February 8, 2014

Driving Marlowe the rat west, and other tails

My friend Marlowe just relocated to the Pacific Northwest. I chauffeured her. Still, we made good time, but then Marlowe is always a little anxious, wants to scoot along. Call it a rat’s Manifest Destiny.

My friend Marlowe just relocated to the Pacific Northwest.

I chauffeured her. We left work about 4 p.m. on a Wednesday and arrived just in time for Tacoma’s Friday afternoon commuter-choke. I successfully timed the trip between blizzards, although Thursday’s cross winds on Interstate 80 were ferocious. Wyoming tumbleweeds lined up to pummel us. And dust; we plowed through a paralyzing, several-second, total black-out. Some fog, too, along the Snake.

Still, we made good time, but then Marlowe is always a little anxious, wants to scoot along.

Call it a rat’s Manifest Destiny.

Oh, yeah, my daughter — Marlowe’s absentee ratlord — and her girlfriend also came along, so Marlowe and I had plenty of company to keep us awake. They used their iPhone prowess to keep me supplied with oldies — “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Sounds of Silence,” “City of New Orleans” — with which I could bellow along, tunelessly, flat, sooooooo baaad.

The car was left in Tacoma for Kerry, the college junior. Perhaps Marlowe will want to be driven to the Pike Street Market.

Marlowe was once the loser in a rat fight, came out needing an eye patch. So there was some concern about how she’d get along with Kato, another lone rat already in Tacoma. Last reports were that they immediately cuddled and groomed each other, so that’s comforting. Like those two old circus elephants reunited after 20 years that you can see on YouTube.

Kerry’s mom and I are finally sans vermine. (Did you know the French word for a male rat is “rat”? So don’t believe Steve Martin when he says: “It’s like those French have a different word for



It has been a decade since the first, Benny, got too big to be the entree for a science-room snake, and Kerry volunteered to take him home. Swept around the Good Wife’s No Rodents rule like the Wehrmacht around the Maginot Line. Showed her to be a paper tiger mom, in fact.

As I’ve mentioned here before, just like in British dramas, there are Upstairs Rats and Downstairs Rats. By upstairs, I mean the fancy hooded ladies pampered in Kerry’s room, and by downstairs, I mean the basement, where I’m hoping no brutish Norways are self-stowed at the moment.

Now that no lonely rat, somehow out of its cage, will wander downstairs for a treat anymore, I worry that the Good Wife will become complacent and lose a step in her agility. (Tarantulas make interesting pets, don’t you think? A common rose-hair costs only 20 bucks, and the females can live for 20 years!)

Another fresh rat story comes from the older, L.A., daughter. It was Leslie who introduced Kerry to rats in the first place. In recent years, Leslie has moved up the food chain to rescue cats, three behemoths that push one another around to find a place to lie down in her tiny apartment.

She once worked at Bunnyluv, a Van Nuys rabbit rescue shelter, and a friend there called her about an elderly rat dropped off with them. Since Leslie had been a rat-whisperer, might the geezer live out his last days with her? The cat vote was split: Pagan and Odin were adamantly no, but Inky, the village idiot, is always looking a friend.

My daughter has a soft heart for strays, so Badger, as he was dubbed, arrived. Leslie quickly realized that he wasn’t that ancient and had all his parts. Indeed, he was quite feisty and, as she began to understand, seriously traumatized. Perhaps a classroom pet that got squeezed too many times; he’d scream when she tried to pick him up.

Badger also was flick-knife quick with those incisors. Nevertheless, nursing nipped fingers, Leslie believed he was slowly socializing.

She was on the floor with the cage open offering a snack when she got distracted. When she turned around, the rat was ambling toward the back of the couch. Leslie knew not to grab him, but she blocked his route while again offering the food.

The rat crawled over the back of her right hand, popped the treat into his cheek and then slashed the web of Leslie’s hand.

“Put that knife in ya, take a little bit of life from ya,” as that rap song goes “whatchu think I’m gon’ be, what? Rehabilitated, man I still feel hatred.”

Clean as a scalpel cut. About two inches long. Anatomy was exposed. Some excitement ensued.

The old hand at rats got cleaned and taped at the E.R. The perp was promptly deported back to the orphanage where there’s always tomorrow. As Leslie creates small sculptures for a living, this episode had economic consequences, but I’m pleased to report that the Beastlies are back in production.

Pagan and Odin, of course, had understood all along the thing would end in bloodshed. It was no country for old rats.

I’d like to write about Leslie’s cats more some time, but as we know there’s another columnist here — no names; let’s just call him C.W.G. — who has made a good living from the serial biographies of felines. Not only his, but his daughters’ that are sometimes entrusted to him.

The cats living with


daughter could be worth a touching story or two — their dental bills alone can make a man weep — and, technically, they’re not on anyone’s KC turf. The Hollywood sign is visible from their balcony litter boxes. A new study came out recently: Cats see us as just bigger cats — with handy opposable thumbs to open the tuna cans. See, I could work with that.

But I’m not sure where the lines are, and I’m cautious about tracking into another fellow’s posted territory. Columnists are sensitive creatures.

And, as I understand it, C.W.G. has shotguns.

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