I opened the trap door and turned on my flashlight, aiming the beam into the
swallowing darkness. A faint dust drifted through the light as I stepped
down the short ladder into the tunnel. The grain elevator had been turned
off and it was quiet. To the right, the chute went upward, to the left, the
conveyor ran a quarter of a mile to the next elevator.
Hunching over I headed down the tunnel, questioning why I had agreed to fix
the grain belt. After shuffling along for several minutes, I found the
problem. A dead rat had jammed one of the rollers, making the belt hitch and
spill grain. Using a wrench as a pry bar, I pushed the dried remains, bones
crunching, out of the roller.
Rats had been a problem, but never had I seen one so big, so solid. A
movement caught the corner of my eye and I turned into the face of a huge
rat. Startled, I smashed my flashlight into the rat face, breaking the lens
and bulb. Plunged into darkness, I heard the skittering sounds of rat feet
and felt something brush by my leg.