Why unDuck-like looking Ducks might feel inferior

I haven't told you about The Rat. And as various members of my family have created themselves a Facebook quiz ('How much do you know about me?') and included the question: Who is my favourite member of my family? 1) Mother 2) Father 3) Sister 4) Brother 5) The Rat, 'The Rat' being the correct answer, I think it's about time The Rat got a post all to himself.

The Rat was born into the family a couple of years back when Younger Daughter, then 16, kept saying how much she wanted a pet rat. We demurred. We hedged. We hesitated. We ummed. We ahhd. We turned the radio off if anyone mentioned rodents. We refused to say any words which rhymed with 'rat' (which meant no one could mention my weight for a while - it was fab.) We hid in the garden when she came in from school. We leapt out of our chairs if a door squeaked and yelled: 'Ye Gods! How can anyone bear such a noise?'

Somehow she got the idea we weren't keen.

Then, a friend asked YD if she'd feed their hamster for a week while they were away. And, knowing about her rodent yearnings, as a thank you present, they bought her a toy rat.

At least The Rat looked like a rat, being grey, with beady eyes and whiskers, and rat-like, unlike Wilf the UnDucklike-looking-Duck (whose life story you can read here, you lucky, lucky people).

I don't know who first had the idea to hide The Rat inside someone else's coat pocket, so that it dropped out in the street at the bus stop, or in their lunch bag, scrunched in beside the baguette, or in their pillowcase, so that at 3 in the morning they realised why they couldn't sleep, or crammed inside the cereal box, where it would pop up like a frenzied Rat-in-the-Box with its whiskers all bent and a Coco Pop stuck to its nose.
But someone did. And, after that, the rot set in. Rot? Rat? The rat set in? We got in a rut? Rut? Rot? Rat? What? Who's reading this tripe anyway?

For about a year, Hiding the Rat became a challenge. YD put it in her dad's coat sleeve. Dad put it in her ironing pile. YD took it out, put it underneath my school books so that it emerged in a lesson on dystopian fiction. (DON'T SAY I NEVER DO INTERESTING THEMATIC LINKS.) I took it home again, put it in YD's gloves. Etceterat. Etcetarat. Etceterat.
Then ... on the very day YD was leaving us for university, there was a tragedy. Cue violins.
We'd just moved to our new house, and YD had moved with us, but only for a couple of months before leaving. On the walls of the new house were (past tense: we had to move twice in the end) light fittings, those uplighter kinds which look like fanned-out cones on the walls. YD did not know these were light fittings as we only ever used lamps and she'd never seen them on. I don't know what she thought they were, but our kids have never liked our taste in household furnishings, so she probably wasn't surprised that we'd gone for walls with weird decorative fixtures.

So, the night before, she'd dropped The Rat into one of them.

The next morning, for some reason, the Husband decided to put the wall lights on. (Note that the Husband only gets a little 't' on his 'the' whereas The Rat gets upper case? Yeah, well, we have our hierarchies pretty worked out in this family.)

the husband smelt burning. he smelt some more burning. he smelt burning some more. And then he found The Rat, a hole scorched in its tummy the size of a golf ball.

The Rat bore the pain well. The expression on its ratty face hadn't changed one bit. I think it must have been to some of those Buddhist walk-on-hot-coals fun activity weeks in the mountains.

Later that morning, we stood in the living room, YD's cases in the corner, solemnly inspecting The Rat's injury. (Keep those violins going, Signor.) I kept saying, 'I can't believe this has happened the day you're leaving. It's so SYMBOLIC.' YD said something like, 'Is there any time of the day or night you DON'T talk like an English teacher?' I suggested that The Rat would have to go to whereever scorched TheRats went when their time was up. YD blanched, for one moment matching the colour of The Rat itself. I had to retract. And in the end, she made me agree to perform surgery and sew up the hole. I promised.
That was a year ago. He still has the hole.

For six months or so, after YD had gone to university, The Rat sat on a shelf (no, not a mat, that's a cat that does that). Sitting that way, no one knew about the hole, although they may have wondered why a middle-aged couple had a toy rat on a shelf in the first place. Having said that, in this house, perhaps no one wondered. Still, neither Husband, nor I, had the emotional energy to stuff him up a sleeve or cram him into a cookie jar. It looked like the Hiding The Rat game was over.

