Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cage Cleaning Day

Yesterday was cage cleaning day.

We have five wonderful female rats who live in a large three level cage. Pumpkin, Sadie, Gilda, Daisy, and Piper. They have a plush hanging pirate ship, assorted chewing toys, bridges, hammocks and tons of newspaper to root around in and make a ruckus. Now when I say they make a ruckus I mean a mess. Rats have great personal hygiene. The living quarters suffer. A complete overhaul of the cage is required from time to time.

I prepared myself for a bit of hard work but not the following frustration.

About half way through the procedure, and believe me it is a procedure, Dawn began to mutter to herself. I was in the bathroom scrubbing some part of the cage or other when I heard, “Mike, I need your help.”

“Sure. Be right there. Let me dry my hands.” I turned off the water, grabbed a hand towel and walked to the spare room.

“What’s up?” I asked.

Dawn looked at me with “angry face” and said, “Mike, I’m sick of this vacuum cleaner cord. Look at this!” She held up her arms. Part of the cord was wrapped around her head, neck and chest. The remaining portion tangled itself around the leg of the couch, a box of stuff, and the vacuum cleaner.

“Oh, wow! How did you get it to do that?” I stood wide-eyed in the doorway.

She whipped the free part of the cord like a wild savage and exclaimed, “I’m not trying to rope a f*@ken steer! Why won’t this….gahhhhh! See how it’s all wound around the thing and it won’t….. Gaaaahhhhhh!”

She whipped the cord again. With each flick, it made a snapping sound as she muttered a single word, “I. Hate. This. Cord. Let. Go. Of. The. Box. You. Stupid. Cord!” The plug darted past my head and clipped the ceiling.

“Easy killer!” I shouted and jumped out of the room.  “All I need is one smack from the high-speed plug-end of that sumbitch and we’re getting a d-i-v-o-r-c-e!”

She huffed and stopped.

“Just let me take a look.” I peeked in the room and located the problem. “I can fix it but not if you’re gonna start whipping around like a poop-throwin’ monkey. Be still and let me get it.”

“Just fix it!” She shouted.

With far more effort than necessary, I untangled the cord from the furniture.

“Whew! That thing was a mess. I would have given up right away.” I leaned over, kissed her on the forehead, and unwrapped the remaining cord off her head, neck, and chest. She simply stood there giving me “frustrated annoyed” face.

“Why don’t you let me do the vacuuming, Honey?” I offered.

She dropped the rest of the cord and stepped past me. I scooted the vacuum cleaner out of her way and grabbed the cord. Somehow, during those few short movements, I lost sight of the plug end.

Dawn busied herself with the plush hanging pirate ship. “I think it’s time to clean this thing out. Was it done last week or this week?” She looked at me for an answer but I was not paying attention.

“Mike, look at me and leave the cord alone. When’s the last time the pirate ship was cleaned?”

I looked blankly at her and said, “Yes.” I still could not find the plug end to the damn cord.

“Yes what?”

“What? I don’t know. Who cares? What in blazes is with this thing?” I was marching in place now, with my hands over my head, trying to unscrew myself from the ever-tangling nightmare. Somehow, from the moment she dropped it until the time I bent over to pick it up the damn cord had wound itself around my leg, the vacuum cleaner, rat cage, past my elbow and into a knot.

“Mike quit horsing around! I asked if the pirate ship was cleaned out last week or this week.”

“Yes, I think so.” (Amount of attention paid? Zero.)

I shook my body like a Kodiak fresh out of an Alaskan river and as I did, the cord gently slid off me and into a neat pile around my feet.

“Honey, I think this cord is possessed.” I reached up to scratch my head but Dawn batted my hand down and made me jump. “What? I didn’t do anything I swear it just untangled itself.” I pointed at the coils on the floor and stepped clear of them. Vacuuming could wait until later.

I thought of Vincent, our wonderful 11-year-old son, whom I found wound in the same situation a few weeks ago. I asked him what happened to which he replied, “I was trying to vacuum. But let’s just say mistakes were made and be done with it, O.K., dad?” The poor kid had to battle the vacuum cleaner demon all by himself and survived. I made a mental note to praise him the next time we talked.

I looked at Dawn, “Honey, I think Pumpkin is still in the pirate ship. She thinks it’s playtime. She’s gonna hang on for all she’s worth. Don’t be surprised if you have to clean it with her still in there.” I turned and walked back to the bathroom and as I did, I could hear Dawn grunting, struggling to free Pumpkin from the pirate ship.

I was in the bathroom maybe 30 seconds when Dawn shouted, “Damn it! Mike these rats won’t get out of this pirate ship. It’s as if they are using van der Walls forces to hang on to it or something. Look at them. They’re like geckos.” Dawn teaches science and likes to spring big words and fancy terms on me from time to time.

“What-the-who’s what?” I asked as I returned to the spare room.

“Van der Walls force. Physical chemistry. Forget it. Just help me with this rat.” She jammed her hand in the pirate ship and a little rat head poked out the other end, wiggled its whiskers for a moment then retreated.

“Pumpkin is in the pirate ship raising hell. Oh god, now someone else hopped in because they think it’s play time.” Again, she jammed her hand into the ship and two heads, first Pumpkin, then Gilda, poked their heads out. They wiggled their whiskers, locked eyes with Dawn, made happy squeaks and ducked inside.

“I give up.” Dawn said and extricated herself from the cage. “I can’t get them out of that damn pirate ship. They love that thing!”

“Oh, I just cleaned it a couple days ago. You don’t have to mess with it Princess.” I said.

Her breath caught in her throat. “Go back in the bathroom before you get hurt, Mike. I already asked you that question.”

“Well, watch out for the cord. It’s wound around your ankle again. I’m gonna finish up in the bathroom and then grab some coffee. Just give me a holler if you need help with the vacuuming.”

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