So here’s another funny story of an adventure Peter had. The golf balls and exercise ball rolling down the hill was funny enough alone and then adding this adventure reminds me of Peter’s excellent descriptive writing skills and his dedication to chasing a rat or chasing golf balls down a hill.
I am home on the second day of a 4-day encounter with what was probably swine flu. At 10:30 a.m. Kara is at work and it is a nice day outside especially if you have just begun to keep food down. I happen to be on the main floor getting some juice when the phone rings. It is the lovely and talented Kara checking on the patient. Ever happy to talk to her, I begin to relate my relative progress against the latest invader of my body. The back of our house is essentially all windows and glass sliding doors looking out onto a flat space that contains patio furniture, a hot tub and lots of plants. The yard rises sharply up an ivy-covered hill cresting about 30 feet above the level of the house. This level of detail becomes important momentarily.
Talking to Kara I look out into the backyard and see a rat on top of the hot tub eating spilled birdseed. The bird feeders are situated above the hot tub which is stupid, but it gives the birds a flat area upon which to feed. It also gives Dublin Pool and Spa the opportunity to sell me replacement filters on a regular basis. Kara hates rats and it is my job to eradicate them from the area. Kara quickly suggests I shoot the little beast and though depleted of testosterone, there is enough left to stimulate the primordial areas of my brain into action. Woman need protection, Man do job. I hung up and began my deadly pursuit of the 13 ounce rodent. The hunting dog shares my enthusiasm and so we begin the adventure.
We keep a Daisy Model 880 pellet gun near the back door for just such situations. Unfortunately, there are only the aerodynamically deficient BBs instead of the .117 caliber pellets. Pellets do a much better job of dispatching varmints as the fly faster and straighter. No matter, I am on a mission. Pumping the air gun up and loading it, I stealthfully slide open the glass sliding door and the screen door. The rat has its head down engrossed in the bounty of seeds on the cover of the hot tub. There is a plant stem in the way of a clear shot so I must wait for the rat to move a few inches. This is not a problem as I have all day. Finally he wanders into an area where I have a clear shot. Aiming for the shoulder, I carefully squeeze off the shot. As expected there is some curvature as the BB rockets towards the intended victim and hits him the thigh. Not a mortal wound, but it will slow him down. The rat leaps off the back of the hot tub and disappears into the English ivy.
The dog is energized by the sound of the gun and we both tear out the door to finish the job. Did I mention I am in my underwear? Would you expect less from me? Reloading the gun as I approach the hot tub, I jump up on the hot tub cover and slowly inch my way on my stomach to its rear. Leveling the gun as if I am a SWAT team member about to flush a criminal from a closet, I thrust the weapon downward in the direction of the rat. He is nowhere to be seen as the ivy is thick. So now we have a wounded animal in thick cover. Granted this is not a wounded lion or Cape Buffalo in the Serengeti bush, but I am on a roll here.
Let’s recap. There is a pale 275 pound male clad only in his underwear (red) on the top of a hot tub waving a loaded weapon around. There is a hunting dog going nuts at the prospect of a retrieval and he is jumping around like a maniac. There are neighbors around, but they are unseen due to landscaping. The large male is unaware of the neighbors anyway. The only thing lacking is a cop and a breathless cameraman running through the side yard to apprehend the suspect for rebroadcast.
In most people’s lives this scene would end here. The man and dog would assume the rat will perish and they will retreat into the house. The dog will lie down and sleep while the man will retrieve his juice and go back to bed to watch ESPN Classic replaying the 1987 World Series. But you just know that it can’t end here because it has not yet gotten funny and embarrassing. Here we go.
The rat suddenly leaps about a foot into the air over a 10-inch retaining wall and begins to make his way up the ivy-covered hillside. Both the man and dog see this and it triggers a similar pursuit response in both species. There is a difference though: the dog is equipped for the chase and the man is homozygous recessive for common sense. It is not his dominant trait at times like these. It is foolhardy to leap, in just your underwear, off the hot tub onto the untended mess that is the ivy. No matter. I hurl myself onto the hillside, hellbent on finishing the job. The ivy is still damp from the morning dew and I promptly succumb to gravitational forces and am face down in the ivy. I try to stand, but can’t because it is too slippery. So I begin to crawl on my stomach as if I am crawling under barbed-wire under enemy fire on D-Day. The rat is leaping into the air every few feet as he makes his way up the hill. The dog is circling both of us desperately hoping I will give him guidance on how to proceed and barking at each leap of the rat. We proceed to hopscotch our way up the 30-foot hill.
At the top of the hill is a pile of pine branches I should have removed 4 years ago. The rat ducks into the pile while the dog and I crest the hill in very different states. He is excited but not winded with no visible damage. I would expect none since this adventure was solidly in the job description for being a dog. However, large middle-aged men in their underwear, weakened by cancer and the flu, should not be playing Great White Hunter crawling up a slick ivy-covered hill on their knees and elbows. I am breathless, dirty, wet and loving life.
So the only thing to do is wait the rat out. I assume a prone position with the gun aimed at the spot where the rat entered the brush pile. I still have all day and I need to catch my breath anyway. Soon, my breathing is normal and blood begins to flow back into my brain to once again fuel rational thought. I hear a plane overhead and begin to wonder what the pilot sees. Below him a pale man is splayed out on a green background highlighted by red underwear. The man is pointing a gun at an unseen target and appears to be unaware of the plane’s presence. I would assume that this sight is unusual for the pilot, but perhaps I just lack imagination.
Then I begin to recall that one reason for buying this house was the marvelous views to be seen from the hill I have just scaled. When one gazes down the hill, one can see the backs of all the neighbor’s houses including their entire backyards as well as the Livermore, San Ramon and Amador Valleys. The view is great up the hill too as it is an undulating green carpet at this time of year. That is unless perhaps there is a some nearly naked guy with a gun peering down into your kitchen window.
Now I have a problem. Actually now I recognize I have a problem as there have been numerous problems presented thus far. How do I gracefully exit this hill? I do not see anybody in the windows or in the backyards, but this may be due to them being in the phone with the Dublin Police Department in a secure location in their house. The dog is looking at me like I am crazy for having come this far and not finishing the job. His brown eyes are pleading with me to stick it out, be a man and deliver the rodent unto him. Nope, I am done. I roll back down the hill and proceed to abandon all hope of rescuing my tattered masculinity. I slink back into the house, retrieve my juice and head for the showers.