“I contacted Storysold to get some squirrels out of the narrow crawlspace above our loft. I was very impressed with the creativity they used to fashion a one-way vent in a tough-to-reach spot under the roof peak. They managed to exclude the squirrels, then sealed up the entry point after we confirmed that they had departed.”
Produced for Mike S. of SW Portland, OR on Dec. 9, 15, and Jan. 3 20
Service Story #39: The Swope
Our first producer who was brave enough to allow us to develop our service storyline, Save the Squirrels!, was Mike Swope in the hills of SW Portland. His entry hole was at the pitch of a large three story home that overlooked Portland’s cityscape. After I scampered up on my trusty ladder, I edged over the side of the roof and peaked in the hole. Sure enough, our squirrel friend was there, inches from my face, greeting me at the front door of what he though was his home.
After I explained to Mike that I believed it was not only unnecessarily cruel, but costly inefficient, to trap and kill squirrels…and then exclude the entry hole…he agreed to my plan, allowing me to flex my creative muscles and begin the development of a “venting and exclusion service.”
Here’s a video of the contraption I built that day:
Well that didn’t work. The reenforcement screen I put to keep the squirrel from chewing through the plastic roof held, but…the squirrel’s response was strategic. It vented itself, then chewed the two zip ties I used like a hinge from above.
Now that I knew what the hole looked like, I spent an hour or so in the barn making a better vent.
The squirrel enters a hole in screen from bottom of box (small enough to exit, but not as easily used as an entrance due to pointy wire), and then it exits through the metal flap on top.
The roof was wet, but I remembered my safety training: “Don’t fall.” After I secured it on the bottom and top, I smeared some squirrel attractant inside the box. And then I got the hell of that roof before the rain really started to hit. Beautiful views are also often dangerous ones.
A few weeks later, I returned to Mike’s home. The only signs of squirrels in the entry hole, or my new fangled contraption, was the scratch marks I found on the piece of metal I put on the street side of the contraption. The plan had worked beautifully!
On my way home that day, after a nice post service chat with Mike, I decided to call my new vent contraption, The Swope, in honor of his willingness to produce the first of what I hoped would be many service stories to Save the Squirrels!
Service Story #43: The Harveys
As it goes, Thomas contacted me when I was face up in the crawlspace of another favorite customer James B. He said he was hearing scratching in his attic. After a few rounds of messages, I arrived at his nice home in Irving off Broadway and climbed up on his roof for my first service.
It was nice and quiet up there. He and his family were on vacation.
The picture below was the main entry hole after I excluded it. I found at least a rat sized entry hole in all four corners of their dormer eves.
I went right to work excluding 75% of the entry holes I found. I had high hopes that I would be able to nail an ending on the story in 2 services…
STORYSOLD: Happy 2020! I checked the weather and the only slick roof free day to do the exclusion work in the foreseeable future is tomorrow. Can I come by late morning/afternoon to hopefully close off those entry holes permanently?
THOMAS: Yes, is is OK that we are not there? We’re going to be out of town [again]. Thanks!
STORYSOLD: No problem, I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
THOMAS: Thank you!
STORYSOLD: You’re welcome. I will be doing a little happy dance if I can get this in 2 services!
THOMAS: Me too! 🙂
The 2 service story didn’t happen. One of the custom vents I made had been breached by the squirrels and I wasn’t sure if it was in, or out. So the 3 service story happened instead.
The Official Save the Squirrels!Montage
After I had my first 2 successful venting and exclusion services under my belt, I picked up 4 more Save the Squirrels! jobs all at once.
(#49) The first was from Jack Clarke, one of my favorite Portland Landlords. I didn’t nail the ending on The Harvey’s squirrel story in 2 services, but I made up for it with Jack.
His rental had 3 entry holes and some miscellaneous gaps:
After dancing around the power line, I was able to construct what became a true innovation in the budding art of venting and excluding squirrels. Because the squirrels were used to popping down from the top of the dormer,I fixed a metal flashing shied that hung out, around, and over the entry hole. A few weeks after the first set up service, Brendan the Home Renter reported, “They were upset at first ha. Seems to have worked though! They haven’t been able to get back in!”
(#50) My next Save the Squirrels! call came mere minutes after I finished Jack’s exclusion work. Her name was Eloris and she lived only a few blocks from Jack’s rental.
Eloris reminded me of my grandma. I knew she was on a fixed income, elderly with eye trouble, often bed ridden, and couldn’t afford to pay as much as she’d like…all that before I met her. She was great, and so was her son Ken. From my many years of social work, I used to think I should always “keep an eye on” anyone who leads with their “sob story,” but I’ve evolved since then. Now I “keep an eye” on folks who don’t lead with their stories, or at least try to represent themselves on a personal level. Ken and Eloris were great. Lots of good old fashioned, classic, neighborhood porch conversation, which I won’t share here. All I’ll say is, if Eloris’s home was a glimmer of The Action of the old neighborhood before it was sold off and rebuilt like conquered territory, I wish I’d known it better.
In any case, they were living in what Eloris described as a “squirrel hotel.” I lost count of entry holes and gaps after 15. After my first set up service, I loved that Eloris wrote “roof repair” on her check. It was like that. Was I doing exclusion work, or roofing repair?
It took a few services to dial my vent in back. The squirrel escaped once without my permission, but that only forced me to be better. I’m proud of this vent set up. I imagine the good people of Portland will be seeing this scene on their squirrel hole corners from now on >
(#51) It took us 5 services to vent and exclude the bottom half of Eloris’s Squirrel Hotel (her attic still is suspect) but somewhere along the way we met Eloris’s friend and landlord for the neighboring house that had been converted into apartments. Her name was Udell, and she said one of her friends and tenants had been hearing scratching in her wall.
Our human had an old Marine character in stock; honorably discharged in 2001. He still had a few of those stoic man of steel/tough guy characteristics. You know, like stupidity. He often crawled across rooftops like Spiderman without safety equipment. But not Udell’s roof.
This may seem unbelievable, but Udell’s roof was the first roof in the many years of squirrel and roof rat jobs working for other companies where he/we used safety equipment. When he worked for Pioneer Pest Management, there was never time. He compensated by not inspecting the roof fully…and only selling exclusion on the easy, low hanging entry holes. Most companies simply trap the squirrels from the gutter line, and advise their customers to exclude their entry holes after they’ve killed every squirrel in sight. Our human’s wife, Farmer Emily, has another character they call, “The Daughter of The Son of Safety.” Long story shot, The Coopers of Beverly, Mass take safety very seriously–and we were proud to report, for once, we did it right.
Udell’s Save the Squirrel story took 2 services. Guide found an active hole with scratch marks, but the other 3 entry holes we excluded where only preventative infestation control.
(#52) The final story in our Save the Squirrels! Montage was Dennis from West Linn. He got our name from Home Advisor, and was kind enough to call the number we listed before he accepted our lead and credit Home Advisor with a $42 payment from Storysold: Pest Control.
Argh! Barbary pirates have better business practices than Home Advisor!
Anyway, Dennis lived in West Linn. The neighborhood was like moon walking into another country after spending a few weeks working on Udell and Eloris’s home fronts. I couldn’t help but stare–completely baffled–at the life-sized bonze statue of a charging stallion that stood like a opulent golden gatekeeper before the locked gate of Dennis’s neighbor’s house. The stallion wasn’t supposed to be scary like a gargoyle, but that didn’t explain why I suddenly felt terrified of something I couldn’t put my finger on. Bookmaker was convinced it was our human’s low class insecurities. Guide thought it was a feeling a lot of wild creatures feel. Humans call it “penis envy.” It’s what happens when you try to compare yourself to some creature that has a golden penis as long as an arm. And Predator didn’t care. It was clearly set there to fool humans. It wasn’t really alive.
When Dennis opened the door, the first things I noticed were: a) the cigar, b) the Red Sox hat, c) and the thick Boston accent. I liked him immediately. As one of Portland’s original Red Sox fans (from the time before they became winners), our human appreciated his presentation of the classic sports guy character even thought Bookmaker was convinced Dennis was only wearing the hat to calm my low class insecurities. Above all, his conversation style was seeming open, intelligent, aggressive, yet playful at the same time. He reminded me a lot of spending time at Christmas with my east coast family in Beverly, Mass.
He reported that he was “under attack by the wilderness,” but I knew he was just having fun. More accurately, he had some time on his hands and the last pest control company he paid to clear his attic of wildlife left all the entry holes wide open for reintroduction. It was a familiar story. So much so, we began to cherish any job where we found that a company made even a half ass effort to exclude the entry holes after the slaughter had subsided.
Given the fact that Dennis’s roof was covered with slippery cedar shingles, we were pleased when we discovered access to all 3 of his entry holes inside the vast attic space.
Custom cone style vent. Easy out; not so easy in.
We spent most of our 2 service Save the Squirrels! story bullshitting with Dennis. The most complicated part of it was rigging a custom vent for the biggest entry hole. While Guide was constructing her third vent contraption of the day–headlamp Headlamp on, standing in a sea of insulation, she almost lost her patience. “What I need is something like a bungee cord,” she said to herself as she tried to close off an entry hole big enough for a small dog to fit through.
Then she looked down. Sitting in plain sight in Dennis’s pile of stuff he stored in the attic was a bungee cord. “Really?” Bookmaker laughed at his teammate. “You’re always so damned lucky!”
Once we were certain no creatures were still living in Dennis’s attic, we removed the bungee and did the final exclusion work. Guide made an effort to explain to Dennis that his home was no longer under attack by the wilderness. She did her best to derail his efforts to trap the offenders (who he’d seen swing Tarzan-style into his neighbor’s attic through a hard to reach entry hole), but he seemed to be having so much fun. In The End, Guide gave him some of her best attractant, made the sign of the cross, and put The Wilderness in Dennis’s capable hands.
And like a good sportsman, he had no plan to kill them. If successful, he was going to drive them over the Columbia River to Washington. We can’t be sure, but if we were able to translate his strange Bostonian language correctly…it was the closest place he could release them where he was certain they wouldn’t be able to march back and attack his home again. Go Sox!
PREDATOR: The safe bet is to wait until we get the all clear to move new furniture in, but I get that life has its own pace. I have your back either way.
SOPHIE: 4 bugs on me from big couch last night. Blech!
Produced on Oct 7, 8, 22, 23; Nov 5, and Dec 17 in Vancouver, WA
by Sophie and David N.
I am Pest Predator, the customer service character in charge of bedbug services for Storysold: Pest Control.
I’ve been hunting bedbugs for many years now, and the question that everyone always asks is, “Where did they come from?”
I’ve tried to tell the truth. If you’re out in the world and you sit on a chair, rest on a couch, or sleep in a bed infested with bedbugs for more than, (let’s say) fifteen minutes, then you might have made a new friend. Cleanliness has nothing to do with a bedbug’s decision to befriend you.
I’ve tried the truth, but my social skills aren’t, as they say “appropriate.” I can tell by the look on their faces. “I don’t know where you made your new friends,” isn’t an appropriate answer to that question.
That’s why I’m learning to lie. Nothing in the following service story is true. It’s the story I should have told Sophie when she asked that question…
On Monday Oct 7th the immaterial, generically engineered commercial character known as Thumbtack (who we generically endorse in hopes they will someday vanquish Home Advisor and leave that monster lost forever in a sea of forgetfulness), sent the following messages:
SOPHIE: [requested an estimate for bedbug elimination]
PREDATOR: Hello Sophie, I prefer to start with an inspection even if you know you have them. I have found it saves a lot of time, money, and confusion. I charge $85 for inspection. If you decide to go forward with treatment, it will be applied to first treatment fee…
SOPHIE: When can you come 🙂
PREDATOR: I have time today between 12 and 2, tomorrow AM, or Wednesday afternoon. Do any of those times work for you?
SOPHIE: Yes today please
PREDATOR: Sounds good. I’ll text you when I’m on my way
Hours later, I was standing in Sophie’s home in Vancouver WA inspecting all her sleeping and resting areas for bedbugs.
I found a small gathering (about 25-50) in her son’s bed, about as many in the bed downstairs, a few possible signs in the back bedroom, but the mass of them were in the living room. The nice, comfy, red couches were populated heavily with the bugs that bite at night.
Like I said, I’m not always socially appropriate. And I’m proud to report that I did not look the family in their eyes and say, “Holy Moses! You have a small army of bloodsuckers in your living room!” I very calmly assured them that I was the right character for the job, all the while setting what I felt was appropriate expectations.
“My average number of treatments is three,” I reported as I added what I thought was amazing sellspersonship. “I’m Pest Predator, and I take my hunts seriously. If I can’t hit by average of three, I’ll do the rest for half price.” Later that night, at our nightly team meeting around the movie screen (featuring the latest action movie), our human host Jake made it clear that was not the right answer.
“Half off?” our human railed. “Do you have any idea how expensive healthcare insurance is?”
“Never fear, human vassel,” I spoke in calm, even tones. “I will vanquish their infestation in three services…”
“Or what?” Jake laughed nervously. “Where’s my cut of this deal?”
CHAPTER 1: The First Hunt
That was The Intro Inspection. The next morning, on Oct 8th, I arrived bright and early for my first bug hunt. As you might have already noticed, I hadn’t begun lying to the humans yet.
Sophie greeted me at the door, bright eyed and full of energy. I like to indulge myself and identify as a “supereconomic action hero,” but Sophie was the real deal. She put her customer service mask on, clocked in for the nightshift, and became that undervalued hero we know as “social worker.”
You know, the social services superpeople who form like Autobots (or Voltron) to help the humans who host non-normal characters who don’t always produce the kind of action that the Capital C Characters of civilization don’t believe are worth the price of their admission.
Needless to say, I liked her immediately.
I liked her in spite of the fact that she genuinely liked classic 80s action heroes like Steven Seagal and David Hasselhoff. I’m too much of a true believer in the greats like Sean Connery, Kurt Russel, and Dwayne Johnson to take would-be heroes like Night Rider seriously, but I admired her courage. It takes guts to say “I like David Hasselhoff” aloud and mean it. In some countries that aren’t as free as ours, they shame people for saying such things. I’m not saying we should tape our humans’ eyes open and administer legal drugs, and then make everyone watch appropriate 80s action movies like Silverado, Predator, Jedi, Mad Max 2, Wrath of Khan, and Big Trouble in Little China, but the world would be a better place if we were all running hot with Jack Burton on The Pork Chop Express.
“To the choppa!” we’d all cry in The Next Extraterrestrial Bedbug Invasion.
Sorry, that was an inappropriate departure from my narrative flow. I’m about to get to the part where I start lying to the humans.
After I bagged all the suspect bedding and clothes and prepped the home for the chemical spray, I spent about an hour steaming the couches. As it goes with the real-life action hero business of slaughtering bedbugs, it takes many forms. Steam is great for killing the bugs and eggs that are present during The Hunt, but it has a limited reach like chemicals. In other words, steam isn’t more magic than spraying neurotoxins. The steam can reach further into, let’s say, a couch, than chemicals, but it still can’t reach far or hot enough to kill a hoard living in the inner core of a mattress, couch, or chair. To get at a bedbug population that has grown below the surface of a sleeping or resting area, trickery is needed.
“I’m going to put these climb ups on your couches,” I said to Sophie a few moments before she left. “Is that ok?’
“Yes,” she replied. “We’re going to get rid of those anyway.”
Use the climb ups to cut them off from the baseboards, carpet, and the rest of the house. That was my plan as I applied neurotoxins around the base of the couches as I usually do. I was heartened by the low numbers of bugs in other rooms. Then again, I did find signs of activity in every sleeping room in the home. No doubt, this wasn’t going to be easy.
CHAPTER 2: The Second Hunt
In the time before The Second Hunt, the creature Thumbtack sent the following messages:
SOPHIE: New couches coming tomorrow. Not sure how best to proceed? Do we wait to open them or go ahead and move the old ones out
PREDATOR: The safe bet is to wait until we get the all clear to move new furniture in, but I get that life has its own pace. I have your back either way.
SOPHIE: 4 bugs on me from big couch last night. Blech! Can I at least get rid of that one and the new one in. I can put the trays on the new one. They all seemed like smaller bugs. I guess we need to schedule next treatment?
PREDATOR: Smaller bugs is good sign. As for the couch, I totally support whatever decision you make. Sounds to me like you’re ready for a new sofa 🙂 We can schedule the next treatment for sure, but I recommend we wait the full two weeks. I space the treatments out that way, because it saves us time, you money, and it’s more effective in long run.
