For a while I was involved in religion; a Whoo-Whoo New Age Spiritual Center church. As with everything of this sort, I threw myself in with total commitment. As they asked, I donated time, talent and treasure. Which included “Free the Heart.”
“Free the Heart” was a weekend seminar run by Reverend David, who wasn’t attached to any particular church but went from church to church running the seminar over the course of a weekend. I volunteered to work as a group leader when he was at a church close enough to home or when he went into a prison. Prisons were an adventure, but that’s a story for another time.
This was hard work. Friday night we had to go into whatever space we had and set up everything. This took several hours and we always went out afterward to some 24-hour restaurant to get something to eat. The next day, Saturday, we had to be there at 6:00 in order to be ready for the participants by 8:00. That day was long and had some hard work involved. Usually we didn’t finish up and get home until 11:00 PM.
One particular weekend, when we were working at my local church, I got home late on Saturday night. When I got home I got a wild, joyful greeting from my two dogs. I’d been gone all day and it was hours past their feeding time. I fussed over them for a while and then fed them. This calmed them down, but still they stuck to me, following me around and watching whatever I did.
You know how when you’re tired, but you don’t go to bed, you stay up fooling around with something unimportant? That’s what I did. I got involved with my stereo receiver and all the buttons and switches I didn’t know how to operate. I stood there, fiddling with the receiver when I felt something plop on my foot.
I looked over and Susie-Q, the dog, was sitting there, looking proud and waiting to be congratulated. I looked at my foot.
It was a rat. Susie-Q had dropped a dead rat on my foot. I think it was the sudden, unexpectedness of the present that doubled the impression it made on me.
Without moving any muscles, I levitated about three feet into the air, the rat tumbling off my foot and onto the floor. Susie was startled at my reaction and backed up, looking confused.
The rat moved. It wasn’t dead. Susie-Q had mauled it pretty badly, I could see it had some bloody wounds. In any case, it was badly injured and slowly staggered around the living room.
I screamed for Susie-Q to pick it up again, but my reaction had convinced her that the thing was dangerous and neither dog would have anything to do with it.
What the heck could I do? I thought fast, but incoherently. Then I remembered that on the service porch I had a wooden box filled with various hardware stuff. I ran back there, dumped the contents on the floor and raced back to the living room, praying the rat hadn’t found a hiding place.
It hadn’t, it was still staggering aimlessly around. I put the box over it, trapping it in one place.
Then I went to bed. I was exhausted when I got home, the rat episode had over-stimulated me and I had no idea what to do next. So I went to get some sleep. I’ll figure it out when I’m fresh and clear in the morning.
Morning, as it often does, arrived with the situation unimproved and no obvious solution to my troubles. I did not feel fresh and clear. I dreaded whatever was going to happen and pondered leaving it there all day while I went to the workshop, but this seemed like a bad idea.
I crept silently out to the living room and the box was still there so the rat hadn’t recovered and run off with my box, which would have been okay with me. In that case, I wouldn’t have had to do anything. Now, I had to take action.
First, is the damn thing still alive? I cautiously picked up the box and the rat started moving, so I slammed the box back down. It was definitely alive. What to do?
I knew the dogs would be useless. They’d stick by me, interested in what I was doing, but they weren’t going to touch the rat, much less pick it up and carry it outside.
My first goal, I decided, was to get the thing out of my house. To do this, I slid the box along the floor, out of the living room, through the kitchen and service porch and then to the back door.
I got to the back door and stopped to consider what my next action should be. Out the back door was a set of three steps and I wouldn’t be able to keep the rat in the box. Once on the steps he’d be free to lurch around.
So, I had to kill it. There were two reasons for this. One, it was a rat and two, I don’t like any creature in pain and suffering. Better off dead.
But how? After some thought, I got out a shovel and prepared to whack the thing as it tried to make a getaway. This was going to be messy and I’d be in no mood for breakfast later.
I readied the shovel. I pushed the box over the steps. The rat tumbled out, righted itself, fell off the steps and limped off.
SLAM went the shovel. I missed. The dogs panicked and ran back inside, the cowards. SLAM again, again I missed. It took three more times before I finally whacked it in the head. That did the trick. It was buried in the sand pile, head underground and rear legs sticking up like it was doing a headstand. I tripped backward, sat down on the driveway and leaned back, completely exhausted, against the garage door.
I was shaking, worn out. I couldn’t NOT stare at it, sticking up out of the sand. And the nightmare wasn’t over yet. I had to get rid of it or the idiot dogs would do God-knows-what with it. I got a pair of gloves and a plastic bag.
Gloves on, I picked it up by the tail, not looking at it, and put it in the bag. I tied the bag shut and threw the whole mess in the garbage.
I had to sit down again and put my head between my knees as I thought about whether I should throw out the gloves, too. I decided not to, peeled them off and spent ten minutes washing the shovel, the gloves and then my hands.
I’d been right, I had no appetite for breakfast or even a glass of water. I merely sat on the living room floor, hyper-ventilating and shaking. ‘Exterminator’ was crossed off my list of possible careers.
Later I got up and went in to the workshop. Rev. David asked me, in front of everybody, why I was late. I told the truth. Reactions were mixed. It seemed the better someone knew me, the more likely they were to believe me.
I did my part in the workshop in a daze, barely paying attention to my group. At one point we had to share the worst thing that had happened to us in the last week. Mine was the worst. It made everybody else squirm.
What could I have done though? It was him or me and it was my house. And what about the dog? A dog that can catch rats is valuable, but the value diminishes when it brings them, still alive, to you. What if I’d been lying in bed and she dropped the thing on my chest?
All of us have had someone, something bring us what they consider their very best and we consider hideous. And sometimes it’s a close relationship where you just can’t scream and run away, though that’s what you’d dearly love to do. But you smile, dredge up all your self control and say, “Thank you for that little statuette of a hillbilly in a bath tub. I’ll be sure to put it on the book case.” Or, “I’ve been waiting for years to get a live baby alligator. Where shall I put it?”
Smile and survive the relationship. Or kill it.
Cruise on over to Amazon.com and get a copy of “Closing Night, Thank God”.