Reub's journey

19 April 2009


Engraving from Kingdom of Nature, published by Thompson & Thomas. The artist is not named.

For starters, there are 66 houseplants, each of them freshly watered, sitting atop my son's
scavenged coffee table, and scattered about the house. There is a kayak. There is a futon in need of a bit of repair, and a bright green chair. There are heavy boxes of books, and stacks of blankets. There is an old bicycle, and a pair of snowshoes. There is a fabulous antique typewriter, in good repair, and very romantic. And there are three good-sized rats.

I have just awakened the rats and let them out of their cage."They will become depressed," he had said, "if they don't have an hour or so out of their cage." As he unloaded sunflower seeds, walnuts, bran flakes, raw peanuts, pretzels, and vanilla chips into a plastic storage container for the rats' food, he added, "They like to listen to the radio. It gives them something to do." There were detailed instructions for cleaning the cage, even a rat website to check out. There was a bag of clean rags, a supply of water bottles, a roll of duct tape, and other sundry supplies. And then off he went to France, with his beautiful girlfriend, whom we love. See you in June!

At first I was against it-- the rats--not the trip. I love animals, but these animals? Carriers of the flea-born plague, not to mention
Salmonellosis, Rat Bite Fever, Leptospirosis, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, trichinosis, typhoid, and dysentery? Little creatures with awful tails, and the ability to bite with a pressure of 7,000 pounds per square inch? Animals that added a further dimension of terror to Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, not to mention the 15,000 scary rats in Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyr? And then there are the rats of literature: Templeton, the self-absorbed rat from Charlotte's Web, the enemy-rats of Brian Jacque's Redwall series, even pathetic Ratbert from the Dilbert comics. And what discussion of rats could omit the story of the Piper of Hamlin? Just listen to Robert Browning:

They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cook's own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats,
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

Yikes! I am beginning to scare myself. This is enough for now. Later I will have to explain what brought me around, and why I am now the surrogate mom for three large rats.


  1. Reminds me of an old favorite song of mine by Pearl Jam, "Rats." I'll spare the grotesque lyrics, but here's a link if you have the desire:
    Also, I used to have a pet rat myself. A little while later, I had a dozen. Rat babies are gross, and they eat one another. But Chris's rats are cool.

  2. I didn't know you had rats! I'm glad these guys can't have babies! As for that song: do you think I should put it as a ring tone on C's cell?

  3. So, wait, did you say there are three rats? I thought there were two! Maybe they ARE multiplying!! I like this posting alot. FYI I think there are two typewriters downstairs...I managed to hide the one you told me to get rid of a few years ago...

  4. There's also the Rats of Nimh, who were good rats, if I recall correctly.

  5. Three rats, two typewriters. As far as "good rats" go, I am working on that!


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