Last night, I went to the McNally Jackson Literary Halloween Party. McNally Jackson, an independent bookstore on Prince Street, used to be McNally Robinson but now it's McNally Jackson. Don't ask me. I just go to events there.
Stuart was signing a graphic novel he'd worked on, but also reading from his new book, which is not only unreleased, it isn't even written yet. This I have to see. But to see it, I was required to first eat a lot of candy and second sit through the Scary Story Slam, which was all over the map from genuinely creepy to WTF, Hello?
"You should tell a story," whispered Stuart.
"I don't have any creepy stories," I said. And then of course I thought of one at the very end after I saw that my creepy story was no less creepy than anyone else's, but it was too late to join the Scary Story Slam. Maybe next year. But I'll tell you now.
The year was 1983. The place: Washington, DC. 930 F Street NW. My sister and I, for reasons I no longer remember because we didn't know much about the UK Subs plus it was a weeknight and I should probably have been more interested in homework at this point, decided to go to the 930 Club to see the UK Subs perform. We walked up to the ticket window to discover that the early show was sold out. But there were still tickets for the later show.
"Should we go then?"
While we were waffling, a quartet of guys walked up. My sister knew them, though I'd never seen them before and no longer remember what they looked like. They asked us a question.
"Hey, you guys wanna go out in the alley and kill some rats?"
I imagine them winking when they said this, because it sounded like a euphemism. I don't know what we expected to find in the alley, but the last thing we expected was that they had been sincere.
In the alley behind the 930 Club (since moved), the guys each picked up bottles. Remember that this was before gentrification altered our urban centers, before cityscapes went from gritty to Gappy.
One guy found a large stick. He picked it up, and used it to poke a pile of trash.
The rats streamed out.
The guys threw bottles. At the rats. My sister and I stared, frozen, mouths open. A single bulb lit the alley, creating dramatic shadows as the rats fled.
We continued to stare as one rat was hit squarely. It wavered, then ran straight at us. Suddenly aware that there was a skanky trashpile rat bearing down on us, my sister and I both leapt into the air.
The rat stopped and died right under us. I still imagine the tangle of our legs as we both instinctively tried NOT to land on the rat, but gravity will not be ignored.
We fell down right on the dead rat.
We both scrambled right up and leapt away from it, staring back in curiosity and surprise.
Ewwwww, I thought. I felt itchy, gross, dirty. I was wearing a vintage plaid blue coat from Village Thrift. I'd never wear it again after that night.
I went straight to the Metro and went home to take a very long, hot shower. I don't know if I explained what had happened to my mother, or thought it best left unmentioned.
My sister shrugged and went to the late show of the UK Subs.