SOPHIE: Ok! Do you want to throw me out a date/ time for treatment 2? Same time on 22nd would be great…
Good chance that’s where the lying began. Smaller bugs/nymphs are a sign of The End, but they’re also a sign of The Beginning. I suppose I should have mentioned that, but I was already asking a lot of our producers. It’s hard to look a human in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry, for the next three treatments you’re going to be my bait.”
In fact, I felt so bad about having to ask Sophie and her wonderful family to be my bait, I put one of my still untested prototypes into action. The Sunday night before I geared up for my second hunt, I spent an evening building a bedbug trap that, if successful, would solve the problem of bites during treatment. Not only that, it might also eliminate the need for chemicals in bedbug treatments all together.
The idea is simple enough. That thing fits in between the mattress and box spring of a queen sized bed (like the one in Sophie’s basement) with the lip facing down. Once installed, the lip is filled with a old pest control product called Tanglefoot. It’s a sticky, removable glue substance that would catch bedbugs like flies on flypaper.
And yes, I managed to fit that thing on my little Ford Transit van and drive to Vancouver. It was excited to test my new contraption, but I’m also what they call a “mission oriented” creature. After I arrived in scene, Sophie and I had a heart to heart chat about the new plastic wrapped furniture in the backyard. (a) Not only did I then realize that the only queen bed my new invention would fit on didn’t have a box spring, but Ikea slats (b) I realized Sophie was committed to tossing the couch and love seats that represented the bulk of the bug harborage in her home, and I knew, without a doubt, that would make my job easier. The only problem was disposal.
“I’m going to call Waste Management and ask them to pick it up,” she said after we moved the couch and love seats onto the driveway. “If they won’t do it, I’m sure they can recommend someone who can.”
“Sounds good,” was all I said, knowing well that the bedbug stigma was so troublesome to humans, even waste management professionals refused to touch a bed, or couch, if they knew it had bedbugs. While Sophie called Waste Management (and got the expected runaround) and I proceeded to steam, inspect, kill bugs, and prep the house, I stewed on the words that were already on the tip of our tongue.
After her call, Sophie went to church and left me to roll up my sleeves, blow my inner hunting bugle, and begin my ritual act of tracking the little devils down. Unlike other bedbug hunters who require their customers to pack all their belongings in bags and stack them floor to ceiling in the kitchen or bathroom, I prefer to rifle through the belongings of relative strangers like I was a prison guard, or at-risk teen social worker tossing bunks looking for inappropriate contraband in a detention center. I’m aware it’s super creepy, but I don’t trust chemicals. I want to look my prey in its eyes and know for certain I tracked and sent them to The Great Bedbug Beyond.
I’m often tempted to comment on what I find: “I see you like The National too!” But I keep a lid on it, because I don’t want to be any creeper than I already am. Humans never know exactly how to take me anyway. I’m half human, half fly, and Predator from the 80s movie The Predator.
By the end of my second hunt, I discovered 2 harborages I missed in my first hunt. The first was along the edge of the carpet that was under the couch. The second was a bug I found in the video gaming chair in the back bedroom. How could you be so stupid! I thought as I waited for Sophie to return from church. Always check the gaming chairs!They’re like Bedbug Disneyland. They all go there!
As soon as Sophie walked in, I stopped the ritual act of beating myself with branches like a medieval monk. Even though the general punishment and sacrifice of self is often highly encouraged (but seldom rewarded), I still think individual repression falls into creepy/borderline inappropriate behavior right along with hunting for bugs in other people’s private belongings.
Then again, I thought as I presented Sophie with the carpet, the fancy doctors on The Hill get away with borderline inappropriate/downright weird behavior all the time. I mean, for real, those guys get paid big bucks to rifle though more than your belongings looking for pestilence. They get paid big bucks to rifle through your BODIES looking for microscopic “bugs” everyday, and that’s somehow perfectly normal. Humans just nod and agree with those characters when do their inspections. Maybe that’s because they doctors are so great about putting on a good show, pretending they really know For Real what’s going on behind your walls. They interpret The Nature of your bodies with their well crafted stories same as any hustling pest control operator. It’s not like they really have what would be a genuine super power…to see inside and know your cellular soul intimately.
Sophie took one look at the rug, and decisively stated, “Toss it. I was going to replace that rug anyway.”
There was hope for the carpet, but I rolled it up anyway. I know all too well, that too much optimism always gets me in trouble.
The sudden need to say something about the removal of things hit me all at once. By choosing to replace the harborage, Sophie was unwittingly moving into my happy hunting ground like the time the bad guys took over the ship Steven Seagal was humbly cooking in…before shit hit the fan.
“I’m going to say something mean now,” I said with a smile as Sophie walked out in preparation for my chemical application. I framed it like that because I knew she was a super person social worker, who was used to higher degrees of conflict than the average clock punchers.
“Shoot,” she smiled back.
“I’ve already sunk my teeth in this one, so I don’t want you to tell me ‘no’ when I make this offer…”
“Well ok,” she almost looked interested. “What’s your offer?”
“Waste Management isn’t going to pick that up,” I explained. “Let me take it to the dump for you guys. I need to do it… It will satisfy my need to complete this hunt start to finish.”
I knew she knew I meant it. I’m not as they say “on the spectrum,” but I’m not fully human. I’m part alien hunter from out space, and the alien hunters in space take their sense of completion very seriously.
“Ok,” she said, torturing me. “But you should let me pay you something.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I smiled, secretly sighing with relief knowing my happy hunting ground was mine once again. “I wouldn’t charge you for the chemicals I kill the bugs with…It’s all part of the service.”
CHAPTER 3: The Dump Run
I decided it was a bad idea to let the furniture sit in the driveway any longer than necessary. I knew, from experience, that humans (like some pests) will take anything that’s not nailed down if they think it’s been abandoned.
It’s classic earthing behavior to explore, discover, and claim “undiscovered” countries, even ones infested with bedbugs.
I arrived early the next morning in our old pickup truck “Ranger Jane,” an old Autobot friend who has been with Farmer Emily and I on many of our adventures. When no humans are looking, Ranger Jane transforms into a being made of Pure Energy (Giver of Racial and Gender Equality, Economic Freedom, and Chocolate Milkshakes with Enough Straws for Everybody). If you look carefully at the periodic table of elements you’ll see that Pure Energy is listed beside kryptonite, the only material in the universe who can kill Superman. Everyone knows he really struggles when it comes to maintaining a normal, everyday relationship with Lois. She’s always so much easier to relate to when she’s tied to the tracks.
All that’s to say, Ranger Jane didn’t have any strange, socially sanctioned stigma about bedbugs. She hauled the infested harborage to the dump in three trips, “no oil spilt.” Which is Autobot for “no sweat.”
“Aside from some wild fictions about Pure Energy and such,” Ranger Jane said, using her radio not too unlike Bumblebee, “you haven’t really lied to any of the humans yet. What’s your deal? You know no one will ever read these service stories if you write them straight.”
I heard what the old clunker had to say, but I didn’t reply to her taunts until after our dump runs were done.
“I know,” I replied finally as I waved goodbye to Sophie and her husband smiling and waving back on their front lawn. “I’m warming up to it.”
“You know she’s going to ask, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know. The humans always do.”
“So what are you going to say?”
“I don’t know,” I replied honestly. “Where do bedbugs come from?”
And that’s that. I pressed play on my favorite song–The Pixies “Where is My Mind?”–and let my character fade to black on my drive home.
CHAPTER 4: The Third Hunt
A week later, the Thumbtack sent a very special message to my human’s phone. It read like this:
SOPHIE: We are winning! Home feels like it’s ours again, no pests since your last visit. Will we see you Nov 5 at 8?
PREDATOR: Awesome! Totally a team effort! November 5th at 8 works great.
Money is necessary for food and shelter, but victory is the true currency of any predator. And it can’t be bought.
I arrived on Nov 5th more fired up than usual. I flashed my light in every crack and crevice in every sleeping and resting area of the home. I didn’t want to find any bugs, but I didn’t want to stop looking either. To me, the scene where I missed one–and failed to claim total victory–was a lot more terrifying that the scene where I found one and had to tell Sophie we needed a 4th treatment. No doubt, it helped that all the furniture in the living room was new. And no doubt, that also upped the stakes. The new furniture was now under my protection too.
After an hour or two of inspection, I sighed a sigh of relief and put my mind to steaming the downstairs bed and prepping the house for what I hoped would be a final application of bug destroying neurotoxins.
When Sophie returned from church, we talked in the living room for a while. I shared my story about my autistic nephew stealing trinkets behind the prize counter at Chucky Cheese in front of everyone, and no one said a thing. He just reached behind the counter in full view of God and took what he wanted, and nobody cared to sound the alarm. He should have been dragged off to some kind of detention center for at-risk teens. Instead he went home with a lot of candy and useless toy garbage.
At first I thought that story about my autistic nephew had nothing to do with hunting bedbugs, but then I thought about it for a moment or two while I paced around the room, still looking for bugs.
I got it, I thought suddenly. I know where bedbugs come from. Now all I have to do is wait for Sophie to ask me again, or maybe I can prompt her to ask the question with some kind of social cue…
I was about to make my move when I happened to look up.
“Shit,” I said aloud. “I forgot to check the curtains.”
Sure enough, there was a small party of bedbugs still clinging to the ripples in the living room curtains. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Sophie to wash and dry it at high heat for 60 minutes, but I didn’t trust her.
“Don’t worry,” I said as I carefully bagged it up and puffed it with a few rounds of silica gel dust. “I’m still good with moving to final stage of the process. I’ll bring your curtains back in a month.”
And so began the long wait for The Final Inspection. In the long days that followed my mind raced: Did I get them all? Will we be able to finally claim our victory from The Heroes of Slumberland?
Chapter 4: Breaking The Fourth Wall
When the day of The Final Inspection finally arrived, Sophie and David greeted me at the door. I was feeling nervous, as always. What if I missed one? I thought, pacing like a caged animal. What if I inspect and give them the thumbs up, and then I miss one?
“I’m nervous,” I reported after a few moments of pacing.
“Why?” Sophie replied with her potent mix of indomitable optimism and skepticism. “I’m not worried at all. We haven’t seen a bug since our last treatment.”
Then I explained myself, a compulsive act often attributed to bedbug destroyers, while I began my routine of turning their home upside down like a truffle hunting pig.
“Did you bring our curtains back?”
“You bet,” I pointed to the bag I brought with me. “I washed and dried it last night.”
I know Sophie and David said they were cool, but I could feel the tension in the room. We were all on pins and needles, waiting to see if I’d turn up any more bugs. In spite of what most people believe, even a lone bedbug in a 3 room home isn’t impossible to find. Life isn’t like Star Trek. They can be found; bedbugs don’t have cloaking devices. Usually, the logic goes, the longer I hunt for them, the better the chances are that I won’t find any.
Ten minutes rolled into thirty. I searched all the rooms, lifting every mattress and sofa in their home with my Herculean ant strength.
“I’m calling it!” I said, greeting the couple in their kitchen with a grin.
“All clear?” David asked hopefully.
After a celebratory round of high fives, we enjoyed a nice, long chat in the kitchen. We talked about all the things I love to talk about (but rarely have the chance to exercise): social work, super powers vs. mental illness, fiction and story writing, and the everyday flow of The Action. In the back of my mind I was secretly hoping they had read this story…and knew what had to happen next in order for my title to make sense. Come on…please, I thought. Pop the question…
As the wonderful conversation wandered, I wanted to shake my head and yell, “Cut!” And then take my stars into my office and explain, “Don’t you see? This scene, right here and now, is our chance at The Big Time! Can you name one story in the history of the world where real, live action characters became aware enough of their own stories to break The Fourth Wall? All it will take is for you to be aware enough of our story to pop the question…and cue my reply!”
To this day, I don’t know if Sophie and David were aware enough of The Fourth Wall to break it, but I shit you not! It happened right there in that kitchen with no prompting from me!
The topic emerged naturally from our conversation: “So where do bedbugs come from?”
And I smiled and said, “I know I should tell you what I tell everyone else…and tell you that bedbugs are hitchhikers that you can pick up in motels, theaters, and video gaming conventions…but that wouldn’t be true. Not really. The truth is, bedbugs are the heroes of Slumberland. They’re the vanguards of a growing movement among the wilderness creatures of this planet who all believe the only way to cure the human infestation is to, well, rock you gently to sleep–like Snow White–in a digital world they’ve developed for you called Slumberland. This movement wants to put a spell on you that makes you forget all about The Action…forget about the pain and conflict of life. They want you to fall into your predictable work routines, watch TV in the evenings and weekends, never talk to strangers, and fear the wilderness outside your home, so their heroes can feed on you…and drink from your precious bodily fluids…so they can divide the humans from themselves, grow strong, and reclaim their wilderness homes from the humans like an invasion of brain-sucking vampire zombies.”
Sophie made a vomit face, and said, “Blech!”
“That sounds so awful,” David cringed.
“Oh it is,” I replied dramatically. “But that’s the truth. An army of Slumberlandian Heroes are now, as we speak, marching across the globe pacifying humans with generic work routines and screens. They are working hard to build marketable sleeping and resting areas, so they can feed on our flesh whenever they want…with popcorn and bowls of ice cream.”
It wasn’t right. I should have never told them. No human should have to bear the weight of so much truth, but they asked. That’s where bedbugs come from.
Customers laugh when we tell them we hunt bugs. We’d laugh too, but that response is a sad testament to the state of The Pest Control Industry. The literature in every book about ending bug infestations says the best practice is to inspect (hunt) and find the source of the infestation before applying pesticides. Yet almost every generic pest control company you can hire still sells reoccurring applications of pesticides, usually selling the pesticides as “green” claiming that the neurotoxin pyrethrins (synthesized chrysanthemum) they’re hosing your home down with are natural and safe for babies and pets. No matter what they say, there is no way to apply a pesticide in advance that protects your home like a barrier (or an eco-shield), prevents infestation, and or kills a pest before it’s present.
It’s amazing when you think about it. The Industry has successfully sold millions of humans on the idea of “preventative maintenance,” claiming that they can kill and or repel bugs before they are there. If magic still exists in our modern world, this is it.
Each of our bug hunts have their signature service storylines, but the goal of all our bug hunts is to end The Infestation (however you define that for your Homefront) and that process follows a classic narrative arch that has a beginning, middle, and an end. The length of your personal service storyline will depend on the size and strength of your infestation. Typically our odorous house ant hunts require 1-2 hunts per season (usually only one), heavy carpenter ant hunt infestations can require 2-3 hunts per season and another hunt the following season to ensure full elimination, and our bedbug hunts typically require 2-5 hunts to reach The End. A new roach infestation can be knocked out in one service fairly easily, but a heavy infestation (especially in an apartment building that’s infested) can limp along for a long time.
COSTS: $125 – $165 for initial bug hunt, $65-$85 for follow ups depending on how close you live to Gresham, Oregon
We don’t apply synthetic pesticides for non-infesting pests, especially beneficial predators like spiders, beetles, and centipedes, but we do offer thorough “culleans” for small flies (especially in restaurants) and spiders. We also don’t apply pesticides for non-infesting bugs that enter your home, become trapped, and die on their own like box elder bugs. Oh and we also don’t apply pesticides for panty/clothing moth infestations, because The Infestation won’t end until the breeding sites are identified and removed from your home. In any case, we’re happy to inspect The Action and work with you to write an action plan for ending whatever engagement you’re having with the urban wilderness. Selling you a reoccurring service is not a plan.
< The Pest Predator in action >
Here’s what a house ant infestation looks like when you find the nest. These guys were living under the insulation:
Here’s what I mean when Predator says, “Ring around the bait means it’s working.” That will have an effect for sure!
Long before the time of humans, the cities of earth were built and ruled by tiny creatures now commonly known as “bugs.”
Like the bugs of today, the old bugs thrived wherever they found heat, water, earth, and decay. But there was a difference. The old bugs were at the top of the food chain. They had no fear of extermination, because they were a lot bigger than their amoebic neighbors.
Then something very bad happened. The bugs became hooked on sports like “bugsaball,” which fooled the bugs into believing that their mass city swarms were alive; like the city itself had an identity.
As it goes, “They faked it, until they made it…” and after millions of years the fiction of these living cities finally sprang to life like Pinocchio.
