Somebody asked what the weirdest thing was that ever happened at Skylighter.
This story is the absolute truth…but I know you still won’t believe it!
[this is long--sorry. don't read it if you hate really weird pyro stories--part 1 today, part 2 tomorrow. Be sure to read both.]
Long ago in a Skylighter far, far back in time, when I was but a wee pyro huckster pup, we carried all kindsa exotic organic gums for binders.
Well, a guy named “Edgar” called one day and asked if we had any benzoin gum. I had never even heard of benzoin gum and told him so. He lived nearby in the next-door county and wanted to come out and chat anyway.
He really wanted that benzoin, and a lot of it. And two powerful conditions converged right here at Toxic Central–I was broke and Edgar wanted to spend a pile of cash.
So, I humored him.
Edgar was pushy, and I was curious, so I told him how to get here. He was an odd sort of fellow, kinda of short and dumpy (think Danny Devito, but smooshed shorter). New Joisy accent, friendly, and secretive about what he wanted the benzoin for (I later found out it was used in the incense he was selling to a big high end grocery chain. The stuff smells like vanilla ice cream.)
Edgar had searched high and low for a steady supplier of benzoin gum. He needed something like 14,000 lbs. of the stuff every 6 months.
Long story short, my searching ended up in what I would call the seedy underbelly of far eastern chemical peddlers. I won’t say any more than that about them here.
And that’s how this all came to happen, and I will never forget it as long as I live.
After days and days of phone and emails back and forth, I finally hooked up with a middleman guy I’m gonna call Hu Yu Hai Ding (name changed to protect my person!). I found him through an ex- military spook I know who used to work in a certain dicey part of Southeast Asia. Hu’s “day job,” I was told, was helping fugitives escape from Asian Triads and narco lords.
Stay with me. It just gets weirder.
Anyway, Hu came reliably recommended, and was one of those guys who knew everybody. And if you think I am a shameless huckster, Hu makes me look like a 1st grader!
Hu told me that he had helped a woman “disappear” into New Guinea, where she had changed her name and ended up owning some sort of an unlicensed chemical supply company specializing in all kinds of surplus (some shady) chemicals. Governments are not that tight about such things in places like New Guinea.
Hu hooked us up, and she faxed me an amazing list of stuff that would make any fireworker sit up and bark–loud! When I read it, I just went giggly and all pointy-like. Over countless emails we started to put together a tentative order of various stuff. Including of course, plenty of benzoin gum for Edgar.
Well, I was about to leave for China on a buying trip. So I decided to dogleg to Port Moresby on my way back home from China. I could meet with her and see if she was real and look at her inventory to see if it was junk or not. At the prices she was asking, I was VERY skeptical, bleeve you me.
3 weeks later, she picks me up at Jacksons Airport outside of “Pot Mosbi.” She was probably Thai or maybe Burmese, and about 60-ish I’d guess. Wrinkly, weathered face, with a huge gap between her betel-nut-stained front teeth. And a heart-melting smile.
I loved her immediately. What was funny was that the gap in her teeth made her kinda hiss whenever she spoke most “S” words. I’ll never forget how movie-comical her manner of speech was.
She’s still in business out there today, by the way, tho Edgar made an untimely exit, which I will tell you about tomorrow. She must be 80 now, and of course I won’t mention her name either.
She always addressed me “Missshtah Hoddy.” Spoken like you were going swishhhh down a ski slope, with a little pause after the first syllable. Missshhh…tah… kinda like that. Anyway…
“Ssssso, Missshtah Hoddy, you have come to me to find the magic benssssin gum, yesssss?” First I had heard of it being magic…
“I do have some very old, benssssin gum, not like you sssssee any more. Not from here. From Sssssumatra. Very old, very good quality. And I make you very good pricccce for it. But you mussst do ssssssomething for me in return for good pricccce,” she ssssaid as she gave her best attempt at a seductive smile.
Uh oh… here it comes…
“If you will let me include a ssssmall package in the container and ssssend it to my ssssisshter in Baltimore after you recccceive the sssshipment, I would be mossst happy.”
Back home we call that “smuggling.” Damn. I knew it was all too good to be true.
