The condo that Bob and Carole bought had a remarkable view. It was Florida’s finest, a luxury apartment, 3,000 sq feet…right on the beach. They would sit on their balcony and enjoy the clean ocean air and drink cocktails, in the afternoons. For them, it was truly paradise.
Both were retired. Carole, an accountant and Bob…a professor of English Literature. They had decided early on in their marriage, not to have children. They had, however a huge, fat, Persian cat named…. Eric.
Eric was old, near death, hard of hearing and half blind. His days were numbered.
They had worked hard and saved. Their goal was to relocate and live on the beach. Their dream had finally reached fruition. They had been living in their condo about six months when the first incident occurred.
Bob had gone to bed early. He was in a deep sleep. Carole had awoken and walked into the kitchen to get a drink of water. That was the night of the first sighting. Carole saw what she thought was some kind of small animal, running across the living room rug. She screamed, but it didn’t wake Bob.
She quickly went back into the bedroom, closed the bedroom door, and attempted to wake him up. “Wake up! Wake up! I saw something run across the living room rug, she shouted.”
“What are you talking about”? Bob replied, half asleep and with his voice somewhat groggy. “Go back to sleep. There’s nothing there.”
“I’m telling you, there’s a critter of some kind in the condo. I saw it, she said! You have to get up and find it, right now! You gotta get it out of here”! Carole was sounding hysterical. She was panicking.
Finally, Bob got up and went into the living room. Carole walked close behind him, fearful that it might jump out at her, or at Bob. He looked around and then said to Carole, “There ’s nothing here. You must have been dreaming! Let’s go to bed”!
Carole continued, “I’m telling you, I saw it! I don’t know what it was, but it ran across the floor!”
They went back into the bedroom and got back into bed. Bob held Carol in his arms, comforting her and attempting to alleviate her fears. “I’ll check again tomorrow, “ he reassured her.
The following day, at Carole’s insistence, Bob checked the living room.
“Look under the couch, and behind the drapes” she demanded.
Bob got down on his knees to look under the couch. “There’s nothing there”, he said reassuringly. Then he pulled back the drapes.
Carole asked, “Anything”?
“Nope, Bob replied. All clear”.
“Maybe you just thought you saw something. You were tired. It was the middle of the night. Your mind can play tricks on you”, Bob explained.
“No, Carole insisted. I definitely saw something and it wasn’t my imagination.”
A month had passed since the first sighting. One morning, when Carole got up to go into the bathroom, she noticed a hair on the toilet seat. It was a short hair, brown and coarse. It wasn’t hers or Bobs. She picked it up and carried it into the bedroom. “Look at this, she exclaimed. It’s from that critter! Could be a rat! He was in the bathroom, maybe in the toilet”!
“You’re losing it, Carole. That could have fallen off of our clothing. It’s probably from Ted and Marie’s dog. They have that short-haired terrier. We had dinner there last night. Remember? It must have gotten on our clothes. That’s all! Stop being crazy!”
Carole thought for a minute and considered that Bob could be right. Maybe she was over-reacting. Carole cleaned the bathroom, just in case with a disinfectant.
Bob had gone out with his guy friends to play golf. In an effort to dissuade any lurking critters from wandering about the apartment, Carole busied herself with bleach, vinegar, and water. She scrubbed the apartment top to bottom…the best that she could, hoping to ward off any rodents that might be interested in establishing a nest or perhaps just browsing in the wee hours of the night.
Two weeks later, again during the night, Carole got up and went into the kitchen. And there it was, on the counter….plain as could be, a small brown rat with a pointy face and a long, thin tail. Carole screamed and the rat ran. He jumped from the counter, ran into the living room and then disappeared under the couch. Carole ran back into the bedroom, turned on the overhead light and started shaking Bob. “Dammit, get up! I saw it! It’s a rat! We’ve got rats!!!!!” Bob still half asleep, got up from the bed.
“Where? Where is this rat? Where is it?” he said with insistence and annoyance.
“It went from the kitchen counter, into the living room, and then under the couch! “And, I wasn’t imagining it”, she exclaimed. I saw it with my own two eyes! We’ve got rats in our condo! So much for luxury. We’ve got ghetto rats, right here in Florida, the same kind we had in the subways in New York City. Bob continued to look around for the rat, talking inaudibly under his breath. Carole was agitated. She kept rambling.
