A man is pitted against a pet rat.
|Pinky the Rat
Pinky was a hairless rat.
The first time we laid eyes on each other was at Whitey’s Pet Shop. The rodent looked at me with protruding black eyes that had a synthetic shine to them like the round plastic heads of stickpins. She was pink with rolls of loose skin that draped down around her wrinkled body as if she was melting ice cream, and when the friendly clerk held her out for my son to pet, he said she felt as soft as velvet and that we should name her, Pinky.
Tommy thought it was kind of cute how she sat back on her fat haunches, twitching her whiskered-nose and holding out her long, bony hands in front of her as if she were begging us to take her home. But to me those cute little hands looked filthy and germ-ridden, her long, thin fingernails sharp as poisonous needles, and her two yellow-stained teeth jutted out like fossilized spikes.
When I tried to pet her she lunged at me. “Jesus! The damn thing tried to bite me!”
“You’re scaring her, Dad!” my son scolded.
But if the truth were known, the rat scared me more than I scared it. Even after my son insisted that we buy her and bring her home, the rat and I were at odds, and every time I tried to reach into the cage she’d come for me.
The cage itself allowed her pronged-snout to poke through; so just setting my hand against it was enough for her to bite me. At least that’s what happened when Tommy asked me to feed Pinky because he was late for school.
We had both over-slept, and in a hurry to get to the office, I grabbed the cage, hands on either side, and lifted it down from the shelf. Pinky saw her chance and attacked. She struck like a rattlesnake against the fleshy part of my left palm.
“Jeez! You little son-of-a-bitch! You bit me!” I dropped the cage on the table like a hot potato. Examining my hand, I watched as the blood welled up, gathered at my wrist, and then dripped onto the carpet. I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a paper towel, and tried to staunch the bleeding.
“Damn you, Pinky!” I screamed. My first thought was of being infected by some unknown rat disease. I could actually feel it working its way up my arm and through my bloodstream. Frantically, I squeezed the puncture wound trying to milk it dry as if Pinky had some kind of deadly venom that had to be squished out of me before I fell down dead with rabies or worse. It didn’t hurt much, the rat’s teeth were very sharp, but I felt a little woozy.
I was now really late for work, so shaking it off, I popped the latch on the cage and quickly reached in to grab Pinky’s food dish. She was watching, waiting for me. She flew across the width of the cage in a flash and sank her hideous razor sharp teeth into my index finger.
“Damn you, rat!”
I jerked my bleeding finger out of the cage and almost stuck it in my mouth, freezing at the last moment thinking it was now contaminated with more deadly venom than my body could withstand. I felt like cutting my finger from my hand and throwing it into the garbage; it throbbed with every beat of my heart. It was a deep bite--clean to the bone--and a thick flap of skin had been ripped loose. This bite bled more than the first one.
I quickly ran to the bathroom, sick to my stomach, and thinking about those filthy, germy teeth entering my body. I washed my hand several times with anti-bacterial soap, then poured hydrogen peroxide all over it.
Then I got mad.
“All right, all right, you wanna play rough, I'll show you rough. No stupid, god-damned rat is gonna get the best of me!”
I stuck on some Band-Aids to help stop the bleeding, and then went looking for my leather work gloves. “I’ll show you who’s boss around here.”
When I returned to the cage, Pinky was gone.
In my bloodied flight to the bathroom, I had forgotten to close the cage door. “Ah, man! That’s just great! Now, I’ll never find her! Pinky! Come on, Pinky. Where the hell are you, you miserable rat?”
I got down on all fours to look under the couch, and pressed my cheek flush to the carpet to get a better look. There was something -- a bulge at the back where the couch met the wall. I put my gloves on, laid on my back, and jammed my arm under the sofa as far as I could.
“Ha! I gotcha!” I pulled my hand out triumphantly and stared at a dirty sock. “Damn!”
Pinky came out of nowhere, latched onto the back of my leg and didn’t let go. I screamed, jerked around, and roughly snatched the rat in my gloved hands. “So, you wanna play, huh? I’ll show you . . .” And with that, before I could stop myself, I threw her at the wall as hard as I could.
There was a thump and a short cut-off squeak, then Pinky fell in a heap at the base of the wall. Her back legs kicked spasmodically in her final throes of death.
“Oh, crap," I whispered as I gently picked her up in my gloved hand. “Hell, how’m I gonna explain this.”
I hurried to the kitchen and found a zip-lock bag, opened it, and dropped the rat inside.
