Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Death of a Rat

This summer I had to take care of my mother, her cat, her tenants, her house, and her unpleasant neighbor. Her neighbor rebuilt the house next door and somehow broke a sewer line which belonged to my mother's tenants.

Their houses and the neighbor's at one time were all one property, were built at the same time (roughly) and all shared the sewer line at the street below .... But in 1951 the original owner subdivided the property into two pieces; the two houses on the up hill were one property and the house the neighbor bought, on the downhill side, the other. Basically a pie shaped piece of land (the neighbor has the smallest part with very little land, approximately 75 feet below my mother's tenants' front doors on the upper street). Since shit flows best downhill, all lines followed the shape of the property to the lowest street - collecting to a single line 15 feet below the neighbor's front door to the street.

In July something icky was bellowing in the neighbor's yard below. A black slow moving river started collecting and I called the Health Inspectors and the place began to crawl with City people. I found the easement signed by all parties way back when, when my grandparents bought the property. I found a lawyer... and the tenants had to use prota-potties for a few months as I tried to straighten things out. I called so many plumbers for estimates to try to fix things. I found a place for the tenants to shower and wash their dishes and clothes. You never know how much we take for granted until the water is shut off... We can do lots without the electricity. We can use candles and we have many hours of daylight... but water! That commodity is something we use all day long even if we don't drink from the tap...

One day, while opening the tenant's basement door - for yet another plumber - I found something on the floor in the back corner. This basement was a storage space for all of the gardening tools and such and apparently my mother had trouble two years ago with fungus in her lawn.... so there was this bag of fungicide which had a tear at the bottom... actually it had been chewed by a rat. There was something partially hidden by the bag and the disconnected soil pipe that look like an old sock draped on a cement block.

The rat got into the basement was hungry, and started to look for food. The fungicide smelled like something it could eat - however, there is no small amount of fungicide that is not poisonous. It killed the rat and then when the flies tried to eat it, the maggots died. The body became bloated - as you can see from its present shape - and after the hair fell out, Dermestid beetles tried to eat the dried skin, and stopped because they, too, died (they caused the funny shaped holes near the legs). The internal organs of the rat are in perfect condition. The hairs of rats are very fine and easily drop out. The skin of the rat's head - the ears and such - may have been attached for a long time except his (yes you can tell it was a male) head was near the sewer clean out and may have rotted to some degree in the wet. The rat had eaten something so toxic that nothing could eat it... even after death.

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