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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

The Rat-ure

I generously shared my cold with Andrea at the beginning of vacation. A purely tactical move that forces us both to take it easy.

“Imagine if we had booked some hard core, European vacation?” I ask Andrea one afternoon as we both lounge on the couch reading books.


Me neither. We spend the week watching ghost crabs skitter about the beach, flinging sand from the holes they are burrowing. Andrea shrieks as one crab runs himself into the ocean and promptly drowns. It seemed like it was a suicide mission to avoid being picked off by a sea gull. Not sure why he didn’t head for his hole but he didn’t. Straight into the water - like Virginia Woolf minus rocks in his pocket.

I read three books and begin a fourth and it feels like that’s more than I’ve read in the past year and a half. Andrea commits to a tome by J.K. Rowling written under her pen name of Robert Galbraith. It takes her the entire week to read it.

“I know we’re not supposed to like J.K. Rowling. She’s transphobic. Trans women are women too.” Andrea says, looking up from her book. Then adds, “Who would actually want to be a woman?! Can you imagine?”

(Note: we understand and believe that if you’re a trans woman, this isn’t a “choice” for you. But you have our sympathies none the less because whoa).

“Yeah - you sign up to get paid less.”

“Yeah - you get fucked in so many ways.” Andrea sighs. Not untrue.

I’d booked this trip back in January when the winter doldrums were kicking in. We hadn’t known we would have recently moved closer to the beach. Norfolk is probably an hour and a half away from our home in Richmond - longer with summer beach traffic. It’s near Norfolk Naval base and Fort Story. One Airbnb reviewer complained of the “constant” military helicopter air traffic - which is not constant and reminds me of the years I spent stationed at Fort Rucker. The area isn’t very touristy which means the beach is not crowded. People aren’t fussy. They bring their dogs on the beach. We bring Wrigley and Georgie and Wrigley rolls in the seaweed that washed up on the beach. Georgie turns out to be an impressive swimmer. We’re staying on the bay side which means we’re less likely to be swept out to sea and drown. Everyone smells - minus Andrea. My hair is like straw from the salt and sun. I don a ball cap over the entire mess of it.

I always pack a week worth of clothing for a beach vacation and then end up wearing 3 things. Andrea packs a week of clothing and seems to make her way through all that she’s packed. I guess she’s more hygienic on vacation. Last night, as we crawl into bed, I unwrap a cough drop and shove the wrapper under my pillow. Andrea gapes.


“I knew you had hovel at home, but vacation?”

“Yeah. I suddenly get tidy on vacation. Don’t worry. I’ll clear the wrappers out in the morning.” And I do, along with the sand we’ve tracked into and throughout the house. As we leave, I book a return visit to the beach MLK weekend. We usually take a long weekend in the winter. We didn’t this year and the wheels fell off the bus in spectacular fashion. A mistake we won’t repeat.

Before we’d left off vacation, Andrea, who’s VERY safety conscious, tucked cameras everywhere. This is mainly so we could watch our cats but only Bogart complied. He’d stare down the camera. This morning, I’d noticed that the garage camera had gone off. Our garage is at the rear of our yard. It, the garage, backs to an alley. Not a real alley - more like a gravel pass through. I view the tape and my eyes bulge. What the fuck was that? Is there a cat trapped in our garage?! I watch again and then make my way through the other various clips.

“Andrea - there is a RAT! In our garage. Look at the video!” I say.

“Oh yeah. Huh. Like Templeton.”

“Jesus. The city. Rats!”

“Well. Which is worse? A rat or a bear?” Andrea posits.

I give this some real thought but let me tell you - we never had a bear in our garage. We’re headed back now - to the city. The rat. Our cats. Home.

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