Julian Drury ~ That Old House

Castor was drinking a PBR on his stoop and watched a calico cat snatch a young rat in its teeth. He sat near the corner of France and Dauphine, and drew a slight interest in this random scene of nature. The cat was hiding underneath a minivan, and waited until the unsuspecting rodent trotted out from a garbage can. Castor couldn’t tell if the rat died quickly, as sometimes cats are known to torture and torment their victims. They are like people, in that sense. Castor hated cats, even though he was not a fan of rats either. Castor disliked animals. He finished his beer, and lit a cigarette with a zippo lighter. The cat vanished with its catch, and to Castor’s left emerged Paw Paw.

Paw Paw was a seventy year old black man, who lived in the Bywater all of his known life. He collected cans for supplemental income, and had been known to fish on the levee. Castor knew what he wanted. Paw Paw gave him a near toothless grin, and said, “What’s goin’ on big man, got any cans for me?”

“Not much,” Castor replied. He then handed him his empty beer can, still cold and dripping from the humidity. “It is Monday, you know,” Castor said. “Garbage collection and all.”

“Yeah, I know. Well, thank ya. I’ll see ya’round.”

“Wait a second.”

“Yeah?”

“You know anything about that house across the street?” Castor said, pointing to the decaying structure passing as a living space across from him. It was a shotgun house, one which seemed to sit alone for a number of years. It was a grimy white, with a crumbling stoop, and boarded up windows with all matter of graffiti on it.

“Oh, that old house?”

“Yeah, what’s up with it?”

“What’cha mean?”

“Why has it been abandoned all this time? I never see anyone come look at the place let alone work on it. Place like that could be fixed up and sold.”

“No, not that place.”

“Why not?”

“Cuz that house has been empty since The Storm, and they ain’t no tellin’ how bad it is.”

“It looks beat up, but a solid crew could fix it up. It seems like a waste to just let it rot there”

“No one gonna go in that place.”

“Don’t tell me it’s haunted. I swear everyone around here thinks they have a ghost in their place.”

“No, ain’t haunted. That’s where all the rats live.”

“Rats?”

“Yeah, that’s where they live. Ain’t nobody gonna go in there and mess with em’.”

“Scared of rats? Those bastards are easy to eradicate. I worked pest control a couple times, only bugs though.”

“Not those rats. The cats won’t go in. If a cat won’t go in, people won’t go in. Them rats is somethin’ else.”

“They’re just fucking rats.”

“No big man. They somethin’ else. Guy I knew used to live ‘round here, homeless man. Ol’ Jarvis. I saw him every day, then one day I stopped seein’ him. Then I found out that he broke into the house, and the police found his body all ripped up. True story, big man.”

“You’re telling me that rats ate your friend?”

“Oh, Jarvis wasn’t my friend. I just saw him every day, dude was a straight crackhead. He should’a known better than to fool around. Everybody gets what’s comin’ to him.”

“Okay.”

“But, yeah man. That old house ain’t nothin’ to fool with.”

“How old is it?”

“Don’t know. It was there when I was your age, forty-five years ago.”

“Who lived there before Katrina?”

“Don’t know. Some people, I guess. Changed a lot.”

“Okay.”

“Well, you take care now, ya hear?”

Castor decided to break into the old house across the street. He felt it was a good place to hide the body. If what Paw Paw said was true, then no one would think to search for a body in there. The body was still warm and would soon begin to stink, Castor thought. It had to be disposed of. It was a shame, though, Castor thought. It was a shame to throw away such a pretty body, which once belonged to a pretty woman. Three in the morning was the right time.

The house, though boarded up, had a loose board on a window near the back. Castor held the body, wrapped in a carpet, over his shoulder. He set it down only briefly to pry the loose window board open. There was no glass behind the board. Castor grabbed hold of the body and pushed it up into the open window. Castor then lit a cigarette. He contemplated trying to place the board back. He decided to leave things as they were, instead.

“Rats are eating good tonight,” Castor said.

When Castor returned to his apartment, he noticed that a rat somehow made its way in. It sat in his leather comfort-seat, chewing away at the leather matting and cushions. It was a fairly large rat, with black greasy fur, and a white tail. The rat had large teeth, and wild ears. The rat turned and looked at Castor, yet did not flee. It had no fear of man. Castor ran at the animal, attempting to stop it with his foot, though he failed in this endeavor. The rat vanished into shadow, it seemed. Castor had no luck in finding the creature, even after an exhaustive search. Castor poured himself three glasses of whiskey, and passed out on his pullout mattress.

His eyes slowly opened, and his ears absorbed the sound which opened them. Castor looked into darkness, and could hear a series of scratching noises all around him. Scattering, seething scratches that were happening everywhere, and somehow nowhere. Castor lifted himself, and could see his front door violently shaking. He heard the scratching on glass. The windows, Castor thought. Could see fleeting shadows outside. A horde was gathering. A mighty horde, which has always bested man, and shall continue to do so until man no longer exists. The horde was swarming, scratching, and chewing their way inside, with black fur and white tails. Their eyes shined in the shade of night.
Castor grinned, and began to laugh.

“Eating good tonight,” he said. “Eating good.”

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