Actually they are in the cramped ceiling space of our lean-to back kitchen and at night we hear them squabbling and scampering. The pitter patter of their tiny feet makes Jasper and I look up from our books and wince painfully at one another. Neither of us can bear the sound of their scampering little feet. Like the rats in Beatrix Potter’s Roly Poly pudding they have set up home. Sometimes I even think of them in waist coats. Put up more poison, I suggest to Graham. God knows what became of the last square of killer bait that was thrown between the tin and the wooden ceiling. It did not dent their numbers. The unforgettable taint of decomposing rodent did not follow. How welcome the whiff might have been. Just more rustling. Still as dusk comes on their scurrying begins. For surely they have a hostage up there. Like the kitten that Anna Marie and Samuel Whiskers succeeded in capturing, I imagine them with some small morsel, rolling it this way and that across the ceiling boards. My shoulders hunch and I feel the hairs on my neck rise as yet another race goes on above my head.
It is a childhood fear, stemming from the chook house. Opening the lid to the grain bin and reaching in to scoop a tin-full of grain to feed the chooks, I feel the feet on me. Then a flash as something, unseen, but witnessed, zooms up my arm and is gone. I cannot say I saw it even. But it was a rodent. From in the wheat bin it came. Raced up the escape route that was my eight year old skinny brown arm and away. I screamed, girlishly, shrillishly. I jumped in the air.
The dog is no deterrent, not raising his nose even to sniff the air. A cat would do better. At night waiting. Quick to pounce. The dog is too well fed, too full of slumber. The rats too watchful. From where do they come? We are near the port, of course, and then there are the figs and olives in yards. Perhaps as the summer rolls on (after all I can hear cicadas) and the ceiling space becomes an unbearable oven, they will move away. Take their tiny feet, their rolling pin, and go.