It was a rat that woke us. A large motherfucker that was sitting on the kitchen table. It looked as startled as me when our eyes met. There’s very little point in cursing at a rodent, it means nothing to them.
I wasn’t sure what it was at first – a large bang from downstairs. My wife barely stirred. I was disoriented. When I opened my eyes, I didn’t recognise my surroundings, and the banging only furthered my building anxiety. It was our first night in our new home. A small farmhouse with more land than I could ever use, but at a price that was almost too good. That was the first thing that entered my mind, as I sat upright in bed – there’s always a catch.
“What’s going on?” Jennifer asked, as she began to wake, the sleeping tablets she took tried to pull her back into sleep.
“I’m not sure,” I said, searching around the nightstand for my Maglite torch.
It was a weapon first, but always had the plausibility of utility. So much better than a baseball or cricket bat, those had no place in one’s bedroom – no one plays nocturnal sports.
“Go back to sleep,” I suggested, though she already had, and the noise had abated.
A house takes on a whole life of its own in the dark. It’s almost as if the walls breathe, you can hear the creaks as the wood timbers settle, like the house is tucking itself in. I descended the unfamiliar stairs, feeling the hairs on the back of my arms stand alert, readying me for a potential intruder. The red carpet that lay taut on the stairs, now grey in the dim light, hid my approach. I gripped the Maglite, fresh sweat running into the rough grip.
“Anybody there?” I shouted and immediately scolded myself. If there was someone, I announced my position, and if they saw fit, could now see me as prey. I heard sounds of skittering.
Moonlight flooded in through the window of the front door, illuminating something that sat on the mat that hadn’t been there when we arrived. Gently, I picked it up, placed it in my back pocket and continued my light-footed prowl around my new home.
The living room was silent, except for the remaining embers of last night’s fire, snapping and glowing in the hearth.
The hallway was littered with boxes of our belongings. I wished we’d taken the valuables upstairs, but they sat in a box, with the word Valuables written on the side, as if branded for a would-be robber. A quick inspection revealed the packing tape was still sealed. I was simultaneously relieved and concerned. If someone was in the house, and they weren’t after that, what did they want.
I heard shuffling from the kitchen, and the banging returned.
I cracked the door, and in one swift move, clicked on the torch and shone it into the room.
“Freeze!” I shouted, not knowing what else to say.
A huge motherfucking rat swivelled its head and stared at the light.
“Fuck me!” I screamed involuntarily.
Then I saw the door to the basement hang open, and it banged against its frame.
I pushed the door shut, slotting the wrought iron lock into place. When I turned, the rat was still looking at me. I hated rodents, but not as much as my wife did. If she saw it, she’d pack up immediately, head for the car, and stay locked inside until I drove her to her parent’s house.
“Do you want some cheese?” I whispered, not expecting a response.
I didn’t break eye contact, not wanting the bugger to escape. I’d slip my hand into the fridge, pull out some of the leftover stilton from our celebratory cheese board the night before, and give it to the rat. Then, without thinking, I would send the Maglite crashing down on its little rodent skull, and problem solved.
I reached in, and picked up the cheese. As I withdrew my hand, the rat raised its nose and sniffed, revealing its large front teeth, sharp enough to break skin, probably sharp enough to rip off flesh.
“Here you go, little buddy,” I said, ripping off a piece and throwing it onto the table.
It was hesitant at first, then it approached, picked it up in its claws, and began munching.
I turned off the torch. The moonlight lit the dining table well enough. I approached, holding the heavy black metal weapon over my head.
“I’m sorry,” I said sheepishly, I’d never killed an animal before, you don’t really get rats when you live in posh apartment block.
Move to the country she said, it will be good for us. And there I was, about to kill something so that she could continue to live in her fantasy world. This was a farmhouse, wildlife was to be expected.
A squeak made me pause. I heard scuttling from every corner of the kitchen. Before I knew it, the dining table was covered in rats, dozens of them, all waiting patiently for a bite of the cheese. I felt something tug on my jeans. I looked down to see two shiny orbs stare back at me, then another pair and another.
I threw the remaining cheese on the floor, and watched in panic, as a wave of brown and grey raced towards the food, leaving a pathway to the door. I ran, closing the kitchen door behind me. And as I did, I shuddered. I ran my hands down my clothes, just in case one of those things had grabbed me, but I was clean.