And multi-cellular organisms were born.
The old bugs were OK with controllable city creatures like lizards, fish, and chickens, but they were horrified their cities began to form humans.
Humans labeled as “pests,” because they were too big and too smart to be controlled. In an act of desperation, the old bugs developed a warrior class dedicated to the hunting and killing of humans.
We now call those blood-sucking warriors “bedbugs.”
For thousands of years (before humans gained the power of memory) these blood-sucking warriors exterminated humans by the millions. Our bodies still remember the carnage the bedbugs inflicted on us. That fear is now embodied in the character of the vampire.
In spite of their size, the bedbugs of old were able to hunt and kill humans for one reason. They had a special weapon. They used a magic spell, which translates roughly as “EEOeueTUtu8” when spoken aloud. When the spell was cast, the bedbug warriors were made “invisible” to humans. There is no better word to describe it really. The spell cloaked the bedbugs from the perception of humans.
Of course, we now this spell simply as “sleeping,” but that was a long time ago and “sleeping” was more mysterious then.
Bedbugs would have ruled the earth forever if it weren’t for a brave woman warrior (with a strange love for the bugs) who discovered how to track and hunt the bugs that were made to hunt her.
Her name was unpronounceable in English. The sound translates roughly as “4.9.” And she was a badass.
She tracked the old human hunters by:
(1) checking her bedding for spotting, little black dots in a cluster
(2) looking for moltings, or the skins the bugs shed five times (one after every full meal) as they moved in life from egg to adulthood.
(3) using her stupid brother’s fire stick to check her bedding.
And most importantly, Badass 4.9 learned to harness her imagination to see beyond the spell. She could feel them when they were close, and she learned to overturn the rocks and dig behind the roots near her bed.
Once the humans realized that the bedbugs didn’t vanish into some other dimension and become invisible when they hid, crawling out of sight and mind during the active daytime hours, the bugs didn’t have a chance.
The humans began to hunt and destroy the bugs that hunted them, and the byproduct of the hunt was the strange, reflective experience we know call “consciousness.”
And that’s how it happened. If it weren’t for the first exterminator, Badass 4.9, the bugs would still be sucking us dry.
My name is Jake. I’m a bedbug destroyer, and I’m telling this story today for a specific reason. A woman called me to inspect her home for the Old Human Hunters the other day. As I inspected, I discovered that she was an artist and a real deal “unicorn” local. She knew a lot about the city and had interesting stories to share, but the conversation I enjoyed the most was our nice, long chat about bedbugs.
She really knew her stuff. She had a bed with almost no cracks, and the cracks that her bed did have were either taped or sealed. Her box spring and mattress had covers and she was using the same brand of climb ups I use in the field. And she’d done her homework. She knew our old enemy the bedbug well. Overall I felt like I was talking shop with a pro.
I didn’t find any signs of bedbug activity that day, but I did find something very special. I found a new talent, a fellow human with the potential to be a great Bug Hunter and Destroyer someday.
I could be wrong…but I don’t think I am. Someday, when humans finally emerge from the dark age of shame and fear based pest control, we will celebrate the efforts of hunters like Cynthia.
After all, the only thing the blood suckers need to rise to power again is for good people to fall asleep…and pretend the threat isn’t real. There are tiny monsters that bite under our bed, and humans need to remain vigilant and fight them. The fate of the world depends on it.
“You know I excluded 62 entry holes at a hundred year old church last week,” I said with a smile.
“That’s not residential,” Joe said without skipping a beat.
“Well, uh, yeah…”
“We still hold the one day residential record.”
Produced on September 5, 13 2019 in Gladstone, OR
by Joe and Grace and their family
I am Wilderness Security Guide, the customer service character in charge of rodent services for Storysold: Pest Control. And this is the story about a record and making it right.
After I inspected Joe and Grace’s crawlspace and the crawlspace of his adjacent rental property, I found a number of active entry holes and a lot of possible ones:
When my initial inspection concluded, Joe and I talked in his backyard.
JOE: So what do you think we should do?
STORYSOLD: I don’t know…on one hand, I like to think we could work together. You’ve already been trapping the rats…the hard part will be to keep your home and rental from being an open highway to any wild creature looking for a warm place to hole up.
JOE: Do you do that kind of work?
STORYSOLD: Yes, but you have a lot of entry holes…I’m not sure if I can 100% “rat proof” it.
While we talked, Joe often stopped to talk with his kids who were playing in the yard. They seemed like a real wonderful family, and I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to help them. And I didn’t mean, simply placing some stations or traps to freshen up every month. I wanted to make a real effort to hang the CLOSED TO RATS sign on their home. Gladstone was expanding like the rest of the Metro, and that meant new construction, and new construction meant the demolition of the old, and that meant the ratonauts of the neighborhood would be out, looking for new territory.
Our conversation ended with our promise to email Joe an action plan and quote for an epic day of exclusion, spanning both properties. A few days after I sent it, Joe agreed to deal us in.
Chapter 2 – The Epic Exclusion Day
After I arrived and set up shop in the driveway, I took a hard look at the entry holes I was there to seal up, wall off, and block to keep rodents from entering the home.
Deep in the crawlspace—mask, respirator, and jumpsuit on—I looked through the swath of space the rats were running through between the main crawlspace, add on crawlspace, and the mudroom. It felt like standing on the three corners of Nevada, Oregon, and California, I could reach out and put a finger in all three rooms.
“Well team,” I laughed. “Today may be that day when my mouth wrote a check we can’t cash. I don’t know how I’m going to block all that space…They haven’t invented force fields yet.”
After a long hard look at The Three Corners belly down in the dirt, I decided to start on the other side of the crawlspace. It wasn’t sure what it was, maybe at one time it was crawlspace for two people to use at once? I didn’t know, but I engaged my creative engine and found a way to wall it off.
I used a mixture of screen and plywood because the exterior foundation was too rough to simply cover it with plywood. I added gravel, mostly for looks. The hardware cloth and foam should easily do the job.
Next, I tackled The Three Corners. “Proper planning is overrated,” my teammate Pest Predator observed as I studied the wall from the mudroom. “Turn off your inner computer and use the force Luke.”
I know from experience “use the force” or “follow your heart” or “go with your gut” isn’t always the best advice. But it was this time! Once I cut a couple of long pieces of plywood to fit the swath of space, a plan began to fall together like a natural force of action.
Before foam, and after foam…
I’m pretty sure foam technology was invented by NASA or stole from an alien civilization only NASA knows about (same, same).
I left the add-on corner open in case a rat or two was still hanging out, watching my show. I didn’t want to wall them in like something out of a Poe poem.
Here’s a good shot of my plywood wall that now runs along back >
The Great Foam adventure continued in the mudroom. I have to thank Joe for his comment about the color. “Oops. Sorry.” The orange is a little too SE Portland. From that moment on, I’ve only used the professional grade Black Purr foam they sell at the pest store.
After I finished The Three Corners, I enjoyed a break from the sweat and dirt in the crawlspace and I built two new, custom crawlspace doors:
And that’s why they call it a “skill saw.” I was pleased how well these doors came together. It was dumb luck that I decided to buy three latches instead of two. The top one there couldn’t be made to swing outward and be fitted tightly too.
Next up were the many broken vents in your home and the rental. I fixed all the ones I documented in the first service story, plus some. Here’s shots of a few of them:
Rat Catcher vs. Cable Guy: “I win.”
Sealing the gap around vent and duct >
The two most interesting surprises that day were: (a) this old “door” wasn’t secure, so I secured it with nails and a screw from outside, and foamed it inside >
(b) when I first inspected this, all I saw was a crack. It wasn’t until I pushed on the concrete block—and it moved—did I realize there was a highway running from the backyard, under the siding, and over that space between the joists. My solution was a little wonky, but it will keep the rodents out >
By the time I went to work on the mudroom door, Joe was home from work. I hope my conversation wasn’t too jangled. Our human hadn’t eaten much, and he was starting to lose brain function. The good news was, thanks to Joe’s recommendation to reuse the old door sweep over the metal flashing the mudroom was now 93.2% more secure!
The last thing I did was count all the entry holes I’d excluded that day. Without a doubt, it was my one-day record: 22 entry holes (give or take a few)!
The last thing I told Joe that day was, “Give me a call if any of my exclusions fail. I’ll be happy to return and make it right.”
I drove away believing all the rat holes were now CLOSED for business. I imagined Joe would set his traps in the crawlspaces and maybe catch one, or two, but I didn’t think I’d be back.
So goes the best laid plans of rats and rat catchers.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SERVICE STORY (Reviewed on Thumbtack) –
“I cannot say enough great things about Jake. Extremely professional and personal. He got right to work identifying the pest (rats). He identified where they were most likely getting in, set traps, and when he came back a week later it was total success (got’m!). He reset the traps again and let them sit for another week to make sure there were no more and after that, sealed up the entry points so we’re all good going forward.”
Produced for Evan E of Beaverton, Oregon on Sept. 9, 16, and 24th 2019
I am Wilderness Security Guide, the Environmental Control Operator for Storysold: Pest Control, and this service is my story –
Dear Evan, after a nice long read of your home territory I decided that the easy answer was the easy answer. Here’s the entry hole where the rat was getting through >
Near the entry hole I found a few “snack spot” piles of droppings leading towards the heater adjacent to the garage, where you reported the activity >
The top of the heater duct has a lot more droppings, because this is where the rat sat and ate his dog food after he raided your garage.
I would describe the entry point from
the top of the duct into the garage as a “Tom-and-Jerry hole.” It’s clearly the
Based on my powers of deduction and the signs I found, the scratching in your wall was the sounds of a rat nesting in insulation. The inaccessible parts of your crawlspace, which I can see (but not crawl into) have been targeted because rats like insulation to nest in.
The little voice in Jake’s head said, “Don’t worry. You can outrun them.”
The fact that the rats are active in
the insulation could mean we’re dealing with a family of rats. Not sure yet.
Time will tell.
In any case, my action plan is pretty
straightforward. I believe I should do my trapping service roughly every week,
until we know the rats have left your home…and then I’ll fix the vent and the
hole in the garage.
And that’s that. I’m excited to see
how it plays out. I definitely feel like we have a good beginning…now all we
need is for the rats to fall in my traps and sacrifice themselves for the good
of your home.
CHAPTER 2: The First Follow Up Service
After a few words of hello, I suited
up and popped down into your crawl to check my traps. As always, I was filled
with a mixture of dread mixed with a little hope, but not too much. I’m not
superstitious—not really—but I do believe too much hope and optimism can be
contagious, and I’d hate for the rats to catch it…and fail to fall hopelessly
into my traps.
The traps next to the bandit hole in
the garage were both tripped, and the dog food was missing. “Shit!” the
bastard’s figured my traps. “Now I have to go back up there and tell Evan we
lost this round…”
I turned around on my belly and low
crawled to the traps I set in front of the insulation with signs of nesting.
The rat had either (a) died in my trap and dragged it into the part of the
crawlspace I couldn’t go, or (b) pushed it over the ledge because I failed to
secure it properly. In any case, I still was not finding dead rats in traps.
“Alack!” I cried inside. “I better
start thinking of good excuses…”
Then I crawled to the main entry
point, the dryer vent, and saw that the rat had torn my bag block/marker to
“Great,” I sighed. “He breezed
through my traps and escaped footloose and fancy free into the moonlight!”
Then I turned around, faced the traps
I set between the hole and the dog food supply, and made eyes with one, very
I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help
it. I was glad I got him. There’s nothing more wild and natural than engaging
in the age-old dance of predator and prey. On that day, I was the hunter and
that guy was my prey.
CHAPTER 3: The Textbook 3 Service Finale
know if there were more, so I reset my traps, added a few, and put a nice
rat-sized pile of dog food next to my food supply trap.
Then I returned
a week later after many pest control adventures.
This time, I was even a little
hopeful. Nor did I feel dread. For some reason, I just knew it was a one rat
job. In the crawl, all my traps were untouched, the marker was unmoved, and the
pile of dog food was uneaten. Rats are sneaky, but not that sneaky. Evan’s home
My reward (the real gravy) was the
privilege of popping back down into the crawl to redraw The Magic Territorial Line around Evan’s home with a sign of
strength the rodents of Beaverton understand >
“Scratch all you like rat!” it says. “I hope you like the feel of cold steel!”
The photo doesn’t show it, but I experienced a 41 year old first that day. I wrapped that dryer duct with duct tape after I fitted it securely to its end that had been hanging by a wire.
“Eureka! I get it!” I smiled as I
worked to wall off the garage hole behind the hot water heater with more steel
and foam. “It’s not ‘duck’ tape. It’s ‘duct’ tape, because HVAC guys use it to
fit ducts together!”
“Base on the work done so far, he has covered extensively the work of exterminating the roof rat. We have not discovered where, how many are nesting in the roof, so we are taking 2 or 3 stages to seal the entrance and exit areas. Still in progress…” Nita’s 5 star review on Thumbtack.
– Act I – Crossing The Line –
Before I arrived at Nita’s home in SE Portland, I was trying to remember if I’d cleared any roof rats from homes in her neighborhood. It was on the east side of the city, but it wasn’t near the river, or too close to Tabor, or along Johnson Creek in The Flats…
I was still wondering as Nita shared her backstory with me. As it goes, her neighbor saw a rat on her roof and took a photo of it. The photo was taken at a distance. I couldn’t make out any rats, but I could see that some wild creature had turned her solar panels into a nesting opportunity.
I wanted a closer smell, so I broke out my ladder and climbed up. I found a lot of insulation, twigs, and leaves, but no urine smell or droppings.
Nita and I chatted about roof rats for a while. I explained that roof rats (a.k.a. tree rats, black rats, ship rats) are notorious for living in attic voids for years unnoticed by homeowners, because—like a sneaky neighbor—they are very in-tune with your behavior, and they usually feed outside in trash cans and gardens. The experts even say they prefer vegetables.
“The big question is,” I asked Nita. “Where did that insulation come from?”
Her attic was a Portland classic: steep stairs leading to a cozy bedroom that had storage voids on both sides, a dormer, and a tiny triangle shaped void between the ceiling and the pitch. My childhood home in Milwaukie had the same set up. My sister Heidi used to hide in the void when we played hide-and-go-seek. She always won, because we never figured it out.
Luckily, I was able to access the void below the rooftop nest. Within a few seconds of entering the void, I found what I was looking for: (a) the signs of nesting roof rats, and (b) the same kind of insulation.
I also found a pair of what I call “Tom-and-Jerry holes” leading to the void between the ceiling and the pitch. If you look closely, you can see where they manicured the edges of their highway.
I belly crawled back as far as I could go in the void, looking for the entry point(s), which is, by far, the most important piece of information for any rat hunter. Entrypoints are easier to find in crawlspaces, and not always as easy in big, beautiful SE Portland homes.
I had no luck in the void, so I climbed back up on the roof, cleared off as much of the nesting material I could reach, and remembered my climbing instructor’s advice—“Three points of contact at all times!”—while I searched the roof for entry point. I found one on the side of the dormer, which could lead up into the attic void and The Nesting Space.
The hole was plenty big for Nita’s home wreckers to enter, but I didn’t see any signs of oily rub marks, which I usually find in entrypoints that have heavy use…It could be new paint, or maybe it was big enough for them to slide by without markings, or maybe there’s more than one entry?
At this point, it was too soon to tell—so I stuffed the hole with a plastic bag marker and set my mind to the business of trapping roof rats.
Dropping a trap in the nest isn’t always the best strategy, so I set most of my traps on the roof and the base of the tree I knew they were climbing to and from their nest on their nightly feeding routes.
My Volehalla Rodent Trapping System’s rooftop debut! I used zip ties to fasten them to the power pipe. I baited the trap near the new nest with peanut butter and Bob’s Red Mill; I used chunks of old nest/insulation to bait the one closer to the tree, and I set 2 boxes on the ground: one at the bottom of the tree, and the other beside an shed with a lot of harborage and fruit nearby. It just seemed like a nice place for a rat to hang out.
I didn’t put any attractant in the attic traps. Instead I followed the wisdom of the old rat catchers, and presented them with a pile of oats and peanut butter in the hope of getting them hooked and “pre-baiting them.” I also set a number of traps without bait in front of the Tom-and-Jerry holes in the hope of (a) establishing them as runways (b) killing them when they try to sneak by, or blunder into them.
