Friday, January 27, 2006

Another tale of scary Iowa

When we were in Des Moines, Greg and I used to volunteer
as literacy tutors at a public housing project. It was a poor
place wedged in between the freeway, the historic district,
and a gargantuan hospital’s parking lot. As far as housing
projects go, it was pretty calm. The buildings looked like
grimy-but-decent townhouses and everyone we met there
was personable and welcoming. We spent a few hours each
week in their community center, helping little kids with their
reading homework and hanging out with the staff. Greg and
I probably got more out of it than the children, but that’s just
the way of lot of these college-student do-gooder programs
are. It was no big deal, but a fine time regardless.

Except for that one night. That night it was raining like crazy
out. We drove there in a blinding gale and got drenched just
running from the parking lot to the front door. There wasn't
much for us to do once we got there, since most of the kids
stayed home. The teacher the school department sent over
was there and we sat in her office talking about the storm and
the projects and what we were going to do with our lives when
we graduated. It was a conversation that petered out quickly,
since Greg and I had no idea what we were going to do with
our lives when we graduated. When it became clear that no
children were going to stop by that night, we said our good-
byes and stepped back out into the rain, which hadn’t let
up a bit.

We went running down a sunken passageway that was flood-
ed almost to our ankles. On one side of it was a retaining wall
that came up to our waists and, as we hurried towards the
outlet to the parking lot, I saw something wet and vile-looking
go trundling the other way. It was a rat. A big, filthy, angry
rat. Greg and I saw it at the same time and, thinking back on
it, it was a good thing the wind was whipping so violently, be-
cause it helped to cover the fact that we both screamed like
twelve-year-old girls at a Clay Aiken concert. The rat reared
up on two feet, glared at us with its evil little eyes, and scamp-
ered off to wherever it was headed. We bolted in the opposite
direction, leapt into the car, locked the doors behind us, and
sat there panting.

“That was a RAT!” I said.

Greg was in the same place emotionally. “Did you see that
RAT?” he asked.

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” I chanted.

“It was a RAT! A RAT!” Greg said, starting up the car, “We’re
getting out of here.”

“That was totally the biggest, most disgusting, most horrible
RAT of all time!” I nearly shouted as we pulled out of the park-
ing lot and back onto the soaking streets.

Greg was nodding as I started to hyperventilate. “Yeah. It was.
It totally was.” he said. He was in a bad state too, but he had to
drive. We couldn’t see five feet in front of us and the roads were
like slippery rivers everywhere.

I couldn’t get over it. I kept babbling about it the whole way
back to our apartment, our warm and safe apartment where
we didn’t have to worry about vermin or anything like that,
anything really awful.