When I got back to bed, Jennifer was snoring softly. I was wide awake, starring at the ceiling. I heard the distant sounds of little footsteps hurry, and I imagined the state of the kitchen in the morning. I’d need to get up early and clean it before she found out. I’d tell her, but there was a time and place.
As my eyelids grew heavy, I remembered the note. Quietly I got out of bed and slipped my hands into my jeans draped over the chair. I moved to the window, and unfolded the paper, the edges of which had been nibbled. The handwriting was crude, as if written by someone who doesn’t write often.
Welcome to your new home. We look out for you. We will keep you safe. There’s someone on your property.
Something was off. I gazed into the distance out the window, into my rolling fields and small woodland, and wondered who wrote the note. I wondered if it was true, and if it was, where did they hide? Were they in my house? I didn’t feel like I was home. An uneasy feeling grew. There’s always a catch.
When I woke, the sun beat in through the window with a heat that warmed my face. The smell of bacon greeted me. Shit. Jennifer was nowhere to be seen. I dressed in yesterday’s clothes and made my way downstairs. The door to the kitchen was open and Jennifer slaved over a roaring stove.
“Morning, honey,” she said without turning.
“Hey,” I replied, relieved but surprised.
“I have some bad news,” she said, “look what I found.”
She pointed to the floor, to a solitary black speck.
“I think we may have mice.”
I stifled a nervous laugh.
“Can you set up some traps?”
“I don’t think we have any,” I said, “maybe one of the farmers around here does, I can ask?”
Jennifer was dishing up as I sat down at the table.
“Let me clean it first,” I said, thinking back to the horde that stood there only hours earlier.
“I cleaned it before we went to bed,” she said, placing the plate in front of me.
I didn’t argue. I never cleaned. Something so out of character would be enough for her to know something was off.
Bacon, eggs and beans, was placed on the table in front of me.
“Smells good,” I said, seeing the steam rise up.
She was so much better at cooking than I was. If I had made this, one of the three, if not two, would already be tepid, though each were piping hot.
A draft sucked the steam across the table, and sent my eyes following. The basement door was open again, and banged against the doorframe.
“Is that what happened last night?” Jennifer asked.
“Yeah,” I replied in a daze.
I didn’t want to ask if she’d opened it, because if she hadn’t, I didn’t want to know, and it would only raise more questions. She got up and slid the wrought iron lock into place.
“See, that’s all you need to do,” she said pleased with herself. She proceeded to pull on the door to demonstrate how well locked it was, “how hard would have that been?”
I smiled. Telling her I did the same wouldn’t have the effect I wanted.
A knock broke the tension I was experiencing.
“I’ll get it,” I said, “hurry, your food will get cold.”
I saw the outline of a large man through the frosted glass.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Good morning,” the man said, his west country accent so strong, he sounded more pirate than farmer. His attire, wellington boots, frayed trousers and knitted tank top, confirmed to me he was the latter, “you must be Charles.”
“I am,” I said.
He stood on tiptoes and peered over my shoulder, “can I come in?”
I sidled outside and closed the door behind me.
“We’re not really ready for visitors yet, you understand?”
“Of course I do, my wife was the same. Never liked visitors.”
“I’m sorry, did she die?”
“She did. That’s what she gets for answering back, am I right, Charles?”
I didn’t like this man. He had the manners of an outhouse.
His face was weatherworn, his eyes a piercing grey. A shock of patchy white hair hung down over his brow, hiding the redness of his face.
I fumbled in my back pocket and produced the note.
“Did you leave us this?”
He placed the glasses that hung round his neck onto his nose and brought the paper to his face, then extended his arm. He let out a wry smile.
“Nope, but it’s right, there is someone on your land. Me,” he chuckled again.
He shuffled closer to me, and a whiff of alcohol and coffee broke forth on his breath.
“You have to deal with them quickly, if you don’t, they’ll take advantage, and they won’t be the last. Come this way.”
He led me around the back of the house and up the gentle incline that crested, giving us a view of my land. For a moment I stood in awe, remembering all this was mine. I never imagined owning so much. It was too much for two people. It left me with a sense of selfishness. I wasn’t going to raise cattle or sheep. It was as if I was hoarding this just so someone else couldn’t have it.
“You see over there?” he pointed, “there’s a tent.”
I could see it, just barely. An orange two-man tent, obscured slightly by the trees that enveloped it.
“It was put up a few weeks before you moved in,” he said.
“What do I do?” I asked.
“It’s up to you. Shotguns go off all the time around here.”