“What sort of package?” I asked.
“Actually he issss jusssst my little pet rat, Reggie. He isss jussst baby and he isss gift to my ssssissster.”
I told you it was weird, didn’t I?
Now look at it my way: I would be getting a mix of chemicals worth about $250,000 retail value for $17,000 + shipping. And her sister in Baltimore is only about an hour away from Toxic Central. I could just drive little Reggie over and be back home in a couple of hours. What the hell? What possible harm could it be? It’s not like she’s asking me to smuggle heroin or something.
“Why not?” I said.
18 years ago, I was young, stupid, and willing to do some things then that I never would today… ESPECIALLY not ever bringing in a New Guinea rat again!
When we finally got to her warehouse it was a flat-out orgasm for me. She had been buying up surplus military pyro chemicals, organic dyes and other stuff used in textile manufacture, and she had lot of expensive metal powders that she had gotten in Japan. And most of her stuff was in plenty good enough shape for pyros like you and me. She really knew her stuff. And I absolutely knew she was honest.
So, by the end of 3 days, I had ordered a 40-foot cargo container full of about 25 different chemicals at prices I have never seen before or since. She told me that Reggie would be fine for 45 days or so in his little “home away from home” in the container, and that I should look for him to be packed near the benzoin gum.
We agreed on payment and delivery details, and I left for home via Manila.
And she got my container packed, with little Reggie aboard, and on its way 5 days later.
Little did I know what would happen after it arrived 4 weeks later.
After my 20-hour trip home from Asia, the hectic days at Skylighter resumed, and I quickly forgot about Reggie and the old gal in New Guinea.
But sooner than I expected, the cargo container of chemicals showed up, and my warehouse crew spent the day unloading all the drums and a few crates of small stuff. Even Irv Snerd pitched in to help (bleeve me, those days are long gone!)
Snerd set the conveyor up and moved all the heavy wooden crates up into the second floor storage area (we call it the “attic”). His job was to unload them and get a count on the contents in each of ‘em.
At some point, I went up to check on his progress. Which was when I noticed the enormous, ragged hole in the side of one of the unopened crates.
Damn, I had totally forgotten about Reggie!
“Did you see Reggie when you unloaded the container?” I asked Snerd.
“No boss, nothing but chemicals. Who or what is Reggie,” Irv answered.
All of a sudden, I was wondering that myself.
At this point I began to panic. What the hell had I gotten into? That hole in the crate was about 10 inches in diameter, a LOT bigger than anything I had ever seen a rat make.
I started downstairs to see if anybody else in the crew had seen Reggie when we unloaded the container. As I walked down the stairs and got at about eye-level with the upstairs floor, I looked up.
Which was when I came nose to snout with… RATZILLA!
“Little pet rat” Reggie was absolutely HUGE. I’m gonna say 20 lbs. at least, and about nearly 3 feet long nose to tail tip. His fur was mangy and filthy. And he had evil yellow eyes and 3-inch yellow-spikey fangs sticking out through his bloody lips.
I had never before seen any animal like this before (or since)!
He looked straight at me from about a foot away, and screamed a kind of shrill “EEEEEEE” and lunged straight at my throat!
They say that in every man there’s a built-in instant reflex towards fight or flight…
They got that right! I took the rest of the stairs down in a single leap. I ran like hell and didn’t stop until I was 50 feet away from the building!
I yelled at everybody else to get the hell out of the warehouse. They poured into the parking lot asking me what was going on.
I was shook, and really, really rattled. I told them what had happened, which Snerd confirmed, as he had been only 30 feet away when the vile “little pet rat” had attacked me.
I had to do something, but I was really getting more scared by the moment.
On one hand that animal was a danger and had to be killed or caught. On the other, I did not dare call Animal Control for help–and get accused of bringing some foreign predatory species into the country illegally. My pea brain finally clicked on a plan, and I told everybody to stay out of the building while I drove home as fast as I could.
Fight fire with fire.
What better way to take care of the Reggie the Rat problem than with the nastiest example of a rat’s sworn natural enemy–a feral furline that lives in the woods on my property!?
