Rats and Sparks – Gillian Ford
Aug 22, 2013 1878
The house looked clean and tidy, and Gill felt rather satisfied with herself. She had put Advantage on Jasper. There were no fleas around. The pest man had been, and there was not one cockroach in sight. Almost perfect, Gill thought. I am free of dirt and pests.
At that very moment, a rat ran across her kitchen bench. It was not a small, sweet mouse, and it was not one of those large city rats, which they say grow to a metre long from tip to tail. Gill’s was a medium-sized rat, about 20 cm. in length, with a very long tail. This was an imported Black Rat—charcoal grey to black, or light brown above with cream or white below. Nora the rat was brown with a cream base.
How did Nora get in when the house was fully screened? Gill had a couple of theories. She thought that Jasper the cat might have caught Nora and brought her in, then let her go inside the house. Or, maybe Nora used the cat door?
The second question was how to catch the rat. Gill had put a humane mousetrap on the floor near the fridge. The mouse goes in, the door goes click, and the mouse is trapped. However, the entrance to the trap was too small for Nora.
Things came to a head when Gill came downstairs one day to a flooded kitchen. She cleaned up, called the plumber and waited for him to come a couple of days later. The plumber said the problem was the dishwasher. Gill called the dishwasher fixer, and it took several days for him to come. Altogether, a week passed.
The dishwasher man came and pulled the dishwasher out, replaced something and said, ‘It will work now’. When he switched on the water, the kitchen began to flood again. Further investigation showed that Nora had eaten through the hose that took water to the dishwasher.
* * *
Gill was asleep at night, when something woke her up. A faint light gave slight illumination to the white tile floor. She could hear a small chattering, and she could see Jasper the cat padding the floor excitedly.
‘He’s gotten that rat’, Gill thought sleepily. She was vaguely aware that rats can climb and race over bedclothes and over people’s head, but Gill was amazingly unflappable during gaps in sleep. She went back to sleep instantly.
In the morning, Gill could see a regular pattern of single, tiny blood drops on the floor, extending from the side of her bed, down the stairs to a tiny drop at the bottom. She could see where Jasper had brought the rat up for her to see. He had accidentally perforated her. There was no sign of Nora.
* * *
Gill went out to eat with a friend that day. On her return, Jasper was sitting on his haunches up on the lobby between the two flights of stairs. He looked at her and pointed with his right paw at the second shelf. Dr. Ford was there, and together he and Gill took out all the books from the shelf.
Yes, the rat was there, punctured but undeterred. Nora ran down the stairs at speed and disappeared into the storage area. Jasper flew behind her. The Fords began to pull out all the things in the storage area and put them outside the front door. They left the door open for the rat to escape.
Nora suddenly raced behind the open front door. Jasper followed, and Nora raced back between Jasper’s legs. Next thing, the rat was climbing up the doorframe by the cat door. Jasper was close behind. Just in time, Nora sensed the open door and she ran out and down the steps into the yard. Jasper followed, picking the rat up and dropping it all the way to the front gate.
When Jasper arrived at the front gate, he sat down and put Nora on the ground. Nora turned right and escaped next door.
* * *
Gill was outside washing the upstairs deck when she received a nasty gyrating shock up her arm from the outdoor tap. She called Paul the electrician, and he and his friend Tim came and put an earth on the tap. They tested the whole house, and it seemed fine otherwise.
The next few days, Gill kept getting minor shocks from the inside taps, but Paul had tested them, so she thought they must be fine. But then at night the lights began dimming and brightening rhythmically.
And when Gill was washing dishes in very hot water, every few seconds, she had intense burning pains go up through her arms. The next day, she called Paul, and his boss said to call Energex and not to touch the taps.
Gill called Energex and told them what was happening. They arrived twenty minutes later. The Energex man said, ‘we knew it was different, we knew it was serious, as soon as your call came in’. He meant that Des or Gill could have been killed.
The Energex men had to replace the thick cable that goes from the house to the telegraph pole. It had frayed and created an electrical field around the house.
Gill was getting zapped.
* * *
For months following, there was no sign of a rat, and the electricity worked fine. But there was a funny smell around the fridge. The smell appeared to be in the casing, not inside the fridge. Gill thought it might be an old smell from Nora living behind the fridge.
She also thought it might have to do with the plumbing. First she called the plumber. He cut off the water to the fridge. The smell continued. But there was no sign of a rat, and surely there couldn’t be another one!
Then the power kept going off, and the safety switch in the electricity box was thrown. When that happened, Gill should have called the electrician straightway, but she was able to fix the problem by fiddling with the power board. It happened a number of times. Days went by.
Gill thought it was the dishwasher causing problems, because when the power went back on, the dishwasher would automatically start and go through a whole cycle (usually you have to set it manually).
* * *
Gill was cleaning the fridge on Sunday, and the light and the power in the fridge went off. Then she couldn’t fix the power any more. The TV worked, the stove worked. Most of the lights worked. But a certain circuit, including the computers, didn’t work.
