The Rat House – a Short Short Story

“It smells every time I walk by. I think that is where the Norway rat in our back yard came from.”

Our dog had recently cornered a huge rat in our backyard. Dash wanted to play and got a striped, bloody gash in his nose for his trouble. It took four whacks with a shovel to kill the rat.

“I can’t smell anything,” I said.

“That proves nothing,” she said.

“A recluse couple lives there. They are estranged from their family and they are both sick. They will die within days of each other.”

My wife Sharon is part Chippewa and I have learned not to question such statements. The Rat House became part of our lexicon, like the Crazies from the sheltered living center up the street who walk around the block with their handlers each night, smoking.

One day an estate sale sign went up in front of the Rat House. Sharon was eager to see inside. Though it was high summer, she wore a zipped jacket and gloves as we wandered through the 1950s brick rambler.

The estate sale company had cleared out most of the trash and tried to set the place in order. The owner had been a retired Boeing engineer, his wife a nurse. They died a few months apart. There was no sign that they had children. It had taken a while to contact the relatives.

Inside was the usual debris pile of period furniture, dollar store dishes and cheap faded paintings. In the corner of the basement was an old yellow sofa. Sharon walked straight to it and lifted the cushion as though she knew what she would find. She was outside on the sidewalk in a heartbeat.

“Rat turds! It was covered in rat turds!”

We walked the short distance to our house. Repulsive or not, nothing would have kept her away from the Rat House or from lifting the yellow sofa cushion.

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