Thursday, June 20, 2013


(NOTE: This is an older story I'm reprinting in honor of the recent passing of James Gandolfini.)

Not too long ago, I thought that my house had rats running around in it. I'd hear faint rustling underneath the cabinets or the sound of footsteps skittering across the floor, and now and then I'd find food missing. My cat, Kitteny, was constantly on edge and spent most of her time watching the kitchen, as though keeping a silent vigil. Finally, during one fateful day of consternation and terror, I found out that it wasn't rats that had infested my house. It was the cast of HBO's "The Sopranos."

I made this discovery one day when I opened the cabinet door under the kitchen sink to get a trash bag, and there he was--James "Tony Soprano" Gandolfini, huddled against the back corner. His beady eyes darted from side to side, seeking an escape route, and then settled on the piece of cheese I happened to be holding in my hand. Naked hunger contorted his face into a frightening visage of pure, unadulterated cheese lust. He peered back at me from the darkness and bared his front teeth, making a chilling "fffrrrfrrfff" sound.

This sent an icy tingle up my spine and I ran into the other room to get a broom. There was a loud scurrying noise from the kitchen, and when I returned James Gandolfini was gone. In my haste, I had dropped the piece of cheese. It was also gone. I could imagine him hunched over somewhere in the dark recesses of my house, perhaps behind a wall somewhere, gnawing away hideously at his ill-gotten prize. Finally, it dawned on me to wonder: "What the hell is James Gandolfini doing infesting my house?"

This led me to suspect that he might not be alone--after all, they say that if you see one, there are always others lurking unseen. And just as the thought occurred to me, my heightened senses detected a slight noise from the other side of the stove. Racing to the source, I arrived just in time to catch Edie Falco, who portrayed "Carmela Soprano" on the hit TV series, gnawing on a chicken leg that I'd left on the stove the night before. Her eyes were a mixture of feral rage and paralyzing fear as she froze stock-still, her animal mind reasoning that I wouldn't see her if she didn't move. Well, she was wrong.

Swinging the broom, I just missed her head and whacked my Flintstones salt and pepper shakers off the stove. The ceramic Fred and Wilma clattered loudly across the floor and banged into the refrigerator, causing something on top of it to sharply recoil. I looked up and was shocked to find Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler--otherwise known as teen Sopranos "A.J." and "Meadow"--cowering there amidst the cereal boxes they'd chewed open, with Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops still horribly decorating their frantic, almost fiendish faces.

I turned my attention back to the stove, but Edie Falco had disappeared. Playing a hunch, I dragged the stove away from the wall, and sure enough--there was a gaping hole, large enough for any one of the "Sopranos" castmembers to wriggle in and out of at will. I knew then that I had a full-blown infestation on my hands, one which was beyond my ability to handle. Grabbing the phone book, I hastily picked out a reputable-sounding pest control business and dialed their number.

"We-Nukem-Good Pest Control," came a confident voice. "May I be of assistance?"

"Yes! I have a terrible infestation and I need help immediately!"

"What is it?" he asked. "Rats? Mice? Cockroaches?"

"No, it's the cast of HBO's 'The Sopranos'!" I shot back, breathless.

The man on the other end of the line paused thoughtfully. "Hmm. 'The Sopranos', eh? I was afraid of that. We've had a rash of TV-show cast infestations recently. Just yesterday, I had to go up against CNN's 'The Capitol Gang' in a chicken feed warehouse. Robert Novak bit me in the left foot. Had to get shots. And my assistant...he's still on medical leave after taking on 'The View.' Nasty bunch. So, is it the entire cast or what?"

I yelped in terror as something brushed past my legs. "A.J. and Meadow just shot by me and scurried into a big hole behind the stove!" I screamed. "Tony and Carmela are in there, too, and--oh my god, I can hear them moving behind the walls!"

"Calm down, sir. Do you have a cat?"

"Well, yes. But I hardly think she's capable of killing and eating James Gandolfini."

"Okay, we'll send someone out," he promised. "But if Christopher Moltisanti and Paulie Walnuts show up, it's going to cost you at least thirty percent extra."

Well, a guy in an official-looking pest control uniform showed up later that afternoon. I spent the hours waiting for him huddled in a chair with my feet off the floor. He suggested I go outside, then took a few moments to steel himself for the task ahead and entered the kitchen. From the front yard I could hear a seemingly endless succession of horrible screams, banging noises, gunshots, what sounded to me like giraffes mating, and other things too disturbing to imagine.

Finally, the pest control man reappeared at the front door and nodded confidently. "I don't think they'll be bothering you anymore, sir," he said.

"Did you...kill them?" I asked nervously.

"Oh, no," he said. "I just reminded them that they're people, not rats. Ha, ha. Sometimes these Hollywood actors get it into their heads that they're rats, and they need someone to remind them that they aren't."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "So that's it? They're all gone, just like that?"

He was silent for a moment. "Well," he finally said, "they're almost all gone. But at the last minute, Vincent Pastore showed up."

"Big Pussy?" I asked.

"I'm afraid so, sir. He likes your house, says he's going to stay for a couple of months. I told him he's a human being, you know, instead of a rat. He says he doesn't care, he likes it under the kitchen sink where it's warm and dank." He shrugged. "You get this sometimes in my business. He shouldn't be too much trouble, though, as long as you set out some cheese every now and then. Maybe a few beers."

And so, everything's back to normal in my house now, except that the guy who played Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on "The Sopranos" is living under my kitchen sink. My cat still keeps watch as much as she can, but things continue to come up missing out of my refrigerator. I lost a full-sized smoked ham just the other day. Honey glaze, pineapple slices, the whole works. So instead of stocking up on groceries, I've started eating out a lot. Maybe after a while the fat bastard will get the message and scram back to Hollywood. After all, I'm not running a human rat hotel here.

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