A friend said to pull all the power points out in that circuit and after a while to put them back and try the switches again. It meant Gill had to pull the fridge out from the wall, which was quite a job.
She reached over the back to pull out the plug. As she did so, a rat ran up the side of the fridge towards her hand. She pulled back and decided to wait till the morning.
Then, when she and Dr Ford pulled out the fridge, you could see the rat dirt behind it. Was it Nora who had gotten back in, or was it another rat?
The next morning Gill called Paul the electrician, and he came straightway. He moved the fridge completely out and got right into the gap at the back and looked up. The wire to the fridge came in along a cavity at the top of the cupboards (invisible from the outside).
Paul put his mobile phone up to the gap and took a video. You could see the rat had eaten all the wires, and that there was a small hole in the outside brick wall. Another electrician who had wired the fridge had not patched the hole. That was how Nora and her friend had entered the house.
Paul fixed it all, including patching the hole. He gave the old wire to Gill. Out of 3 metres of cable, only 20 cm. in the middle was still covered in plastic. The rest had been bitten down to the wire. It was a wonder the rat didn’t get fried. It’s a wonder the house didn’t burn down.
That is why you have safety switches! The power automatically goes off when there is a problem.
* * *
A couple of weeks went by. There was no sign of the rat. The fridge was pulled out two weeks later, just to make sure, and there was no rat dirt.
Gill was watching television later that day, and Jasper was beside her fast asleep. He was gently snoring with his large grey fluffy tail wrapped around his nose. But Gill could hear something else in the background.
She switched the television sound off. In the couch behind her, she could hear a gentle gnawing. Uh-oh, now she knew where the rat went. Jasper stirred not a paw.
While Nora 2 happily chewed on the innards of the couch, Gill watched Father Brown investigating a murder and thought at the same time of how she could get that rat out of the house.
You might wonder why Gill didn’t put down rat poison. Well, the rat eats the poison, and then if it comes out rather dopey and slow moving, a cat can catch and eat it. Then the cat that ate the rat would die. So, Gill was reluctant to put down poison.
The next morning while Jasper slept, Gill went down and cleared the outside deck and put the furniture in a corner. She moved the furniture in the lounge out of the way and kept the French door open. She dragged the couch over the white tiles towards the door.
Gill lifted the couch over the doorframe and pushed the whole thing onto the deck. As she came out of the door and shut it, a large black rat dropped out of the sofa and headed over the side of the deck. This was clearly not Nora.
Gill put the sofa on its back and cut the lining off the bottom. She cleaned out all the rat dirt. She put the couch back upright and picked the ends up and dropped them several times to shake the dirt out. Then Gill swept the floors and washed them and she soaked all the brushes and mops she had used in hot soapy water.
Finally, she put the couch back in the lounge and put the furniture back where it was before.
Peace reigned. Maybe the house was rat-free. Maybe the electrical dramas were over. Jasper slept on unawares.
* * *
The Fords try to be reasonably respectable. They think cleanliness is related to godliness. But despite all their attempts at a good life and despite having a passably clean house, they had a rat. And even when they got rid of one rat, they acquired another one.
However hard we try, rats can get in. They can be very shy. You might see one, or you might not. There might be a funny smell, and there might not. You might hear one gnawing at the hosepipe in your dishwasher, or you might not. You might hear them chomping inside your couch, or you might sit on the couch when they are asleep and not hear them.
They always cause damage. A lot of it is where you cannot see it. It’s only when your furniture is turned upside down and the bottom cut out that the dirt is fully revealed. Your couch might survive, but the damage inside is permanent, and the smell is almost impossible to get out.
It can be a mystery how they get in. But it’s always more of a dilemma how to get them out.
Even when you get rid of your rat, when you sit on your couch, you can never be absolutely sure there are not one or two left in it that might suddenly jump on your lap or run over your hand. It could make a person feel very anxious if she thought about it.
Is this not like sin in the life? You try to be good. You try to be perfect. You think you are getting somewhere, and another rat gets in. It is working away at your innards even before you know it. By the time you become aware of it, it’s done a lot of damage. Also, you keep losing power.
* * *
A.D. 31 and the Cross
Dr Ford and Gill had rats and sparks in 2013. Your problem was probably different. Somebody stole your money, you were bullied, you got really sick, you had a car accident, your parents divorced, somebody you know was hurt, or even died. Maybe you went to war. They are all much bigger problems than Des and Gill’s rats and sparks. But underneath all the troubles we face in this world, we have an assurance that God loves us. Jesus, the Son of God, who became man to represent us, lived a perfect life and died an atoning death. God no longer looks at us; he looks at Jesus in our place. He makes a divine exchange, our sins for his righteousness. When Jesus died on the cross, it was as though we were with him. By simple faith, we accept what Jesus did for us, and we are saved. And so, we want to please him in everything big or small.
Down here, rats get in and sparks fly. But because of Jesus, we are safe for eternity, and despite the perpetual burden of sin, one day we will live in a better place with him.