Charlie thinks he is doing his boss a favor when he mentions the sound of scurrying feet above their paneled ceiling.
“I don’t like that. Reminds me of what Johnson, that guy two doors down from us told me last month. He was eating his lunch and suddenly this monster rodent lands in his soup. He lucked out that his bowl of hot liquid got that disease monger good. Ugh.” His boss shivers and continues, “I want you to put some traps up there now. Go to that hardware store a block from us. They should have something appropriate there.”
“Why can’t Ernie do it? He’s the Facilities guy.” Charlie looks around as if Ernie would appear.
“I’ll give you three reasons why . . . first, he’ll take weeks to get to it . . . he’s always got a more serious problem to deal with. Second, he’s afraid of heights so he won’t climb a ladder. That will add even more weeks because he’s going to have to find help; and third, he’s out sick today, so who knows when he’s coming back.”
Charlie regrets speaking up and catching guff from his boss again. As he walks inside the hardware store, he asks the guy behind the counter for help and buys a few mouse traps.
When Charlie returns to the office, his boss tells him he doesn’t want the details. “Just take care of the problem,” he commands.
Charlie places the ladder right under the area where he’s been hearing the muffled sounds. While holding a plastic bag that contains the traps and other supplies, he climbs the ladder and carefully pokes out a tile from the dropped ceiling. He sets the tile aside, along with his bag, inside the plenum space. He uses the flashlight on his smart phone to scan the surface. He can’t see anything over a foot from where he is, although the smell reminds him of sweaty socks.
As he reaches to place the traps in different parts of the ceiling, he hears a scuffling. From where he is, the sound seems heavier than the light scrabbling of mice. The hairs on the back of his neck stand out. His breathing is strained. As he prepares to scramble out of the area, he sees a large rat with red-rimmed eyes suddenly appear before him.
Lo and behold, the rat speaks, “Shh. I’m just bunking here for the week so I don’t have to take guff from my boss. You feel me?”