A rat ate my dishwasher. There are two things I find very disturbing about that. One, how can a rodent eat an appliance? How is that even possible? I’ve seen rats, even of the huge sewer variety, and even the biggest ones don’t look like they can eat a machine—a small child, maybe, but not a machine. It brings to mind that scene in Jaws 2 when the shark jumped out of the ocean and ate the helicopter. I mean, they seriously expected us to believe a fish could catch a helicopter. I was maybe eleven when that movie came out, and that scene still caused me to roll my eyes so heavily I practically did a backflip in my theater seat.
I wish I could have stayed that snarky, because later I let my guard down and learned of the damage that happens when people allow rats into their lives. But we move on, don’t we? You’d think, but now here I am all these years later, staring at an appliance with chunks missing from it, and I am not talking about nibbled-on wiring and hoses, but big, huge chunks chewed away as though it literally had been picked up and bit through like a cube of cheese from a cocktail tray. Which brings me to the second disturbing thing: All this time I thought I was enjoying my solitude in my tiny old house in southeast Atlanta, and it turns out I’ve had a roommate possibly the entire time. I swear to God, you think you get to a point in your life when you graduate to adulthood and you can handle things like a household with a working dishwasher that isn’t being snacked on by ratzilla, especially if it’s a tiny house. Because this tiny house is still your house, and you can shut the door if you want and hang a sign on the knob like the one you bought in Burbank that says, “Filming Porn—Quiet on the Set,” which you’ve discovered is very effective at keeping the neighbors away.
Because that is the blissfulness of being grown up: You make your place and you draw your boundaries and people pretty much leave you to them. You’ve purged the rats in your life and pride yourself on being able to spot one with the naked eye from across the block. You’re not eighteen anymore. This is not your first rodeo. Then one day you get out your electric screwdriver because you’re pretty darn handy if you do say so yourself, and a few loosened bolts and thwacks with a crowbar later you yank out the dishwasher from under the counter and look behind it to see a big, evil lair. You don’t actually see the evil rat that did this, but you do see all the signs of its occupancy—like the little La-Z-Boy made of shredded insulation and the little rat TV with the little rat wire hanger for an antenna, not to mention the little rat toilet scattered over all of the above.
And oddly, at that moment you think of the International House of Pancakes—not because they have rats there that you know of, but because it was always a joke with you and your friends back when you were eighteen and you didn’t have your own place and you didn’t keep your door shut and crowds of those friends used to walk through it unannounced all the time, along with many a rat. The joke was that IHOP is never a place where you go, it’s a place where—after partying and getting drunk and hooking up with who knows what all—you end up. And you’re thinking this because this is your place right now—this tiny place you just discovered you share with Rat Kramden and his belly full of dishwasher. Did you come here on purpose? Or is this just where you ended up?
Because I don’t see how you can get to a point like this without asking yourself that question. And wondering, when that moment comes, if you’ve stopped going places and have ended up somewhere. So if you ever do find yourself like this—sitting on the floor of your kitchen with a power tool in one hand and a crowbar in the other, your counter dismantled and your sense of security destroyed by a rat—if you ever get to that point and you find yourself asking, “How did I end up here?” just snap out of it. All it means is that a rat got in, as rats will do. It happens to everyone. Just clean up the mess, patch up the hole, and move on.
Illustration by Peter Arkle