over on 45th Street. You know the real fancy one? Well, the truth is I’m killing rats all day long there with these things. “If any of the tenants complain, I just stick one of these in their apartment.” I swear he had a gleam in his eye. Satisfaction.

“It takes 4 AA batteries (not included) and as an added bonus I will give you surefire bait.” An older more serious looking hardware clerk behind the counter had taken over the sell.

He reached deep into the shelves behind him, found a smaller container and brought out what looked like a sausage, but with birdseed in it. The guys around me grunted with approval. I didn’t ask what it was. I don’t know why I didn’t, but no one offered up any information either.

“Rats cannot say no to this stuff. Period.”

He cut off a chunk of the sausage-like stuff, put it in a baggie and handed it to me.

I paid $65.00 and change for this contraption and the batteries. With the guys giving me words of enthusiastic support and cheers, I left the store. “Go get ‘em.”

Back out in the perfect August day, I thought, “This better fucking work.”

I am a killer. An executioner. I am the Rambo of Rats. It’s hard to sustain this sort of homicidal resolve walking by the well-intentioned Vagina Monologues. When will that show ever close? But I retained my deadly resolve. I would win.

I walked back to my 4th floor walk-up apartment and immediately opened up my purchase.

Most of the housing was bright blue industrial strength plastic but the back room of it was all shiny steel. You could see the square plate where the rat would stand to trip the switch. I thought of Errol Morris’s documentary “Dr. Death.” I thought of that electric chair.

I installed the batteries into the top.

There were huge yellow warning stickers on the sides of the housing, a warning which said, pretty much, “Don’t stick your dumb-ass hand into the device especially when it’s on.”

I didn’t put the device anywhere in the kitchen. Too obvious. I decided to put it in the bedroom closet. That’s where the chase had ended the previous night. I left the door cracked open a couple inches. Again, I believed subtlety was needed. I have no idea why. I was literally going by my killer instincts. I was not playing around.

Then I waited. But see, it didn’t happen until all the lights were off, in the dead of night, when executions always happen, and during the rat’s regular hours. I couldn’t believe the rat had fallen for it.

I didn’t immediately go look at the corpse. I didn’t want to catch a death rattle or let him get one last surprise swipe at me like in a horror movie.

Instead I went back to sleep. In the morning, I took a peek, first thing. It was dead, all right. Dead and about three inches long with a three-inch tail. The red light on the top of the blue plastic rectangle was flashing red. Alert! Alert! I turned it off, picked it up and dumped the contents in the trash. It was actually very anti-climactic. The rat looked small and harmless lying dead on top of last night’s spaghetti.

One of the guys at the hardware store had told me that once I electrocuted “one of them” with the box, all the others rats would find out about it and steer clear of my apartment. So I suppose I’m known in these parts now. If you’re a rat and you live in Hell’s Kitchen, you know I’m a rat killin’ motherfucker, and you better steer clear of me. Or else.

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