There's one thing about
owning a store that sells any kind of
food. You have to always be on the
alert for unwanted visitors, especially
of the rodent kind. I've considered
myself lucky in that I haven't had a big
problem with rodentia. Any problems
are quickly dealt with.
However, I was busy sweeping
the floor recently in the Walnut Creek
store when I thought I saw something
scurry past one of the bird seed bags.
Must be my imagination, I thought.
I turned back around to continue
sweeping and suddenly froze. Oh, dear
Lord, there it was. A rat was sitting in
the middle of the dang floor. I slowly
raised my broom to about shoulder
height and crept forward. "Whoa, whoa,
whoa!" the rat shouted holding out two
paws. "What do you think you're doing
with that thing? Let's just calm down
and discuss this for a second. "Discuss?"
I said incredulously. "There's nothing to
"discuss". And, just so you know, there's
no way this can end well."
"What do you mean?" he said.
"I can be of great service to you here."
"How could you
be of service?"
I asked. "Well, for one thing, I'm a
gourmet chef," he said, leaning against
the door with one paw on his hip and
checking his nails with the other. "You
know that lasagna you had for lunch
the other day?" "Yes," I said. "It was
someone's leftover lunch in the fridge.
It was fantastic. In fact, it was the best
lasagna I've ever had. What about it?"
"That was my special recipe," he said.
"You made that?" I said. That's not
possible, I thought to myself. We don't
even have an oven. "Oh, I did, indeed,"
he said arrogantly. "In the microwave,
Now this required more thought.
I love lasagna. "So, are you like that
rat in the movie...Ratatouille? The one
that hid in the chef's hat and learned
to cook?" I wondered. "Oh, heavens,
no," he chuckled. "I'm a much better
chef than that rodent." "Then, where
did you come from?" I asked. "And," I
added, gulping hard. "Are you...alone?"
"You remember the restaurant across
the way that closed?" he asked. "The
building is currently under construction.
I was forced to flee and, well, ended up
here," he said looking around. "I think
I'm in heaven."
"No," I said quickly. "There's no
heaven here. Besides, it's not safe. The
Broadway Plaza Shopping Center hired
a falconer. She brings a hawk to cruise
the area and scare away the pigeons."
"Oh, I know," the rat said, unconcerned.
"Believe me, the local rodent population
is totally aware of that hawk. It's only
interested in the pigeons. You know
what we call pigeons? Rats with wings,"
he said, his little brown shoulders
shaking with laughter.
"By the way, what's your
name?" I asked out of curiosity. "Joe
Ramsay XXIV," he said. "Joe Ramsay,
the twenty fourth?" I said. "Wow, you
come from a long line of rats! How
many years does your family history go
back?" "Since last week," he said. "Oh,"
I said, getting a little concerned.
"Then, you probably have loads
of relatives," I said. "Yes," he said.
"Unfortunately, most of us are lucky
to live a year in the wild." "Sorry to
hear that," I said, looking away quickly.
"We've got lots of predators, such as
yourself," he said
make up for that
by having large
families and can
have six to nine
young per litter.
We're a highly
and can inhabit
a wide range of
humans. By the
way, we make the
best pets," he said
with a wink. "People
who have kept
rats say that we
only problem is our short life span.
In captivity, we only live about three
"Here's a little rat history," he
said. "There are more than 60 species
of the genus, Rattus. The best known
rat species are the black rat (Rattus
rattus) and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), that's me. Our group is
generally known as the Old World rats
or true rats. We originated on the plains
of Asia in what is now northern China
and Mongolia where wild rats still live
in burrows today. We love to travel.
Over the past couple of centuries, we've
traveled on boats to all parts of the
world. We're typically 5 inches long or
longer. The largest species is the Boxavi
woolly rat, which was discovered in
2009 in the rainforest of Papua New
Guinea. It's about the size of a cat,
about 32 inches from nose to tail and
weighs over three pounds! Can you
just imagine?" "Yes," I shuddered. "I
can." "Male rats, such as myself," he
continued, "are called bucks, females
are does and infants are called pups
or kittens. A group of rats is called a
"mischief". Still can't figure out where
that one came from," he said, scratching
his fuzzy brown head.
"We usually stick together in
groups called packs. New packs are
formed when a male and female go
off on their own and nest in an area
that doesn't already contain a pack...
like here, for example," he said looking
"Not here," I said, picking up my
broom and creeping forward. Just then,
a customer opened the door. Joe deftly
stepped outside, smiling. Suddenly,
without warning, a large shadow
appeared out of nowhere. The Broadway
Plaza hawk swooped down and snatched
Joe in his talons. As the hawk flew off
Joe shouted, pointing skyward with his
claw "Don't eat the leftover spaghetti in
the fridge! It's Vinnie's! He's a terrible
cook!" "Vinnie?" I yelled, beginning to
panic. "Who's Vinnie?"
But, it was too late. As I
watched the hawk disappear over the
building with Joe squirming in his talons
I started to feel bad about the rat.
The furry little body, tiny paws, cute
whiskers. And, the lasagna. He was
a great cook and seemed like a good
guy. I think I might even miss the little
Well, not really.
Bless the hawk ~ Joanie and Annie