A little while ago my next door neighbour called to the door and asked if he could take some snips from flowers in our garden. I said of course, work away.

Long story, shortened: The previous owners of our house planted hundreds of flowers and plants all over the place. During the past 9 years of our tenure the garden has been forced to stand on its own two feet and fend for itself for the main part. If I’ve done nothing else, I like to think I’ve taught it some independence. Deirdre next door does some flower arranging every now & again. Her husband Con helps her gather what’s needed.

So Con went off and allowed me return to Series 1 of Damages (which incidentally is both awfully compelling and often just awful -a trend I’ve noticed in other TV shows such as The Tudors -it’s like they know they could be great, but are afraid to commit to being really great in case they lose the mass appeal. So every now & again they liberally apply Dumbdown (TM) and sprinkle it with an over-supply of Obviousness and pop it back in for a few minutes of crispy Crassness -a little something to please everyone, which results in nobody being happy with the end product.)

Glenn Close was being nasty and was about to make a nasty phonecall to another nasty lawyer when Con tapped on the window once again. It turned out he had made a discovery which can be summed up in two words: Dead Rat.


It was quite wet outside and I didn’t have my coat, but nonetheless I followed Con in my shirt through the light drizzle to inspect the corpse. It’s a guy thing. Habeas Corpus an all that.

“…just in case the kids would be out…” Con was saying.

“Yeah of course” I was agreeing, all the while wondering how I was going to get out of this one. Maybe I could just let him rot there? Or a bird or some animal might take him away for me. Yup, he was dead alright.

“Just thought I’d let ya know anyway…” Con was saying.

“Yeah, just finish my cup of tea first,” I was nodding, returning inside to see how Glenn Close was getting on. She’d have no problem with a dead rat. She’d pull off the tail like the ring from a grenade and lob it over the hedge.

We’ve had the odd dead rat in the past. I had no problem with those: I left them to Mrs. Rumm.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate to be misunderstood. It wasn’t pure laziness that allowed me to delegate this task to my wife, it was abject Fear.

The one thing I can think of that disgusts me above all else is the sight of a rat -alive or dead. I suppose it’s more or less a phobia I have.  The sight of a rat makes me go weak at the knees and want to scream and faint. It’s either a phobia or love, I guess, and believe me I have no deep-set wish to snuggle up with a rodent.

But you see my problem -besides the rat itself, my next door neighbour now knew I knew. It would not be possible to hand this task over to my wife -not without killing him first.

I knew Con would know if I didn’t do it. He has a good view of the garden from his window. He would be using it to watch me squirm. Hell I know I would if things were the other way around. I’d feel bad if I had told Con about a dead rat only to see Deirdre carrying it down the garden some minutes later.

There was nothing for it: I would have to scoop up this rat, feel its weight on the end of my long shovel, watch its tail sway side to side as I lugged it away. But first I needed a plan… a plan so cunning no dead rat could possibly distract me.

My plan involved taking some sheets of newspaper, throwing them over the rat before sliding them underneath as I scooped him up, letting the rest cover the body so I wouldn’t have to see it. Foolproof!

And the plan worked -for all of ten feet. Once I caught sight of something swaying under the shovel I let out a …what’s the word for a male scream? I don’t think there is one. Why not? We usually associate screaming with a high-pitch female type voice. Mine wasn’t high-pitched. It was a guttural vocal unleashing, the result of which was a tilting of the shovel and a dropped dead rat.

I’m not afraid to admit it: I was bricking it.

I sensed a commotion in the house next door, but I couldn’t bring myself to look. Out of the corner of my eye I could see some movement inside the window. I knew I was centre stage at a great show.

Still I didn’t panic. I held my cool, resting on the shovel, catching my breath. Some of the (now wet) newspaper pages began to blow in the breeze, uncovering you-know-who. He was on his back. His mouth was snarled upward and his claws were in the air like the pronged talons of a disgusting-looking ratlike hairy wet dead poisoned… did I mention I had put down poison? Yes, well, I had. In fact between us and next door, we share the cost of some professionals to put it down. So it’s not like I’m not responsible in some way for the dead thing, but I have no qualms in saying I’d rather be responsible for killing rats than having live ones near me if I can help it.

Where was I? Oh yes, the paper blew away and I jumped and stabbed it with my shovel. That tore it. With some care I eventually gathered most of it together and returned to the rat, dumping it over him. As it blew off once more I again let out a guttural yelp. I was in the horrors now.

I heard Con’s back window opening and snatched a quick look -yes he had opened it to better hear my screams. I could sense his amusement even over my debilitating terror. Hell, I’m pretty sure the whole family was there now, having moved their dinner plates to the window to better enjoy the show.

I was really in no mind to ham it up for them, but I couldn’t have overdone it more than I know I had done naturally. Twice more I dropped the rat and papers blew and I instinctively screamed/ yelped/ cried out. I spent some time catching breaths, perspiring, praying, almost-fainting. I seriously contemplated abandoning the task and leaving it to my good wife -best friend in all the world. She wouldn’t be happy about that, but I was beyond caring. Neither was it the thought of my abdication being witnessed by my tittering neighbours that kept me in the garden. Again, I think it was fear that ruled my actions. I knew as soon as I left that the paper would blow away and lodge in the hedge and stay there until it rotted -and possibly blow into Con’s garden too. That wouldn’t be very nice. I’d hate if Con’s dead-rat-wrapped-newspaper blew into my garden -even if I had spent the last 10 minutes laughing at him through the window.

So eventually I made it to the bottom of the garden and realised my cunning plan had brought me no further. I hadn’t considered what to do next. If I had done so, clearly I would have considered the implications of a poisoned rat being eaten by birds or other animals. I know (now) I shouldn’t have done so, but in the interest of full disclosure I must admit I tossed the rat (and newspaper) over the hedge at the bottom of the garden, into the unfurrowed, mostly unused field beyond.

One more thing I forgot to mention… The smell. Every now and again during the funeral procession I found myself downwind. I won’t go into detail, but it was awful. The worst thing about it is I can’t get it out of my mind that I have in fact ingested some of that dead rat through the stench wafting and wading its way through my nasal hairs. Poison is one thing, but the thought of snot forming in my nostrils from the scent of a dead rat is numbing. I’ve since blown my nose more times than Barry Manilow in a snuff factory, but I’m having difficulty to say the least putting it behind me.

Have you ever disposed of a dead rodent? How did you get on? Is there someone special in your life you can turn to at such times?

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