A Rat Named Havarti



J.E. Morales

January 22, 2004






I call her Havarti, now.

I first noticed her presence a few months ago when I began hearing the nightly sounds of the walls being chewed away from within. I waged a campaign to annoy it into relocating and was successful after a few days. About a month later, my landlady who lives in the conjoined house above my basement apartment noticed that an entire hand-woven Persian carpet had been shredded, chewed into fluff and stuffed inside of its rolled-up neighbor. The fluff was mixed with bits of dry cat food and droppings, giving-way to the identity of the carpet vandal. It was a rat, probably the same one I convinced to leave the invisible innards of my apartment walls.

The Orkin man was called out three or four time, and was all but useless in the campaign to remove this rodent. Exterminators really focus on the exterminating part of pest removal and are not interested in the least with removal. I've been blessed (burdened?) with a hyper-sensitivity to the right of all God's creatures, great and small, to co-habitate this blue, space-bound marble called earth. Therefore, I'm a big fan of removal and relocation, though I'll be the first to assert the difficulty in catching a rat–the animal or human type.

This rat, as is to be expected, was very clever. So, four weekly visits and a matrix of glue traps later, the heretofore unsuccessful Orkin man stepped up the heat and laid out a few traditional snap-traps. Where they get-off calling these blunt, guillotine-like death devices, "traps," I cannot say. Never the less, it looked like the rat was "in for it" sooner or later. This anthropocentric momentum did not set well with me, but after it began chewing the walls of my apartment again, this time over my bed, I joined the lynch mob headed by my, "I'm at my wit's end," and, "I'm desperate for a solution," landlady. Last night, I heard it chewing away and asked my landlady if I could enter her house to try to get it. Of course she obliged and I entered fully armed.

I chose the Havarti to bait the trap with as it is fairly pungent and soft enough to shape. Forming it into a pad, I worked the cheese into the hold of the trigger-pad, set the spring arm, then placed the set trap on a shelf in the closet below the stairwell. This was the closest I could get the device to where I heard the gnawing. The landlady was working on her computer in another room when I announced that the trap was set and I left.

The late-night was clear, cold and windy which was strangely inviting for a long walk through the quiet neighborhood. There was much mana to be collected from the active, arctic wind blowing through the trees. My time outside was energizing. When I returned about an hour later, the landlady had shut the lights off and seemingly retired for the night. I entered her house through the door she left unlocked for me to check the trap. Shining my light into the dark recess of the under-stair closet, I inspected, then closed the door. After securing her house, I walked up through her living area to exit through the garage as we had earlier arranged. Since the lights in her TV room were on, I called down the hall to her. When she acknowledged my call, I reported that the house was locked-up and I was leaving for the night. After a pause, I continued, "The problem is taken care of."

"CONGRATULATIONS!!," she exclaimed.
"I'm not feeling as jubilant about it."
"Huh?" she replied, obviously confused by my sombre tone.
"It was gruesome."
"Ohh," I heard, then consolingly, "Thanks."
"Goodnight," I closed the door behind me and returned to my apartment below.
After checking on the trap earlier, and before locking up her home, I had found a nice wooden box to inter the creature. The least I could do was give it a proper burial. So when I returned to my apartment, I opened the box and looked at it. It was truly a gruesome sight, though apparently a "clean" kill. I doubt it suffered, in fact, I doubt it had any consciousness of the brutal event. This was slightly comforting.

She was beautiful–undoubtedly the most beautiful rat I had ever seen. Even more attractive was she than any domesticated rats I've engaged with. Her caramel fur was so full and soft like a tortoise-shelled rabbit and would have been a fine pet in other circumstances. Her tiny, pink hands and feet were crossed as she would now eternally lay on her side. Her body was healthy–neither fat, nor scrawny–and the one black eye I could peer into was clear and strangely endless. I had stared deeply into that same endless, black eye several months ago when one night I shined my flashlight into a crack in the wall and there, not an inch away, but unreachable, she peered back unflinchingly. Killing something that you've stared into the eye of is a very personal experience that, believe it or not, causes my own eyes to well-up as I write this.

I killed God's creature for no better reason than because it annoyed me; well, that and due to some other unidentifiable motivations from a primal place not capable of being intellectualize. That beautiful creature's blood has stained my heart. So in an attempt to atone for my sin, and I do consider this a Sin, I setup a tiny still-life, lit it and painted her posthumous portrait in an attempt to give this creature a dignity in death that she did not enjoy in life.

She is now, Havarti, and has been offered to the gods that encourage expression of the human experience. May they have mercy on her soul (and mine.)

See the painting