by Rebecca McLeod
Bob: the nest engineer, but not the sharpest tool in the shed. Looks to Pirate for guidance
Cuddles: laid back hammock rat
Pirate: ferocious, fearless, and alpha for a reason; has a soft spot for her sister Bob.
Psyche: athletic, intelligent, and well-spoken but helpless in the face of her horde of babies
Grandma Arnold: swears she remembers the dinosaurs and very well might
The Babies: a horde of baby rats with no manners at all
The Virtuous White Baby: the cleverest of the rat babies, and also very well-mannered
“I love dis show,” sighs Cuddles, “I mean, look at dose boxes everywhere an the sandwich sitting right where I can reach it! I fink I even saw a bag of chips open on da floor!”
The other does nod and Psyche reaches forward to turn the volume up with the remote.
“Do you understand that hoarding is destroying your family?” asks the woman on television. The female rats blow raspberries and throw bedding at the screen.
“Dat’s a load of raisins—if she would just invite some rats over dey would love it!” protests Cuddles.
“I know, some people is so narrow-minded. Pass the cashews, please,” replies Psyche.
“Banzaiiiiiiiii!!!” shrieks a high voice and all of a sudden the adult does are swarmed with popcorning baby rats.
“Psyche!” yells Pirate, grinding her teeth. “Dis is all your fault! Get rid of dese stupid babies!”
“Sorry Pi, but since I weaned them they don’t listen any more! Shoo, shoo!” cried Psyche helplessly as the babies devour the adult does’ snacks and make off with the remote, diving into the lower reaches of the cage.
“Is it the Apocacraps?” creakily yells Grandma Arnold from the doorway of the igloo. She is so old, none of them can remember her being not old. None of the other does have ever seen her move above a determined dodder.“Nah Granma Ahnold, just stupid babies again. Dey took da remote an’ da snacks,” explains Cuddles.
“Did I ever tell you youngsters about the time I met that Noah guy?” Grandma Arnold replied, perking up, “He had a heck of a time controlling all the rats on the Bark until I took over. Poor man thought he’d only invited two rats, imagine that? I told him, Mr. Noah, if you only wanted two rats, you should have brought two female rats because clearly you don’t know the first thing…”
The other does roll their eyes and dig around the wreckage for a cashew to plug up the senior doe’s mouth. Grandma Arnold’s stories, while instructive and with a remarkable cast, have a way of dragging on.
The television channel changes, providing a close up of a dimly lit attic.
“As you can see, the roof rats have completely taken over this attic. It’s going to be a challenge to get rid of them.”
Psyche’s head snaps up and she quickly trots over to the edge of the shelf to yell at her offspring.
“Babies! What did I tell you about watching the exterminator show?! You’re going to give Auntie Bob nightmares!”
“Oh Pi I hate dis show,” whimpers Bob, covering her ears and sitting on her head. Pirate bares her teeth and leaps over the edge of the shelf into the depths of the Babies Domain on the lowest level. Shrieks ensue, and several babies come rocketing out of the lower half of the cage with the fear of Pi thoroughly scared into them.
The television channel changes. Bob peers out from her hiding place and tries to figure out what the humans are doing on the magic screen.
“You want to be this weight your whole life? Look at yourself! You’re a slob!”
“Dis is one of dose shows I really don’t get; I mean, all dose humans on the ground rolling around funny is clever but dey listening to the skinny angry humans!” says Cuddles, shaking her head.
“I know! If I could put on that kind of insurance weight, I’d be set for life!” replies Psyche.
A soft pinging sound echoes out of the igloo, interrupting them. The Virtuous White Baby sticks her head out of the igloo.
“Peemail for the “Ladieeeez”; anyone mind if I open it?”
“Oh no, I know wat dis is,” mutters Psyche, marching over to the side of the cage. She leans over and yells at the Boys Cage which is situated directly beneath.
“Fool me once, shame on me, fooled me twice, at least I got cashews, but I ain’t fallin’ for it again!”
Three noses become visible, sticking out from the bars.
“C’mon nice lady, we had a good time, didn’t we?” coaxes El Dorado in his suavest tones.
“’Nice Lady’??? Not only am I your mother, I’m also your wife—you’d best be remembering my name!” snaps Psyche.
The white nose sticking out between the bars is crestfallen.
“Sorry ma’am Psyche ma’am.”
“Hey Psyche Lady? I’m Bluey and I’ve got curly hair and dumbo ears and I’m looking for something long-term with a lady who won’t make me cry.”
“Get a hamster!” yells Cuddles. “Hope it pees on your head!”
“Man, they’re mean tonight,” murmurs Bluey to El Dorado.
“Jest remember wut ah tole you boys,” mutters Tommy, “Give it four days and they’ll be peemailing us pictures of their ears. Let’s go get a snack.” The three noses withdraw.
“Hey ladies, I hate to break it up, but Mom and Dad are due home in fifteen minutes,” warns the Virtuous White Baby. The does spring into action, quickly flipping off the TV and tossing the remote onto the couch. They carefully arrange themselves around the cage in positions of studied leisure, and when the door opens, I find most of them sleeping in the hammock.
“Rough day girls?” I ask. They blink sleepily and Cuddles makes a show of yawning.
Matthew opens the Boys Cage where the bucks are shamelessly begging for treats.
It is at this point that the pizza delivery man arrives and completely blows their cover with an Extra-Large with double veggies and triple cheese.
Check out more of Rebecca’s rat stories in KRL’s rodent ramblings section.