I thought maybe I was having Ambien sleepwalking occurrences, even though I don't take Ambien. Then there was the fear all of us over fifty-nine and three quarters have, which would be lapsing into Alzheimer's or dementia-like behaviors. Or was I simply going nuts?
Candy had been disappearing from my living room candy dishes. Okay, I know candy dishes are such Aunt Grandma Over the Hill pitiful tacky things, but I live by myself and enjoy a Hersey's Kiss or two or three while watching House Hunters after my early bird dinner.
Oh God, how did I turn into this person?
Anyway, it took a while for me to realize the candies were vanishing at a greater frequency than I was eating them. I even accused my daughter, Molly, of hiding them in her clean laundry when she left for home after Thanksgiving dinner, to which she said, "Mom, after eating your cooking, it's difficult to think about ingesting just about anything else." I chose to take that as a compliment.
Next, there was that bag of mini Butterfingers I decided I must have thrown away because I didn't particularly like them, their mini-ness somehow diminishing that Butterfingerish delectability. Then I remembered that I don't throw ANYTHING away, much less something at least somewhat Butterfinger-like. Other culprits, besides me, could have been the very nice man who cleans the common areas of my building, or a homeless person with a sweet tooth and a key to my unit, or a serial killer who was entering and exiting through my duct work and absconding with my candy just to toy with me.
It was my friend Abby who first brought up the notion of varmints as her grandmother had recently found a possum slumbering (or was he just playing possum?) on a book shelf in her home office. I had considered either a squirrel or a rat since exterminators had recently been called in by my association because of icky scratching sounds in our communal attic space. However, I'd discounted that thought because there was no evidence of vermin at all. No tiny footprints, no nugget-sized poopish things, no Kiss paper remnants. Nothing turned over, nothing there but my empty, although somewhat dusty, candy dishes. Nothing.
As Molly and I were leaving for Christmas with the rest of the family in Portland, Oregon, I told told her about the strange happenings as we counted the wrapped chocolates one of my students had given me as a gift, candies now sweetly snuggled into my favorite dish. Twenty one, that's how many chocolates I was leaving behind. Just before we walked out the door, Molly picked one up and ate it, telling me the minus one would undoubtedly send me over the edge when I returned in the new year.
It wasn't the minus one that sent me over that craze-o-meter precipice, it was the minus twenty one. When I returned home, dragging my baggage behind me, there the dish sat, empty as my wallet, nothing turned over, no footprints, not even a thank you note. I immediately called Molly since she could corroborate the fact that the candy had been there when we left and that I might not be bonkers. She was genuinely concerned, suggesting an alternate universe or black hole as I checked around, trying to find some semblance of an answer. Since I'd already looked in the obvious locations for evidence of foul play, including all areas of my not-so-clean kitchen, I decided to move my big old sofa away from the wall in an effort to prove or disprove my sanity.
Behind and under my couch, I found a veritable plethora of candy-wrapper detritus and poop nuggets. I also found that the rear dust (and I do mean dust) ruffle had been chewed but not swallowed. I immediately went into panic mode, calling my downstairs neighbor, Susan, to come in and hold the broom in case something scary and terrible (the serial killer perhaps?) ran out as I opened the uncomfortable fold-out bed attached to my sofa. It seems that the uncomfortable fold-out bed attached to my sofa was too unaccommodating for even my uninvited rodent guest since no living thing jumped out at me, demanding, "Where's the chocolate?".
Now, here comes the most important part of the story, the part that may lead you from nuts to rats and then back to nuts. Okay, I stopped putting candy in my dishes and I cleaned up my kitchen. I even looked online for free, easy, and cheap deterrents to vermin visitors, and, under the tutelage of the World Wide Web, put out moth balls and peppermint extract. I even bought some rat poison and stopped up any holes that looked to be rodent-sized.
The most important part of the story isn't that I was sane enough to try to get rid of my rat, it is that I had grown fond of the little bugger. I actually admired him and identified with his little chocolate habit. I considered him to be quite intelligent and discerning. While I didn't anthropomorphize him to the point of calling him Ratatouille or expecting him to whip up a piquant souffle, I thought he had substance and, most definitely, taste. He was what you might call A Good Rat.
There's no ending to this story other than my work friends telling me they were going to have me committed if I mentioned the rat and how I'd grown to like him one more time. I never actually met him in person (or in rat) and I'm just as glad about that. I did hear movements in my bedroom walls for a few days after his last thievery, the cessation of which I hoped indicated he had packed his teeny tiny bags with chocolate morsels and moved on to better digs.
I think I really do need a pet.