In all the years hearing my father recite the ushpizin - invitation of important guests into the succa - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David - never did I hear of Mickey, Minnie or Jerry getting an invite. But that's exactly who seems to be in no hurry to leave my "luxury" apartment just steps away from the prime minister's future home on what's said to be one of Jerusalem's "best" blocks. When I bought the place a year ago, fresh off the boat as they say, I even recall the attorney I used as a notary warning me to be careful of "gold diggers" - given the apartment's prime location. First let them come, then I'll worry about whether or not they're digging for gold, I thought at the time. Never did I think the only burrowing that would take place would be in the closet behind my washing machine. Rats, I guess, were a subject he figured I was familiar with - being single - and I didn't need any cautioning. The story begins erev Rosh Hashana, having just returned from three weeks in the States - my first trip back since my aliya 15 months ago. It was not an easy return, but I was still happy to be getting back to "normal." My welcoming committee was another matter. Shlepping the first of my overweight bags into the courtyard and then down the steps to my apartment, I realized it wasn't my back going out that I should be afraid of but rather the dead rat at the bottom of the stairs right outside my front door. First thought: "It's not real. It's just some cat's toy." Second thought, after having just read that Ehud Olmert's approval rating was at something like 7 percent: "Olmert's place is a few doors down," assuming someone wanted to send him a message and mistook my hovel for his palace. Freaked out but with no choice but to deal with it, I quickly shoveled him up and threw him into the dumpster. A neighbor saw me and asked if I was OK. Upon hearing the story, she said, "At least it was dead. I had two live ones in my house." Now, there was something to look forward to - I just didn't realize how soon I'd have the pleasure. Still, as I recounted the story to friends, the "Be happy it was dead and outside" theme played over and over with one friend saying that she, too, had had one in her apartment. How did she find it? One night her dishwasher flooded the place and the technician who came to fix it told her something had eaten through the hose in the back. Exterminator and trap later, her rat was gone. But that wouldn't happen to me - I was "lucky," remember? My rat was dead - and outside. So, last Friday when my washing machine flooded the place, I didn't think "rat," I thought "Great, I've got no money and have to call a repairman." But by Saturday night when I returned home from a visit to family, the pieces had started to fall into place ... leaking washing machine and the realization that those little black things on the floor that I hadn't looked at very closely weren't just "something I was dragging in on my shoes." Still, even as I started to float the idea to friends and family, I really thought I was just being dramatic - how could I not hear or see anything? Even Ruthie, whose rat ate her dishwasher, said it was probably just a shekel caught in the washing machine's filter that had caused my flood. And when I told Steve, on Sunday, that he should be happy I didn't call him at midnight because I thought I had a rat and asked Aryeh on Monday if he wanted to pay off his bet for the Yankees losing the playoff series to the Tigers by coming to catch a rat, I didn't really believe it - or maybe just didn't want to. But reality hit about an hour later as I stumbled home. I should have sensed what was about to take place - instead of running away as they usually do when people approach, one of the neighborhood stray cats followed me down the stairs and just sat waiting, somehow knowing she might be needed. Nevertheless, I shut the door and started my nightly routine of walking in the door and falling into bed, but two little black things on the bathroom floor caught my eye and there was no more pretending - I had company! I called my friend Faye, whose husband, Jeff, was going to come by and check out the washing machine for me - I told her I was sure there was a rat inside the house this time as I walked a patrol. No, I hadn't checked the hose to see if it was OK and so the consensus was that I was freaking out for nothing. They would come by, she said, but it would be a while. The least I can do, I thought, is take the laundry supplies off the top of the dryer so Jeff can have a look. It was at that moment my guest chose to show himself. As I reached for the Bounce sheets, a massive blob of brown fur with a long tail scurried to I don't know where. I didn't even close the door; I just jumped back, ran into my room and slammed the door, leaving myself with a limited supply of phone numbers and my guest with the run of the house. No number for an exterminator, I quickly went through the list of numbers I did have seeking help. "Sorry, I'm in Tel Aviv. Besides, I'm probably more afraid of it than you are." Thanks a lot, bro. Finally, after a friend provided some phone numbers for exterminators, I started the unpleasant task of trying to find someone willing to come out after 10 p.m. in the middle of a holiday. Of course, no answers - except for Ariel, but he's "not in the city right now." That's fine, I thought since in my near hysteria I believed he was trying to tell me he was at another job and just couldn't get to me very quickly. It took me a while to figure out that the reason he couldn't get to me until late afternoon Tuesday was that he was away on vacation. So, the panicked call went out to Steve who, of course, didn't answer. "Where are you? It's here, I saw it, it's in my house," were the hysterical screams left on his voicemail. Soon after, he arrived with his friend Ron - a rat "expert" he assured me. Just as nothing hurts when you finally get to the doctor, my guest was nowhere to be seen and they eventually left empty-handed. Faye offers to let me sleep over, but now, I say, the rat will win. So I hunker down in my bedroom, hoping that now that I know Mickey's on the premises I still won't hear him. When nature calls at 4 a.m., I crack my door to see if the coast is clear and make a mad dash for the bathroom. Thanks to my lazy kablan and lack of funds to pay someone else to do work I've already paid for, the facilities remain doorless one year later, so I expect my house guest to join me any minute. After scurrying back to my room and waiting out the rest of the night in relative safety, when day breaks I must venture out again. So fixated am I on the now closed closet door to make sure my friend doesn't decide to make a move while I'm in the vicinity, I smack my foot right into the door that's supposed to be hanging in the bathroom. Now, I'm sitting with a couple of, I'm sure, broken toes, and am totally unable to make a run for it should Mickey emerge. Hobbling through what I had hoped would be a quicker-than-usual morning routine, I finally leave my house guest to enjoy what I hope will be his last day before meeting his maker. For even if Ariel, the exterminator, is unable to trap him, I go to "Plan B" where I round up a handful of those stray cats, throw them into the closet with the rat and lock the door. May the best pest win.

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