The Flood, The Water Heater, Spiders, And The Rat
Last Friday it started to rain, a hard rain that quickly flooded ditches, streets, and yards. The runoff from the rains in my yard tend to filter into my basement; which is a small quarter room with the dirt floor crawl space visible throughout the underbelly of the house. In one corner of the room sits a hole in the floor with a sump pump in it. And although the rains poured in the little old sump pump worked like a dream and kept the basement fairly dry. The Saturday rains were hardly noticeable but somewhere in the runoff into my basement it was enough to wash debris into the hole clogging up the sump pump. This meant that the Sunday night rains gathered in the basement flooding it to the point of about four inches. Not as bad as it has been when it was thigh deep once, but still bad enough for it to extinguish the pilot light on the water heater.
Monday morning I waded into the basement after my wife announced to me that there was no hot water. After unclogging the pump and scooping out as much debris as I could with my hand in the cold, cold water I went up stairs to clean my arm and legs with rubbing alcohol as the little sump worked for hours pumping out the basement; I was afraid that the water in the basement mixed with god knows what contained some kind of flesh eating crud that was going to eat away my hand and feet if I didn’t sterilize them quickly. I had no idea I had that many little cuts and scrapes on my feet and hands. They burned like hell. Later that day I went back into the basement and opened the door on the water heater to let it air dry more easily. My hope was that the eight hours I was at work the sump would stop any more flooding and the heater would dry out enough for us to have hot water in the morning. When I came home for dinner at seven thirty my wife announced to me that we had a rat in the house, she had seen evidence of it and she wanted it dead!
At eleven Monday night, when I got off work, I was changed into old jeans and tee shirt with my shop shoes and a ball cap armed with a fireplace lighter, flashlight, screwdriver and a lot of hope. Perched on a milk crate we had in the basement I worked on the pilot light till it lit and stayed lit. Replacing all the parts I eased the temperature gage till the burner in the heating chamber came on and started burning all the air and what ever else there was out of the system. As I waited something moved behind me. I spun to look but there was nothing in the cramped space under the stairs next to the heater except some debris I had never moved out.
The furnace in the water heater went out. I went back to work opening it back up and relighting it, returning everything to it’s place and bringing the temperature gage back up to warm from the vacation position I waited for all the junk in the little chamber to settle down and give me a steady flame that would heat my water. Truth be told I was waiting for something to go incredibly wrong, something to catch fire. So I sat there in the basement on fire watch.
Again, a noise from behind me. With flashlight in hand I spun on my milk crate to see nothing! Then I noticed the rat on the floor casually strolling from the shadows under the stairs towards me like he was a curious neighbor and wanted to know what I was working on. All I could think to do was say, “Hello.” I stood up slowly not so much to keep from frightening it away but my back was hurting and I couldn’t have stood up quickly. I picked up the milk crate and dropped it over the rat. A milk crate with hundreds of holes this thing could easily slip through but it didn’t, it just sat there passively. I held the flashlight on it as if I were holding it in some kind of force field of light and I eased my self over the duct work that made the corner the water heater in so damned difficult to get to and I looked around for something to truly capture the rat with all the while keeping it in place with my flashlight force field.
A few years back we had some plumbing work done and the plumbers left a four-inch diameter section of PVC pipe abut two feet long in the basement. It was the only thing I could find so I picked it up and crawled back over the duct work to the water heater corner when the rat climbed out of the crate through one of the dozens of holes in the top and laid down on the thing presenting me it’s belly just like my dogs do when they want me to rub their bellies. After my “what the fuck?” reaction, I told the rat he had to get off my crate so he climbed down and started his slow saunter towards the water heater again. I quickly slid the PVC pipe over the rat trapping him in the pipe and myself in the basement since I had to hold the pipe up right and pressed against the floor to keep it from getting away. I had no idea what I was going to do if this thing crawled up the inside of the pipe. Looking down the hole with the flashlight I saw it was just sitting there content, kind of happy to be in a pipe.
