A purple haze gathered above, framed by rooftops of factories and receding cloud. The haze turned to violet, then cherry-red, then yellow. Another morning dawned on the warehouse, another day began like many others preceding it.
The regularity of this life in work faltered this day as I wandered half-sleeping across the yard to the main door. There, sitting by a pile of pallets, was a rodent, a rat that would bring such calamity to my morning stay.
At first, I ignored it. It was only a rat after all. For sure, as all such creatures do, it would scurry off when the footprint of man landed in its vicinity. But as I walked the crooked line to the sanctuary of the warehouse, it watched me while I watched it. Two outlawed gunslingers of an old Wild West One Horse Town eyed each other. No words fell on our ears or left our lips, but a solemn oath was sworn, unsaid yet binding all the same. There was a game afoot and one of us would triumph.
While the drivers moved the vans from the security of four walls into the yard to be readied for a day’s toil, I kept watch on the vast chasm of the roller-shutter door. The rat watched it too. With the movement of our beasts of burden, it roamed around the yard avoiding steel-toe-capped feet and expletives, looking for an opportunity, waiting for its moment.
“Look, a rat,” called Dave, one of the drivers.
We moved as one to his position, moved in joint enterprise to trap, but it eluded five grown men and hid under one of the vans. Others searched. Torch-light flashed, as eyes peered. Nothing. It was as though the rat disappeared like a puff of weak smoke on a blustery day. As my colleagues crawled about the yard hunting their quarry, I waited by the door, kept a sentinel watch on the precious place behind me. Broom in hand, nothing got past.
Another driver, Jimmy the Newbie, asked me to get him something buried deep within the warehouse. With no sign of the rat, I felt I could loosen my guard, slacken my watch, and help this colleague in need.
Task done, I returned to the door just as Dave drove his chariot of fire from the yard, leaving the patch of concrete it had covered to be caressed by the ever-lightening sky. And there, mere feet from the gaping hole in the wall, sat the rat.
Quickly, I hauled a barrier or two before its path. Bins and rolls of plastic stretched across the smooth warehouse floor of the shutter’s threshold. I went for my weapon, the broom. The rat saw its chance and charged. A shout went up.
I turned in time to see it, but too late to prevent its egress. The rodent leaped with lithe agility and cleared the impediment. I chased it, swung the broom to catch it. In the peace of a moment, I heard my heavy breath scraping and its tiny claws scampering. My anxious eyes watched it evade my sweep, and twist and turn and vanish under a pallet of bleach, into the warehouse with little chance of detection.
Thus, were the shades of my place of employment polluted, and I defeated in my attempts to prevent invasion. Cometh the moment, cometh the Rat. Till tomorrow, my friend.
Rochester, May 2017
Picture Credit: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/ New York Times/Louise Zergaeng Pomeroy