Pinky started to kick again and I saw the bag move in and out with her labored breathing like a plastic lung. “Oh, jeez, she’s still alive!” Her side moved up and down as she panted for air that was no longer there. I felt sick inside. I couldn’t let her suffocate like that.
Standing next to our marble coffee table, I decided to quickly put Pinky out of her misery. Clutching the rat tightly through the bag, I whacked her head against the side of the table. She kicked wildly. I whacked her again, and then again, until she lay motionless in my hand.
Immediately, I tossed the bag into the garbage, making sure it was at the bottom and well covered up. But I felt guilty, agitated, dizzy--my mind whirled. Desperately I tried to come up with some logical explanation I could tell Tommy. I stared at the empty rat cage, the door yawning open.
And then it came to me. I knew exactly what to tell him. I had accidentally left the cage door open and the rat had escaped. Of course, that was perfect! The rat was someplace in the house--lost for all time in the crawl spaces, or wherever pesky rats go.
I calmed myself -- tried to relax.
When Tommy came home, I acted as though I had been tearing the house apart looking for Pinky. “I can’t find her anywhere, son, I’m so sorry.”
“Well, maybe when she gets hungry, she’ll decide to come out into the open,” he ventured.
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “She’ll show up sooner or later, no doubt.”
After dinner he frantically searched every room in the house, calling out Pinky’s name. By nightfall, it became apparent that she was nowhere to be found. I found Tommy in his room, crying.
“I’m sorry, bud. It was all my fault. When I was feeding her she bit me. See?” I showed my wounds to help solidify the story. “When I went to put something on the bites, I must have left the cage open. These things happen, son. I’m truly sorry.”
“I know, Dad. But she’ll come back. She’s gotta!”
“Well, animals don’t like cages. They want to be free -- wild. Maybe she likes being able to go wherever she wants--wouldn’t you?”
“I guess so.”
“All right, let’s get some sleep for now, huh? Things will look differently in the morning.”
I was exhausted and emotionally drained -- I slept hard.
When I awoke it was to a burning sensation on the side of my head; and when I touched my ear, my hand came away wet. I flicked on the lamp next to my bed. There was blood all over my hand, and a small pool of it on my pillow. Little red footprints were all over my white cotton pillow case and sheets.
I ran to the bathroom holding my ear and turned on the light. “Oh, no! No!” The lower half of my ear had been eaten away. I could see the cartilage showing through the torn shreds of flesh.
I ran back to my room and threw the pillows on the floor -- ripped the covers off -- flipped the mattresses over. Tommy came from around the corner. “Dad? What’s goin’ on? What are you doing to your bed?”
“It’s Pinky! She was in here! Look at this!” I showed him my ear.
“Jeez, Dad! We gotta get you to a doctor.”
“No! I’m gonna find that damn rat.” I rushed to the kitchen and tipped the garbage can over, fishing through the garbage.
“What are you lookin’ for?”
“The bag that Pinky was in.”
“You put Pinky in a bag? Why, Dad, why?”
“It was an accident.” I faced my son. “I, uh, I . . . when she got out, I accidentally stepped on her.”
“Dad? You put her in a bag while she was still alive?”
“I, uh. . . .”
Then I found it. I held the bag up to the light. There was a hole in the corner and some undeniable blood smears. But Pinky was gone. She must have chewed her way out.
“We gotta find her, Dad. She’s probably hurt.”
“What about me . . . the doctor?”
“Shake it off, Dad. Put a Band-Aid on it.”
We searched the entire house again, starting from my bedroom. After several hours, we collapsed together on the couch in the living room, exhausted. The sun was coming up.
“You better get ready for school. I’ll keep looking.”
Tommy didn’t say anything. He didn’t even look at me. He got up and dragged himself into the bathroom.
After I dropped him off at school, I came home and plopped down in my leather easy chair. It wasn’t long before I nodded off.
I was awakened by a stinging in my upper thigh, slowly I opened my eyes. I felt so tired. When I looked down Pinky was sitting between my legs drenched in dark blood. I knew I should have been alarmed, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted to yell at her to go away, but just didn’t have the strength.
Through heavy-lidded eyes, I watched as Pinky sat upon her haunches in-between my legs and worked on the large artery in my thigh. I could see the shiny, thick flow of my blood as it soaked through my pants and down my leg onto the floor. My arms and hands were pale and white and I couldn’t lift them. I must have been bleeding for hours. I closed my eyes again.
I don't know how long I was out, but when I awoke this time, Pinky was sitting on my chest. She held out her long bony hands in front of her and wiped at her nose to clean my blood from her whiskers. The expression was so cute, as if she were giggling into her hands.