“I don’t see anything!”, he concluded.
“But, it was there! I’m telling you!” she said with insistence.
“I hear you”, replied Bob. But, it’s not there, now.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Carole said, as she glared at Bob.
“Honey, I’m not calling you a liar. I’m just saying that sometimes we think we see things, but you could be mistaken. It could be your imagination playing tricks on you”.
Carole insisted, “This was no mirage! We’ve got a rat and you don’t believe me”!
“I’m not saying I don’t believe you, Bob replied defensively. I’m just saying that you may have thought it was there because you’re stressed out and overtired. That’s all! Look around, Carole. There are no droppings, no rat poop, no other hairs. There’s nothing here! No evidence of any rodents! And, besides, we have a cat!”
In response to Bob’s false sense of security, Carole remarked…”Eric is half dead, Bob! He can’t hear, he can’t see and he can’t smell! What kind of a rat chaser is he? Seriously!”
“Yeah, well the rat doesn’t know all that. All he sees is a big fat, scary cat! Maybe you should open the bedroom door at night, so Eric can get out there and catch your rat, for you.”
Carole informed Bob sternly, “I’m not sleeping with the bedroom door open! Are you crazy? He’ll be coming into the bedroom next! And, Eric is useless. He won’t even know the rat’s there!”
Bob still had his doubts about Carole. He suggested that she see a therapist. He really thought that she might be having hallucinations, brought on by stress and sleep deprivation.
Carole did agree to see someone, but more for the fact that Bob didn’t believe her. The therapist suggested that she lay down some traps and that she send the hair that Carole found off to be tested at the local veterinary lab. Even if her therapist didn’t believe her, she was making some suggestions, that could rule out the presence of the rat in her home. She felt that her concerns were being addressed and validated.
Bob was right, though…there were no droppings or other hairs found. Carole put the hair she had found, in a small manilla envelope and took it over to the lab. They said they’d have to send it out and it may take as long as three weeks to get the results.
In the meantime, Carole put down a few large traps…like mouse traps, only bigger, around the apartment.
After a week….nothing happened, until one afternoon when Bob was sitting on the couch reading a magazine. He had stepped off of the couch barefoot and stepped right onto one of the traps that Carole had set for the rat.
“Ahhhhh! “, Bob began screaming out obscenities. Carole quickly released the trap from his foot. She then took him to the local Urgent Care facility for an
x-ray. Fortunately, his big toe wasn’t broken, just badly bruised.
In the car on the way back from getting treated, Bob sternly told Carole that she had to stop the obsession about the rats. “We don’t have rats, Carole. You’ve got to get this thru your head! I need this to stop! Get rid of the traps and let’s get things back to normal!” Carole capitulated, although she still believed that there was a rat in the condo. To appease Bob, however, she promised to stop talking about the rats.
No one else in the complex spoke about having seen rats lurking about. Carole was afraid to mention it to anyone for fear that she would be viewed as a poor housekeeper, or people might think that she and Bob were dirty…lacking good hygiene. After all, rats were rodents, They came out of the sewers. How was the rat getting in, she wondered. And, was there more than one? It would have to be thru the toilet.
Carole and Bob had a two bedroom condo with three bathrooms. One bathroom in each bedroom and one communal half bath, in the hallway. She noted that the toilet seat was down in the guest room, and the door was kept closed. It had to be the hall bathroom. The seat was up…that was it! Carole took a flashlight and looked really good on the floor behind the toilet bowl, and there she found another coarse brown short hair. This time she knew better than to show it to Bob. She still hadn’t received the report back from the animal lab and she had promised to stop obsessing about the rats.
That night, Bob insisted on sleeping with the bedroom door open, despite Carole’s fears and concerns. They had both fallen asleep.
Carole woke up first….screaming out in pain! A rat had gotten up on the bed and had bitten her twice on the arm. When she looked over at Bob, his neck (over his carotid artery), was bloody and his eyes were fixed and open.
She jumped up to see six rats attacking Eric.
She screamed, but no one came to help her.
As she opened her eyes, she heard Bob calling out to her,
“Wake up, Carole! Wake up! You’re having a nightmare!”
Photo by Angela Galardi at Space Coast Sunrise.