That cat probly ran 25 pounds and has terrorized the properties around me for the past 10 years. Although he started life as “Fluffy” when he was a pet, my neighbors nicknamed him “Kong” after he was abandoned by his owner when he moved away.
Fluffy patrolled the neighborhood impregnating momma cats and just absolutely wiping out other would-be suitors.
I figured if I could install Fluffy at the warehouse, nature would take its course and my Ratzilla problem would be taken care of in the most normal fashion.
But catching Fluffy-Kong would be a problem. Everybody’d tried to catch him. He once actually escaped a live trap by breaking the trap door off from the inside! He was big, mean, smart and amazingly strong.
I rigged up a Havahart live-trap, and put a juicy rib-eye steak in the right place.
Watching through my kitchen window, just 15 minutes later, Kong emerged from his bushes, his nose sniffing as he looked for the source of the savory smell wafting off the $15 slab of one of my favorite Costco steaks. Small price to pay…
Kong was ginormous! And just hard-ugly. One gray eye had been destroyed in a fight, and both ears had been chewed down to nubs.
“Good Lord,” I thought as I watched him through the window close-up for the first time. He was the ugliest hellcat that ever walked the Earth.
6 inches had been bitten off the end of his tail a few years back in a fight with a coyote, that he had actually managed to kill. His massive shoulders were covered with scars, where the fur was gone and pink skin showed. There was not a cat or even a dog in the neighborhood who would come near him anymore.
Fluffy slithered low into the trap as if he was stalking that steak. I watched in awe as his razor sharp teeth tore the first flesh off his meaty prize. And the cage door slammed shut with a loud bang.
Kong let out a howl of rage and began crashing against the doors and sides of the case with all of his fury. He went nuts! I was worried the cage would break open! But the wire held. I had him!
I hefted the cage into the back of my Tahoe, but not before Fluffy Kong reached a paw out and sliced the back of my hand open. Blood dripping from the wound, I dropped my assassin into the back of the Tahoe, and scooted back to Toxic Central, breaking the speed law every mile I went.
Wait’ll Ratzilla comes whisker to whisker with Fluffy!! I may get out of this yet, without facing a Federal animal smuggling charge!
It’ll be King Kong vs. Godzilla all over again! The cat and mouse match of the century!
It was dark by the time I got back. Lori and I wrassled Fluffy in his cage up the stairs, who furiously kept reaching out, trying to rake both of us with his slashing razor claws. As we lowered the cage to the floor, I noticed my inch-and-a-half-thick ribeye had completely disappeared. Damn! I can’t even eat a whole one myself!
Snerd had managed to use a shovel to corner Reggie the Rat between several stacks of boxes. When Irv backed off from him, the Rat slowly started hump-walking in our direction, baring his nasty teeth.
God! I could not believe how big that thing was. He was just absolutely huge. Lori stood behind us with a 16 gauge, just in case.
But I had my secret weapon, caged and ready to kill.
At first, when Ratzilla came slinking out of the corner, Fluffy got strangely quiet. He stiffened and looked straight across the floor at Reggie, now about 12 feet away and closing the gap between us.
Well, it’s now or never…
I snapped open the cage door and let Fluffy-Kong loose.
Kong slunk out, low to the floor like cats do, eyes straight ahead, glued to Reggie, who never even slowed his advance toward us.
Kong’s powerful flanks started to quiver back and forth as he settled himself into pounce position. Growling constant and louder now… wowwwwrrrrrrrrrrr…
At no time did that rat ever show any fear whatsoever.
Three full-grown people and an absolutely huge cat ready to pounce right on him, and the damned thing was still moving aggressively toward us as if we were all ants.
Fluffy now starting that low growling wowrrrrrrr, wowrrrrrrrrrrr…. as he could now see and get that nasty Reggie-Rat smell coming across the room toward us.
Ten feet away, now eight… closer he came. Honestly, I don’t know which of those two animals I was more frightened of. My hand was still bleeding from the first cut of the battle…
Ratzilla looked Kong right in the eyes and started an ear-splitting shriek and stopped very still just two feet away from Kong.
Kong’s hindquarters now moving back and forth, as he got ready to make his final leap. The cat-growling now constant and getting louder, Reggie screaming right at the cat eeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEE…!