“What are you saying?”
He chuckled, and turned to leave.
“All I’m saying is, you need to get rid of it before it becomes a problem. I don’t have a problem on my farm, people know better, if you get my drift.”
I was worried I did.
“You have a good day now. If you make it ‘til Christmas, we have a gathering at our place for the locals. You and your wife…”
“Jennifer, are more than welcome.”
“Thank you,” I said, and watched the old man leave.
“Who was that?” Jennifer asked.
“You know, I didn’t get his name.”
“You’re useless. Eat your food, it’s cold now.”
I sat at the dining table on my own, as Jen retired to the living room to read. We had a few weeks off work to settle in, and she was taking her time, and I couldn’t blame her.
As I ate, I heard rustling behind the basement door, scratching almost. It was quiet enough, so Jennifer couldn’t hear, but loud enough for it to fill my head with dread.
I spent the day watching films, as Jen read. The boxes in the hallway kept invading my mind, telling me to get on with it and get our stuff squared away in the right places, but a part of me thought it futile, expecting them to be loaded into a moving van as soon as Jen found out about the rats. It was only a matter of time.
As the light began to fade, I mustered up the courage to go outside and confront our trespasser, I wished I had done it while it was still light out.
By the time I crested the hill, the sun was setting, sending long shadows from the trees over my land. I strode with purpose, towards the tent in the distance. I held the Maglite tightly, wishing it was a shotgun. It was as if the light retreated faster with every pace I made, until I was at full gallop running down the backside of the hill. I hit the edge of the forest with speed, unable to stop myself until I came to a stop in the stream that bisected it. The ice-cold water filled my shoes. I remembered the farmer had worn wellington’s and realised quickly I wasn’t prepared at all for country life.
I saw the orange tent glow from within, confirming to me someone was home. I approached with trepidation, psyching myself up for confrontation. I trudged along the soggy bank, almost losing my shoe, as my foot disappeared into the mud and was only withdrawn with a loud sucking sound, confirming I was lucky not to be making the final leg of my journey sans footwear.
I stood outside for a moment, contemplating the best way to deal with this intruder.
“Who’s there,” I demanded, to no response.
“Come out and I won’t hurt you,” I felt embarrassed by what I said.
Then I heard the zip.
An old dirty man appeared.
“I’m sorry, sir, please forgive me,” he said, in a similar west country accent to the farmer.
What anger I’d mustered dissipated, as the decrepit man gazed back at me.
“I need you to get off my property,” I said with all the authority of a damp rag.
“Please, sir, I just need a couple of days. Please. My wife left me.”
Conflicted, I didn’t respond.
“I’ve been looking out for you,” he said, “I’ve kept others off your land.”
I took out the note.
“Did you write this?”
“Yes!” he said, “I did.”
“Why? Don’t you understand how creepy that is?”
He snatched the note from me.
“Who’s we?” I asked.
“We…” he started, “we, the people who look out for you. We did it for the previous owners.”
“Why would they allow that?”
“Because we will do what it takes. We have nothing left to lose. We will do what’s necessary.”
“Where are the others?” I asked, looking around.
“It’s just me now. The others have gone, but I can do it still, I promise.”
“I’ll give you a week,” I said, pretending to feel powerful.
“Thank you,” the man said, “thank you, so much.”
“Good. If my wife sees you, she won’t be as friendly. By the way, what’s your name?”
“Arthur,” he said.
“Can I get you anything?”
I felt embarrassed, I’d gone from mildly threatening to his servant.
“No, no, you are giving me a week, that’s all I can ask.”
I jumped the gate to the main field, and started the gradual incline to the house. I didn’t look back, though I could feel him watch me.
Jennifer was still sat in front of the fire. Her book hung loosely in her hand, her eyes shut, dozing in the dry heat. From the kitchen I heard scuttling, I was glad she was asleep.
I placed the Maglite on the kitchen table. The basement door was locked in place. From behind I heard the distant sounds of squeaks, and I shuddered. I did the thing I always did when presented with a choice, I chose something that could allow me to worry about it another day. Why deal with something today, when tomorrow’s available?
With a lack of traps, I took the remaining cheeses from the fridge, quietly unlocked the basement door, and threw them inside, closing the door before I had a chance to breath. If I could keep them sated, they wouldn’t bother us, at least for another day.
In the living room, I gently woke Jen.
“Hey, honey, we should get an early night, what do you think?”
