Hill Rats v. Hill Rats
The year of the rat has come a year early, at least on Capitol Hill.
While the year of the rat, according to the Chinese zodiac calendar, is not scheduled to occur until 2008 - rats are swarming certain neighborhoods on Capitol Hill. The infestation seems to have grown worse since the fire last month that burned down Washington's historic Eastern Market. Apparently, the inferno displaced legions of rodents from their cozy habitat inside the old walls of the Eastern Market building and sent them scampering up and down the streets of Capitol Hill. (As if it needed more rats!)
Thus, congressional aides who thought they'd have an easy week this Memorial Day recess drinking beer, flipping burgers and trimming the hedges are instead battling football-sized rats in their yards.
Take Gregory Keeley, an aide to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), for example. Keeley sent out an email to friends and colleagues Friday with a link to this local Fox TV news story featuring him as a vigilante rat slayer. In his email, Keeley called it "the TV news story of the year....it's about rats."
Later, he told us that he and his wife, Katie Kane Keeley, are thinking of "naming the rats, or maybe numbering them would be more practical - as we would quickly run out of names - to try and keep track."
At least he has his cat Rummy (who, yes, was named for the former defense secretary) to help out. Let's just hope Rummy the feline has more success chasing rats than Rummy the SecDef did catching insurgents in Iraq.
And it's not like Keeley is a wimp or anything. A broad-shouldered Australian with permanent U.S. residency - he's scheduled to become a U.S. citizen on Jan. 8, 2008 - Keeley served in Iraq with the Australian Navy.
Even after all that, battling the rats is really getting to him.
"Given the calls to the city have gone unheeded, I am thinking about taking a leaf from the late great fellow Aussie Steve Irwin's playbook - tackling the monster rats whilst exclaiming, 'Crikey! It's a big one!" Keely says. "Beats poking them with a broom handle."
Keeley and his neighbors have asked the city to step up its rat abatement program. "Mayor Fenty seriously needs to stand up and say 'the rat stops here,'" Keeley says.
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