"Beverly Hills is a nice place to be a rat," Ray Honda said, admiring the cool, verdant landscape of the moneyed class, with its fruit trees, bird feeders, swimming pools and dog-food bowls. "It's a very good address."
Honda, a Los Angeles County health inspector whose speech and demeanor bring Peter Lorre to mind, was quick to append, "the four-legged kind," adding: "More rats than people, probably. And when they get really bad you can smell them."
Across Beverly Hills and the other lush corridors of Los Angeles, rats -- yellow-bellied, pink-tailed, flea-bitten rats -- are wriggling through the woodwork and rooftops.
They have come down from the trees and in from the fields, forced into neighborhoods by a strangling drought that has gripped the region. They are eating from dog bowls and drinking from swimming pools and acting in surly ways not normal to the genus.