When I was done setting the scene for our roof rat hunt, Nita and I chatted for a while about our action plan. I offered her a reduced rate for my trap checking services in anticipation of what I knew might become a long campaign depending on how many rats were living with her.
We also talked about the other attic void. I wanted to see it, because the rat tunnels in the insulation were clearly running under the bedroom. Nita explained that the solar panel guys sealed it up, because they decided for her that she would no longer need to get in there.
“So,” I thought to myself. “They went to all that trouble to mud and tape the door closed, because why? No needed to go there?” My guess was the guys from the solar panel company had a very good reason why they wanted to spend the time and money to seal the void up…and I very much wanted to know what that was, so I asked Nita for permission to open it up.
I stared at the covered lines of the old door for a while, and even made an effort to see how hard it would be to reopen. In spite of my strong need to know—everything!—I talked myself down off the ledge and decided it was a bad idea to start punching holes in Nita’s wall.
When the “making a plan scene” was done, Nita did something I thought was truly great. She invited me to sit down and share some fruit and ice water with her. I can count the times I’ve sat in a customer’s home like real people do with my hands. Normally, working for other companies, I didn’t have the time to spend a few moments getting to know customers. I only wish I had scheduled more time to spend with Nita listening to her stories…before The Action began.
And begin it did. The following service story is a conversation I had with a tough mother roof rat who didn’t go down without a fight…
– Act II: The Action –
Service #2 (Sept 4): The Conversation Begins
RATS: Outside, one of the Volehalla traps near the new nest under the solar panels was tripped, and my bag marker was pushed out. No signs of activity in ground Volehallas. In the attic, two traps were tripped and the oats were all picked clean.
“Thanks for the oats,” Momma said. “You idiot human!”
RAT CATCHER: I reset traps in attic using a new attractant, a scientifically developed product called “Provoke” as well as peanut butter. I added old Victor style snaps to my line up. Moved the paddle style traps back under boards in front. Make a note that the two traps blocking “high road” Tom and Jerry holes hadn’t been touched. Then, since they seemed to like the oats, I set a live catch trap in a corner…sprinkling it with oats in front and behind the trigger. I imagined the rats wouldn’t be able to resist another free handout of Bob’s Red Mill. Outside, I removed my marker and set two snap traps in front of the entry point, feeling pretty confident that I was going to nail the next rat that headed out to feed…
“You’re welcome,” I replied. “Have you ever heard of the old bait and new live catch trap trick? I guess not.”
Service #3 (Sept 15): The Learning Curve
RATS: One of the traps in front of entry point had been tripped, indicating the rats had successfully left the attic to feed. The Volehalla trap near the solar panel was tripped as well. Inside, the live trap was still full of oats and no rats. And all the snap traps were untouched as well, except two:
The two youths were caught in traps set with peanut butter in a nice “hidey hole,” a floor joist opening that had been shielded with metal.
Half the head of one of the youths had been eaten.
“When will you humans finally get it?” Momma Roof Rat said after she’d snacked on her youth’s head. “They will never grow strong if I protect my children from predators, and feed them claw to mouth all the time. I honor him by eating and gaining strength, and remembering him in body and in mind. To waste a life is a dishonor.”
RAT CATCHER: In the attic, I reset the traps and added dog food to the mix of lures. Outside, I added three traps above the entry point in the eves. The trap on the bottom of the combo wasn’t set. It was there to hold the other two in place. On the ground, I lured the Volehalla traps (which previously had no attractants in them) with fresh tomatoes in hopes that momma and daddy rat had abandoned their nest.
“If you still want to nest in Nita’s attic void after I sent your youths to rat heaven,” I shot back. “You should think again! I’m not going to stop until you get it. You nested in the wrong home.”
Service #4 (Sept 20): No, Not Gone
RATS: Outside, the traps blocking the hole were tripped again. Momma rat was still nesting inside and feeding outside at night. And, strangely, one of the traps I set up in the eves was missing. Like I couldn’t find it. I imagined a rat might have dragged it down—and died in it—and then Nita’s half feral cat might have dragged it off somewhere…but no. I searched all around the garage, and the missing trap was nowhere to be found.
“Search your feelings Rat Catcher…” Momma Rat mocked from the safety of her secret lair. “You know why your traps only work on dumb males and youths. Mothers are the toughest creatures on earth.”
To which I replied (with a chuckle), “Yeah, I know. But I’m betting you will not be able to win this one by the power of your girth alone!”
RAT CATCHER: I was still convinced Momma had abandoned her next, or at least she was out at night looking for new shelter. And I wanted to know for certain if she was still there, so I cleaned up the remaining oats and dog food, and then fixed a one-way vent over the entry point—and wrapped it with plastic so I could tell if it had been messed with or not. I was sure, if she was there, she’d get hungry and have to leave…
Service #5 (Sept 27): Desperate Times
RATS: In the attic, every oat that was left in the live catch trap up to the trigger had been eaten. Every oat and kibble of dog food around my “free food spot” near the opening had been picked clean. But there were no dead rats in my traps. Outside, I found no new signs of activity.
“You have to be the dumbest rat catcher in Portland,” Momma said as she listened to my large body lumber in and out of the attic void. “First it was free oats. Then it was free dog food. I’m living The Good Life here thanks to your handouts. Keep them coming buddy! I promise I won’t tell Nita, or your competition, that you’re feeding the wildlife!”
I didn’t take the bait and reply to her taunts. Instead I did this…
RAT CATCHER: In the attic, I made a pile of granular bait (poison) on their free food spot. Outside, in an act of pure desperation, I built a tree trap to make myself feel more like a crafty Rat Catcher.
Service #6 (Oct 4): The Beginning of The End
RATS: In the attic, the bait poison was untouched. The oats on the far side of the live catch trapped finally kicked in. A third teenage roof rat was found dead in the live catch trap.
On the far side of the attic, between the floor joists that ran under Nita’s bed, a fourth teen was found dead in a trap lured with peanut butter.
“We don’t like that scientific rat attractant you used in the beginning,” the rats said. “It’s like McDonald’s meat, so obviously not food.”
“I know you like dog food too,” I replied to the fallen teen. “And it doesn’t mold as fast as peanut butter. I’m going to leave a big handful on top of this tub for your Momma–and any other of your sibs–if they’re still here. Feel free to eat up. It’s a free handout treat I give to all the rats who officially register their place of residence with me.”
Outside, the trap that blocked the rope leading to the tree was tripped, but no dead rats hanging dramatically from The Rood. On the roof, the oneway vent trap was still untouched, and I found my missing trap. It was sitting in plain sight at the top of the solar panels just above Momma Roof Rat’s Second Home. I simply hadn’t thought to look there.
“Hum,” I said as I inspected the trap like a pest hunting version of Sherlock Holmes. “There’s blood on the bar.”
I didn’t need a CSI team to connect The Action. Momma Roof Rat, her mate, or one of her teens had explored the dormitory eve, tripped that trap I set there, got caught, and then dragged it up and over the pitch of the roof to the edge of the solar panels where the trap was caught…and the rat was able to use the leverage to free its appendage. The story reminded me of that campfire classic starring the logger who sawed his own leg off, and then drove home with his stump to save his own life.
I didn’t change anything on the roof, but I did check the long forgotten Volehalla box I set beside the shed. The fresh tomatoes I lured it with a month ago were no longer fresh. So I “freshened” it (as the Ecolab techs like to say) with some dog food and a dab of peanut butter to make it stick.
Service #8 (Oct 7) – The Big Mouse
I was watching an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale with my wife Farmer Emily when I received a text message from Nita.
NITA: Hello Jake, I had two contractors today who I hired to tidy up my backyard shed. When they finished power washing the top and bottom, they noticed your trap box that you planted on the side. And behold they saw a big mouse dead on the trap. What do you want to do with this box? I took a pic but did not know how to send it to you on the phone. I think the mouse was too big to go through the hole and got stuck halfway…
You should see it!
JAKE: Holy Moly! That’s a big mouse! If the trap is in your way, feel free to move it anywhere. If you’d like me to swing by Monday AM and clear it. I can do that too. What a wild adventure, huh?
NITA: Yes, it is! I found another baby dead on the concrete pathway exposed this morning, too. I checked the box also and the bottom half was mangled and the internal organs exposed. Somebody came and dragged the box upside down. Wow! Gross! Yes can you come by and clear it? I leave for work around 7 AM.
JAKE: No problem. I can swing by around 10…
– Act III: The Line Redawn –
On Monday I arrived in a hurry. Scott the Badass Texan Facilities Manager of East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District was waiting my arrival for their inspection. I was late, but I stopped for a moment of remembrance when I saw what remained of Momma Roof Rat.
I know it must sound crazy to hear a professional Rat Catcher admit this, but I had to choke the tears back. I’d never met Momma Roof Rat, but I knew her well. I imagine the cat, or raccoon who picked at her bones understood, all too well, the thankfulness, respect, and yes…love that develops between a predator and the prey they feed on for life.
Let the scientists reduce that love to the instinctive, animatronic, Disney satiation of hunger, but I know humans hunger for food, shelter, and sex too. I know this, because I’m still a little wild–and I’m thankful like a wolf howls for the death of Momma Roof Rat.
Without this victory, Nita would not be able to redraw more clearly The Magic Line between civilization and wilderness we call “home.”
Service #9 (Oct 25)
I decided to give the dog food in the attic a while longer to tempt any rats that might still be living inside. Turns out, that wasn’t a bad idea. When I messaged Nita about the dog food a few weeks after Momma Roof Rat’s death, I got this reply:
NITA: Yes, I did…checked twice in the last 2 weeks, and the first time had no activity, but the second time I went back on Thursday, the dog food was untouched, but a baby mouse [#6] was caught on the trap in back [the traps I set within reach of the door], but nothing in the front two. I was trying to tell you, but I got busy with my contractors for the house. Cleaning, packing, and more cleaning is an overwhelming task. Anyway, I’m not sure if you want to pick this baby up or wait till another one bites the dust. Waiting to hear from you!
JAKE: If you caught it in attic, that is ok. Still means our entry point hasn’t been compromised [my theory was that Momma had abandoned the ones still in the nest after I installed the oneway vent trap]. We should schedule another service to check traps in attic and seal entry if we have the “all clear.” Would you like me to come soon to clear trap?
NITA: Yes, I think that is a good idea.
When I arrived for my last service and read The Scene, I found: no new signs of nesting under solar panels, no tripped traps on roof or outside, and the plastic wrap was still unbroken on oneway trap. Inside, the dog food was uneaten, none of the thirteen traps in attic were tripped, and the “easy pickings” I set on some of the traps were uneaten as well.
When I walked down the stairs to announce the news to Nita, I delivered my lines like I’d found more activity…and then I smiled big and said, “I’m calling it. We’ve finally reached The End.”
“Well yes,” she smiled. “We will see.”
I don’t think Nita fully appreciated the tease. Not that I blame her. It had truly been The Long Ballad of Momma Roof Rat.
And it’s worth noting that, in The End, none of the poison was eaten. What that means is, no roof rats were killed slowly and painfully by anticoagulant rodenticides in the production of this service story.
The nest in your tree was started by a single queen who overwintered with her workers, until mid-May when The Action began…
nest takes shape, and soon the workers emerge in mid-July. Even though they’re
helpful predators that feed on flies, catepillars, and spiders, the hornet
(which is actually a species of yellow jacket wasp) are not good neighbors.
They defend their queen and colony like a band of insane ninja warriors:
stinging invaders repeatedly and launching their secret weapon…shooting venom
in the eyes of any vertebrates who dare wander too close to their lair.
where Jake from Storysold: Pest Control entered the scene. Using a ladder, a
bucket, pruners, and his bee suit, Jake lopped the nest from the tree—and
quickly contained it in the bucket.
what?” Jake thought to himself. “What do you do with a bucket full of hundreds
of bald faced hornets?”
liked the idea of releasing them upon one of his unsuspecting enemies, but he
didn’t have any that he knew of…so he tried something novel…
still water created by Jake’s neighbor the beaver made for spiders everywhere.
It may be a bad trade in The End, but
he released the nest of hornets in the natural area that bordered his home.
The little voice in Jake’s head said, “Don’t worry. You can
Not so. Those suckers are fast! And Jake cried, “Ah _____!”
all the way home.
I’ve never known any operators who’ve tried this. Who knows how the relocated nest will take to their new spot? It’s an experiment for sure.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SERVICE STORY (Reviewed on Home Advisor)
“Working with Storysold was a dream. We had a huge undertaking with almost 40,000 sq ft between two properties! With both buildings being over 100 years old keeping critters out is difficult and the previous tenants of the building allowed a huge infestation to occur. Jake was able to not only eradicate the unwanted pests he also filled holes and cracks and has stopped them from having easy access. Communication was great and the pricing was fair and manageable for our small nonprofit! I will continue to work with Storysold and recommend them for any pest control needs, big or small!”
Produced for Jamie C. and her team at Sunnyside Methodist Church in SE Portland
I am Wilderness Security Guide, the Environmental Control Operator in charge of rodent services for Storysold: Pest Control. The story you’re about to read was written by my teammate Bookmaker Jake. He’s a sociopathic liar with god-like delusions of world domination, but he did OK tracking The Action at the heart of this service story. He called it, Church Mice –
Guide stepped from our little Ford Transit cargo van, hit the ground on a familiar street in the heart of SE Portland, and looked up.
Normally, it’s dangerous to look up in the middle of the street. But it’s not as dangerous when you’re receiving a vision from heaven.
No joke, Guide stopped cold in the middle of the road when she realized that the iconic old church was our destination. None of us knew why she stopped so suddenly, but we knew our teammate well enough to know she was instantly hooked: hyper focused, feet frozen waiting for her to make a direction from ten, no memory of the past or present, only two hawk-like eyes on the church and The Action that was about to unfold there. After Guide broke her heavenly stare (and crossed the street), she asked our host to use his camera/phone to document The Beginning >
None of us sawThe Grailhovering over the field of service that day, or anything so clandestine. But, each for our own oddball reasons, our whole team joined Guide on The Hook. Even the Pest Predator looked up—and saw his character producing a hit service in the old stone church. It might just have been our human’s childhood training, but the feeling—that strong sudden urge to be a part of whatever story was about to unfold there—was undeniable. The hardest part of pitching our services to the youthful Church Director, Jamie, was not looking in her eyes and saying, “Forget the money, we’ll do it for free!”
That’s about as good as it gets for “visions from heaven” these days.
The church folks set a sign along the sidewalk. It read, “IN WITH THE NEW, OUT WITH THE OLD, ONE IS SILVER, THE OTHER IS GOLD.” We felt it summed up The Action there pretty well. The first congregation had formed in 1890 at a shoe factory, and then spent the next 21 years building the beautiful stone structure that many locals know, most famously, for their dedication to feeding the city’s poor. The last “silver metal” congregation died an immaterial, other-than-physical (but not spiritual) death in the early 2000s. Not sure why. People just stopped going to church.
Since then, the church has managed to keep its commercial kitchen open to feed the poor/people experiencing homelessness. It also hosts a variety of groups, teams, and neighborhood gatherings like Alcoholics Anonymous and the preschool who is run by an instantly likable human named Joey who has made the magic happen there, with or without proper funding, for more than a decade.
Now a new organization was emerging—stirring the old spiritual stew (heavy on the method and light on the holy rolling theatrics)—with new youthful leaders like Jamie and co-stars like Josh the new maintenance guy.
The plan for a new beginning—aka The Youthful Revival–was thus:
1) Address the neighborhood’s concerns concerning the mass of humans experiencing homelessness around the church.
2) Restore the safety of the neighborhood by shutting down the soup kitchen, cut off the services to the “good and bad” homeless persons, and exclude them from camping on the sidewalks.
3) Shut down the soup kitchen, cut off the food supply to the church’s rodent population, and exclude them from their cozy, predator-free nesting sites in wall voids, behind cabinets, and cupboards.
“Oh wow,” I said when I understood The Youthful Revival. “Are the mice acting as a foil for the homeless persons, or are the homeless persons acting as a foil for the mouse population here?”
“Who cares about all that literary crap?” Guide replied. “What we have here is an opportunity to flex my environmental control techniques on a hundred year old, mouse infested church!”
“This would be an honorable challenge for sure,” Pest Predator chimed in. “If we get the green light, can I join you?”
“For sure,” Guide smiled. “I’d be happy to theme up with you on this one Predator. I’m going to need your eye for spiders, ants, and other bugs to find all the entry holes.”
