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By Luna Lark
One of my favorite books and animated films as a child was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Like The Witches and Stuart Little, the story never allowed me to look at rodents the same way. I imagined their voices, their thoughts, their motives. Solving a maze was never just about finding that hunk of cheese; these creatures had a higher purpose.
A couple of years ago, I stumbled off of the Chinatown Express at the birth of a crow that never came from a cock anywhere near Manhattan. That rooster was perched somewhere in my mind, poised to peck some seed the moment it roused everyone from their sleep. It was simply answering the call of duty. That duty was to wake everyone this instant or else, soup time. Too bad for him it wasn't working for me. I was still half-asleep and none of the shops were open yet, so coffee or tea was out of the question. But as heavy-lidded as I was, I know what scurried before me was not a dream: rats, a whole pack.
There were maybe six or seven rats zipping in and out of holes dug in a patch of barren earth on the very edge of the sorriest excuse for a park I can recall. These rats might as well have been on Mars, under a rock. That's how far removed they seemed from the rest of the world. Did they notice me? Probably not. And even if they did, they didn't care. I had nothing to offer them. All they needed lied in or around those holes. They likely ate scraps from the Chinese restaurants and markets. All day, everyday, they listened to the discordant symphony of traffic, footsteps, and zealous vendors. One-thousand years from now, they and their kind would still be there. I'd be lucky to have a direct descendent alive then.
Speaking of rats and descendents, my sister bought two rats this summer, one of whom hatched a diabolical plan like the rats in NIMH. Just a couple of days after she had settled in our house, the rat birthed eleven little ones. They resembled alien spawn. Suddenly thirteen rats inhabited the rusty cage sitting on her floor. The situation could have only been more dramatic had it happened on Friday the 13th. The problem was eventually resolved with a series of Craigslist encounters, with a handful of strangers buying up the pups. My sister even turned a profit.
Maybe that rat knew my sister needed the money.