I filled to overflowing the birdfeeder with sunflower seeds, half cascading onto the porch below, half into the gutter, where they sprouted a week later. These I planted into our top deck planter, and some 4 months later, they greet us morning high and hello, the others bring in the odd rattus rattus from the greenbelt out back yonder.
After a bit of research, I decide on walnuts dipped in peanut butter for the trap, and before long the cage is marked NO VACANCY, and we walk off 200 paces (not near far enough) and let it go. There is a week's peace, but soon the seeds below go missing, and now it's one unwelcome visitor after another, then a long walk into the field, a brief respite and repeat.
There is sore need of distraction, from research papers and current events, to the point I can hardly move from the bed after evening fall, but I find myself alone one weekend and the trap door rings once then twice, and for some reason, loneliness, despair, a need to nurture and protect, whatever, but on the kitchen table I have a birdcage full of two baby rats, docile enough to feed, then caress, then handle.
It's a distraction, and every so often, I get up from my research and stare at the little boys and imagine I'm doing some good. A friend tells me that his neighbor has the same trap, set outside next to a garbage can full of water, and in the morning he picks up the cage, full of whatever guest has paid a visit, and simply drops it in, submerged, and leaves for work, as though this is the most natural thing to in the world, and maybe it is, given our particular world.
I think of all the people I might fantasize to protect, from St. Louis to Syria, and it's not much use. I have these rats, and I've got to let them go. My kids get home, and we walk off our paces, and I pull one out, it bounds through the grass into what must seem an endless forest, and the other, but the door to the cage slips, lands on its tail, and it pierces hard into my thumb, lets go immediately. With little creatures they are programmed for bite and flight. My kids gasp, and my finger is a bloody mess. They will say their dad was bit by a rat, and their friends will imagine we're living in the slums, our dreams dashed, and there is talk of rabid frothing or underwhelming superpowers. I suddenly am very suspicious of cats and have an overwhelming desire to peek into the food pantry, bite little holes into the corner of macaroni boxes, find my way through mazes looking for sugar cubes. I'm come overwhelmed with the desire to flee, to find warmth and safety where it can be found, to climb through the butterfly bush vines and enjoy a leftover seed here and there in the sun, to fall victim to the same trap and have faith that there's enough bored benevolence to be set free.