“Uh hu,” she mustered, and I led her to bed.
It was 3am when the sounds from downstairs stirred me. Jennifer was already up and glaring out the window.
“There’s someone in the house,” she said.
“Who did you see?” I replied, absentmindedly putting on my clothes, doing that little dance you do when trying to force your leg into jeans.
“Nobody,” she said panicked. I watched as her eyes searched impotently around the fields.
“How can you be sure?”
“I heard something move.”
My mind raced back to the swarm of rats that had escaped the basement. From downstairs, a door slammed. I knew what it was.
“Let me check it out, it’s going to be the basement door again,” I said, and turned to pick up my torch, “fuck!”
“I left the damn torch downstairs. Wait here,” I said, and I stole a look into the hallway, “Whatever you hear, stay inside.”
I felt naked without my weapon, as I descended the stairs. I heard the noises louder than the night before. Like one hundred excited dogs scratching to be released. The entranceway was dark, all I had for guidance was the terrifying sound of rodents. Then I stopped, suctioned to the floor by fear.
There was a rustling coming from in front of me, not from small creatures, but a fully grown adult. A smell of shit filled the air. Why did I let him stay? It was so obvious now. He’d been staking out the place. I was warned and I ignored it.
I slipped into the living room and picked up the fire poker.
“What the FUCK do you think you are doing?” I shouted to the man’s back.
He didn’t turn in fright. He barely moved. Instead, he twisted his head to face me.
“You really should put your valuables in a more secure location,” the man with a shock of white hair and the west country accent purred.
The fucking farmer. I bet he had a key. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his building he’d sold off. He must have had a nice long look at those boxes when I greeted him earlier in the day.
He pushed himself up by his knees. A necklace dangled in his hand, which he studied with intent.
“Lovely bit of fancy you have here, you treat your wife well.”
His gaze caught the fire poker.
“What are you going to do with that? Stab me?”
“Put the necklace down, that was her mother’s.”
“Of course, you didn’t buy her something so nice, just like this house. You are a cheap man, Charles.”
“Put it down.”
“Oh no, no, no. You see, this is mine now. And so is this house, and so is your wife. It’s been very lonely without a woman around.”
I lunged. I didn’t even think. The old farmer had good reflexes, and pushed me to the floor. He stamped on my ankle, and I stifled a scream, still having the presence of mind not to alert Jennifer.
He nodded his head, impressed I didn’t shriek, then went back to pilfering my valuables.
“I won’t take everything; you can call us even. I will be back tomorrow through; I have some ground rules.”
He turned away. I shuffled myself to the kitchen door, and pulled on the handle. I fell inside.
“What did you expect to happen, Charles? A rat army to come flooding forth and defend your honour?”
There was silence in the kitchen. Not a single scratch or a squeak.
“They’re not yours, they’re mine. But you cannot get rid of them, they own this place.”
I kept shuffling through the kitchen, the flag stones icy cold on my legs.
“What are you doing?” I heard the farmer say from the hallway.
He was now standing proud, his hands full of jewellery.
I pushed myself up against the basement door and unlocked it.
“Charles, you are pathetic.”
He strode over to me, grabbed my legs and pulled me away.
“You want rats? I’ll give you rats!”
“COME FORTH!” he shouted.
It started as a rumble, a distant murmuring, that transformed into a scuttling, then squeaking, then a wave of brown and grey. Hundreds of motherfucking rats swarmed all corners of the kitchen.
“Ttsst,” the farmer said, and like the Pied Piper, the rats fell into line behind him.
The man chuckled, then bellowed out a laughter so loud Jennifer must have heard. I prayed to a God I didn’t know exist that she stayed put.
“You don’t want to die, do you Charles? Especially by rat. Do you know how that goes? They head straight for the eyes. I didn’t teach them that, it’s instinct. Then they go for the groin. Then, if you are lucky, they will go for the heart. You want them to do that, it’s quicker, it’s kinder. Do you want that?”
I shook my head vigorously.
“That’s a shame, you really haven’t given me much of a choice.”
“Please,” I said, “I have a wife.”
“Oh, I know, and like I said, she will come in very handy.”
I tried to stand.
“KILL,” he said.
Before I knew it, I was pushed to the floor, and held down by dozens of the giant things. I tried to flick them off, but they tugged and sniffed, and ran up my body. I felt them nibble through my clothes. I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I screamed.
“Good!” the man said, enjoying what was displayed in front of him.
