My mother-in-law called me a short while ago, with a tight, constrained voice asking me if I could head over to her house as quickly as possible. Her two small dogs had cornered a rat in her living room, and she was on the verge of freaking out. (my mother-in-law, not the rat).
I got there, and sure enough, there was a big fucking rat, just leaving via the open door. I'm no expert, but it was a healthy adult rattus norvegicus from the blueish/brown blur that I saw, which was definitely about 10 inches of body, and, oooh, 10 more inches of tail. (That's the part that makes my wife shudder.) I found the probable route that it took into the kitchen through a hole in the drywall, and blocked it with something heavy. Unfortunately, they didn't have any steel wool. You gotta go with the steel wool.
Checking on wikipedia later, I was amazed to find out that their little hearts beat 300 to 400 times a minute. I'm thinking this little guy was topping out on the high end on the scale once he realized he had followed some delectable scents until he was smack dab in the middle of a small tiled kitchen with two hyperactive dogs racing in after him. If he followed the path inside that I think he did, the pantry door would have closed behind him just as he made that discovery, forcing some hasty improvisation on his part.
When I got back, my wife tried to convince me, once again, that her family's pathological fear of rodents was actually not a phobia, but are well-founded on a wide variety of historical and scientific facts. Apparently something bad happened to a baby somewhere. Or maybe that was the poor kid in The Jungle. I kind of tuned her out while she was talking about their fat, ugly tails.
This reminds me of the novel I just finished and mostly enjoyed. A terrified, but curious rat plays a key role in the shaggy dog tale at the center of Schrödinger 's Ball, a hard-to-classify comic novel that takes as a starting point of its plot Schrödinger 's semi-dead cat in a box. It is not science fiction, by conventional expectations; but it really only does make sense if you had a technical background, or you're really willing to crank the google while going through it.
It's also a very male novel, in that the women are all beautiful, and described in highly detailed, luscious, panting glory. On the other hand, the men are all male and wear pants or something. Luckily for me, I like male-oriented comic novels about technical subjects, e.g., Cryptonomicon, or hell, anything that Neal Stephenson has ever written. Although Schrödinger 's Ball doesn't measure up to Stephenson, if you like one, I'll lay odds you will like the other.