Kiddy Rat, or Thumbelina Cartoon

Little rats are alike human embryos, I watched them once: weenie, wrinkled, blind. They drew out their paws to muzzles and cheeped delicately, very pitifully. The difference was that a human baby fell into sleep when taken in one’s hands while these still chirped when being touched. They had been cheeping well before, that’s why I came down to the cellar where some chemicals were stored.

For half a year I’d been sitting in the chemical lab by myself. Twice or thrice a day someone dropped in to take the reagents. Then I stayed on my own again. There was nothing to upset me about it. It’s strange that people dread to remain by themselves. The most horrible penalty for them is considered a solitary confinement. In some way my room was one-man cell as well. Still it suited me all right. I had failed to enter college in summer and required some time to smooth out my thoughts. However, I had no clear idea and sat lonely for days in my office.

I had been sitting so up to the moment when I caught chirping in the cellar. It could not be chirping though. The cellar could not be inhabited with birds, could it? To be more exact, it sounded like cheeping. Yes, cheeping. That was the point that made me get down to the cellar, where chemicals were stored, cheeping, nothing else. I used to go down there occasionally to fetch the things but all one needed was kept up in boxes. So I went down to the cellar because of chirping.

There was no light downstairs. There was nothing but several boxes with chemicals. Some were quite poisonous, others not very, yet insecure. To keep them safe, they were carefully stored in boxes with chips and shavings. The chips were curving and rough to touch. Among the shavings, in a box, I felt for something. In half dark I couldn’t see if there were chicks or what else. Nestling is somewhat bare at first, with no feather. At least, I thought them look this way – bare and cheeping, with a beak agape. I took out a handful of them, all in chips. Up I had a good look at them in the light. No beak! So, there were little rats, kiddy rats – reddish, supple and resilient at the same time as if of plasticine made. Yet they were very small as though a human embryo.

I couldn’t hurt them there. Well, I wanted to kill them yet had no idea how to do it. One could crush them with a pair of pincers on the table. There were no tongs at hand. Better it was to carry them out. There was frosty enough out of doors. They would have been frozen by themselves. Not very far from my place, behind a hospital’s garage, there was a rubbish dump. I threw them away just on a mucky frozen puddle with sharp pieces of ice. Cleaners splashed out some dirty water there after washing the floors

I did not glance there, looked aside. A familiar driver washed an emergency car. Water he used seemed to be warm for the car’s nose steamed as if there was exhalation. I wondered where he got hot water.

Probably, there remained the little rats’ mother still. When there are kiddies, there ought to be a mother. They say, she can rescue her babies bringing them out to a safe nest. May be, she found them afterwards and rescued, I hope so. But I never heard cheeping under my room anymore. Chirping hadn’t hindered me much before. It was just my desire to find out who had cheeped there.

…It all happened quite by chance with her. Once she stayed in the lab a bit longer than needed, when returned with reagents. It was winter then, and she was cold. May be, her legs got cold or her hands became numb when she carried a box with chemicals. Apparently, it was for legs. She asked me to warm them up, so, I laid her on an office sofa. Then it turned out that she got something one didn’t want. Why they call it so, as if a birdie got in through a vent, a swallow or a sparrow.

I had almost forgotten the matter when she presented herself and said that she had got something one hadn’t wanted. She had tried various drugs and some shots, yet nothing relieved. She was rather miserable and turned gray as a mouse.

For some reason I recalled at once a Thumbelina animation. There a little girl, a thumb size, got into a dark burrow to a rat and had no chance to get out.

by Valery Petrovskiy

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