For a while I sat there on the crate in the basement holding the PVC pipe on end with one hand the flashlight on the other hand. Keeping one eye on the top of the pipe and the other on the little viewing window of the water heater. All I needed was for the flame to go out and the gas still pouring out killing us both from a gas leak. Or worse yet, the water heater would explode killing us both in a blaze. Those of you reading this who know about water heater may be saying neither of those would happen because of the so-n-so device would keep that from happening. Well I know enough about the gas works of water heaters to be dangerous and until you have trapped yourself in a damp basement with a rat don’t tell me what will or will not blow up.
After a few minutes the rat decided he wanted out of the PVC pipe and tried to crawl up. I quickly stood and shone the flashlight down the pipe only giving him a better view of where to put his feet. Luckily he couldn’t find a foothold and stayed at the bottom of the pipe. He gave up and just sat in the pipe. I don’t know what your time limit is on holding a rat trapped in a basement is but I reached my limit at about five minutes. Having nothing to near me to use to keep this rat trapped hands free I decided I was going to have to yell for my wife who was asleep two floors above me in our bedroom. So I bellowed out her name, “Ronnie!” No answer.
After several times of yelling her name. I called the dogs to the basement steps and like Timmy in the well I gave them my instructions. “Go get mama. Wake mama up.” And I gave yelling her name another shot, “Ronnie, I need some help down here.” The dogs joined in with a choir of barking and howling as I bellowed from he basement.
Nothing. After a minute or so of that one of the dogs came to the top of the basement steps and said, “Sorry daddy, I guess she didn’t hear us, I’m going tot go to bed now.” And off he wondered. The other one was loyal enough to stay down stairs and sleep on the living room floor.
I took to banging on the furnace hoping the sound of my banging would travel up the pipes and into our bedroom making enough noise to wake her up. I added to this by keeping up the calling of her name, “Ronnie, I need some help down here. Ronnie wake up.” Bang, bang, bang on the furnace.
Then I tried the ‘I’ve fallen and can’t get up’ voice hoping that her motherly instincts would kick in and she would somehow since deep in her slumber that I was in danger and sit bolt upright in bed fearful that I might actually be in danger. “Ronnnieee, hellllp meeeeee.” The rat asked if I was ok. Nothing from the rooms above.
I adjusted the water heater setting up to hot knowing I was going to need a very hot shower when I got out of this mess. I continued to hold the tube upright with the rat trapped in the bottom, I continued to cry out her name “Ronnie” I continued to bang on the furnace, I continued to think of ways to trap this rat without me having to hold this tube upright. My hand was getting sore, my voice was giving out and I was not thinking clearly. I don’t know how much time had passed when at one point I called out her name, “Ronnie” and I heard a reply. I called out again and received another reply “Ronnie” came the call from the street followed by laughter. A couple of people walking down the street in the middle of the night heard my cry and mocked me.
People outside the house hear me calling why the hell couldn’t she hear me? Now I was mad. Cupping my free hand to my mouth I mustered up all the lungpower I could and with the force of a drill instructor dressing down a recruit I bellowed with all the force and anger I had, “RONNIE, RONNIE WAKE THE FUCK UP!” the furnace and duct work vibrated with my effort, the rat tried to make itself even smaller in defense, bit’s of the house fell off like a precursor to a landslide. I’m sure that somewhere in dreamland she heard me call out her name and nestled comfortably in our bed she probably muttered in her sleep “I love you too” before drifting further into a sleep of the dead.
Sitting there tired, frustrated, damp, and angry I looked around the basement again and noticed we hand a lot of spiders in this room with me. And they all seemed to slowly be moving closer. My mind raced with thoughts of all the old horror films I had seen over the years about things in the basement, all the stories of H.P. Lovecraft started to come to mind. I had flashes of the movie ‘The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!’ A silly movie; I knew I had to get out of the basement now.
Again I looked around the basement to see what was available to me. Everything was ten feet away across that duct work barrier I had to straddle to get in this tight corner and I saw no way of reaching any of it, at least not with my hands. I continued to bang on the furnace; I continued to call for my wife. Now I thought I tasted blood in the back of my throat from screaming so much. But I had a plan and it didn’t come too soon because when I stood up to start it in motion something in my stomach flipped over and let me know I was going to have to go to the bathroom sooner than later. Great, just great.
