The Snake and the Rat — a story (part one)

The snake and the rat

Look at the man. He looks tired, as if he’s slept with one eye open for far too long. No matter how long he presses his high-end dress clothes, they still look wrinkled. He’s wrinkled. His work’s suffering. Drugs, maybe? No, but he has a problem — more precisely, a rat problem.

He doesn’t know if it’s one, two or five rats, but he’s seen at least one. Over and over. From what bird’s eye views he’s had, the rat looks about nine inches long. The rat’s thick, dark brown fur resembles berber carpet from afar. It moves quickly, and the rat’s long, hairless tail is the best indication the man’s dealing with a rodent instead of a cat. It’s fat ... Really fat. And it’s eyes glisten, even in the dark of night.

He has dreams about the rat. Visions of the rat nibbling on his wife’s delectable cheesecake and leaving the house slipshod with various piles of droppings fill his mind at night, instead of his normal dreams fantasizing about his favorite movie star or about playing for the Yankees. The rat has become an obsession — one of detestation and embarrassment.

The man’s also scared. He has two children — one infant approaching his first birthday and a 6-year-old girl. Beautiful kids, they really are. He worries what might happen if the rat sneaks into their room. What if it already has? Rats can have rabies, right? Scary. But the man knows his outgoing little girl would tell him if she made such a curious find.

The man’s had enough. He decides to do something about it. The light bulb in his mind ignites. He’s found just the remedy for this problem.

He called an extermination service and receives little hope. He enters the local pet store, curious to what he might find. The owner of the pet store greets him as he passes the guinea pigs. “Can I help you, sir?” said the noticeably aged man, wearing a vibrant yellow polo shirt and shiny white shoes. The owner has a fluffy salt-and-pepper beard that seamlessly makes its way from his cheeks to his neck on his pudgy face. His voice scratches the man’s ears like a cat’s tongue across a cotton ball.

“I have a problem,” said the man. “I have at least one rat in my house that I can’t get rid of. Can you help?”

“Ah-hah,” said the owner. He seemed excited, like he’d been waiting for the man all his life. Chuckling, he wobbled over to the other side of the store and nearly grazed the man with his shoulder as he passed him.

“A snake?” queried the man, almost hoping the owner was jesting.

“Tried and true method for eliminating rats,” said the owner as-a-matter-of-factly. The man looked puzzled.

“Are they safe? I have children, you know.”

“Of course, of course,” said the owner. “The snake is harmless. All you must do is let him out of his cage before you go to bed and place him back in before you go to work. Your little rat problem will be eradicated.”

The man surveyed the snake. No snakes look harmless, but he’s never had a problem with them. In fact, he had a pet snake in college. He took the snake out of his cage and caressed its cold, black skin. The snake lay there helpless, reveling in the attention it was receiving.

The man had found his match.

Part two coming soon.

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