“Good,” Predator replied without expression. “Count me in.”
Once our team realized what Jamie was asking us to do, it became even more difficult to hold back, bite the tongue, and keep from leaping (hands in the sky) exclaiming, “Holy Moses! what more can we ask from a good service story? Name your price! We’ll start now!”
After Jamie gave us the grand tour, we communed with her in the dusty, eerily unused sanctuary. “I’m sort of new at this pricing thing,” our human host said. “What’s your budget?”
Then she told us. And Jake accepted it. All smiles. Clearly he should never be permitted to play poker.
Our first service scene was awesome. It couldn’t have looked any less like the pest control service our human performed for his 4 former employers if we tried. Instead of jumping right into the heroic acts of setting traps and poisoning God’s tiny creatures, we cranked up the tunes and clean the kitchen.
Not many humans have read our official company novel (mission statement) The Living City, but those poor souls who have read it would recognize a guest appearance by our much-loved “live action” character, Dishmaster Jones. It felt good to dust his character off and put him to work, scrubbing and cleaning. Dishmaster cleaned for almost three hours before he said anything. Then he smiled (with a tear in his eye) as he said, “Oh wow, for a while there I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear the hum of a Hobart again.” Don’t worry if you don’t get it. He wasn’t talking to anyone in particular.
I had been mentally prepared to do the cleaning scene like a sanitary ninja; but stoic, righteous, loner, isolationist asshole hero types are not always a good fit for church work, especially when The Hero’s Journey is cleaning the microscopic devils from the dark corners of a kitchen. Church, as we knew it, thrived on group projects. And Jamie seemed to agree. She rallied a group of volunteers to clean and ready the basement for their reclamation.
Not too unlike our service story in NE with Farmer Rachel, Master Freddy, and Evanshoe—The Adventures of Ratty Claus—cleaning the old church was a true voyage of discovery. Nothing there was ubiquitous. Everything we saw, felt, and touched was alive with its own untold story. We’d become so used to generic cityscapes—strip malls, chain food joints, familiar retail stores, Beaverton (etc.)—our cleaning scene felt like we were rip roaring through an unseen wormhole at the center of the old church, emerging newborn on The Other Side with every newly discovered story.
God’s not big on comedy. Church Goers aren’t normally allowed wicked senses of humor, but rat catchers are known for theirs. Most of the good rat catchers get it. We’re civilization’s foil: the bumbling John Goodman Bugs Be Gone comedic sidekick character in Arachnophobia who tries and inevitably fails to control The Action of nature. With that said, I loved that Jamie called her windowless, concrete dry storage room, “The Murder Room.” When I asked her why it was called, The Murder Room, she said, “You know. It’s that room in movies where the murders happen.”
Made sense to me. I killed 5 mice in the entryway of The Murder Room after setting a few “fishing traps” in my first scene. As my righteous, gun-loving uncle likes to point out, “[group killing] war isn’t murder.” Only individuals killing individuals is murder in The Eyes of God. And no one would ever call killing mice murder. Somewhere along the way, we’ve labeled them, forever, as vectors. Rodents will always bear The Mark of Cain (marked for eradication like malaria transmitting mosquitos and meat infesting horn flies) and that means we, the pest heroes, will never have to worry about the home’s environmental backstory. It’s “see a rat, kill a rat” all day, every day. Instant diagnosis. Unlike real doctors, we pest professionals get to skip The Story, bypass The Action completely, and go straight to the part where we apply our generic treatments. “Disease” and “rat” are synonyms. Killing a mouse, rat, or vole is the same as treating a disease, because the presence of rodents in your home, or church, is always bad like the Dark Lord Satan.
And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” It was the first thing God printed, page one. Must have been important.
Can you imagine a future world where doctors and pest professionals alike enjoy the ease of instant, or nearly instant, diagnosis? You would wait in a long line (like a grocery store) to present yourself before your doctor’s customer service counter. Next you would strip and put on a ritual gown of some kind, then wait some more while the doctor scanned your body for symptoms (using a Star Trek style Google body reader) a few short minutes before they labeled you with an instant diagnosis that came complete with its Google treatment, a pill, therapy, surgery, or a combination of pills, therapy, and surgery.
Thankfully, our doctors haven’t found a way to reduce our everyday, live action stories to generic symptoms and instant diagnosis. They still bang our knees, tell us to open our mouth and say “aw,” and make kind but firm inquisitions about our drinking, drug, or sexual habits. They still have to, at least, make some show of learning our backstories before they slap us with their diagnosis and treat us, instantly on sight, like rats.
In our story, however, the consequence of not dominioning the church mice seemed clear. After a few hours of running my Ghostbuster’s-style backpack vacuum around the walls, I had a canister full of proof. If the presence of live mice in didn’t equal “bad” or “disease,” their droppings certainly did. And that was enough of a backstory for me.
When the initial cleaning scene had come to an adequate ending, I sat in the basement and performed the classic prebattle scene. You know, the scene where the Ewoks set their rolling log traps, Wylie Coyote set his new ACME roadrunner trap, or that annoying Home Alone kid set his deadfall paint cans and flame thrower traps to foil any bad guys who dared cross The Line and invade his territory.
I quickly became bored applying peanut butter on traps. Desperate for any distraction, I asked Guide to give us a call to arms speech to hearten our entry into the coming battle scene. I asked her nicely, but I also told her I didn’t want just any call to arms speech. I told her I wanted one at least as good as the one Bill Pullman used to rouse the blood and bile in his fellow earthlings before they battled their infestation of space aliens.
“We will not go quietly into the night,” the Supreme President of Earth (Bill Pullman) said, standing on his fighter jet with a bullhorn in hand. “We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
Guide agreed to indulge me, but her speech did not, or would ever, meet the emotional needs of men charging into battle. If she delivered that speech, let’s say, a few moments before the trench officers of WW1 blew their whistles to “Charge!”, not one unsuspecting youth would cross heartily over The Line. They would all stand there—feeling unfilled—ready to die at the hands of their officers rather than charge bravely into battle. Guide’s “call to arms speech” was more like a calm, how-to lecture (or cooking show demonstration) on the best ways to kill the church mice.
“Just remember team,” Guide said as we shit-canned the empty jar of peanut butter and reached for a tube of green, scientifically engineered mouse attracting goo. “The mice are already hooked on free food: kitchen scraps, garage, kiddy crumbs. They’ve been living large in fancy ‘burrows’ under kitchen cabinetry without any predators around to keep their bodies fit and their minds sharp. All we have to do is ride nature’s wave and spur The Action onward to its inevitable climax. Free food is always a trap, and abundant free food is always a recipe for infestation/The Suck of tragedy, crisis, and environmental disaster. History is ripe with examples. Smart creatures, both wild and domesticate, work a little harder to find the undiscovered niche markets the predators have yet to stake out.”
I listened to her usual lines on the subject of freedom vs. security/wild vs. domestication, but, as usual, I didn’t agree with her. Guide likes to paint my character as the Asshole of our team, but she does that because she’s jealous. I’m better at seeing The Big Picture than she is…and she knows it. I mean, really, she was missing the obvious fact that we were slathering free food on traps in a soup kitchen. Doesn’t The Church sort of run on the idea of feeding and finding civilization—the Dry, Centrally Heated Body of Christ—for all the poor, homeless, wild creatures of earth?
What would The Church be without its church mice?
As we set over 250 snap traps under stoves, below cabinets, along walls, on pipes, behind boilers, in storage rooms, and other dark corners where the furry evils dwell, I pondered that question. I’m as much a rat catcher as Guide is, and any rat catcher worth their salt will tell you (likely after a few beers and a few tears) that deep down, they’re sort of rooting for the wild creatures. Real rat catchers don’t really want the mice to stand in line at our traps, eat the free food, and spill their sacred wine. Real rat catchers are half wild creatures themselves, who cross The Magic Line because they want to feed their prey to The Wilderness like an ancient offerings to the gods. For real rat catchers, killing in the name of their customers is just part of the job. No true hero ever delights in the slaying of an honorable foe. Monsters like Orkin Man, Rentokiller, and Terminixor will never understand that. That’s what makes them monsters.
I know my next line might sound confusing, contradictory, or like “circular logic,” but the wild humans among you will get it immediately: “No one on our team wants the mice to spill their sacred wine, but we’re proud as hell of catching the ones that do.” Our first real trap check service at the old church revealed 23 kills. And we shared that body count with everyone we met that day. “Including the 8 we caught in our fishing traps without really trying…we’re up to 31 already,” we reported to Jamie.
That was just 31 mice. Jamie had also put us in charge of clearing the rodents from a neighboring house. It had been vacant for some time, and its backyard had often been used for an unofficial homeless camp. In its cold, empty, dimly lit basement we found an entry hole (around a heating vent) leading to and from the house’s inaccessible front porch. It proved to be the perfect rat catching honey hole. I was able to trap and kill two healthy adults right off the bat.
We were so proud of our body count, we even told the homeless folks who wandered into the basement (right on cue) nearly every time we propped the door open. The first few poked their heads in politely hat-in-hand looking for “services.” Upon investigation, I discovered that “services” was code for free food in the soup kitchen–not the nourishing Word of God. In any case, whatever their deal was, I informed them, matching their politeness almost competitively, that I was just a humble rat catcher/small grain of sand (with 32 confirmed kills). Each time, I asked the service seeker if they wanted to help me clean mouse turds. When they said no, I excluded them from the church by shutting the door that had been opened to them. My favorite service seeker was a friendly guy I met the last time I opened the door, a few minutes before I became fully convinced the service seekers would always be there knocking and waiting for the door to be open to them. He asked me about the art classes. I told him I wasn’t staff—just a humble (but highly skilled) rat catcher. The whole time we were talking he not so slyly slipped pens, paper, and other art supplies from a nearby table into his satchel. I laughed while I watched his show, enjoying the finer arty points of the interaction immensely, before I dusted off my old social worker character and asked him to leave non-verbally (herding him to the door with my actions) all the while apologizing for something in a calm, even, non-threatening tone.
A month into our service story, Guide turned to us and said something weird. “I can see them now,” she said as we cleared another 5 mice from our traps in the kitchen.
Pest Predator took off his respirator and replied, “Funny, I don’t smell anything unusual.”
I looked at my teammates like a sports bro standing in line at a comic book convention. “Say again?” I said, making my best Trump face/you’re-the-idiot (not me) look.
“The mice,” Guide replied without making eye contact. “I can see where they’re running now.”
“You see the mice!” I laughed. “Are you adding X-ray vision to your list of supereconomic powers?”
Guide turned to Predator and said, “The traps have spoken.”
Predator nodded his understanding, leaving me to wonder if I was the “I” in our team who’d been left out of The Loop like a bad boss. After much debate and discussion over a 6 pack of Cascade Ice (because we were, as a team, still officially on another 10 month Adventure in Sobriety), I was able to piece The Action together. Here’s what Guide “saw” in our traps:
In the dark void, a few inches behind the Tom-and-Jerry hole in back of the Hobart, a few survivors of our trapping efforts (which was now well over 55 dead mice and 3 dead rats!) huddled in mass like shell-shocked refugees of a highflying bombing campaign.
“I can see him now,” a long lean mouse said to the fat footed one beside her.
“Say again?” the Fat Footed One replied with a cold, black-eyed stare.
“I can see the human,” Long Mouse said again. “I know what the rat catcher is going to do next.”
The other mice nodded agreeably at Long Mouse’s hopeful statement.
“Why do you always have to be so weird,” Fat Foot laughed. “We should be happy he hasn’t used any bait poisons yet. You know how impossible it is to train our corruptible youths to say no to drugs!”
“In small doses,” Long Mouse shot back, “anti-coagulants can be used medicinally, or to induce spiritual awakenings…”
“Is that what happened to you?” Fat Foot scoffed. “Did you ingest too much bait, and now you think you’re At One with The Great Rat Catcher in The Sky? Snap out of it. We need to do what we’ve always done: keep quiet, stay in the walls, freeze in place (stand and make The Blank Face Look) when our human masters speak their sacred words, and wait for the offerings of food to fall from Volehalla. Only then will we be loved as Holy Pets, with real parts to play, in this church’s great congregational drama.”
Suddenly, three mice emerged from the wings of the dark wall void. They all look satisfied, fat and happy with the glow of a good meal.
“I have received a vision,” Long Mouse replied unaware of the new mice in their midst. “We’re all prey of The Great Rat Catcher in The Sky…who loves us…and wants us to prosper, thrive, and live wild, free, and keep our bodies fit and strong for our parts in The Great Game.”
When Fat Foot hear that, he roared with laughter. “The Great Rat Catcher in The Sky loves us?! Oh wow, now I know you’ve ingested bait!”
The three new mice laughed too. The most satisfied of the three, a mouse known as Light Claw, spoke up and said, “We just saw the rat catcher. He is obviously some hack the humans in our congregation hired on Home Advisor to test us. Everyone knows Home Advisor is total bullshit!”
The second new mouse snickered along with the group and added, “Yeah and we passed our newest test. Our humans placed peanut butter in little cups surrounded by a big flat alter. The answer is, as long as we nibble humbly at The Butter of Life without touching the alter, our humans will continue to offer us their blessings of food and fellowship.”
“Yes Mouse is right!” Light Claw thundered victoriously. “I got the idea from watching Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom with the security guards last night. All we have to do to continue receiving our blessings of food from Volehalla is nibble the peanut butter from the cups without touching the Alter of Unbridled Greed. You see, it’s a metaphor. Our human masters are trying to teach us to live a righteous life…as long as we’re not greedy and take what they give to us…we will continue our journey to become their Holy Pets.”
“Yes!” Yes Mouse cheered. “It’ll be rad! We’ll spend eternity eating The Butter of Life with our human masters in Volehalla!”
Long Mouse rubbed fur with all the mice in the void, before she flattened her body to the floor, and said, “I don’t know if Volehalla is real, or not; but I do know that human out there isn’t trying to teach us any lessons. Life is not a test. It’s a game, and The Great Rat Catcher in The Sky didn’t send their predator to be our gentle guiding, comfort human.”
“Predator! You mean that guy out there?” Fat Foot laughed. “That idiot couldn’t catch a rat if it jumped in his lap.”
“Yeah…and we all know mice are a lot harder to catch than dirty old, nasty street rats…he couldn’t catch us if we jumped in his lap!”
Light Claw peaked out of their Tom-and-Jerry hole. “Look everyone!” he laughed with delight. “There he is now!”
“To the choppa!” Fat Foot laughed.
“What’s he doing?” Long Mouse asked.
“Not sure,” Light Claw replied. “It looks like he’s fixing something to the bottom of our pantry door.”
“What an idiot!” Yes Mouse roared. “He’s trying to evict us from our sacred pantry. No way our masters approved that one. As long as church mice have lived in these walls…not one of our human masters have tried to block off our entry holes. Besides, we can get in the back way!”
“Not any more,” Light Claw reported from the light. “He found the hole behind the fridge. He’s filling it with some kind of gun.”
The mice suddenly grew silent. While their new reality sank in, Fat Foot spoke up. “He can’t block all our holes…there’s too many…”
Long Mouse flicked her tail and said, “I don’t think this is another one of your stupid tests. That fucker’s trying to kill us.”
“You mean the humans hired him to punish us…”
“No,” Long Mouse answered boldly. “I mean that guy’s a rat catcher…our natural predator…who won’t stop until we’re all dead.”
“Heretic! We’ve interpreted the sacred words of our masters…God put mice on the earth to bring comfort to our human masters…”
“Our humans wouldn’t kill their Holy Pets! Not without reason!”
“That would be murder!”
In that moment, Long Mouse realized her words were meaningless without action. She rubbed fur with her old friends for the last time, and then she ran from the void, through the Tom-and-Jerry hole, into the light of the kitchen like the Dark Lord Satan was nipping at her heels.
“Hey you, Rat Catcher!” she squeaked at the human standing like a giant above her, holding a foam gun. “Catch me if you can!”
“Oh my, what a bold creature you are!” Guide said when she saw Long Mouse bolt from the hole. Instead of giving chase, Guide watched her wild creature friend run across the open kitchen, through the kitchen door, to an entry hole on the side of an outer door leading to freedom.
“Sorry friend,” Guide said with a chuckle. “I already got that one.”