They ran for my face, trying to bury in through my mouth and ears. I covered my eyes, their noses forcing their way in under my fingers. I writhed from side to side, one or two of the rats relented, but were replaced by many more. I felt them sink their teeth into my fingers, and plunge their jaws into my groan.
“Get them off! GET THEM OFF!” I cried.
It’s impossible to feel true pain when your whole body is experiencing it. I felt numb. The chewing and scratches continued, as they did their best to dig into my T-Shirt.
The violent frenzy abated. Though the rats continued to excitedly scuttle over me, as if I was now part of the floor.
“What are you doing here?”
I heard footsteps from behind me. Footsteps on stairs. Someone was in the basement.
“I asked you something, what are you doing HERE?”
“You cannot do this to him,” the other voice said, and I recognised him, “he’s shown me kindness.”
“I’ve been kind to you, you little shit!”
“No, you haven’t, you’ve tolerated me.”
“KILL!” the farmer demanded again, but the rats didn’t listen.
“Please don’t do this.”
“KILL him you rodent cunts!”
“I’ve looked up to you,” the other man said. He now walked slowly past me.
Nervously, I removed my hands from my face and saw who it was. It was Arthur.
The farmer threw a fist that connected to Arthur’s cheek with an impotent slap.
“I don’t need you anymore, I don’t think I’ve ever needed you. I know that now,” Arthur said.
The farmer was scared. Though I didn’t know if he was scared of Arthur, or the rats.
He turned to run.
“Kill,” Arthur announced softly.
The rats obeyed. They rushed over me as if I wasn’t there, and ran up the farmer’s body. He waved his arms helplessly.
“Get them off! Ttsst! TTSST!”
But they didn’t. He was covered him them, as if they were some sort of fur costume. He stumbled into the hallway. Arthur calmly followed. I gripped the table and pulled myself up.
“It didn’t need to be this way, Frank.”
I hobbled into the hallway to see the farmer, Frank, disappear into the living room. He shouted and screamed as the rats did what they were told. I checked the stairs to see if Jennifer was there. She wasn’t.
I held the doorframe to the living room, and a wave of nausea took hold. Frank wasn’t screaming anymore; I don’t think he could if he wanted to. Blood ran down his chin, and soaked into his dirty shirt. All he could manage was a mournful, uuuuuuhhhh.
He no longer held his hands to his face, they grasped at the air ineffectually. Blood poured down from his eye sockets as rats held onto his face and frantically tried to bury themselves into his skull.
“We have to help him,” I said. Arthur put his hand in front of me.
“He asked for this.”
Frank fell to the floor and began to crawl, began to crawl towards the hearth, the fire inside still roared. In one final push, he plunged his face into the flames. He struggled with himself, with his own sense of survival. His hands turned to fists, his knuckles growing white. Then they relented, and Frank was still. The rats, knowing their job was done, filed out of the room, into the hallway, and presumably to the basement.
“We need to call the police,” I said.
“And say what, exactly?”
“He’s a farmer, they will know he’s missing.”
“He’s not,” Arthur said, relaxed as he walked over to the body, whose head still smouldered in the fire, “he was part of my group. He lives in the fields too. He told me what he was going to do tonight. I told him not to steal from you. That you showed us kindness. When he wasn’t there, I came looking for him.”
He picked up the body with ease.
“I’ll bury him, he’s my burden.”
“This doesn’t feel right,” I said.
“Let me do this, that’s all I ask.”
And with that he left.
I held the door open for him.
“Thank you, Arthur.”
He smiled, but didn’t say a word.
Jennifer was asleep when I returned to the bedroom. I stood at the end of the bed in shock. I saw the open bottle of pills on her side table.
“Jen! Wake up!” I said.
“What’s going on?”
I sighed from relief.
“I thought you had…”
She looked at the bottle and smiled.
“I heard the noises, you said it was the wind. I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep. Is everything okay? What happened to your face?”
“I fell down the basement stairs,” I said, “that’s why I was so long.”
“Oh, my poor man, does it hurt?”
“I’ll be fine.”
She smiled again, and closed her eyes.
I looked out of the window, and saw a figure make his way over the rolling hills and off into the distance.
“Thanks, Arthur,” I said.
“Did you say something?” Jen asked.
“No, everything’s okay.”
It wasn’t, and it never would be again. Though she didn’t need to know.
