A few weeks later, I came back to school to find that a beautiful candle given to me by my students had been attacked, its translucent wax strewn like rough diamonds all over my table, class records, and chair. They have returned. The War on Terror continues. Only the Saturday before, I had gone to school to work, and that time, all was well on my table with nary a pen or paper clip out of place. But on Monday, those rodents gave me a welcome back to work, a surprise I did not appreciate one bit.
Theories again abound. Remembering how rats are supposedly obsessed with revenge, it dawned on me that they must have known I wrote a vicious piece attacking their characters a few weeks ago! They must have heard my co-teacher and I backbiting them. Or, they could’ve heard me telling the school maintenance staff about the absolute need for their eradication.
No wonder they planted so many poop bombs on the aptly named mouse pad! Then they must have picked up my scent and shimmied up my table like ninjas, breaking and entering into my private property. I know those rodents have extraordinary senses and relatively high IQ, but I didn’t know they could read!
As I complained aloud while cleaning up the mess on my table, a Chinese teacher told me not to mention That Which Should Not Be Named, for it can actually comprehend human language! This brought to mind an incident early this year when my mother saw a small mouse inside our house and screamed, “R-A-T!” She didn’t say “rat,” she spelled it out!
“Why did you have to spell the word out?” I had asked, perplexed. “Are you kidding?!” She responded. “It can understand us. And if it knows we’re talking about it, it’ll come back and terrorize us more!” Then she proceeded to instruct our maid to prepare the traps for the itsy-bitsy mouse.
My mother and the Chinese teacher obviously adhere to the same rat theory. “So, I can’t say rat or daga or ilaga?” I asked. “Yes, the lo-chi (Fukien or Amoy for That Which Should Not Be Named) might be listening,” she answered in Chinese.
“Well,” interjected another Chinese teacher, “what if they understand Chinese? After all they’ve been up above our heads for months now! They must have picked up some phrases here and there.” Then they proceeded to tell me the story of how the Chinese principal’s computer table was nibbled on like Nips by the hairy night prowlers. Oh, how he had bad-mouthed and complained about the lo-chi, and boy, did all the Chinese teachers warn him not to talk against That Which Should Not Be Named lest they return to haunt and create more damage, but did he listen? Oh, noooo!
And what happened? The dirty destroyers did return and decimated the table so much that what was new and shiny looked wretchedly old and damaged.
Of course, this was all said with laughter, but I could sense the fear trembling beneath their voices, and I bet those rodents could do so as well.
There were other victims that week. A teacher forgot to bring home her lunch Tupperware. The next day it had a huge hole the shape of a rat’s grin. Another teacher’s small cabinet (CABINET!) was opened, her soap chewed on. Wow, these rats even brush their teeth after a meal! I’ve complained to everyone, from the janitor to the facilities boss, but to no avail. I am tempted to emerge from mundane obscurity, don my “Dora the Ratkiller” superhero outfit, and wring those little necks myself.
But, but, but! Last night I came face to face with the terrorist, the Osama Bin Laden of our office. And it is huge! Its tail was a foot long. And just the sight of it nimbly scurrying on the air-conditioning pipes made my skin crawl and the hair on my arms stand stiffly.
Oh, please can someone else kill the rats? Pleeeaaase! Please before they start mating and reproducing an entire army of hungry, hairy, nasty baby rats.
My coworkers and I imagine them dancing on our formerly pristine tables. We imagine them waiting for us to leave, plotting how to tunnel their way to our hidden crackers and sweets. We imagine them turning on their Human Translator Device in order to understand human talk. We imagine them knowing somehow that I am writing yet another essay about them and then telepathically causing the computer in the library where I am typing to hang, making the first draft of this piece disappear into oblivion.
Scientists say, and seasoned housewives will agree, that if a nuclear meltdown destroys planet Earth today, the animal most likely to emerge from the smoke and rubble, is the cockroach. Resilient, dirty, and undeniably ugly, this animal can live up to a month without its head. Why is it that it’s the nastiest things that are hardest to get rid off? How many soaps will have to be chewed on, how many holes made, how many tables peed on before I can convince someone to catch the night prowling rodents and blast them to smithereens? What does it take for humans to make a definite stand?
Jocy So-Yeung is a faculty member of the Davao Christian High School. She is a Fellow for Creative Nonfiction at the 2011 Davao Writers Workshop being held on October 11-15 at Lispher Inn, Matina.