Animal Dilemmas – Rat Horse
After leaving the parrot thinking about thinking on the beach, the Horse resumed his melancholic chewing of dry grass. The days stringed along like beats round and shiny but with penetrating holes in the middle. The Horse’s mouth chewed and chewed, barely even taking a walk, occasionally flapping its tail to chase off the flies.
If not on the Horse’s ass the flies fed off his master’s nest of sticky hair and breath. The giant had steadily reached the admirable among his piers rate of one and a half bottle of brandy per day. Goes without saying that this hearty habit eliminated the time customary allocated for grooming. The last time the giant had touched water was when he tripped and fell in a pool of the Horses’s piss.
One fine day not different from any other, another giant came to the cottage. A good smelling one the Horse judged. He exchanged a few words with the master of the house hurriedly for he preferred the company horses to his. The new giant examined the Horse, untied it and lead to his carriage. Took a wooded crate clinking with brandy bottles and left it at the doorstep.
And off he went to town leaving that fine sent trailing behind for the Horse’s benefit. After a day of steady galloping the Horse was settled with few others in temporary shelter near the docks. The next morning all its lazy muscles were sore. But its mind was fresh and good feeling of change had settled in.
That feeling didn’t last long when the giants started herding the horses into a ship. The change proved to be too big and the Horse was restless and nearly turned green the minute it stepped on the ship. Once in the hull of the rickety vessel it was only dry grass, darkness and rats.
The Rat boarded the ship the night before on the advice of a cousin of his. They both grew up in a back alley behind a pub near the docks on rotten leftovers and ale, and craved better life. That ship was rumored to smell of exotic foods and places. It smelled of hope, opportunity and adventure for the right rat.
So rats ventured in on empty bellies and full minds. They roamed about the ship discovering that they were not the only rats with the same idea. Instead of abundance of food they found rats living on top of each other, hunted by the giants and often cooked in their stews. The rats had to settle on eating ropes for fiber and sailors’ vomit for fat.
Indeed the life of the adventurous Rat was not pink. They had to fend for every bite and be criminally creative to survive in the long run. At the same time, a few weeks at sea, that his revelation occurred to the Rat was when it started suspecting that the horses were sick and vulnerable. The Rat invited his cousin on a venture to climb a horse but the cousin didn’t not entertain the idea. The cousin had had enough of ideas and missed the abundance of rotten food and pools of ale and piss.
So the Rat was on its own. It swarmed with half dead rats in the horses compartment of the ship but they just crawled in the corners chewing hey. The horses were too sick to eat. They swayed gently with the ship their fate decided for them.
The Rat’s plan was to climb a horse and feast on the soft skin around its ears, mouth or butt. No other rat had ventured that far. The Rat attempted the climb on multiple occasions each time going a little bit further and each time returning after the Horse had attempted to shake it off.
The Rat took regular calculated breaks before it attempted the climb again. After many trail and error approaches and experiences the Rat came to the conclusion that the best possible route is up the Horse’s back left leg. The Horse was very comfortable with its other three legs and particularly good at kicking with its back right leg. The front legs were too exposed and at one occasion the Horse nearly bit the Rat.
The Horse was sea sick and his back left leg was becoming lame due to not enough circulation of blood. The floor underneath it was swarming with rats and baby rats and even some dead rats that were being devoured by their own families. Weak as it was the Horse now felt threatened by being consumed by rats itself. By the frequency of the attacks it thought that not one but multiple rats were climbing on it and biting on its soft spots.
The Horse now thought of the play with the parrot on the shore as the most delightful times of his life. It also thought that if it ever made it out if this hell it would smile more often.
The Rat waited for a big wave to rock the ship and ran up the back left foot of the Horse. It safely reached the plateau on the Horse’s back. It was filled with courage by this small victory. It ran along the back of the animal and paused at its neck. It nested itself behind the Horse’s left year and bit on it.
The Horse grunted in pain and was just about to shake the Rat off when it felt claws on two of his legs simultaneously. It realized that it was under the most brutal attack so far. Other rats had copied the original model and were beating a path up to new sources of food. The Horse panicked and froze.
The Rat behind the ear already chewing on fresh fat happily.
Suddenly the hull was illuminated by rays of day light. The rats scattered like mad drunken children. All but one ran to the far dark side of the hull. The Rat behind the ear was immortal in its mind. So immortal that it didn’t even notice the hand of the giant that grabbed it and tossed it in an improvised cage made from a metal bucket.
The giant walked back up and to the ship’s cook leaving the bucket by his cutting board.
‘To spice up tonight’s stew.’
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photograph from lifeofpix.com