About a week ago, I was sitting at my dining room table when I caught a flash of a brownish-gray creature darting into a crevice in the old brick walls. The dining room is in the “slave quarters” – as people here used to say – right off the patio. I told myself it was an outsider, a patio mouse. But I knew it wasn’t, and so I called the landlady. “Don’t worry, Arthur,” she said. “The bug man is coming this week. We’ll get him.”
Last night we came home to the unmistakably awful smell of a dead rat. Luckily, we didn’t have to search very long for the body. It was peeking through a pile of dirty clothes on the floor of my sons’ bedroom, as if the rat had sought out a warm place in its last moments.
“Lucien, go get that can of Lysol spray in the kitchen,” I barked. “Simon, go get those big tongs by the barbeque grill on the patio.”
Simon came back with the tongs and picked up the rat. We hurried out to the patio. “Throw him over the wall, Simon. Throw him as far as you can!”
This morning we went searching in the middle of Burgundy Street to see how far Simon had thrown the rat, and to make sure it hadn’t landed in someone’s open convertible. As you can see, there wasn't much left.
The rat has been on my mind on and off all day. I had treated him shamefully (double my shame when I consider that my he-rat might have been a she-rat). In subtropical New Orleans, householders are accustomed all manner of small creatures wandering in. And sometimes they die. Palmetto bugs automatically go down the john. A toad, a lizard, a mouse? They get my respect -- into the dust pan, back outside, a quick flip into the banana stalks. Goodbye, little pal. I'm sorry.
Why the difference? In Nature's grand order, are some species just intrinsically loathsome? Or is our species programmed through evolution to react in certain ways to other species? I can't decide. But I'm beginning to think that the Jains in India are possibly the noblest people in the world.