Summer, 1983. When Jim joined the Air Force Reserves and had to report to Phoenix, Arizona one weekend a month, St. John and I decided those weekends would be perfect for writing together. The plan was he’d come to Camarillo, spend Friday and Saturday with the boys and me and we’d write up a storm. When we weren’t writing up a storm, John and I would go to Ryan and Jeff’s baseball games, or to one of my friend’s houses for dinner. Saturday night John and I would go to the movies. By Sunday morning, we’d almost always finish what we set out to accomplish. But not this weekend.

For two days a rat family had set up house in our garage. Jim set traps but the clever rascals didn’t take the bait. Just the thought of a rat gave me goosebumps – those ugly yellow teeth, and long, skinny tails. All the diseases they carry, those rat turds everywhere and the way they frightened me when I switched on a light. To make matters worse, Jim sighted a mouse family in our woodpile. And to make matters doubly worse, Jim was scheduled for Guard duty leaving me with the Rat and Mouse Disaster. Enter John St. John.

I met him at the front door almost in tears.

“What’s going on, Miss Panic?” he said. “You look like we just got another rejection letter.”

“Worse!” I cried. “We’ve got a rat and mice invasion! I’m terrified they’ll all come inside in the middle of the night! We have to do something! You have to do something!”

 He suggested we buy a bunch of traps, set them, and catch rats and mice over the weekend. So off we went to Builder’s Emporium and started by looking at wood traps.

“This looks like a cruel way to die,” I said. “Snap the poor rats head off?”

He looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “Do you want to kill the son-of-a-bitch or keep him for a pet?” he asked. I told him I’d like to find a kinder way to kill the rats and mice.

D-Con and rat bait caused death by internal bleeding. A gadget called “Walk the Plank” would lure the rat onto a board with peanut butter on the end, so when the rat ate the peanut butter the plank would dump the rat into a bucket of water and he’d drown. A rat zapper would ambush the rat into a quick and sudden death. Glue traps would catch the animal in a sticky mess so he’d die struggling to get out. Catch and release meant the rat might come back and I’d have to touch it.

“What the hell do you want me to do?” he asked, raising his voice and putting his hand on his gun. “Stay up all night so I can shoot the son-of-a-bitch?” I asked him to please quiet down.

John bought wood traps and caught three rats. And I learned a lot about catching rats and mice.