Rat's Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
I’ve heard people describe us in the most unpleasant ways and the chief among their imprecations have always been how filthy we are, but let me first say that they are dead wrong – in fact we rats take great pains to keep out tails clean. I wash mine five times a day but my sisters go so far as to frequent the wash room once every hour...

Submitted: October 05, 2014

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Submitted: October 05, 2014

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I’ve heard people describe us in the most unpleasant ways and the chief among their imprecations have always been how filthy we are, but let me first say that they are dead wrong – in fact we rats take great pains to keep out tails clean. I wash mine five times a day but my sisters go so far as to frequent the wash room once every hour, and still they complain that their tails lack beauty. We do this because all mothers teach their children from an early age that “if they want to know a rat, then look at his tail.” And I’ve found that this piece of folksy advice actually holds a bit of truth. Those knaves as would steal your food or dunces as would unknowingly invite a cat to the very front of your house always have dirty tails. So as a simple gesture of politeness and to show that we bear no ill will towards others, we always keep our hind appendage spick and span. Predictably though, that never kept our grandparents from complaining, “the young ‘uns these days don’t take proper care of their tails.”

Indeed, the rat society has an old problem of attaching more meaning to the tail than it should. As an expert on humans, I believe I can best describe this by saying that our tails are very much like the insides of your nose. The fat man I share my house with is always painstakingly cleaning his nostrils with his fingers whenever he is alone, and I have also witnessed his wife do the same thing several times. It is the same for us rats. We take care of our tail-problem only when we are alone, for we too believe that it is unbecoming to let others see us desperately washing away the dirt caked on to our little appendage. Truly respectable rats have immaculate tails that require no care, for their posh lifestyle does not take them to places where the tiniest speck of filth would denigrate them. In our vainglorious attempt to feign such elegance, we all pretend that our tails are spotless without the hourly cleansing. Although I couldn’t care less about such things, as a matter of family pride, our father kept a strict tail-washing regime for the family when he was still alive and the habit has stuck with me to this day. We shall not let ourselves be seen as mere commoners, my father used to say.

Just like the poor nose of the man I live with now, sometimes occasions drive us rats to take this custom so far that their tails end up all frayed and start bleeding. Such occurrences are wont to happen when they have ceremonies to attend. Oh, all the ceremonies that we have to attend! Whenever one of our distant relatives die in an unfortunate encounter with a cat – may their souls rest in peace – or a new member of a family is born, which is often, we all get together for our ostensible mourning or celebration, but what is really going on is a competition to see who has the best tail and thus the highest status in rat society. On such occasions, each rat goes around exchanging greetings with relatives they barely remember with words like “I missed you so much” or “It’s wonderful to see you again,” but once their backs are turned, both sides snicker, assured of their superiors tails. My family’s get-togethers are especially abominable in this regard, but others of the rat society would say that this is only natural since my family is unique – since we are the Norringtons, the most respected and detested of all rat families.

Despite the family fame though, we have little to show for it – all of our known relatives live in an ordinary part of town, neither rich nor poor, and my house is also ordinary, neither large nor tiny. Yet old pride dies hard, and my father as well as all his siblings remained deeply convinced of their greatness and respectability until their deaths, while none of them did anything to deserve either. To my dismay, this trait has been heartily inherited by my siblings and their children, though there are a few exceptions. As for me, I have already abandoned all sense of pride in this family. Among them, I have earned the nickname “Bottom Rung” for the dirtiest tail I have, but I couldn’t care less about what they think. What is it to me, what they think? What matters to me is that I lead an intellectually stimulating and, above all else, a fun life.

In this respect, I believe this port city I live in is the ideal place, for it attracts all varieties of characters from around the world, even from beyond the vast seas - the queer and the exotic as well as the beautiful and the ugly, the ordinary and the extraordinary, both rats and humans. Taking a walk through the city, it never ceases to amaze me how ships, those wonderful wooden objects with the vast white wings, arriving at the port brings a new ripple of change through the city like some godly birds flying in from the heavens with divine gifts. New comers bring new goods, new knowledge, and new food into the city while the old timers adapt by integrating their old ways with the new – and the cycle starts anew with the next ship. As I go around the city in my human form – oh yes, we do take human form though you may have not known it before - tucking my tails neatly down the length of the long pants, I see the subtle changes and feel might heart leap in anticipation and joy. If every day offers so much wonder; what will the city look like a hundred years from now!

So I spend each day in constant excitement, gratified by the jolts of intellectual stimulus that course through me and the hearty laughs I always let escape as I make my jolly run from the hunting cats roaming the city. And even when I see a distant family killed as rats have been for years beyond any living rat’s reckoning by the design of man or by the malice of the cats, my heart still quivers at the wonders of this endless cycle, where the old dies and the young lives, bringing new change to the city. For a wise rat once said that even in death, there is something to laugh about, and those brave and downright rude enough to search for that laugh are the happiest. In fact, I have a gruesome tale to tell that just may be funny to some of you of the same tail.

One day, as I was randomly strolling through the city on a hot sunny day, I quickly found myself quite lost, unable to find my way back to my hole. I was in quite a dilapidated part of town, where men and women sat with beer bottles on the side of the streets with vacant looks, staring into the furthest shores of this world and sanity. I could not summon the courage to speak to these empty souls and was completely lost as to what I should do next, when I accidentally bumped into a group of nasty looking men at the corner. I had been anxiously looking around for any hint of my whereabouts, and had failed to notice the snickers and obscene jokes being bantered behind the street corner.

When the groups noticed me, one of them roughly grabbed me by the collar, and threw me down onto the ground. Before I could protest, another one tied a rope to my mouth and the others took hold of my arms and legs, dragging me into a dingy warehouse nearby. It was completely dark except for the brownish light oozing in from a small glass window at the very back of the building.

There, the group took the rope off my mouth.

“What exactly do you want with me, gentlemen?” I asked.

The malicious men had me surround, watching gleefully at my sight as I squirmed, trying to somehow undo the ropes tying my arms and legs. The largest of the group, heavy-set and so bearded that not a patch of skin was visible, squatted down and stared at me.

“Are ya stupid or sumthin’? You are a rat, aren’t ya? We are cats? What more do ya need to know.” he said.

Taken by surprise, all I could do was stare back at him agape.

“What? Ya didn’t know that cats can take human forms?”

“No,” I managed a reply.

“Well, good for you. Now you know.”

Oh, and one more thing I learned on that day is that ghosts do exist. And now you know.  


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