I started to inch the tube upright across the uneven floor using both hands flashlight dangling from my mouth by a string attached to it. I had to be careful because I knew that if given half a chance the rat was going to make a break for it. I got us both pressed as close to the ductwork as possible. Slipped one shoe off and stretched my leg over the ductwork and tried to grab some old wires with my toes. It took some balancing and a lot of trying but I finally got the wire and was able to pull it towards me till it got caught on something. I was able to grab it with a free hand and yank it to me hoping it wasn’t connected to anything.
“Ronnie. Ronnie” I called again. Then I inched our way back over to a spot under the stairs, flashlight in my teeth, one shoe off still. The basement floor was wet and gross. At a wooden support stanchion under the stairs I scooted the PVC pipe next to it and using the wire I snagged with my foot I wrapped the wire around the stanchion and pipe lashing them together. The rat’s tail slid out from under the pipe; damn he had an out. Looking around again I found an old hand coal shovel, it was rusted and flat, that would have to work. I slid it under the pipe hoping the rat would be confused and unable to figure out how to get past this new barrier presented to him. I still had to cover the top of the pipe.
“Ronnie!” I tried again, my voice almost gone.
Looking around I found a mesh window screen and grabbed one of the many loose brick in the basement and placed them over the top hole of the pipe. It was a temporary fix but I now had the rat-trapped hands free. Free, I was free! Tired and angry I didn’t go about trying to find a permanent trap for the rat or a way to kill it like I should have instead I rushed up the two flights of stairs and into our bedroom. I wanted to know why the hell with all the noise I was making didn’t she hear me! I opened the door and stepped in quickly. She startled awake. All that noise, she gets startled by me opening the door. Go figure. “How do you want me too kill the rat?” I asked curtly “What?”
“I have the fucking rat trapped for now how do you want me to kill it? Where is the rat poison?” I didn’t wait for a reply I was headed back down to the basement I didn’t what this rat to get away, not after all this. I heard her moving around upstairs as I shown the flashlight through the top of the PVC pipe. The rat was still there. Back up stairs to the kitchen. We were looking around for poison only to find that something had eaten the rat poison we had set out under some shelves. No wonder this little bastard was so passive he was high on rat poison. We couldn’t find anything else to kill it with till we spotted an empty pickle jar on the shelf.
It was one of those Sam’s Club jars that held a gazillion pickles. I asked her if I could use it and she said sure. So back to the basement I went. My temporary trap still in place, the rat still in it. I removed the brick and screen slid the opening of the jar over the mouth of the pipe and in a balancing act I tilted the entire contraption upside down holding the coal shovel in one hand and the jar in the other hoping the pipe stayed in the middle. The rat slid down the pipe and landed in the jar. He looked around, tried to climb out once then just sat down in the bottom of the jar as I put the lid on top of it. I took the jar up stares and showed it to Ronnie who was amazed more at the fact that the rat seemed content to be in the jar than at the fact that we had a big rat. I will admit I kind of wanted to punch holes in the lid and keep it for a while then I got pissed off at it again as I looked at the clock. I took him out side and placed him gingerly in the trash can closed up the basement and took a hot shower. That’s where I discovered one of the spiders had gotten to me. There was a red spot about the size of a silver dollar on my belly with about four puncture holes in it. To press on it was to be met by hard skin where anyone who knows me knows my belly has never been hard. I was tired and didn’t think too much about it I just wanted to get to sleep. I was too worked up to sleep and finally drifted off at about 4:am waking up I felt like shit and spent most of the next day in bed with fit filled dreams of boats.
two weeks later the pest control guy came and we had him put our traps and spray the basement for spiders. The hard spot on my belly went away and I never felt sick. The rat eventually died. We went through two water heaters till we got one that would stay lit and was small enough to be placed up high in the low basement so that flood waters couldn't reach it. The sump pump was replaced and has worked just fine ever since simply because it hasn't rained like that again.