And then ...

Christmas happened. All the family came to stay. And The Rat disappeared off the shelf, taken and hidden somewhere by Older Daughter. Only Son got involved. Then Only Son's new wife pitched in, hiding The Rat with glee in one of the kitchen cupboards. I think we found him in a ceramic pot when they'd all gone home. We put him back on the shelf.

And then ...

YD came home for a weekend, bringing a friend, apparently having told her all about The Rat. The whole two days, we played Hide/Find/Hide/Find/Hide/Find The Rat. And the friend went home, saying how the best thing about our house had been The Rat. I haven't seen her Facebook page, but I can guess what the answer is to her question, 'What do I like most about my friend's parents' house?'
So, having been usurped by a stuffed, scorched rodent, who refuses to lie down quietly on the shelf and become an Ornament, albeit a strange one, we are now fully immersed, once more, lack of offspring-in-the-house notwithstanding, in The Rat Wars.

I found it in my bra drawer yesterday, nestled in among the lingerie with its whiskers twitching, like an old Peeping Tom. Later, I'm going to stuff it into the toe of one of Husband's shoes, so that he thinks his feet have grown in the night.

Suddenly, the Empty Nest has an occupant again.

Someone call the men in white coats.


  1. I LOVE it! Fun with rats!

    May I join your family Fran?

  2. You make it awfully hard to have a quiet cup of coffee in the morning without spitting it all over my laptop! Very funny. Every family needs a hobby, I suppose.

  3. Amanda, as long as you promise to be on my side in The Rat Wars. I'm losing at the moment.

  4. This is true, Lesley. Every family does need a hobby. I just wish my family was the kind that chose embroidery, or fishing, or quietly sitting in a corner keeping out of trouble.

  5. Can you adopt me? I am only 56 and I promise to keep my room clean.
    Shit. Now my family feels umm...boring.
    Thanks a LOT.

  6. Retired One, if you kept your room clean and tidy there would be no piles of socks under which to hide The Rat. That's what we used to be able to do when the kids were home.

  7. Hello again, Fran! I have tagged you on my blog. I don't usually do the 'awards' and 'games' here on blogger, but this one is kind of fun. Play along if you like!

  8. Anonymous22/6/09 08:33

    Laughing out loud at work and now have had to send link to blog to all my colleagues. Well done, Mum. Love, Older Daughter x

  9. That is the best story I've heard. How awesome. I tried to get hubs to do this hide and seek with a love note, a quote " I love you and you love me, that is how it aught to be...." Something like that, only he never got the hint to place it somewhere new. He always kept it where I stashed it. So, I'd move it again, he'd find it, then he'd leave it.

    It's no fun when you have to coach em...Hey, place that somewhere where I'd find it next...naw...

    So, I'm really jealous of this post of yours..Not only did hubs play, but the kids too...You are so lucky!

  10. Hillbilly, that's so romantic! Keep trying. You never know. Perhaps if the note said, 'If you hide this somewhere I'll find it, I'll make you the biggest steak and chips you can eat followed by blueberry pie and icecream.' The stomach thing often works.

  11. Anonymous22/6/09 17:03

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Older Daughter commented so I feel Younger Daughter should say something too.

    I didn't know it was a light.

  13. I love it! What a great fun family tradition! It gives me hope actually. Right now, as the mother of a very hyper, very verbal, 3-year-old boy, I'm continually feeling like an old wet blanket over the flames of fun. And as the wife of a man who comes from a very nice, but rather unimaginative family with a definate lack of whimsy, I'm feeling more than a little flat these days. Maybe as my son grows out of this stage, both he and I will find the fun again and maybe even dad will join in. I'm inspired.

  14. Don't worry, CJK. If you've think the duck wars sound fun, your son will have those kinds of genes, too. Train him well. The man will have to come round. You'll be playing duck wars before long.

  15. I'm only 11 months late for this, Mme. Oy, but despite its age, this is still very funny. But it makes me sad that I hadn't thought of this myself lo those many years ago.

  16. Deborah - better late than never. Don't worry about not having thought of it. It doesn't make everyone's day to find a stuffed rat in their schoolbag during Science. Questions get asked. Reputations are lost.

  17. If we're not having any fun ...what's the point? ..... this is great...

  18. BumbleVee - thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!


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