“Do your girls have a pet gerbil ?” it was Ron from next door, Ron the retired policeman, the long-retired policeman still doing his policeman job and keeping the neighbourhood on the straight and narrow, probably just updating his records, “A gerbil” he repeated at my puzzled appearance, “do they have a pet gerbil ?”
When we had moved into the house Ron had leaned over the fence between the two driveways and asked if he could borrow the tube of Evostick that was in the cupboard in my garage, I told him that I didn’t think there was any Evostick in the garage but he insisted that there was and sure enough when I looked he was correct, Ron knew where everything was in my garage which was lucky for me because I didn’t have a clue and would often ask him “Ron have I got any 1 inch 8 woodscrews in my garage?” and he’d tell me exactly where they were and what jar they were in, Ron the long retired policeman knew everything.
“No Ron” I replied, “the girls do not have a pet gerbil”
“Oh” he replied
“Why ?” I asked
“Because there’s one in your garage” he replied
“Let me get my shoes”
I had just finished my Sunday lunch and was about three minutes away from grabbing a coat and some shoes to dash off to that afternoons rugby match and so had no desire at all to embark on a gerbil hunt with Ron, but this I had to see.
“I’ve shut the garage door to stop it getting out” he told me as we walked down the drive
“Oh thanks” I replied with an added dash of sarcasm
I carefully opened the garage door expecting to see nothing.
And there, sitting on its haunches, twitching its whiskers and staring straight at us, right in the middle of the garage floor was a large brown…
“Thats it, right there” said long retired PC Ron, pointing at my newly aquired rat.
“Ron” I replied slowly and patiently, “thats not a gerbil”
“Isn’t it ?” he replied
“No” I replied, “its not, most definitely its not a gerbil, gerbils are much smaller than that”
“Its got a long tail though” he helpfully pointed out
“Yes” I replied, “so do rats”
“Its not a rat is it ?” he said, “it looks tame”
And it did look tame, certainly wasn’t afraid of us, we both stood at the door considerably more frightened of it than it was of us, after all there were only two explanations for the rats indifference to us, it was either tame, or hard, and I didn’t want a fight with a hard rat right at this moment in time, not when I was supposed to be on my way to a rugby match.
“I’m on my way to a rugby match Ron” I told him, “shoo it out of the garage for me will you ?”
“No you’re not” came a voice from behind us, it was my dear wife stood on the back doorstep watching, “get rid of it now”
“Ron, we’re going on a rat hunt” I told him, and he took up a position behind me, nudging me forward.
Its tame I kept telling myself, its a pet rat that has escaped, it won’t mind at all when you pick it up.
On the other hand, I told myself, there’s no harm in taking precautions just in case its a hard rat who is looking forward to the fight and I picked up a bucket, “Go get a biscuit” I told Ron.
He returned seconds later with our biscuit barrel from our kitchen, “Will it like ginger nuts ?” he asked, “I don’t like ginger nuts”
I offered it a ginger nut, crouched lower and shuffled towards it, offering it the ginger nut with one hand, the other raised with the bucket ready for placing over its head while it was distracted by the ginger based confectionary.
It scarpered off to the back of the garage, “It doesn’t like ginger nuts” said Ron with authority, “I didn’t think it would”
“Give me a chocolate one” I said, reaching behind me keeping both eyes on the rat who now stood in the gloom right at the back of the garage, sniffing the air to see what biscuitary delight we would be offering next.
“Theres a choc chip or a chocolate digestive” advised Ron
“Lets try the chocolate digestive then” I told him, reaching backwards for it
He handed me half a chocolate digestive and popped the other half in his own mouth, “No point in wasting half” he explained.
The rat sniffed the air, looked interested and then without warning ran full pelt straight at me, a big smile on its ratty face, it grabbed the half a chocolate digestive in its mouth and sat up on its haunches to nibble at it while I fell over backwards and hoped that I only thought I’d just shit myself and not actually done it for real.
The rat never even noticed when the bucket went over its head and I put a brick on top, “There” I said “now I’m off to the rugby”
“No you’re not” said the voice from the doorway, “get rid of it”
“Get me my car keys Ron” I said with resignation
I slid a board underneath the bucket and then handed the board and bucket combination to Ron, he took it at arms length and stood staring at it in horror, “Don’t leave it with me” he pleaded.
“You’ll have to sit with it on your knees in the car” I replied, shoving him towards my car at the end of the drive.
“Where are we going ?” he asked, walking down the drive like a zombie, a zombie with a rat in a bucket and a plank of wood.
“We’re rehoming the rat” I told him as he sat in the car and I passed the rat in the bucket and plank of wood to him.
I drove us to the golf course close to where we lived and parked against a fence, walked around the car and opened the passenger door, Ron started to get out of the car, “Just thrown the bloody bucket over the fence Ron” I told him.
“You can’t leave the poor thing here”
“Yes I can, I’m late for the rugby now”
“But if its tame it won’t be able to survive on a golf course”
“Yes it will, its a bloody rat”
“But it likes chocolate digestives…”
“Ron, if you like you can take it back home with you, but I’m going to the rugby right now…”
“Well its not right…”
I grabbed the bucket from him and tipped it up into the hedgerow while Ron stayed in the car and shut the door with a hurry
“There” I told him, “it’ll be much happier now”
“I don’t know” he kept saying “it was a tame rat you know, I don’t think it will survive on the golf course…”
“It’ll probably be back in my garage before we get home” I muttered between gritted teeth, “you did shut the garage door didn’t you ?”