Then Guide opened the door for her wilderness creature friend. Shocked and surprise, still running with all her might, Long Mouse saw the trees, clouds, and sunshine on the other side of the door. She didn’t wait around to discern the Rat Catcher’s actions. She knew it wasn’t some kind of twisted loyalty test. Long Mouse ran for the open door without another thought, running from her former cozy, predator free home—out into a world she’d never known. The Wildernesswas old as the sun, sky, and grass, but to Long Mouse…it was a brand new, wild frontier fraught with danger, hidden treasure, and adventure.
“Anybody else?” Guide called into the dark hole.
Nobody moved. They all stood perfectly still—like they’d done a thousand times before—with their heads bowed (attentive as movie goers) ready for their human masters to drop their daily bread.
Guide didn’t speak. She didn’t say things—speak in the foreign tongue of The Sacred Word—that inspired the mice to stay quiet and attentive in their roles as Holy Pets behind the walls. Guide didn’t eat food and drop any daily bread to reward them for their roles in the church’s congregation that lived, like an audience, in sacrificial service to the directors (the priests, politicians, and storytellers) who rule The Fourth Wall.
She aimed her foam gun in the hole and squeezed the trigger. The black mass of chemical goop erupted in the void like Vesuvius, trapping the mice like a landslide of hot mud, embalming their bodies forever in foam. Guide had finally answered their prayers, pushed The Conflict to its natural climax, and opened the gates of Volehalla to them. They were now forever what they had always become each and every day they spent in sacrificial service to their masters. They were now true Church Mice, ever-lasting parts of The Dry, Centrally Heated Body of Christ.
In 2 short months, our team at Storysold: Pest Control caught 95 mice, 4 rats, and excluded over 62 entry holes: foaming wall voids, patching the foundation with concrete, installing door sweeps, covering open windows with plywood, and patching the bigger holes with metal and mesh.
In the midst of The Action on one of our 2 epic exclusion days, we met one of the oldest members of the congregation. He was the church’s former unofficial facilities manager. His name was Tim and he had a grandfather who was also a member of the congregation. I talked with Tim while Guide and Predator exercised their environmental control skills installing a tight fitting door sweep to keep the mice out of the pantry. It takes a lot to make me really listen to any human, but Tim had amazing stories to share, so it wasn’t an effort. Not in the least. He talked about the old church’s Golden Age like the time they built a basketball court on the third floor for the neighborhood youth, only to discover they built the ceiling too low. He smiled when he shared the part where the congregation literally raised the roof to make the court work.
In The End of any service story, it could be said that most humans work for money. Work is rarely a reward. Work is a “four letter word.” That’s humans. We, the live action characters of earth have no need for pressed and dyed fibers.
[ Never heard of live action characters? In brief, we’re earth’s smallest creatures—the unseen engines of life—who feed on The Action. For more on that check out Guide’s website: www.thewildguidingnews.com ]
All that’s to say, it was Tim, Joey, and Jamie who deposited these lines of literary gold in “our storybank accounts,” which is how you’d say it if good lines, scenes, stories were real currency like it is in The Living City:
DEPOSIT #1 – Jamie gave us the heartfelt review we display with pride at the beginning of this service story.
DEPOSIT #2 – Somewhere in our conversation, Tim said, “We’ve had mice in the church off and on over the years…but you’re the first person that I remember who has tried to seal up all the holes.”
DEPOSIT #3 – “I’ve had mice running across my desk for years,” Joey said to us in passing one day after our traps had gone silent. “When I first heard they hired someone to exterminate the mice, I didn’t expect them to actually go away. But they’re gone. I can’t believe it.”
It felt good to bank that literary gold from the humans, but the legacy we left in the dark, dim lit basement of the vacant house felt even better. The shiniest of the treasure we earned in this story was the newly formed actions we found on the wild side of the door we built from scraps:
The new door still led to our rat catching honey hole under the inaccessible front porch (and we were still catching rats there after our traps inside had all gone silent), but there was now another scene in production on the other side of that door. Two feet from the edge of the porch at the edge of our honey hole, a congregation of a different sort was growing at the base of a beautiful old oak tree.
You would never know they were there unless you read this story. They made a point never to gather in mass, or make The Blank Face Look on the audience side of a wall void for their human masters. They dug their own burrows. They gathered their own seeds. They faced their predators at night—always wary of the dangers of silence—and they rubbed fur with their loved ones whenever they could…content with the small wild pleasures The Action had to offer them.
In time, Long Mouse was the only mouse under the tree that remembered Volehalla. She did not gather the youth to her side to spend their precious harvest time reviving the cautionary tales of Church Mice. She didn’t feel any need to lecture them on the dangers of free food or the madness and infestation that follow the actions of Holy Pets.
When the youth asked her what lived under the porch, Long Mouse simply smiled and said, “Why don’t you ask The Great Rat Catcher in The Sky? Some say he’s still baiting his traps with free food there…”
And the youth would laugh because they were all old enough to know that The Great Rat Catcher in The Sky—the hawks, the owls, and ferial cats—all the predators of SE Portland circled, stocked, studied, and hunted the wild markets where Long Mouse and her loved ones gathered their seeds. That was just a routine, daily part of The Great Game. The predators worked hard to stay one step ahead of their prey—and they ran, like Long Mouse had ran, with a love of The Actionin their hearts.
Stories can become pretty infested with bullshit without it. Speaking of which, isn’t it time for us to schedule another service? We have to check our traps.
PRODUCED FOR ANNA AT HAGRID’S CABIN, AN AIRBNB THAT WE’VE SERVED SINCE AUGUST 21, 2019.
“High on Larch Mt., overlooking The Columbia River that once brought the first invasive humans to Oregon, there stood a cabin so wild and beautiful it broke reality, beyond The Fourth Wall, to that magical place where Lamorians run through the trees looking for gold, wizards battle dragons with sticks, and Rubeus Hagrid the Gentle Gamekeeping Giant sometimes struggles to keep his mouse friends out of his beard…”
I am Wilderness Security Guide, the environmental control operator in charge of rodent services for Storysold: Pest Control. I feel like I should make some kind of apology or disclaimer for the service story you’re about to read, but I’m not. Instead I’m going to be a good teammate and say nice things about this story. I authorized Bookmaker Jake to ghost write it for me, and I hope you enjoy it!
For a few years the lovable star of the Harry Potter series, Rubeus Hagrid, was able to balance his wizardly duties and do his job as gamekeeper too.
He tried to run missions for Abus Dumbledore, help Harry and his friends when he got in trouble, and still have time to make his nightly rounds in the forest managing the populations of hippogriffs and flobberworms.
He tried, but his fellow wizards were needy. Villain after villain rose from the pages of their lives like roaches in a Vegas diner, and they all depended on their old buddy Hagrid to stand and fight The Good Fight with them.
Then one day it happened. The stress of his daily heroism found a name…
He returned to one of his favorite cabins overlooking The Columbia River Gorge after a long day of wizarding, plopped down in his cozy chair, and fell asleep. When he woke he rubbed his eyes and looked down, into his beard, for the first time in months. He couldn’t believe it. There was a small family of mice nesting right under his nose!
“What the..!?” Hagrid exclaimed. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Nesting,” they replied in unison.
“Not on my watch you’re not!” he thundered as he rose, shaking the mice from his beard. The family all jumped and ran, scattering in all directions.
As gamekeeper, it was his job to keep the populations of wild creatures in the forest from becoming a mysterious force few Muggles know anything about. The word Hagrid and his friends use to describe That Thing Creatures Become When They’re Not in Control of Themselves cannot be translated into Muggle, but the closest inaccurate English word is the word “infestation.” The Infestation is that unseen thing a herd, flock, band, pack, tribe, gaggle, or family can become when their population becomes too large to manage, or control, without outside help. The most obvious sign of The Infestation is a lack of conflict (and wildness) within the population, which inspires healthy doses of diversity and balance. Predator free shelter, abundant food, and the creation of a singular population control center, all are signs of the phenomena Hagrid and his wizard friends nicknamed, The Suck.
Hagrid understood the dangers of keeping dangerous pets more than anyone. It got him in trouble more than once. (Remember the dragon egg!) He was very aware that any creature caught in “an infestation spell” loses all control of themselves. Like a bad house cat (or a growing baby dragon), the infestation spell makes its host feel free, almost immortal, like they will never have to worry about food, shelter, or death ever again. They surrender their wildness, responsibility, and control of their actions to the singular, centralized control center of The Infestation. Once they do, they fall into The Suck like a zombie. They live to feed (and feed to live) like a pet, because The Suck has reduced the diverse range of actions the wild creatures were once capable of producing to One Scripted Routine. “More” is the only action The Suck knows, and all it’s energy is hyper-focused on making big, even bigger.
Deep down, Hagrid loved wild creatures: dragons, spiders, and monster dogs, so he didn’t try to trap the mice at first. He tried to cast protection spells on his cabin with his umbrella wand, but it didn’t work. As soon as he cast his first spell, Voldemort countered his spell by opening hidden portals in the walls, under the siding, under the doors, and underground for the mice to enter the cabin.
To make matters worse, when Hagrid wasn’t in his cabin on Larch Mt., he allowed a few of his favorite Muggle friends to rest and relax there. Few Muggles know this, but he was the first to coin the term “Airbnb.” Hagrid could have asked for their help fighting The Infestation, but he knew Dumbledore would frown on the idea of teaching Muggles the gamekeepers’ magic.
Luckily, a half-wizard friend of his Anna heard about Hagrid’s troubles on Larch Mt. and flew in her magic van to help. The first thing she did was wait for Hagrid and his friends to leave, and then she had a heart-to-heart with the mice.
“You’re under Voldemort’s infestation spell,” she spoke in Mouseese.
“Say what?” the mice laughed.
“No seriously,” Anna explained. “You need to leave the cabin before you become so well fed and unafraid of predators you lose your wildness forever.”
“Ha, ha, ha!” the mice laughed louder. “Silly Muggle! We are mice! It’s scientifically impossible for wild mice to lose the wildness of our characters. Any real wizard knows that!”
Anna tried to warn the mice away from The Infestation a few more times, but her word spells had no lasting effect on them. She wasn’t a wild creature, but she was a half wizard…and she knew that most earth creatures are more likely to understand, respect, and respond to action spells.
So she dug deep and began to cast action spells…
She didn’t know the gamekeepers’ magic, but she knew the Muggle version of gamekeepers’ magic. Humans call the people do who that sort of Muggle magic “pest control operators,” and Anna decided to hire a new nearby company to trap the mice in the cabin and send a clearer message of action she hoped they would understand.
Roughly, translated into mousese, the message Anna wanted to send was “Stay out!”
The new company was calling itself “Storysold: Pest Control.” It was owned and operated by a human named Jake. Unlike other companies, Storysold: Pest Control wasn’t a normal business entity. It didn’t have its own immaterial governing body and or corporate character that hosts the actions of many humans. Storysold: Pest Control is a human: one organic, hand-shakable, flawed and fleshy governing body named Jake who hosts many live action, customer service characters. Hosting many characters helps him stay balanced, in control, wild, and free from the troubles caused by the self infesting, addictive, responsibility sucking super characters that rule most companies. Storysold was founded on the simple fact that a pest control company has to first be able to control itself before it can control anything else.
Day one on the job, Jake brought his whole team of “stage magic” customer service characters along to help Hagrid and Anna battle Voldemont’s infestation spell: Wilderness Security Guide, The Pest Predator, and Bookmaker Jake, but Jake chose Wilderness Security Guide to play the main character for our production of Hagrid’s Cabin. She usually leads all our rodent services with her sharp-eye for tracking The Action, but Predator sometimes takes the lead when she needs the help.
Guide cleared and reset the first company’s old traps, and then he added twice as many in places where he suspected Voldemort had cast his hidden entry portals. Guide doesn’t use anti-coagulant bait poisons like most rodent control operators, because she’s very aware that everything, including poisoned mice, will one day end up on her plate. Besides, it takes skill to use traps. And Guide the one of the best in the business of trapping creatures caught in The Infestation.
On our second service to Hagrid’s cabin, Guide cleared seven mice from her traps. Her end game wasn’t to kill mice. She didn’t didn’t see her role as a wild, live action human character to be the primary predator of mice. Like a good, all-American tycoon, she believe in delegation. She considered mice hunting (and digesting) the work of lesser predators like owls, weasels, fox, and hawks. Guide was hunting The Infestation—The Suck itself–and every tripped trap gave her more information about the size, strength, and movement of the unseen, immaterial, super villain she was tracking in The Action of the cabin like a Ghostbuster tracking an unwanted phantasm.
The second customer service character on Jake’s pest control team was The Pest Predator. Predator was much too alien to be a human character. He embraced his weaknesses–traits the humans called Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, and Bi-Polar Disorder–and transformed them into strengths. Like Guide, he specialized in the finding of entry holes and infestation portals and shutting them down, but unlike his teammate, Predator was gifted with The 2nd Person Perspective, a fierce love/hate relationship with The Action that’s needed for tracking and hunting the mircoworld of insects. While Predator belly crawled every accessible inch of the cabin tracking the microworld for signs of The Dark Lord’s entry portals, Wilderness Guide flew high above The Action and cobbled a working description of The Infestation from her Bird’s Eye Perspective.
One of Guide’s first discoveries was a mouse-sized gap under the door leading up from the basement, which she believed accounted for the activity Hagrid’s guests reported in the kitchen and other places in the cabin. She also found a few large holes that looked like burrows leading from the outside down under the foundation. On her second service she filled them with gravel. On the
Predator and Guide have a lot of themes in common, but the one that polarizes them is the use of chemicals, poisons, and pesticides. Pest Predator is our chemical control operator. He believes in the targeted use of chemicals to control bugs and rodents, but Guide does not. She hates using blood thinning anti-coagulant poisons on her mice friends for two reasons: 1) slowly bleeding to death inside over the span of 24 to 48 hours is a cruel way to kill any earth creature, and 2) introducing poison baits to The Food Chain is bad. At best it spoils her owl friends’ meals; at worse it can kill them.
Normally, pest control companies put bait poisons in stations outside homes and businesses to thin rodent populations. It’s by far the most common method of rodent control. Clearly our team needed some way of thinning the rodent population outside Hagrid’s cabin, but how to do that, in the best of all possible ways, was far clear. That’s when, I (Bookmaker Jake) was asked to host an official team meeting for the purpose of writing a new service storyline. My teammates will deny this at every turn, but I’m the real leader here. I’m gifted with The First Person Perspective.
After a long jangled meeting, we finally agreed to put action to the storyline we called, The Volehalla Rodent System. It was already in existence. We used for “open field trapping” at Farmer Emily’s Full Cellar Farm, but our “shelter bait” rodent boxes had yet to be tested for use around home fronts and other human territories. Here’s a brief description of that storyline:
THE VOLEHALLA RODENT SYSTEM: All the voles, field mice, and rats living on your farm or garden know is, “game on.” Food is everywhere, and their natural predators are eating Science Diet for their urinary track infections. The Master Switch flips and their population explodes. Now, instead of facing predators, they begin to police themselves and form rank structures and hierarchies. No wild creature enjoys being policed by their own (it’s humiliating), so the brave ones—the missionaries, soldiers, and astronauts—explore in hope of a better world. “Oh utopia! Oh heaven! Oh shelter! Oh Portland!” The ratonauts see that dark, unexplored hole in our shelter-bait rodent box and snap! Their ancestors welcome them through the gates of Volehalla.
It was the first time since Jake began to host Storysold: Pest Control that all three of his customer service characters worked As One Flesh on a single storyline: Predator picked likely rodent runways, Guide trained her owl-like eyes on the foundation searching for portals, Jake followed their advice and installed the Volehalla boxes around the cabin, and I (Bookmaker Jake) inspired the team by stealing glances at the cabin’s beautiful view of The Columbia River Gorge.
The Volehalla Rodent System was an immediate success. The numbers of mice we caught inside dropped as the numbers caught outside increased. In some cases, one box would catch as many as four mice in the five traps set in a row between the holes. We had no way to measure its success against a classic poison bait station system, because the bait stations have no way of tracking how many mice, rats, or small squirrels it kills. Only how much poison has been consumed from the station by some earth creature, which often included ants and slugs.
Based on the advise of Hagrid’s friendly neighbor, we set a few for rats around an unused shed. We only had 4 traps set, and the boxes caught 2 rats in a month.
It was that service, when we cleared the 2nd rat from our trap, the smell of death triggered the presence of a familiar character: Voldemort!