I asked Jennifer to make some more food for lunch, that I wanted something to eat later. She gave me a look that said she didn’t believe me, but she did it anyway.
In the afternoon, I took the food to Arthur. He was sitting on a log outside his tent, no longer feeling the need to hide.
“Here, I brought you some food.”
“Thank you,” he said, and accepted it.
“You know, you don’t have to leave if you don’t want. Stay as long as you need.”
He opened the foil.
“Chicken, I love chicken.”
He bit down.
“My God, this is good. I wish I could stay and have more of your lovely cooking, but I made a promise.”
“My wife cooked it.”
“Thank her for me.”
“I can’t, she doesn’t know about you.”
“Really? After all the noise?”
“She’s a sound sleeper,” I lied, “But please, stay. You saved my life.”
“I appreciate that, but even someone such as I, has principles.”
“I’ll be bringing you food every day until then.”
“I won’t say no to that.”
“I found a spot he liked, not on your land, so don’t worry.”
An enormous sense of guilt overwhelmed me, sending tears rolling down my cheeks.
“I’d offer you to stay in the house, but I don’t think my wife would be happy with that.”
“I’ve lived outside for thirty years, I don’t think I could live indoors anyway, too restrictive.”
I began to say thank you again, but stopped myself. Instead, I hugged him.
“I’ll bring you some new clothes.”
I counted the days until he was to leave. I brought him a jacket, socks, underwear, and our spare blankets. It was getting cold; I didn’t want him to do without.
On the seventh day, I arrived with a rucksack, filled with food and more clean clothes. I came armed with a question that I hadn’t thought to ask before. How did he get into my basement? The question filled me with fear. I’d been meaning to ask him, but I didn’t want to know the answer. It was the last time I’d have, though, so I was going to.
“Arthur,” I said. His tent was zipped.
I assumed he’d take that with him.
“Arthur, I have some more food and clothes for your journey.”
There was no response. I placed the bag down in front of the tent.
“I’m coming in, if that’s okay?”
It was so cold; I saw my breath freeze in the air in front of me.
The zip opened easily, and I saw Arthur asleep.
He wasn’t sleeping. When I pushed him and tried to wake him, he was stiff.
I found a place I thought he’d like, just by the stream that ran through the forest. It took a while to dig, even though the ground was marshy, it was beginning to freeze.
I packed up his tent, it was in such a state, the groundsheet was ripped through. I felt sad that people had to live like this.
Under the tent was a few slats of wood. I’d take those back to the house and use it on the fire. I’d drink to him when I did that.
I moved them away, and a tingle tickled my spine. Then my already cold skin grew colder. The wood hid a hole. A large hole lined with bricks. I took out my phone and turned on the torch mode. It was like a mineshaft or something. I didn’t want to jump down and check it, I had no idea how safe it was. I pushed the wood back into place and ran to the house.
“Honey, where have you been?”
“Just a minute,” I said, racing past her and into the kitchen.
I opened the basement door, forgetting about the rats, but if they were there, they were silent.
I hadn’t been in the basement before. It was wet, a pool of water gathered in the centre of the stone floor. Damp boxes lined the walls. On the one opposite me was a wooden pallet. I pushed it away to reveal a tunnel. I shuddered. I pushed the pallet back, and piled up all the boxes I could in front of it. I ran up the stairs and closed the door, slotting in the wrought iron lock.
“What’s going on?” Jennifer asked.
“Everything is fine, thought we had a leak.”
“There’s something you aren’t telling me.”
“Really?” I said, waiting for her to ask another question.
“You found my mother’s necklace, didn’t you?”
It sat on the kitchen table.
“I’ve been looking for that all day.”
I drank that day. I drank to forget. I couldn’t deal with it. Why do something today, when you can put it off until tomorrow. Jen was cooking in the kitchen when I heard a scream, then a bang.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, she looked as startled as me when our eyes met. There’s very little point in cursing at a rodent, it means nothing to them.
“I killed a rat,” she said.
“I don’t think you should have done that.”
“Aren’t you proud of me, you know how much I hate rats?”
I heard a scuttling from behind the basement door.
“You’re right, you did well. How about I finish cooking and you sit down and drink some wine?”
“Who are you, and what did you do with my husband?”
I watched as she left, and the sounds from behind the basement door grew.
“Ttsst!” I said, and the sounds stopped.
“Did you say something, honey?”
“No,” I lied.
As I cooked, I make a bit too much, on purpose. I wasn’t cooking for just us anymore.