For all things Tooks, and some things, er, relating to other people. As well as to other things. You get the picture.

30 June 2004


i have this fascination with the orkin man.

his name is tommy*.

it borders on the pathological, my fascination. it might be a disease. it might be an illness.

he comes to my place of work every third thursday. or wednesday. it might be wednesday. i'm not sure.

tommy checks the glue tunnels we have set. the idea is, rats like dark, enclosed spaces. so they scoot into these tunnels, get stuck, and eventually starve to death.

tommy told me, "call me if you notice any rats in the traps, and i'll come as soon as i can." how do you know when you've caught rats in the traps, i asked him. "it'll start to stink," he told me. "or sometimes you'll hear them screaming."

what if they're still alive, i asked. what should i do with them? tommy shrugged. "most people just throw them in the garbage," he said. "if you don't want to deal with them, i'll take care of it."

tommy's not too tall, and he's got a babyface. he doesn't say much, and what he says, he says simply.

the thing is, i can't help but ask tommy all manner of horrible, macabre questions about the agony of dying rats. i can tell tommy would rather not discuss the details, since he never voluntarily regales me with stories of particularly gruesome or bizarrely amusing rodent-terminating episodes. he responds politely and honestly, though with a tinge of embarrasment, when i press him for precise information. his reticence seems to imply that my prurient interest is a faux-pas in extermination etiquette, a breach in the unspoken pact between those who slaughter small, furry creatures and those in whose name this slaughter is performed. but tommy's game.

a few weeks after he set the traps, the place started to stink. i called jimmy, and he came right out. how'd it go, i asked him when he returned from the site. he was dripping sweat, and his hair clung to his temples in damp, matted clumps. the site is not air conditioned. "i took out eight rats," he replied. "mostly adolescents." wow. eight rats. i thought about that for a bit. were they dead? i finally asked him. most of them were, he said, "but one died when it saw me. from fear, right before my eyes." wow, i said. it was all i could say. tommy nodded, and had me sign the receipt.

mr. torres said of tommy, "es muy joven, pero es muy mataratas." he's very young, but he's a heck of a rat-killer.

sometimes rat poop falls from the ceiling tiles where the traps are set, onto tommy's head. sometimes it falls onto his face. his shirt is usually flecked with it when he comes back from the site.

last week when he came out, tommy was whistling. maybe because it was friday, or maybe he won some money on a two-dollar scratch ticket. either way, he was a very happy guy. either way, he strolled around like he owned the place, commenting on the job the maintenance crew had done sealing some holes in the wall ("it doesn't look like much, but it just might do the job") and referring to everything as a "bad boy" ("after we seal that bad boy up," he said, nodding to a smallish, ragged hole in a corner of the room, "they won't be coming in here.")

for once, i felt really happy for tommy. he was strutting like i wanted him to strut--like he was the man, the mataratas, the joyful keeper of knowledge of the killing of rats, the man who massacres small, filthy, pitiful brutes and smiles afterwards.

feel sorry for the rats, but love the man, with me,

*tommy's name has been changed to protect his identity.


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