This was going to be pure hell in about 2 seconds!
I got ready to jump out of the way, because I knew that once those two locked teeth and claws that they would explode and take out anything and anybody who got in the way. I motioned Irv and Lori back.
EEEEEEEEE…… WOWRRRR, WOW_WOWRRRR… Kong now digging in for his final leap. The vile Rat Reggie tensing up, now screaming at the top of his foul stinking rat lungs through those awful yellow fangs.
Both of them screaming at the top of their lungs and looking right down into each other’s vicious souls through those yellow eyes they both had. Kong started to move now… He pushed down for the leap, and here he goes… he’s…
Oh My GOD!
When Kong finally made his move, our jaws just dropped. He had moved about 2 feet in a single leap… backwards!
Reggie had backed Kong down!
Fluffy-the-coward turned a complete 180, streaked between my legs and tore down the attic stairs.
Ratzilla stared at me for a moment, an evil leer crossing his lips before he launchedhimself through the air across the attic floor towards me. I dodged sideways and Reggie smashed right through the window beside me and disappeared into the night…
And we never saw him again!
All three of us were shaking like leaves. We just looked at each other speechless. It’s all we could do. My slashed hand was shaking uncontrollably.
At home later with half a fifth of old rum in me, I finally settled down. But I couldn’t sleep a wink that night. Over the next few days, we all gradually settled back into a normal routine. I swore everyone at Toxic Central to secrecy. (Except Snerd, but that’s another sordid story. Snerd knows too much, and he can never trusted to keep him mouth shut.)
We hear stories now and then of strange happenings around our little town: goats and chickens gone missing or wooden porch furniture gnawed to bits. And for some bizarre reason, where we used to see lots of tame and stray cats around, now there are no cats roaming loose in our end of town whatsoever.
Which brings us to my current dilemma. My office is still littered with boxes of nesting screens, and none of my yellow-bellied staff (let alone ME!) are willing to take them back upstairs to store them.
Not with Ratzilla still out roaming loose somewhere!
I still get a spasm of fear shooting through my spine whenever I think about going back up into that attic at night.
So please, help us out here. We have to get rid of those screens.
Today, I will GIVE you a free set of round, wood-framed, nesting screens for every $57 worth of stuff you buy from Skylighter.
You know the deal on ‘em, right? These screens were promised by a certain Chinaman to be 10, 20, 30, 60, 100 mesh.
But they turned out to be 9, 16, 25, 41 & 53. They were sposed to be stainless steel, but some of the wires are starting to rust a little.
But… they still make fine mixing screens. I’ve been using them myself for years.
They’re even mo’ betta in some ways than the heavier duty square ProScreens — no corners to clean when I wash ‘em out with my hose.
Just don’t rely on the mesh sizes you see stamped on them.
Fine Print — Read Now or Weep Later:
- You must buy $57 wortha stuff at Skylighter.
- Offer CAN be combined with any other special currently going on.
- You must use Promo Code TheRat.
- The screens will not show in your order. We will add them after we receive your order.
- Do not add the screens to your order, lest you be charged the full $91 price for them. We will add one set later per $57 in your order, when we pack up your order to ship to you.
- Limited number on hand. And we want them gone ASAP. We will let you know if we sell out.
- Final shipping cost of your order will be a little higher than what you see on your order confirmation, due to weight of screens.
Please! Help us out. Why don’t you make a nice home for at least one family of these neglected screens today in your warm pyro shed.
So, that is the weirdest story ever to come out of Skylighter… so far.
With fear and hand trembling too much to go out and LIGHT something…
Yours in flames,
Former Exotic Animal Importer
Think I’m lying about Reggie? Here’s a picture of a baby New Guinea rat captured recently, about 6 pounds.
Edgar? He now resides in the graybar hotel in Allenwood. Something to do with trafficking in illegally imported incense sticks. Hey, you can go to jail for anything, now.
Reggie’s former mama? I never dealt with her again, but Mr. Hu tells me she’s alive and still active in her business outside Port Moresby. Maybe one day I’ll find out why she shipped that horrible Reggie to the United States.