It was a basement apartment that ran the full length of a Washington DC townhouse. Eight steps below the street, 1744½ had exactly four windows: two in the front "living" room, two in the back "bed" room. The yuppie owners lived above and were renovating the upper floors in preparation for a stream of progeny.
Late one night or early one morning, I find myself awoken. I hear the steady tinkle of someone at the toilet. I stretch out my arms and legs in the bed, thinking perhaps to annex an additional pillow, but I ascertain that my girlfriend is there also.
Are you awake?
Do you hear that?
I thought it was you.
What is it?
Neither of us asks why the other is whispering.
As I quietly step out of bed, I arm myself with a penny loafer. The shoe feels comfortable in my hand, although it seems like the heel wouldn't do much more damage to an intruder than my fists. I creep to the bathroom door, and push it open. The splashing ceased for a moment. I dramatically flip on the lights. The bathroom was empty. The splashing continued. I took a deep breath and approached the toilet. I slipped the toe of the shoe under the edge of the toilet seat cover. The splashing ceases. I use the shoe to pop up the cover as the splashing begins again. There is a rat swimming in the bowl. I instinctively take a step back, and bump into my girlfriend. The toilet seat cover falls.
How did it get in there?
What do we do now?
How do we get it out?
We don't. We kill it. Then it's the landlord's problem.
Do you think it will drown?
It hasn't yet.
How do we kill it?
I'm not sure. But we're not sleeping with it alive.
The pull chain in the flush mechanism had been flighty for weeks, just yesterday, the paperclip that was holding it all together had slipped. But as the water level rose, I expect that it would only bring the swimming rat closer to the edge of the bowl, allowing escape. I figure that if I try to beat the rat down with a toilet brush it will dodge and climb it, and escape. We don't have a plumber's friend, but I imagine a similar scenario. I begin rummaging through the cupboard under the bathroom sink. The most lethal substance at hand is bleach.
Don't you wanna hang out with the bleach boys, baby?
I lift the toilet seat cover and pour a good half gallon of bleach into the bowl. I drop the cover, consigning the rat to a watery grave.
I wonder if the dark gray greasy fur will change color by morning.
We went back to bed, and lay awake listening to the splashing gradually slow, then stop.
The next morning, I called the landlord upstairs. The expectant mother answered the phone. We exchanged pleasantries much too early for them to be anything more than perfunctory.
um, well, a rat surfaced in our toilet last night. I think it swam in through the sewers.
I heard a thunk from the ceiling as she dropped the phone. Her scream followed.