“Looks like you’re really winning Guide!” Voldemort laughed. “No doubt, Anna and Hagrid will be proud of the work your little band of rebel characters are doing here.”
“Band of rebels?” Guide laughed back. “We’re not rebelling against anything. We’re the new norm in pest control, so you better get used to it.”
The Dark Lord flew a few feet higher than Guide’s bird’s eye perch, robbing her of her usual perspective high ground. “Oh sorry about that crack about rebels,” he snickered. “I’ve never read any of The Harry Potter books, so I have to imagine what this Voldemort guy sounds like to you humans. Darth Vader is always a favorite. In my humble opinion, he’s the classic figurehead for the classic human infestation called ’empire.’ Oh how I love to hear those empires grow and go pop!”
“Yeah sure,” Guide said as she panned her perspective out, a few feet further than The Infested Head, like a cat struggling with its human to stay atop its pride. “Whatever you say, wacko.”
“Yes,” he snickered again. “I have to say I love watching you try to battle my infestation with you’re primitive control techniques. You’re no match for the power of my magic.”
“What magic?” Guide replied. “I can track any action on earth, even magic ones.”
“This has been so much fun!” he roared with laughter. “I hate to ruin it by telling you the truth.”
Guide eyed her prey as he once again took The High Ground from her.
“Ok you win. Tell me the truth about what?”
“I’ll make you a deal,” The Dark Lord said, tapping his fingertips together. “If you acknowledge the fact that most heroes are repressives who struggle to share their feelings and emotions with others, and generally fear any real relationship that forces them to break out of their righteous, little, indivisible Truth Castles, I will do my villain thing and share my diabolical plan with you…”
Guide took a quick survey of her teammates. Predator was busy tracking a nearby ant trail, obviously unimpressed by Guide’s banter with The Dark Lord. Bookmaker, on the other hand, was loving every moment of it. He was grinning big like a proud parent, giving Guide two thumbs up.
“Sharing is what grown adults do,” was all Bookmaker had to say on the subject.
“Yeah,” Guide sighed. “I see your point. Villains can be better at communicating than heroes.”
“Not good enough,” he beamed infectiously. “I want you to admit that villains, as a whole, are a lot better at sharing their feelings than heroes. That’s why they always lose. Heroes take the sharing as a sign of weakness, and use it against them. Happens in every Hollywood action movie featuring Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, and The Rock.”
“Leave The Rock out of this!” Guide shot back, suddenly very angry. “I love The Rock.”
Voldemort was cool as a cucumber. “Whatever you say Hero.”
Guide took a long, deep breath and said, “You’re right. Villains as a whole are a lot better at sharing their feelings than heroes.”
When Voldemort heard that he cupped his hands to his mouth and announced, “Did you hear that one Hagrid? How about you Anna? You hired a real villain sympathizer here…next thing you know she’ll be filling your fridge with free-range chicken eggs and organic vegetables!”
“Good one…” Guide said unenthusiastically. “Now it’s your turn.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself…I just wanted to show you how I could spin the drama and use your sharing of feelings against you…you know if I wanted to do so.”
“Get on with it! We have a bedbug hunt in an hour!”
“Ok, ok, keep your feathers on,” he smiled. “I hate to ruin my diabolical plan by sharing it with you, but that’s what we villains do. We self-destruct. Like an infestation that runs out of control.”
“You’re still stalling…” Guide said as she folded her arms and flew higher than before.
“I call my plan, Systemic Death Production Disorder,” Voldemort said, settling into his perspective a few feet below Guide. “I have you all so EXCITED about sending all your wilderness creature friends to Volehalla, you’ve forgotten all about ending my infestation.
Guide was speechless. Truth hurt.
“Keep this up,” The Dark Lord continued, “you’ll be no better than my immortal generic character The Orkin Man. You’ll get rich, one reoccurring monthly service at a time. Embrace it. It’ll be easy. And besides, why would you ever want to end your service to such a beautiful story?”
He had us there. Hagrid’s cabin was a beautiful place to work, but we’d made Hagrid and Anna a promise to hunt and end The Infestation.
Guide sat at the edge of our van, looking glumly into The Wilderness with the smell of the dead rat sill in her nose. She didn’t know what to do. She’d poured gravel in all the holes around the foundation she could find, installed a fancy foam door sweep on the basement door, and excluded all the entry holes she could find around the exterior. Even Predator agreed they’d run out of ideas.
While all this drama was happening outside, Anna and Hagrid were hanging out inside quietly watching The Action. Until now, neither of them had used any magic to help the Muggle owned pest control company they hired to battle The Infestation.
“Do you suppose we should help her?” Hagrid asked as he picked through his beard, looking for signs of mice that were no longer there.
“We should,” she smiled, “but it feels so nice to relax…you know…let the Muggles figure it out for themselves. Like big kids.”
“I hear that!” Hagrid chuckled joyfully. “It has been nice to relax…and stop rushing off to fix every crisis that Harry and his friends get themselves into…”
The two wizards didn’t talk for a nice long while. They shared a few homemade newt head cookies dunked in purple dragon’s milk, and pretended to be like humans and watch a TV show.
“I’m going to do it,” Hagrid said out of The Blue.
“I already did,” Anna grinned and dunked another newt head cookie in her dragon’s milk.
Hagrid looked around, trying to spot Anna’s sly act of magic. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he looked over at his old friend and asked, “I give up. What did you do?”
“I cast a winter spell,” Anna chuckled. “Guide should discover it anytime now.”
“A winter spell!” Hagrid boomed with joy. “Brilliant!”
Right on cue, when Guide was done falling into The Suck of defeat, she and Predator took another lap around the foundation and saw it. It was a clear rodent tunnel along the edge of the foundation they’d missed the month before, because of a bush had blocked their view.
Anna’s Winter Spell had made all the leaves wither and fall, reveling an entry tunnel leading directly under the foundation!
“Ha!” Guide cried aloud when we found it. “Take that Voldemort!”
The Dark Lord watched at a distance as our team dug out the tunnel, plugged the entry point with foam, and covered the trail with gravel. The portal that had fed The Infestation for so long was now officially CLOSED.
“Drat!” Voldemort cried, feigning defeat. “I should have never shared my diabolical plan with you characters! Alack, alack! Now I shall never win!”
While Predator and Guide worked, basking in the glow of their victory, Bookmaker Jake wondered how a villain could lose with so much flare and intention and still be The Villain. There has to be something we’re missing here, Bookmaker thought to himself. I think that Asshole’s letting us win…but I don’t know why. Is he somehow still winning…and quietly robbing us of our victory?
I can’t be sure. Maybe I imagined it. But I thought I saw The Infestation flicker, fade, and suck back into the immaterial form of Voldemort. Ones and zeroes, The Suck had simply changed vectors. The mice were now no longer the agents of infestation, The Dark Lord had taken the all power of The Infestation into himself like a dragon sucking in oxygen for another fireball.
We felt that The End was near, but we still hadn’t had a service were no mice were caught inside. For a true victory, we needed to clear Hagrid’s beard for good…
Two months later, we were checking the Volehalla boxes behind the shed. It must have just happened. The snake, a beautiful fat red racer, was writhing with its head caught in a rat trap.
Bookmaker was convinced it was Voldemort in the flesh. “Kill it!” he cried in fear.
As usual, I didn’t listen to my teammate. But I too had become convinced that we needed to kill the snake. Not for fear, but for mercy. I was sure the snake wouldn’t survive…
Shovel in hand, I was about to do The Right Thing and “put it out of its misery” when I felt the weight of a familiar giant’s hand rest on our head. Hagrid didn’t say anything. He simply laughed like he was watching a child trying to tie their own shoes for the first time.
I put down the shovel, opened the box, and lifted the bar from the snake’s neck. Then I went about my business.
When we returned at The End of our service, the snake was nowhere to be seen.
It had vanished back into The Wilderness to live another day.
Produced on October 4, 15, and Nov. 2nd 2019 in NE Portland, OR
by Carmen M.
“Jake is one of those hard-to-find contractors that takes pride in their work, provides excellent customer service, and offers services at a reasonable price. Thorough, personable, and professional. Highly recommend him.” – Carmen’s five star Thumbtack review.
Chapter 1: The Proposal/Intro to Wilderness Security Guide
For those who don’t know, Wilderness Security Guide is a customer service character. Guide helps the humans of Portland, Oregon mark their home territories better, so her wild creature friends don’t misread The Action and assume their territories are open for business.
She’s been talking with the roof rats of NE Portland for many years. The conversation isn’t in English. Guide speaks to the rats and translates for our customers using the lost (or just unexplored) universal language we at Storysold call The Action.
For example, a homeowner tells Wilderness Guide that the rats in his attic aren’t welcome there, and she translates that into The Actionby setting traps along their foraging routes.
Rats aren’t dumb. They aren’t like “Alack, what is this odd, baffling object that has suddenly landed in our space! What’ll we do, Pa?” They explore new objects in their territory all the time. If they don’t get Guide’s message and move after they loose some of their kin, the reply from the rats is clear. The reply is, “Fuck off. This is our home.”
October 4, 2019 Guide and her human host Jake pulled into the driveway of Carmen’s home ready for whatever came next. At first read, Carmen’s territory appeared intentional: clean, recently remodeled, set with just the right amount of wilderness to beautify it.
Carmen introduced herself. And then she introduced her roof rat. She and her boyfriend had already engaged the beast in The Actionby foaming an entry point above the porch and fixing some hardware cloth along the edge of their attic storage space nearest the gutter line.
After Guide had Jake clamor atop the porch to get a better view, she saw the damage done by the rat. It had scratched a well-worn path onto the roof as well as the cables near the old hole.
“Looks more like a squirrel,” was Guide’s first impression. “Those nutheads aren’t as elegant as roof rats. They scratch the crap out of everything.”
“I saw it. Eye to eye,” Carmen replied. Guide didn’t doubt that the human had shared a moment with a roof rat in the attic. She had seen what she’d seen, so the next step was to track and discover why that rat wanted back into her old entry point bad enough to scratch cable wires.
It was a mystery for sure. But it was a lot less of a mystery after Guide did her thing and read Carmen’s home from her Bird’s Eye Perspective.
In spite of a (hopefully only ignorant and not money grubbing) Pest Control Operator’s attempt to stuff exclusion clothe along the gutter line, it was clear that no one had made an effort to draw a strong territorial line for the wilderness creatures to read in shock and awe.
“You shouldn’t be so hard on our new customer, Guide,” Jake said as they climbed down the ladder. “Most of us (humans) are too absorbed in the wonders of our civilization to play our parts in The Wilderness. Even Pest Control Operators often fail to think about how their actions engage the creatures of our urban wilderness…”
“Did you say something, human?” Guide replied to her host as she knocked on Carmen’s door—prepared to give her The Business.
After some jangled conversational detours by Jake, Guide finally found her focus. “The nuts of it is this,” Guide began her classic wilderness security report like a journalist. “The new main entry point is two feet from where you foamed the old entry point. If I fix that, the next new entry point will likely be two feet further down the gutter line. I need your pledge of human resources and permission to do what needs to be done here; namely, spend anywhere from 6 to 10 hours repairing all the gaps and holes along your gutter and roof. That’s what is needed for you to send my wild creature friends the roof rats a clear message that your territory is not open for nesting, especially that neat little void you have between your gutter and the attic spaces along the edge of your upstairs bedroom…My friends the roof rats have been spoiled here in NE Portland with all the impoverished territories they ever wanted. It’s high time they return to their old way of life, build their nests in their tree branch penthouses outdoors, and reclaim their old name as the tree rat.”
Then Guide showed Carmen exactly what she planned to do:
Action #1 – Use long thin pieces of metal flashing to exclude the gaps along the gutter lines on both sides of territory. The driveway side has about four feet worth of possible entry points. The activity side has about twenty feet worth of possible and active entry points.
(a) Most of the gaps on the driveway side are slight—just big enough for Guide to classify it as possible entry points >
(b) this action would also include the exclusion of the active entry point >
Action #2 – Use foam and metal flashing to exclude the gutter lines, gaps, and holes on the back eve-things >
(a) the dark gap shown there is not a likely entry point, but it’s big enough to serve as an entry point for a rodent in desperate need of shelter >
(b) the hole in corner there has a lot more potential, as well as the gap The Other Guy tried to exclude (question mark/look of confusion) >
Action #3 – (no photos, sorry) I will exclude the gap on top right side of porch (if facing it), which leads directly into wall void as well as the small rat hole on the corner beautified by the maple.
Action #4 – Guide will hunt and trap any offenders who do not “get it” and persist in the belief that your home is a “good tree” to nest in.
** All actions listed here will continue for up to a year if needed. That means, I will come back and make it right if you see any sort of rodent in your attic spaces or home within a year of the end of our service.
Chapter 2: Gutter Exclusion Day
As soon as the coffee hit Jake’s belly that morning, he began to engage Guide in The Question of The Day. The roof trap checking service they did earlier that week had shown some activity. One trap, near the cables, had been tripped—and a chunk of fur had been left behind. Jake was sold on the fanciful notion that losing a chunk of flesh would be enough to send the rat on its way. Guide didn’t agree. She knew her friends better than that.
Soon after they pulled in the driveway, they checked the traps. No signs of activity were present. Even the “free” peanut butter in the box was left untouched.
“Ha!” Jake laughed. “I told you so!”
“Whatever human…I’m still not convinced our conflict here is over.”
While the debate raged on, the teammates worked together to put their new gutter exclusion plan in action. They found a piece of flashing at The Home Depot they hoped would fit perfectly in the space between the wood sheathing and the gutter nails. In gutter exclusions in days past, they used shorter sections. It worked, but it wasn’t as beautiful.
And they cared about beautiful, or at least as beautiful as closing off gaps in gutter lines can be…
Even Guide had to admit the new piece did the trick! The only problem was that the gap between the sheathing and the metal lip varied throughout; as well as the space between the nail and the plywood sheathing.
“No biggie,” Jake smiled. “I’m an old pro with the tin snips.”
The team was having so much fun snipping, banging, and screwing they decided to shore up the strength of the whole territorial line on the active side of the house. Strength is good, and it looks better.
All the way to the end…
When that side was done, they moved back to the front where Guide set her mind to protecting the cables and excluding the other gaps they’d found up there before. The “squirrel shield” was a creative act, but a solid one.
The other spots on the porch included the gap above the squirrel shield:
And the small hole in the maple tree corner:
And that’s when Guide discovered that she was right. The bag marker they had put in the gap on the right side eve (if you’re facing porch) had signs of activity. It’d been scratched by some desperate creature.
“See,” Guide said. “I told you so.”
“I suppose you still think it’s a squirrel…”
“Yup,” Guide replied as she excluded every gap around the gap shown in the photo. “A normal sized roof rat could squeeze through that gap. Why would it scratch at it…if it could fit?”
“Maybe it’s a fat roof rat,” Jake offered. “Like the one we bagged yesterday in Battleground. That thing was so big it made our rat traps look like play toys. It probably ate our bait with the spring on its neck, then pulled its head out when it had licked our plate clean.”
“Maybe,” Guide replied doubtfully. Then she reset her marker and set two traps in front of the hole. “What is it with you and big rats anyway? Why don’t you get all ‘hoorah’ macho proud when we bag little ones?”
“Like the five teenagers we killed last week?”
“Yes…Aren’t their lives worth the remembrance?”
Jake climbed down the latter and brushed the branches out of his ass for the tenth time that morning. “I don’t know,” he said as he began to clean up their mess. “It’s always sad when something new dies.”
The other side seemed like it would be easier without having to dance with the branches, and it was for the first 6 foot section in the middle:
Up to that point the metal—the pounding, snipping, and bending—had been sailing along smoothly. Then the team put in the final strip from the gaps two-thirds the way down the driveway to the end. The strip seemed to fit in well enough, but (unlike the others) this one had a very small (like 2 cm) gap that refused to be bent and tucked under. It would have been fine, but Jake thought it was “ugly,” so he broke out the roofing tar and duct tap to make damned sure it was shut.
And The After shot:
“It’s still ugly,” Guide said with a laugh.
“We’re trying to keep the wilderness out…not paint a Picasso.”
“Then why did you care about that ‘ugly’ gap in the first place?”
“Well…uh…ugly duct tape is better than an ugly gap…That’s why.”
The dialogue rolled on like that for about an hour. Finally, Guide realized it for what it was. They needed to eat, and the eggplant and squash pizza in the truck was just what they needed to help them power to The End.
