by Rebecca McLeod
Rebecca shares with KRL another fun story from the perspective of her pet rats. This one is about Rat fatherhood.
Cast of Characters
Spotty Boy: 101 Spots, the long-suffering, neutered rat
Linus: saucy young rat
Tweedledee: thuggish young rat
Blue2: neglected middle child
Zander: the handsome alpha
Dexter: paranoid, but otherwise nice
Chef Morgan: a zen chef rat
Mister Peewee: the enforcer
Note: When rats use the internet, instead of email, they naturally receive peemail. Don’t ask.
After Bluey and his son passed, Spotty found himself in the unenviable position of raising four adolescent male rats without the aid of good teeth or superior body mass. The teenagers rampaged up and down the cage, tipping bowls, humping the indignant Spotty (“Ah have been violated”), and devouring every scrap of food before Spotty even saw the food bowl. He was especially put out when they ate his specially prepared baby food that, along with applesauce and soft bread, was the only thing his teeth could handle.
Linus, curly haired and defiant, served as Tweedledee’s sidekick. Tweedledee had come into most of his adult weight but lacked even basic leadership principles. Under Bluey’s carefree fathering, he had become something of a thug, and now without anyone to thump him, Tweedledee was intolerable.
The two smaller males, Sicky and Blue2 hid from everyone as much as possible, though you could find Sicky simply by waiting for him to sneeze. Spotty theorized that the little guy was allergic to himself. Blue2 was a quiet middle child.
Spotty decided that it was the last straw after Tweedledee and Linus upended him in the water bowl, giggling over his frantic efforts to hop out. Sicky and Blue2 went along with it, but after the hooligans left, helped Spotty groom himself dry.
Spotty waited until the boys were sleeping before trotting over to his home office. He booted up the computer and began composing a wanted ad for the rodent newspaper The Nesting Material Daily:
Wanted: Strong Male role Model(s) for teenage hooligans. Exp. Required. Must have leadership qualities, sound teeth, good health, and weigh at least 550g. Firm believer in corporal punishment a.k.a. thumping and nipping. Will provide room and board and advice. RSVP immediately at The Big Boys Cage at Bec and Matt’s Rats, see email below.
Spotty began to receive peemails almost immediately. Some were not as helpful as he had hoped.
We, the does of SparklePaw Rattery in Moose Jaw, are outraged at your blatant sexism in the attached advertisement. As an alpha doe with two years of experience running a colony of more than a dozen, I feel that I would be more than capable of teaching your youngsters some manners!
Spotty thought for a brief moment before positioning his paws over the keyboard and typing:
Thank you for your interest in the aforementioned position. I have no doubt that you are a formidable doe and ah certainly would not want to meet you in a dark alley. However, I think that young MALE rats might find a FEMALE disciplinarian a mite tempting? After all, I’m trying to DECREASE the number of irresponsible young rats, not provide them with a way to MULTIPLY!
Spotty hit SEND. Cinnamon was evidently a quick typist—her vitriolic response came while he was reading the next peemail—and he quickly deleted it before the boys could learn any new rat swears from the subject line.
One rat in Nebraska wanted to know if he covered moving expenses. Another pair of does swore up and down that between them they’d raised nearly 100 babies and were amply qualified to raise a couple more. Spotty sorted through two dozen peemails before finding one that sounded genuinely promising. It was from Black Rat Rattery in nearby Langham, about a half hour’s drive away.Dear Spotty Boy,
I and my fellow compatrirats have to leave Black Rat Rattery soon (it is closing) and we are looking for a new home. We are four adult males, ranging in age from seven months to one year. We have excellent teeth and are well over your weight requirement. As alpha of this group, I have brought the smackdown on many antisocial behaviors such as peeing in the water bowl, barbering cagemates, and excessive marking. My second in command, Mister Peewee, patrols while I sleep, so that the cage is 24/7 free of any disruptive behaviors. Since we’re neighbors, I can offer you a practical demonstration of my skills at your earliest convenience. Please find attached our resumes.
Spotty couldn’t type fast enough to accept the offer. Thankfully he was able to send his reply before the boys woke up and ducked him in the water bowl again.
The next day, there was a knock at the cage door. Spotty trotted over and the boys looked up as the door swung open. Four gigantic male rats waddled inside and the door closed.
“Hi Fellas. Ah tried to save you some breakfast but the kids ate it. Again,” pointedly remarked Spotty as he waddled forward to exchange sniffs with the towering males. They politely touched noses, checked hind end and sat down.
“Don’t worry, we ate a banana before we hit the road this morning,” replied Zander, yawning and stretching. “Nice biker gave us a ride for most of the way. I never rode on a Harley before, usually more of a Honda rat.” Zander was a handsome black Berkshire with a blaze on his nose, a pattern known familiarly as “badger.
“Oh,” said Spotty, who was still confused about whether a van and a car were two separate things.
“Guess we’d better do intros; I’m Zander, this jumpy looking guy is Dexter—”
“Zombies!” blurted out Dexter, shooting anxious looks all around the cage. He was a twitchy black and white rex with buggy eyes that seemed to be nigh popping out in anxiety.
“Come again?” asked Spotty warily.
“Zombie hamster apocalypse!”shouted Dexter, checking over his shoulder, turning in a tight circle.
Zander sighed. “Ok, so he’s a headcase, but you should have seen him six months ago. This is a huge improvement—before he was phobic about everything—now he’s just fixated n the zombie hamster apocalypse.”
