If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rat Girl

In my sixth grade class we had a science center.  It was a corner of the room where we had several cages of rodents.  One cage had female white rats and another cage had male white rats. It seems a male was mistakenly left in the female cage and pretty soon we had baby rats.

I was not very popular in the sixth grade.  My body was changing faster than the other girls and quite frankly it confused us all.  I dressed and acted in the hopes that I wouldn't be noticed.  I was partial to men's flannel shirts over a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I had long bangs that were permanently covering my eyes.

I spent a lot of time in the science center, cleaning out the rat cages.  The males got really big and scary looking and not many people were willing to pick them up and take them out of the cage to clean it.  When the rat pups were born I took care of them.  One of them was especially bright and curious and I took to walking around with her in my pocket or on my shoulder.  I named her Rachel.

The teacher was ok with this and the other students already thought I was weird.  It was just another reason to stay away from me, so it worked out well for everyone.

At the end of the year I took Rachel home.  I kept her in a cage in a large closet in my bedroom. Unbeknownst to me (or my mother) she was pregnant and soon I had a litter of rat pups in my closet.  They didn't all make it but I ended up with Margaret and Peter.  By then I knew enough to give Peter his own cage before any trouble started.

I was crushed when Rachel died and, not to shortly after, Margaret.  Rats don't live very long lives but Peter held on for a while.

Many many years later we got Angel a pet rat.  We named her Penelope but b started calling her "Ratty" and that stuck.  Ratty lived in Angel's bedroom closet but he never really gave her much attention.  After a while I felt bad for her.  Rats are very social creatures.  We gave her to my nephews, who had sisters from her litter.  She lived a good long life with my sister's family.

b and I have been in and out of pet stores the last couple of days.  Pupzilla got a new bed, two new bones, and some bacon-flavored treats.   I've also been on an obsessive search for the perfect cat food.  Yesterday I was amazed that the Doggie Treat Bar had cookies.  Really the entire display was set up to look like a candy counter.  I find this very disturbing.  Far more disturbing than having rats as pets.

Today we saw these beauties.

I'll admit I was tempted but the animals I have drive me crazy enough.


Drax said...

RAT GIRL. Hmm. I like it. It would make a great comic. Sixth grade Brigindo... Now I have a sketch in my head... "BRING ME PAPER. BRING ME PENS!"

Julie said...

I think Rat Girl would make a powerful short story or poem. I even love the title. Many of us can relate to negative body image and self esteem issues when we were kids. If a magic fairy offered me a billion dollars to go back in time to sixth grade and start over, I'd say no way. Those were rough years.

The rats are adorable. My daughter owned two, and I loved them. I never dreamed I would stand over a rat's grave and literally sob when it died. They were the cleanest and least demanding pets we ever owned. And smart! They would come when I whistled:)

Annie said...

Hi Brigindo, I had the opposite problem. Though I was starting to develop in sixth grade, my first period came in seventh, and throughout my teenage years I was so short and small boned, I looked more like a twelve year old. I had friends who were very tall, as well as friends who were small, and I've developed this theory that there is a kinship between those of us who felt different from the "norm," whether we were overtall or oversmall, youthful, or exceptionally endowed. Thanks for sharing this! I bet in some ways, you enjoyed being different, but I know how hard it is.