Will Palmer ‘21
Brutus and I, having survived our first few months living together at college, moved to the D.C. suburbs for the summer. I grew up in the area, but staying at my parents’ house was out of the question––my father made it very clear that “The Vermin” was not welcome in his establishment. Thus, I rented an apartment close to my work, smuggled Brutus inside under a sheet, and continued to make poor life decisions. One day in late July serves to indicate the character of our lives during those months.
I woke up at around two in the afternoon. The inside of my head felt like Dresden circa February 1945 and Brutus was sitting on my chest, holding a mirror up to my nostrils (presumably to check for breathing). He seemed mildly disappointed at the results but made no move to leave. I heard a dull metallic noise emanating from outside. Thwang…thwang…thwang. “Ugh.” I sat up, boosted Brutus onto my shoulder, and staggered to the bathroom. Barry, one of my friends from home, was slumped over next to the toilet, sleeping peacefully in a pile of Cheetos bags and crushed Lime-a-Rita cans. I gave him a rousing kick in the ribs while I shoveled Advil into my face, then wandered out to the living room. It appeared that the Tunguska explosion had been recreated at a slightly smaller scale within my apartment; my friend Luke was seated, bodhisattva-like, at the center of the wreckage, a trifecta of hookahs aligned on the table in front of him. I rubbed at my temples. “Where’s Derek?”
Luke gestured towards the terrace and I glanced through the sliding-glass doors to the source of the noise. Derek was out on the balcony in a bathrobe, firing a paintball gun at cars in the parking lot across the street and hawking dip spit into a bucket full of cigarette butts and Bud Light cans. I sighed, took a hit off the middle hookah and coughed up approximately three lungs. “Christ Jesus man, what flavor is that?”
Luke looked at me reproachfully. “Don’t take the lord’s name in vain, bro. It’s Gummi Bear flavored.”
“Are you goddamn serious? I don’t-” The faint sound of shattering glass interrupted my rebuttal. Derek hurried inside, shutting the door and pulling the blinds closed before he slid the paintball gun behind the couch. I continued in a hiss, “When I’m abusing my lungs with tobacco products I want to know it! You don’t see me walking around hitting fruity flavored vape pens, do you?”
Brutus slithered off my shoulder and onto the table, padding between the hookahs before hopping onto the floor and disappearing into the kitchen.
My phone rang. I groaned and accepted the call. “Hey, what’s up, Maddie?”
Maddie was displeased with me. “What’s up is that your goddamned rat tried to kill me with a hairdryer while I was in the shower last night!”
“Wait, why were you showering here?” I replied. “You know my bathroom is mad gross. This place is a hive of scum and villainy.” (For the record, my current domicile is quite clean. Just saying.)
“My water was out. We talked about this. You guys couldn’t have had all those Lime-a-Ritas––oh, my god, you did.”
From the kitchen, Barry called out, “Bro, who put all this broken glass in the garbage disposal? Oh, shit.”
Luke, Derek and I simultaneously responded, “What is it?”
“Uh. Brutus is, uh, in the wall.” Barry shot back.
“Maddie, I gotta let you go, Brutus is in the wall.” I said.
“He’s in the what? Leave him! He tried to electrocute me!” she fumed.
“Yeah, he does that sometimes. Especially when people call him a rat. I’ll have a talk with him if-slash-when we get him out...” I hung up and jogged over to the kitchen.
“Well,” said Barry, “the little bastard got under the cabinets here,” he gestured beside the fridge, “…and now he’s there.” A loud gnawing noise echoed out of the wall.
After mulling it over, I decided that the best way to lure the little guy out would be by playing Peruvian pan flute music at a high volume and hoping that he heeded the call of his species’ homeland. Unfortunately, he is from New Jersey, and there’s not a lot of overlap there. He remained in the wall, merrily chewing away at what I assume were key structural supports for half an hour, before wriggling out from underneath the cabinet and hopping back to the couch like nothing had happened. I regarded him sternly and said, “Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you weren’t cute as hell?”
He cocked his head and looked back at me for a moment, then leaned down and started chewing the power button off the TV remote.