I love Snopes. Just when I think I have no ideas for posts, something floats my way from there. Just such a thing is this legend about rats. One of the things it says is this:
Speaking of predictions of harm befalling particular individuals, rats gnawing on one’s clothes or chewing on furniture, especially bedroom furniture, is an omen of death.
I can feel the hair raising up on my arms. Let me explain why.
Years ago, I kept a pet rat. I called her Hope because she was the rat we used in our operant conditioning lab in psych and after our first rat was so traumatized by her life for whatever reason that she hated us and would not respond to us at all, this one was our only hope for a good mark. After the time at the lab was over, if we didn’t take her as a pet, she would have been euthenized. I would not allow this, and even found our crazy rat a home for a while, although they had to give her away because she was too aggressive. I don’t know where she went. Let’s hope it was somewhere ok. Anyway, back to my rat.
One day I think it was late in 2002, I opened her cage to let her walk around on the top of the dresser like she liked to do. She was not a fan of being held. I don’t know what was done to these rats leading up to when we got them, but when I would pick her up, she would promptly shit herself and scream. so, I learned to get her to go where I wanted by waving my hands in various directions, and I just sort of let her walk where she wanted on her own and just made sure there was nothing she could get into. I figured I didn’t want to do anything to her that made her any more afraid than she already was. But this night I made a bad, bad mistake. I forgot that my underwear drawer was a bit open.
So she was playing away, and suddenly I couldn’t hear her anymore. I looked everywhere. I could not figure out where she went. I searched and searched. Once I noticed the open drawer, I searched it but she was not there. I set up an elaborate ramp deal made of serving trays that led to a bucket containing a cornucopia of her favourite fruits and veggies in the hopes that she would climb it and start munching and I’d find her and get her back home. I told my super that my rat had escaped, so if another apartment dweller complained of a rat, if it was a hooded rat with a little pink nose, for the love of Pete don’t call the exterminator. He gagged and tried to keep his composure, and without saying it, made it abundantly clear that he could make no promises that my rat would not be a dead rat if I didn’t find her. I should have known this from the day that our room-mate mistakenly thought a bird was in his room and it was a dying talking watch, but that’s another story.
then, shamefully, a day later I thought about how she might have been able to slide down the back of that drawer into the next drawer. It took me a whole day to come to this revelation. And I ridicule people for being stupid. I stuck my hand down and found whiskers! The poor beast! With a wrench and a heave, that underwear drawer came free and my poor Hope was freed. She must have been horribly dehydrated and hungry! I think about how long she spent in there. Oh that poor little thing!
then I looked at my clothes in that drawer. Not one thing escaped getting hope-marks on it. I was sad, but they were always reminders of what she went through. that was the end of 2002.
then 2003 came, a year of what seemed like unprecedented death, including our room-mate’s brother’s suicide and the death of Hope herself. Matt, wanna tell the story of what you woke up to one Saturday morning when you stayed with us? Yeah, me carrying a dead rat out past you to the dumpster. this didn’t seem to disturb you, you just made sick jokes about it all day, you jerkface.
I don’t like to be one who falls into superstition, but I do catch myself doing it sometimes despite everything I know. This is one of those times. It’s probably nothing, but it gives me the shivers. the logical part of me thinks I’m full of crap, because as I think about it, the drawer incident may have happened in the summer. Maybe Steve can jog my memory, as I doubt he can forget the bucket of peaches. Yes, there were peaches in there, so it had to have been the summer. But then again, back then we didn’t visit the fresh fruit stands, so they may have been peaches that we just decided to buy because we thought “mmm, peaches.” So maybe the deaths didn’t start so soon…but then again…Steve did have a couple of deaths in his family that summer. Oh god I’ve got the goose bumps again.
Even so, that doesn’t explain the deaths this year, unless someone has a pet rat munching on their clothes somewhere. Holy mother there have been a lot of people keeling over. Mother Nature can stop trying to shake us off at any time, thank you very much.