RatsWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
I hate rats. Loathe them. Fear them. Like Indiana Jones hates snakes. Like Peter Griffin hates the Ernie Giant Chicken. Like Carty Finkbeiner hates critics from the suburbs. Really. It’s that bad.
Rats are mindless, gnawing little demons. If they didn’t exist, Stephen King would have invented them.
Every time I encounter a rat, it scars my psyche.
I have a vivid memory of walking with my father in a field behind the Cedar Court railroad tracks in Walbridge, and screaming with revulsion when I kicked a log that revealed scores of mice crawling over each other, fleeing over my sandaled, 9-year-old feet.
My dad started stomping on the mice, and one of the bigger ones actually split; its side fur parted and all of its inner workings and ichor pushed out, but it ran for several yards before its fellow mice lunged at the dripping innards and began chewing.
The apartment building we lived in during the late-1980s, off Western Avenue and Field Street, was infested with field mice. Traps caught a few, but every so often, out of the corner of one’s eye, a dark, quick motion would compel the skull to swivel toward the filthy little vermin as they left trails of bubonic plague along the baseboards.
When I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, I traded field mice for rats. Rats in The District are healthy, fast suckers, and they do not fear humans. I have seen them stand their ground against approaching people until the last possible second, holding their ground as if sizing up how many bites it would take to bring down an adult.
One time, Toledo visitors were walking with me down a twilight-time Georgetown street (I refused to walk on the sidewalks where the rats ruled, preferring to take my chances with traffic) when a monster rat ran by us.
“Hey,” the young boy with us squealed, “a bunny!”
“Yeah, a bunny,” I thought. “You keep thinking that.”
I never got used to rats being part of the landscape in D.C., and nothing I saw of their behavior allayed my fears.
So when I read of two recent rat attacks, my entire being went cold.
From the Associated Press:
“Baby covered in rodent bites bled to death
WESTWEGO, La. — A 3-month-old suburban New Orleans girl whose body was covered with rodent bites bled to death before she was found in her crib. Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch said Natalie Hill had severe wounds on her nose and leg along with more than 100 suspected rat bites when her parents found her body, which was stained with bloody rodent footprints. No charges have been filed, but Munch said police are still investigating.”
And this, also from the Associated Press:
“3 accused of letting rats chew toes off Ohio baby
WAVERLY, Ohio — Three people have been accused of letting rats bite a 6-week-old girl and chew off her toes at their cluttered Ohio mobile home. Pike County prosecutor Rob Junk says the baby’s toes on one foot were gone. The baby is in fair condition at a Columbus hospital. A married couple and the 18-year-old boyfriend of the baby’s mother are charged with felony child endangering.”
This stuff gives me nightmares. I am sure some PETA scholar could educate me on the loss to the planet if all rats disappeared, but now that there is a pattern of rat-on-infant attacks, why are we not demanding death to all rats?
Officials should post on rats’ favorite blog sites and Web sites that a grand meeting of all rats on the planet is taking place, and all rats have to be there to collect their share of the greatest cheese ever made. This meeting could take place in an area that can hold a lot of rats, like the Grand Canyon or the House of Representatives or the Toledo Club. When the rats show up, we can kill every one of them in some gentle and humane manner, like dropping them into a giant woodchipper.
I even have a rat story about Carty Finkbeiner, one I shared with you when Finkbeiner declared himself a mayoral candidate in 2005.
This took place way back in the early ’90s, as Carty and some of his handlers were giving reporters a walking tour of the land that eventually became The Docks.
As we walked along the riverfront, we came upon a very large, very dead rat nudging the shoreline, rising and falling with the tide.
When Carty saw it, he segued from discussing fine dining and economic development to yelling at one of his aides to get on the phone to get someone down to clean up the riverfront, and he yelled and gestured and blustered, curse words peppering the cadence of his speech like Jimi Hendrix guitar notes, pointing as if fire flew from his fingertips, then he segued back to talking about the restaurants and the elegant diners and many jobs, and he never broke stride.
By the time our walking tour was finished, someone was down there fishing that rat out of the river.
Back then, I thought Carty reacted so strongly just because the rat blemished his presentation.
Now, four years later, having watched the man work and having been on the receiving end of his nuclear temper and erroneous accusations, I wonder … maybe he shares my fear and loathing of rats; maybe he was upset because what he saw in the water that day too closely blurred with his reflection.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.