Anne Marie Kennedy is an award winning writer, performance poet, playwright, freelance journalist, motivational speaker and creative writing teacher.
She lives on a small farm in rural Galway with her husband and a menagerie of four legged people.
Her blog-from-the-bog is at annemariekennedy.ie
The full-grown, plump rat was caught by a back leg and straight meaty tail in the vice jaws of the metal trap.
His head jerked towards me, coal black pupils beseeching, frightened jewels blinking from above the grey-brown, whiskered snout.
My first step should have taken me past the wicker coffee table, step two should have concealed my bare feet behind the turf basket from where I would reach the poker.
I’d do for him if he made for door or chimney, pulling the trap behind him like a pony – but my feet were welded to the floor, soles numb against worn stone tiles, neck sweaty, white cotton nightie fisted in between knees and thighs.
I thought of a good brother, a decent father, the avuncular figures, all the male ameliorating forces of my childhood.
I missed them.
I saw my vulnerable thirty-year-old reflection in the black, rain-pelted window, listened to my sobs rupturing the silence, fully realising the sad reality of my life.
I too had been trapped like the rat, attracted too young to the bait of coupledom.
I had walked up the aisle in a white frock, high heels and frothy tights, knelt at cold marble rails, said ‘I do,’ ‘I will,’ and was bestowed with the religious efficacy of an Irish Catholic ceremony.
I signed my new name under the unbreakable seal, ink-witnessed, registered into officialdom, in a backward culture of judgment, a society that would have no accommodation for a union failed – you had ‘made your bed,’ and said ‘until death do you part.’
Eight years later, I walked, smashed hearts and vows into smithereens and went to live alone in a thatched cottage.
The owners must have known about the rat but they saw the desperation in me: a woman alone except for a dog, two cats, a few red geraniums, hardly any furniture and too many books. I gave them a bank draft for three months’ rent, dated the first of October 1991 and ushered them politely away, needing to wallow with immediacy in hermetic indifference.
The dampness hovered, clung overhead in the yellow-walled box room where I put the Word Processor. Looking out over the half lace curtain into brown fields of rushes, I typed thick chunks of miserable prose, verses about the dark dregs of a relationship, a marriage gone cold, off the boil for years, my untenable hurt and self-delusion. The writing allowed me touch the scabrous parts, lift them, let the wounds heal clean from the inside out.
After a month, I met a kind-faced farmer on the briar-laced, stone-walled lane, told him about the frantic night-scuttling between thatch and rafter.
He came that evening with a trap.
‘Rats are bastards, cunts a yokes,’ he said, reaching into the cab of the tractor.
He had wrapped a piece of hairy bacon around the tongue-like protrusion and showed me how to set and release the spring loaded contraption.
‘Will he be dead?’ I asked.
‘Oh he’ll be dead, for sure and certain, dead as a door nail.’
‘Will it be painful, cruel…?’
‘Ah for the love an honour a God a girleen, cruel is it? To kill a bastard of a rat, a rat that would take the eye out of your head, a rat that would go for your face if you cornered him, rats piss can kill you stone dead, I know all about them, the dirty bastards,’ he spat, ‘put it down tonight and if you happen to hear it close, leave it a few hours, then open the jaws with a spade or a shovel and tip him into the stove when you’ve got a lightning hot fire on.’
I set it on the hearthstone and at four in the morning heard a dull thud and one helpless yelp. The Labrador sank deeper into the warm space I left, the cats were in the front room, the stove was stone-cold.
I pushed the trap gently with the sweeping brush, across the tiled floor, onto the lino in the hall towards the half door.
I decided it was a female.
She was intermittently still.
I had to step over her twice to bring in the spade that lay against the outside wall.
I swept her gently over the door saddle out onto the concrete step.
I closed the latch on the bottom half of the door, leaned out over it, prised the trap’s jaws open with the tip of the spade and released her.
Illustration by Darryl Vance
Darryl Vance is an artist whose work has been featured in exhibitions across North America and Europe for over 30 years. His award-winning design and illustration for film, television, and print continues to this day. A proud supporter of the Oxford comma, Mr. Vance lives and works near Oranmore. Thrill seekers are invited to visit his website, darrylvance.com.