Archived Story

No big deal — really

Published 10:00pm Saturday, June 9, 2012

When my wife hurried through the family room, headed for the doors that led to the patio Friday evening, I knew there was trouble.

“Your mom said she just saw a couple of rats down by the lake,” she said without pausing for questions.

In a couple of seconds, she was through the sliding glass doors, headed out the back of the house toward the end of the tiny inlet of Sleepy Lake that has mostly filled in with the eroded silt of our neighborhood during the 34 years our house has been there.

Now, rats aren’t really my thing. Living next to a marsh in Portsmouth some years back, I often encountered them in a ramshackle old garage where we used to store things we’d never want again.

When I say “often,” I mean that I saw them three or four times crawling along the rafters of that building. They were at least four feet long, eyes glowing red like the fires of hell, and I told Annette then that I would be pleased to allow the rats to inhabit that space and take over all that was in it. I’d never need those old golf clubs, anyway.

From then on, any foray into the “rat-house” was preceded by long minutes of stoking up my courage and was followed by many days of stories about my heroic ventures (no more than) three feet into the garage.

But as she hurried past me on Friday, I realized there was no way I could allow Annette to face the Sleepy Lake rats on her own. She’d surely need my cool head and sharp wits if she were to face the vile creatures.

I resolved to myself not to scream like a 12-year-old girl if we saw the rats, and I followed my wife down to the broken-down dock from which I had launched my canoe as a teen, when we still had access to actual water and not the muck of decades worth of eroded soil and storm debris. All the while, I kept myself between her and the house, just in case one of those rats had skirted around the yard and was quietly sneaking up on us from behind.

Someone has to take point in these maneuvers, and I think we all can agree that’s not me. We all have our roles, and mine was to watch our six.

“Look! There it is,” Annette exclaimed, and my legs tensed for a sprint. “It’s a muskrat!”

And then I smoothly stepped in front of my wife, ready to provide the protection that every wife expects from a good husband.

“Awww. Isn’t he cute?” she exclaimed.

And he (or she — I don’t know whether it was Muskrat Susie or Muskrat Sam) really was cute. No seven-inch, disease-dripping teeth; no beady, hate-filled eyes; no plague-ridden fleas ready to pounce on us. Just a little furry, wet adolescent muskrat swimming around in the runoff from a leaking city water line.

“See? No big deal,” I said, turning to my wife.

Seriously, I don’t know what these ladies get all worked up about sometimes.

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