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Man and Rat
Capitalism vs. Socialism

Man and Rat

My cat, Uni, brings home a rat in her mouth. Uni likes to let birds, mice and rats escape from her mouth and then slowly torture them to death. This can take hours. Once I screamed "No" to Uni when she brought home a blue jay. Uni opened her mouth and the blue jay flew into my closet. With a lot of coaxing the blue jay finally flew out of my opened window. I felt I was making the world a little safer for blue jays.

Rats, for me, are harder to love than Blue Jays. In fact I manage to not think of the rat at all. Perhaps I thought, subconsciously, if I didn't think of this rat then it would not exist-at least not in my apartment.

For days I hear gnawing behind my stove. I thought that squirrels from in between the walls were trying to gnaw there way into my apartment. I ignored the ganawing and kept on reading Walt Whitman's biography teaching us how to celebrate ourselves and sing ourselves.

When I go to the refrigerator the light is off. I think it must be the bulb. I take out the bulb. It looks black to me so I throw it away. I check the freezer. The ice cubes are only a tiny bit melted so things must be pretty o.k. The next evening I notice my organic non-fat frozen yogurt is melted. I call Sears the next day. It's Sunday so I have to wait until Monday for the repairman unless I choose to pay double for the visit. I wait.

When the repairman comes he discovers that a rat has eaten the plastic around the refrigerator's chord to the wall. $108 to fix And now it's clear even to me that there is a rat around. I call the exterminator. He looks in my stove and sees a rat looking back at him. The rat then runs underneath the refrigerator. Apparently he can get into the motor area which we can't get into.

The exterminator needs me to call a plumber so we can move the stove and find out what the rat has been gnawing and plug up the hole. We soon see the rat has been trying to escape by gnawing a hole around the gas line. The exterminator puts poison under the refrigerator and under the stove. He asks me to hold a broom while he moves the refrigerator in case the rat darts out. Supposedly I am to knock this rat in the head with a broom. I think it is very unlikely I could hit a moving rat but I still hold the broom.

The rat does not run out. The exterminator asks me to sign for two visits. One before the plumber came to move the stove and another after the stove was moved. I say that's a lot of money for a rat we haven't caught. But I sign. $150 more I have to pay for my rat.

The following evening a guest notices a rat on my food shelves. I don't think we can do much about this so we continue to talk about e-mail. Just before bed I realize I could trap this rat in the cabinets by taping the cabinets shut with duct tape. I have now trapped my rat.

I hear him bumping his head against the taped doors. Ratty will do anything to be free. I realize I have grown to like "Ratty." What a survivor. Escaping my cat's torture. Eluding the exterminator and his poison. Eating plastic cords when there's no food around. He reminds me of the kind of guy I'd like to think I am. Survival through all challenges.

So I don't want to kill Ratty. The exterminator had turned it into man versus nature. Although he was honest enough to say that nature wins way more than we wouId like to admit." I had represented humanity with a broom poised in my hand-ready for a too quick rat's head.

But now that Ratty was trapped I didn't want to kill him. I called the animal removal people instead of calling the exterminator. They charge $120 to remove an animal. For Ratty it was worth it.

The animal removal man, Dan, tramps in with dirty wet boots. He seems jovial. My kind of man to catch ratty. He puts two traps into the cabinet. Ratty manages to elude both. Hooray for Ratty.

Finally Dan is able to snare Ratty with pincers. Ratty is now caught and I can take a good look at my hero as he is carried down stairs to Dan's truck. Ratty looks sweet as all tiny mammals do. Touching black eyes, soft gray fur I could stroke, but didn't. And of course Ratty is still bravely struggling to escape. He immediately explores every possible crevice in the cage Dan puts him in.

Dan says "I'm going to take the rat into the country and release him there." I have no doubt Ratty will survive his new strange surroundings. I write a check to Dan for $120. I tell him "it's a small price to pay for helping Ratty run free."


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