During our first pandemic lockdown, Aphrodite bought the condo on the other side of our common corridor. She was anything but common and worked for a Greek airline as a flight attendant. Aphrodite was in superb shape, and full of surprises.
Christmas Eve arrived a few months later. My wife, Kate, was with her mother 100 miles away and I was alone and lonely in our condo bedroom. As I was nodding off I heard a noise from our kitchen.
The noise grew louder … sounded like a couple of tigers fighting. There are no tigers in our home but there are roof rats, the size of kittens. These roof rats manage to get into our place by gnawing through metal ceiling vents.
I had seen signs of roof rats a few days earlier so I had set a trap on the top shelf of one of the tall kitchen cabinets above the granite countertop.
I stumbled into the living room and could tell that the commotion was coming from the site where I had set the rat trap.
A rat was screaming and thrashing around and then … it stopped. Obviously, the thing had either escaped or the trap had killed it.
I decided to use a step ladder to hop onto the counter, then stand on my tip toes and have a peek at the top shelf inside the tall cabinet.
Halfway up the ladder, I realized I might slip and knock my brains out when I crashed onto the granite floor. In such precarious circumstances, I depend on my Darling Kate to keep an eye on me.
If something went amiss, Kate might get the doctor who lives below us to cauterize my bleeding with a hot branding iron. Note to self: See if Amazon sells branding irons in case any more roof rats invade our condo.
I remembered Aphrodite often stayed up late.
The rat started threshing around again so there was no time for delays — I lurched into the hallway and rang Aphrodite’s doorbell … seconds later she peered around her half-open door and sized me up in my robe.
I flashed our new neighbor a fatherly smile and I told her that there was a giant rat in our home and I was going to dispatch it but I needed someone to keep an eye on me in case I granite crashed.
She regarded me with some skepticism but she sensed I was a guardian, albeit the late hour. Probably she noticed my robe was embroidered with the words: “Protector of women and children.” I was also wearing a black belt that my wife had bought for me on eBay.
Aphrodite followed me in her skimpy negligee into our condo. I noticed she left our front door open.
When we got to the kitchen it was as quiet as heartbreaking.
“Have you been drinking?” she asked.
Fighting exploded within the tall cabinet.
Aphrodite’s eyes grew to the size of Frisbees. “I bet this is some kind of joke. Everyone said you’re into that. You got a wind-up toy in there that flops around?”
“It’s a huge rat,” I said. “I’ll get something to deal with it.”
“How big is it?”
“Ten or 15 pounds,” I said.
“Get a bazooka.”
“This is no joke. I’ll be right back.”
You might wonder what I was after. Well, when folks reach a certain age they need one of these to extend their reach:
Obviously, my weapon to catch the rat would brand me as an old fuddy-duddy who needed a “reaching machine” because he was an advanced arthritic senior citizen.
“I found my wife’s reacher,” I said when I returned to the kitchen. No point explaining that I had been using a reacher for the last decade.
Aphrodite was nowhere to be seen. I was puzzled.
“Up here,” she said. She was standing like a Grecian Goddess on our granite counter. Inches from the tall cabinet. A soft wind floated in through the patio door — it rippled her negligee.
Other men might have been embarrassed or turned on or … leered. I was simply terrified. After all, Aphrodite was in harm’s way … the slightest miscalculation and she could seriously harm herself … and probably sue us into the poorhouse.
“H-how did you get up there?” I asked the creature who seemed to have stepped from the pages of the Iliad.
“Your stepladder.” The moonlight flowed through our large kitchen window and bathed her in mist. “I think you’re clowning around,” she said.
I was staring at a Greek apparition. I had never seen anything so beautiful — let alone on our counter, towering over me in a diaphanous robe. A tantalizing creature — the product of thousands of years of mystical DNA nurtured by the gods themselves.
“There’s no rat. See?” she said and slowly opened the cabinet door.
I didn’t dare to speak. Time froze.
And, then the rat leapt out, springing at Aphrodite’s delicate face —
She instinctively stepped back, dodged the rat strike … and plummeted from the counter.
Her body hurled toward the granite floor.
There was no way I could reach Aphrodite before she smashed into the granite that was a billion years old. Rock that had endured millennia — and in all of those eons had never seen anything like what was happening in our kitchen. Or anyone’s kitchen.
Time thawed and re-froze; Aphrodite twisted in mid-air and flipped her body around “to stick” a perfect landing on the tips of her toes on solid granite. She would have put Rudolf Nureyev to shame for she had executed a mid-air maneuver that would have caused the scouts from Cirque du Soleil to hire her that instant.
She smiled in the moonlight.
“I’m fine. Sorry I didn’t take your giant rat more seriously.”
The ill-fated rodent had perished instantly. That could have been Aphrodite.
“See you tomorrow,” she said.
“Did you ever work for a circus?” I asked as she left.
But Aphrodite was gone. Only the moonlight was left, growing dim behind a cloud.
I buried the rat an hour later under that moonlight and thus ended my most memorable Christmas Eve.
If you run into Kate, please don’t mention any of this. What happened that night was mostly her fault. She’s always warning people to watch out for my teasing. Word gets around….