Baby rat

Full of self recrimination and guilt, I look at your tiny carcass, moved by your small soft ears, paws fragile and clasped as if in prayer, soft gray fur. I want to turn the clock back, to before the urgency that led to your demise. Why the hurry to get rid of this woodpile, seasoned madrone that I’d brought 20 years ago when I’d moved here? Four nights ago I sat with friends and watched as rats ran along the power lines behind my house and across my roof. Spurred by comment about these “night squirrels”, I made up my mind to put a check on the Malthusian curve. But it didn’t seem right to kill rats when I was providing them shelter, so I determined to get rid of their favorite lair, the wood pile. My fantasy of cozy winter fires went up in smoke as I watched two men pulling the wood from the shed. Suddenly, like dominos, an avalanche of wood came tumbling down, spurring you to emerge, trembling. Your tiny frame was dwarfed by the pile of wood. You stood in profile, clasping your paws as if in supplication. I felt the grief choke in my throat. Somehow I knew you’d be dead by morning. I tried to forget about you. I slept, dreamt of other things. But awoke the next day with a heavy heart. I walked toward the place I saw you last, and with dread saw that you lay on your side unmoving. How many days had you been on this earth? What had you experienced in your short life? I felt the weight of the world, suddenly, of all the animals that I had ever watched die, of my sadness as a child watching this beautiful valley turn from orchards to concrete. Tears streaming down my face, I picked a bouquet of roses and lay them around you in a circle. The cat, curious to see me outside so early in the morning, picked its way to your side, but did not disturb your peace. With the cat as my witness, I spoke of your innocence, of the life you never got to live. I made up my mind to put you in a small box and keep you close, to honor you. I went into the house, emerging a bit later to find you gone. Standing before the empty woodshed, staring at the place where you so recently lay, the roses no longer in a ring. I realized that I would never see you again. I have only my memory of you, ringed by roses, tiny and deserving of a life that was not to be.

4 responses to “Baby rat

  1. This reflects my Ambiguity about rats. They are smart, cute, stare at you with their little bright eyes, and remind me of the hamsters I had as a kid. On the other hand, when they get into my house or my shed, they wreak havoc and carry disease.
    You speak nicely to the conflict as well.


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