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Brendan in NE Portland (11.7.2019) – “The Garage Liberation Front”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SERVICE STORY

“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.

There’s a big piece of metal behind that shingle, which I wedged in there because it looks a little better than the brown metal.

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!”