The rat, unfortunately, was not just my imagination. The rat was real. After calling Dan with the bad news, we had a mournful dinner at a fast-food restaurant and then headed towards the one place I could imagine feeling safe: home, in bed, with the covers pulled over my head.
I will never know if I would have avoided the full-bore void if there hadn’t been a rat waiting for us at home. But there was. The evidence was irrefutable: an unopened bag of dog food with a hole chewed into the side and shreds of paper all over the kitchen. It felt like a violation of unbearably rude proportions.
We cleaned up, and, exhausted, I slammed shut the bedroom door tight in an act of defiant denial. Just go to sleep. In the morning, things would look brighter. Then Dan saw it. Closing up the house for the night, he had nearly tripped over the brown blur as it ran from kitchen to living room.
Just yesterday, there would have been no question: we would have gone to a hotel and called the exterminator. But we were no longer in a position to shell out real money when gritting our teeth through the night and buying a $5 trap in the morning would do the trick.
Forget the housecleaner and the gardener, while we were at it. And at the end of the month, how could we afford to pay for health care? How long would our savings last? Would we have to rent out rooms to make our payments? And who would rent a room in a house that had a RAT in it? I’m pretty sure that at least one loving voice, the one who had been coached on and off for years, was trying to get through to me, to remind me that this was unhealthy magical thinking, and that sometimes, a rat is only a rat.
But I knew better. One firing. One rat. Either alone could just be bad luck. But a firing and a rat simultaneously: this was a Message.
Not everything that happens is a message. Sometimes a rat is only a rat.
Chapter 19 from The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul by Carol Orsborn
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