He was bending over them when a rat leaped out of the dark hole in the 2 center of the stack and sank its teeth into his shirt. Steve cried out in surprise and revulsion and hit himself in the chest with his right fist, breaking its back. The rat began to wriggle and pedal its back legs in the air, squealing through its clenched teeth, trying to bite him.
“Ah, fuck!” Steve scream. “Ah, fuck, you fuck, let go, you little fuck!”
Not so little, though-it was almost the size of a full – grown cat. Steve leaned forward, bowing so his shirt would bell out (he did this without thinking, any more than he was aware he was screaming and cursing), then grabbed the rat’s hairless tail and yanked.
There was a harsh ripping sound as his shirt tore open, and then the rat was doubling over on the lumpy knuckles of its broken spine, trying to bite his hand.
Steve swung it by its tail like a lunatic Tom Sawyer, then let it fly. It zoomed across
the garage, a ratsteroid, and smacked into the wall beyond THE DESERT ROVER. It lay still with its clawed feet sticking up. Steve stood watching it, making sure it wasn’t going to get up and come at him again. He was shuddering all over, and the noise that came out of his mouth made him sound cold – Brr – rrrr – ruhhh.
There was a long, tool-littered table to the right of the door. He snatched up a tire iron, holding it by the pry-bar end, and kicked over the stack of tires. They rolled like tiddlywinks. Two more rats, smaller ones, ran out, but they wanted no part of him; they sprinted, squeaking, toward the shadowy nether regions of the garage.
He couldn’t stand the sick ratblood heat against his skin another second. He tore his shirt the rest of the way open and then pulled it off. He did it one-handed. There was no way he was going to drop the tire iron. You’ll take my tire iron when you pry it from my cold dead fingers, he thought, and laughed. He was still shuddering. He exam-ined his chest carefully, obsessively, for any break in the skin. There was none. “Lucky,” he muttered to himself as he pulled the recapper over to the wall and then hurried to the garage door.
“Lucky, goddam lucky, fucking goddam rat-in-the-box.”
He pushed the button by the door and it began trundling up. He stepped to one side, giving Cynthia room, looking everywhere for rats and spiders and God knew what other nasty surprises. Next to the worktable was a gray me-chanic’s coverall hanging from a nail, and as Cynthia drove the Ryder truck into the garage, engine roaring and lights glaring, Steve began to beat this coverall with the tire iron, working from the legs up like a woman beating a rug, watching to see what might run out of the legs or armholes.
Cynthia killed the truck’s engine and slid down from the driver’s seat. “Whatcha doin.
Why’d you take your shirt off. You’ll catch your death of cold, the tempera ture’s already started to-“
“Rats.” He had reached the top of the coverall without spooking any wildlife; now he started working his way back down again. Better safe than sorry. He kept hearing the sound the rat’s spine had made when it broke, kept feeling the rat’s tail in his fist. Hot, it had been. Hot.
“Rats.” She. looked around, eyes darting.
“And spiders. The spiders are what got the guy in th He was suddenly alone, Cynthia out the open garage door and on the tarmac, standing in the wind and blowing sand with her arms wrapped around her thin shoulders “Spiders, ouug, I hate spiders! Worse’n snakes!