Thanks to Farmer Emily’s veggie pizzas, the eve exclusions went well. The gaps were the Other Guy had stuffed exclusion cloth now were covered by cold, hard, metal flashing and foam.
After they cleaned up and tried unsuccessfully to call a lead (we always get a little weird on the phone after 8 hours of alone time), Jake turned to his teammate and asked, “Well, Guide, what’s next?”
“We wait,” Guide smiled. “And then we’ll have the proof we need to give the ‘all clear’ with confidence…and seal up that squirrel scratching post.”
“Do you ever get tired of being right?”
“If I knew I was right…I’d seal up that gap right now.”
“So what you’re saying is…” Jake smiled. “The roof rat could be fat.”
Chapter 3: The Exciting Conclusion
A few weeks later, team Storysold: Pest Control climbed back onto the roof above Carmen’s porch to check the last entrypoint. The traps hadn’t been touched, and the bag o’ bait in the eve void was untouched as well.
“Big rat,” Jake said as he fashioned a custom piece of metal.
“Squirrel,” Guide laughed. And they worked together to shield the entry point. Moral was high. It was the last act in their exclusion plan, and they both felt that feeling that brought them to Carmen’s front door in The Beginning of their adventure.
After all, what is victory if not the completion of a plan gone right?
If you want to read more about Wilderness Security Guide’s adventures in wilderness enforcement, order your homemade one-of-a-kind copy of The Living City today for $65. Just text Bookmaker Jake at 971-337-4037. Don’t worry about the money. He’ll send you a bill 🙂
“We had an awesome experience with Story Sold! Jake was just amazing to work with. He is knowledgeable, professional, kind and quite funny! We had a challenging project and he found creative solutions to seal up our garage. It’s been about a month and our garage has clear of rodents thus far! I would highly recommend him.”
Produced on Oct. 17, 24, 29, 31, and Nov 1, 7 2019
by the Flynn family: Brendan, Megan, Kieran, and Riley
Chapter 1: The Ratonauts of Flynn
Somewhere in Portland a rat made its home in a pile of branches. After a few months of suffering its leaky roofs and uninvited house guests—“Darn those Antsis!”—the rat began to dream of a better life.
It stared at the openings in the quiet, uninhabited space beside the human home for months before it worked up the nerve to scamper across the open grass and explore the new territory.
It’s burrow buddies laughed and said, “Timmy Rat was an explorer too. He lit off for new territory last week…and you know what? We haven’t seen Timmy around the pile since!”
“I don’t care,” the rat shot back. “I’m going to find a better home!”
“You can go to the moon for all we care…but don’t say we didn’t warn you!”
And so goes the plight of all astronauts, missionaries, and explorers. If no one is laughing at you, then you’re not on the right track.
A month later that rat was dead—bagged and rotting with Timmy in the bottom of the humans’ green garbage can. Its burrow buddies were right to issue the warning. The natives living in the new territory were not friendly natives. They were hostile, very hostile. In fact, they formed The Garage Liberation Front to deal with the Ratonauts and explorers, any rodent who would seek to make pink insular love nests in their territory.
My name is Jake. I joined The Garage Liberation Front today. It’s led by a fierce homemaker named Brendan. He hired me to be his sidekick.
No, I’m not the explosives expert, nerdy tech guy, or the bumbling comic relief (at least I hope not): I’m the Rat Exclusion Specialist.
And I have a five-step plan of action to liberate Brendan’s garage from the ratonauts and their dreams of insular domesticity:
(1) clear out the attic space, make a pile in front of garage, vacuum and sweep it out, and prep it for disinfection.
(2) exclude the door: gap under sill, gap on top, and give it a proper sweep.
(3) fix L-shaped metal flashing around the interior to exclude and prevent future rat entries. The flashing will be screwed to studs. This includes the sides of the garage door as well.
(4) unearth the foundation along side with a hoe, slide a large piece of metal flashing under siding (without fixing it to concrete or siding with screws or nails), and then cover it back up again with soil. This will prevent them from making holes like this…
(5) exclude all gaps and holes along roofline using metal flashing, foam, and or hardware cloth, especially the one next to the tree in front.
(6) exclude any gaps or holes under siding in back along patio with metal flashing, foam, and or hardware cloth.
(7) replace seal along bottom of garage door, or find something stronger to replace only the ends ** this is a systemic problem with garage doors, and I want to find some way to replace ends with something stronger. We’ll see if inspiration hits before my exclusion day.
(8) use hardware cloth to block interior entry points and possible entry points along top of wall.
(9) Get them. Trap inside garage until we’re satisfied that no rats are left inside. Trap outside for purposes of determining where they live, or where they’re running on their nightly feeding routes.
(10) exclude entry points as needed. My mission is complete exclusion!
(11) Oh yeah, and put everything back in the garage in an orderly manor.
And I must say, it will be a pleasure to serve as your sidekick. I will work hard to make The Flynn Family Garage Liberation Front proud!
Chapter 2: Building The Front
Before I arrived that day I stood in my driveway like a warrior dawning his armor for battle. Hardware cloth, check. Foam and foam gun, check. Metal flashing (2 sizes), check. Leftover squash pizza, check.
Then I set my GPS coordinates to the Flynn family garage and hit the gas, wheeling with the long metal flashing on my roof rack piercing the road before me like a mighty javelin. No matter how great my fear of failure felt inside, there was no turning back now. I was on my way.
After a briefing with Brandon (and a few kind words of encouragement from my leader), I checked my traps not expecting much. It had only been a week, and The Liberation Front had already caught 3 Ratonauts.
No action from the bait I hung in the void. No action from the Volehalla box in the wood pile. No action from the traps on the sides of the door, but the traps in the attic caught 2, and the Volehalla box along the side of the garage caught one. All of them were juveniles, and one was eaten.
I decided to make my next move the attic, because pest control wouldn’t be pest control without a tip of the hat to cleanliness. After The Roman Empire fell, the church ruled Europe–and it took The Plague to convince the church that no, pestilence isn’t always sent by God as a loyalty test. Sometimes it’s just something that happens when we don’t wash our hands with soap.
My original plan was to declutter the attic and vacuum the droppings I found, but (like writing) the story sometimes takes on a life of its own. After I pulled everything down and piled it in the driveway, I looked at the layers of history in the attic and they said, “Clean me.”
So I fit my respirator to my face, hit play on my Oldies mix, and became one with The Attic. Two hours later I emerged feeling satisfied.
I should have took a before shot, but who cares what it looked like before I began? It’s ready for action now!
Next, I decided to tackle the most challenging of the exclusion points: The Wild Side of The Garage where the rats had dug under the half buried dry rotted siding up into the walls to nest in the insulation. I had a plan for it before I began, but (as usual) the well-made plan flew from my brain the moment The Action hit…
As I dug like the rats do, almost immediately I made a discovery that my storyline about the Ratonauts exploring from their home in the woodpile may be more fiction than theory. The dark spot shown in the photo below is a burrow that was leading directly up into the wall.
My solution to the burrowing-from-below problem was a subterranean wall built with hardware cloth and rocks. Lots of rocks.
The next step was to make sure the rocks and hardware cloth stayed firm in place, and then find some way of keeping insulation crazed Ratonauts from exploiting broken pieces of siding and chewing straight into the wall.
I love and hate foam like people love and hate nuclear power. It’s amazing and efficient, but also toxic to produce. Captain Planet wouldn’t approve. He would probably use the self-sustaining gum of the native Gum-Gum Tree or something like that. If only that made cents$.
“We had the first casualty of our conflict, sir,” I said to Brendan when he came out to check how The Front was progressing. “The rats sold all the old red bricks you had piled back here!”
By the time I liberated the side of the garage, I was experiencing what I like to call The Action. Long ago, in another world (back when I was writing and sustaining myself as a professional suds buster/dish master), I used to call it The Dish Zone. What that means is, while I’m in The Action my mind and body have become One Force of Nature 100% dedicated to The Mission. Not too unlike any super power, it comes with a price. My price is, while I’m fighting Ratonauts deep in The Action, I lose my social powers. If I stay too long in The Action, I reply to conversation with grunts.
“Huh?” I’ll grunt. “Can you say that again?”
The photo below shows the notorious corner where most of the rats are engaging their version of The Action. Pest control operators call this place a rat “runway,” but I sometimes like to call it The Rat’s Feng Shui.
I didn’t intentionally set out to make your side door look like the bottom of a walk in restaurant cooler. Who knows, maybe that could be the next mission in The Garage Liberation Front? We could turn your garage into a fortified meat cooler to “put the rats on ice.”
I’ve been writing for a long time now. I used to describe writing to people that way, saying something like, “My memory is in my hands. I don’t think about what I’m going to write, not really. My mind just previews The Story for me after my hands do all the work.” That’s how being in The Dish Zone or The Action feels too. It’s like writing for real.
Then again, building by stream of consciousness (hammer swinging like a Beatnik) isn’t always the best construction model to follow. I often put the breaks on The Action. For example, I stopped to ask Brendan if it was ok to use metal flashing to exclude the gaps between the shingles and the foundation, because I knew it wasn’t a perfect plan. The length between the foundation and the edge of the shingles varied all the way across the back, so I had to cut the flashing…and do my best to keep it flush along the foundation. The way I was trained by my former employers to do this was roll and pack hardware cloth under the siding, and then let the foam fly. I was never was a big fan of that plan. It’s not pretty, especially with orange foam. And black isn’t much better.
After all that talk about social skills tanking in The Action, I must say I enjoyed my conversations with Kieran the Flynn family youth. He checked in every so often to watch the action on The Front.
“My dad said you’re the Rat Man,” he offered like a question.
I thought it was an excellent beginning, so I rolled with it. “You better he’s right about that,” I smiled as I messed with my drill. “I am the Rat Man. It’s what I do for a living.”
“But what’s your real name?”
In that moment I had to restrain myself from a long winded existential commentary about truth in fiction and the “supereconomic powers” that are triggered when we transform into our working characters.
“My name’s Jake,” I said instead.
He seemed satisfied with that answer, because he moved to the next topic of conversation, which I found equality as engaging.
“I’ve never been up in the attic.”
“Well it’s clean now,” I replied proudly. Then I tried to reposition the ladder in its place, so he could venture up there. The old ladder contraption was not as easy to operate as I thought, which turned out to be a good thing. It gave me a chance to think about what I was about to do.
“My dad says we’re going to check it out later.”
“Oh,” I said, setting the ladder down behind my proverbial back. “That will be a good adventure. I hope it passes inspection…I mean it’s clean, but it’s not kitchen clean. Know what I mean?”
We talked about the attic for a little while longer, then Kieran went inside and I moved my operation outside to work on the eve gap. It was there, just inside the eve gap, where I set my traps and caught the two teenage Ratonauts. My choice for building materials to exclude that gap was inspired by the many castle sieges I’d seen in The Movies.
“No way they’re going to breach that wall,” I thought…
Minutes later, when I realized I wasn’t going to have time to tackle the door seal, I met another leader of The Flynn Family Front. She had just finished a long day of work no doubt, so I tried to keep my conversation short. As my wife–Emily my Editor and Chief–often says about my writing, “Long is wrong.” So naturally, I skipped the pleasantries and got right to the heart of the matter. I was tired, dead brain, zombie eyed, and I had dirt smudged evenly across my face like some kind of theatrical version of a homeless man. All I was missing was the shopping cart and missing belt.
“The flashing in back is going to work,” I said as I showed her what I’d done that day. “But there’s still a slight gap between the foundation and the metal flashing along here, about three feet, which I filled with excluder cloth instead of foam because I didn’t want to goober all over your patio.”
Next I showed her the back. Instead of showcasing the great subterranean wall I’d built, I pointed to my blocking of the eve gap, and said, “It’s going to keep the rats out, but it’s ugly. I can fix it if it bothers you.”
Needless to say, I need to work on my showmanship. There’s no good reason to show my customers all the ugly things first. But, then again, that may be the fundamental difference between Ratonauts and humans. Only Ratonauts dream of perfect homes.
I like to think there’s nothing wrong with a little character.
Chapter 3: The Rat Harborage Removal Service
Recently, we helped our friends Arron and Aubrie throw a yard sale party to liberate their garage from some old things they’d had since college. For reasons I won’t go into now, I have a special place in my heart for the process of removing “junk” from my life.
It’s a complex subject. They say, “God don’t make no junk.”
They also say you should hug your belongings and wait to see if the thing brings you joy. That’s how you know you should keep it.
I say, rats will burrow and nest under anything that sits anywhere on earth that’s quiet and free of human activity: like a garage. I think it’s essential to our struggle on The Garage Liberation Front to remove rat harborage, at least pick up your belongings once or twice a year to see that Ratonauts haven’t turn it into the home base of their new utopian moon colony.
With that said, I was honored when the Flynn family leaders accepted my offer to remove the unwanted rat harborage from their garage.
I had planned to make the harborage go away and exclude the seal on the garage door on the same day, but believe it or not! The last rat (who had somehow escaped my wrath) snuck into the Flynn family house in the middle of the night and hid the garage keys in Megan’s purse!
It was a bold, but ultimately evil plan. When I arrived on Tuesday morning I was fired up and ready to work. I can’t lie, I was bummed when Brendan discovered that the garage keys were with Megan (and Megan was at work), but I didn’t let it bother me long. I knew the rats were trying to ruin our moral, and I wasn’t about to let them win!
“Nice try rats,” I thought. “You can’t stop The Garage Liberation Front!”
The good news was, I had time to follow Captain Planet’s advice to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I moved two pickup loads of harborage from the Flynn family garage, and I was able to recycle roughly 3/4 of that. The trick of it was, Goodwill always says “no” to somethings, but they always say “yes” as well. Therefore, if you arrive with a load from one Goodwill full of “No” items, then the next Goodwill will say “yes” to some of them.
All in all, it was a successful day. Thanks to our leader’s inspiration, The Rat Harborage Removal Service was officially born. Hoorah 🙂
Chapter 4: Plan C Super Fortress
I arrived on Halloween expecting to christen the Flynn family’s new Front for keeping the rats out. Instead, I found another dead teenage rat caught just inside the garage door.
It was a great reminder. All my work would be pointless if I wasn’t able to find some way to exclude the gaps on either side of the garage door.
My Plan A was to install a new door seal with excluder cloth inserted on the ends to give the seal some form. So I did that:
That was a fun exercise, but it didn’t pass The Light Test. When I closed the door and turned off the light, I could still see a gap. Plan B was already on deck. I bought a rubber threshold made for garage doors. So I fit it under the door, and gave it The Light Test.
“Rats!” I cried and shook my fist at heaven. “I thought for sure that would do the trick…”
Then I did the thing I do when I’m stuck. I paced back and forth between my truck and the door–staring at The Monster Gap–waiting to find something to inspire Plan C.
“Use the flashing,” my Optimist said. “It will work fine.”
“No way!” my Pessimist replied. “You’re going to turn that door into one of your crazy art projects. Call someone for advice.”
“Like who?” the Optimist laughed. “Hello, my name is Jake…do you know how to exclude a garage door with gaps the size of The Grand Canyon properly? Do they have a universal fitting for that, or something?”
“Ha, ha…laugh it up chuckles.”
Before I knew it, I was cutting my supply of L-shaped metal–and fitting it on the bottom of the door. “Hum,” I thought as I continued to cut and shape the pieces. “This might work after all…I could use door sweeps to give it some form and keep it from looking too ugly.”
A half an hour later, I ran out of time and door sweeps. A nice man named Victor in Hillsboro needed “Jake the Rat Man,” or at least that’s what he said his co-workers were calling me. Weird coincidence, I know. I’m pretty sure there’s another Jake the Rat Man in town I don’t know…
Anyhow, I returned the next day with more door sweeps from Home Depot ready to put the final touch on my super fortress. An hour or so later, I took a step back and inspected my work…
“Oh wow,” I exclaimed, a little surprised. “That really worked!”
The End was growing nearer. All that was needed to officially slam the door on the Ratonauts and open The Garage Liberation Front was The Final Inspection from the Flynns. That, and at least a month of no activity in the traps I set inside to show that they’re really gone. I have to say, I was holding my breath. I was proud of this exclusion and I wanted it to work.
A month later, we found starter holes right over the hardware cloth and a few more dead Ratonauts near our Volehalla box, but The Garage Liberation Front was still holding strong. “Viva la revolucion!”