I know, I know. The Year of
the Rat is associated with wealth and material prosperity; it’s supposed to be
good for getting focused and organized, and for investments (although this Year
of the Rat soothsayers are saying that we likely just won’t go into recession).
And people born in the Year
of the Rat are charismatic, intelligent, practical, hard-working and
aggressive. Leaders of a sort, if they play their cards right.
And I know that the rat in
the Chinese zodiac carries all sorts of other positive attributes —
forthrightness, discipline, meticulousness —and that we’re supposed to get out
of our collective Westernized head space when we think about these things.
But I’m sorry. Every time I
hear that it’s the Year of the Rat, coming soon to a lunar calendar near you,
all I can picture is the hideous, fat black roof rat with its obscene, fleshy
tail that used to run along the beam under our deck, its glinty little eyes
scanning, scanning, scanning for sunflower seeds the birds spilled from the
Unlike my girlfriend, who
suffered who knows how many mice scurrying across her wee nine-year-old self
when she had to sleep on the floor of a house in Regina her family rented one
night before the moving van arrived, I’ve never been too freaked out by rats.
But this one was a doozy.
There was something about him — maybe the way he defied all manner of traps and
bait — that spooked and impressed me at the same time. I mean, this was one
smart rat who didn’t fall for stinky cheese or peanut butter, bait traps or
humane traps. I think it was smoked salmon skin that was his final undoing, so
you had to hand it to him; he was a pretty cool rat with selective good taste.
Remy take note.
Up until then, I’d never
given much thought to what rats eat exactly, nor to eating them myself. At
least not until I ventured up into the northern nether-reaches of Thailand,
which was serenely beautiful but realistically couldn’t have been all that
serene given it was a refuge/staging area for Karen rebels who had fled
There, in the middle of the
mountain trail leading up to a village on a large scruff of bare dirt, were two
cheerful girls, maybe eight and ten, who were carefully washing and, with a
large dull machete, diligently scraping the short fur from a very dead rat
stiffened with rigor mortis.