“Holy Cheeses, Uncle Spotty invited psychos over for breakfast,” whispered Linus to Tweedledee. Tweedledee nodded, impressed with Dexter’s unhinged state.
“He’s harmless, really,” continued Zander, patting Dexter on his shoulder, “He doesn’t sleep too often and he shouts a lot, but he’s great on patrol and he’s too nervous to eat, so I figure the more the merrier. Besides, I promised his dad I’d look after him.”
“Ah made a promise like that too and look where it got me,” sourly replied Spotty. “Anyhow, who’s the big guy?”
Zander smiled “This is my enforcer, Mister Peewee.”
Tweedledee snorted rudely. “Peewee?”
“Very pee, not so wee anymore,” rumbled the mink mountain of fur next to Zander. “I likes my carbs.”
“He broke the scale at our last rattery,” proudly reported Zander, “which brings us to our culinary friend, Chef Morgan.”
Chef Morgan bowed serenely in greeting. With huge dumbo ears, a uniform light blue coat, and a white tummy splash that resembled an apron, he fit the name perfectly.
“Sissy,” sneered Tweedledee.
Chef Morgan eyed him impassively before waddling forward to the bristling little male. With a graceful hop he landed on the defiant teenager. “Size matters not when you are huge,” he murmured over Tweedledee’s choked yell of outrage, “This one I shall make my kitchen slave.”
“Chef Morgan, you’re my favorite! D’you think you could make me something that Ah can eat with my bad teeth?”
“Of course,” replied Chef Morgan, thoughtfully rocking back and forth to steamroller Tweedledee. “You shall have hot porridge momentarily. Where is your kitchen and food stash?”
“Behind the blue igloo, but the boys may have eaten everything.”
Chef Morgan rolled off of Tweedledee who wheezed on the floor. “Come little angry one, there is cooking to do.”
“I am not a cook!” protested Tweedledee, still unable to stand. There was a rumble as Mister Peewee leaned over the small male. Tweedledee reconsidered his options. “But I could learn.”
Spotty and Zander settled down in a hammock to await the porridge.
“Ah’m just too old for this nonsense,” explained Spotty, “Ah’ve been trying to retire for six months, but ah keep having to put it off to take care of things—first my dad, then these darn kids!”
Zander nodded thoughtfully, grooming Spotty’s ears for him. Spotty sighed, leaning into it.
“Well, when you feel that we’ve got things handled here, you take off for that retirement. Got a vacation planned out?”
“The beach,” replied Spotty dreamily. “Been wanting to sip fruity drinks, chew on coconuts, and fall asleep in the sun with my pals. Ah miss mah dad and his boyfriend and mah brothers and friends. Ah’m the last of a generation.”
Zander wisely let the old rat ramble on through breakfast (steaming hot porridge with cinnamon and applesauce). When Spotty fell asleep, Zander snuggled up to him and they both enjoyed a long nap. Down below, Mister Peewee was shaping up the baby boys with pushups and soccer drills, and Chef Morgan had roped Linus into cutting vegetables because he had sassed Peewee. Dexter was perched at the top of the cage on the highest ledge, building a sniper’s nest that would enable him to gun down the zombie hamster at a distance.
A month later, things were very little changed; Zander and Peewee quietly and firmly ran the cage with only the occasional tuft of fur needing to be nipped off an impudent teenage rat, Dexter was still waiting for the zombie hamsters (“Any day now!”), Chef Morgan was cooking Italian food, and the baby boys were shaping up to be good eggs.
And Spotty Boy? He was finally on vacation.
“Now this is more like it,” sighed Spotty Boy, reclining in his lounge chair. Next to him, Tommy nodded.
“Ah like these little coconut drinks—hey garcon!” he called after a waiter, “Kin I have another of those little fruity drinks? No umbrella please. You want another, Smudge?”
The handsome Siamese rat next to him shook his head.
“No thanks, Tommy, I’ve got spin class in half an hour.”
The other rats rolled their eyes but since they were all wearing sunglasses, the effect was mitigated.
“Ah’ve always wanted a nice long vacation,” said Spotty, eying up a plump doe in a bikini who was playing beach volleyball with her friends. “Ah just never thought it would fix my teeth and, uh, other things would grow back. Ah kin even eat coconut, and tonight ah’m gonna take full advantage of that luau.”
The plump doe in the bikini had noticed Spotty’s attentive stance and was deliberately wiggling her ears at him.
“Ah think you’ve made a new friend,” grinned Tommy, “Think she’s a natural Berkshire?”
“Nope,” cheerfully retorted Captain Smudge, “I was at the salon earlier and she got a tummy whitening – she’s actually a self Russian Blue Agouti.”
“Ah don’t care, ah like a doe who grooms herself,” replied Spotty, raising his Mai Tai and toasting the beach beauty, whose ears blushed.
“Spotty, we’re rats: we ALL groom ourselves. Some of us more than others,” remarked Tommy, who knew that Captain Smudge had gotten his points darkened, nails trimmed, teeth oranged, fur washed and blown out, and all on the same day.
“Heck of a nice day,” said Spotty, by way of making peace.
“Yup,” agreed the others.
“Bet they’re all beautiful from here on in.”
And they were.
Check out more of Rebecca’s rat stories in KRL’s rodent ramblings section.