Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Jimmy Almost Caused The Plague

He was a furry character, small by all standards, cute by some and definitely knew how to charm his master. He had a brown coat of thick fur. His tail was long, tapering to its end and he could whip it around when he got excited. He was quiet mostly, recluse except when food was an issue. He would tolerate his master’s shoulder where he performed to his master’s delight. He would tolerate his master’s hands cover him completely as he sniffed his way poking the fingers to find light and a way out.  His master called him Jimmy. It was a symbiotic relationship, for a few moments of sheer torture he got the left-over from his master’s dinner plate. For his part, Jimmy made sure that the crumbs on the floor were consumed.


The nights were peaceful. The master was home and all he had to do was to be present, bear the indignity of a “performance” then forage the meal from the floor and the kitchen counter. The days however were a torture. He had developed an elaborate series of tunnels from cracks in the floorboards and gnawed out walls made of sheet rock. He was terrified of the corpulent housekeeper, who looked like the runner-up to the Von Trap family in the “Sound of Music” only bigger with her sparse hair pinned to her head. This woman however was a monster. From his vantage point she was a very large woman. Her face was distressed with lines of frowns and anger, but her face was so far removed because of her ample body that struggled to move in any direction. When she walked her head would move forward and then the feet would cover the same distance and finally the remainder of her body slowly kept pace. But she was vicious with the towel that constantly graced her left shoulder. The only thing that moved with express speed was her right arm and hand. She would reach for the towel and with a rapid motion reminiscent of a hummingbird she would swipe at whatever displeased her deep set dark eyes. More times then not it was Jimmy’s presence that caused her ire. Her motion was always meant to snuff Jimmy with an accidental swipe so as not to be incriminated for the “accident.” There had been a series of chases around the house. The hide go seek were more hide or be killed. Hilda held no remorse for her actions. She brought her ample weight behind her vicious and determined desire to exterminate.

                                                   Jimmy's Entrance to his domain

This afternoon she was on a rare warpath. “You little rat! If I see you it will be your last.” She absentmindedly swiped the walls with the towels meant to release some of the pent up anger. It was displaced anger. Jimmy could see that he was the proposed recipient of whatever the calloused anger housed in that uncivil woman’s mind was contemplating. She let out a yell as the crash of her master’s mirror echoed around the house. The mirror was the unlikely victim to her unrestrained venom. She swept up the fractured shards of mirror and disposed them into the garbage can.

That evening she blamed the cracked mirror on Jimmy. A line of frustration crossed the master’s brow. Jimmy hid behind the leg of the dining room table. His master peeked around the leg and the concern disappeared from his face while a smile slowly climbed from the corners of his mouth to the crinkles at the edges of his eyes. He let his hand reach the floor near the table leg and gently picked up the cowering Jimmy. All was well again and the afternoon’s temper tantrum, chase, broom slapping and swishing towel, a distant memory. Food was plentiful and his master was content with his friend. Jimmy performed well that night to the great delight of his master.

Spring was springing in the bright light of the day. The golden hue would creep through the window and light up the insides of the four by fours behind the sheetrock where Jimmy made his home. He did not live in the beautiful colorful wooden box his master had bought for him.  This morning the groans of his master were loud and audible. Jimmy now fully awake peeked from behind the sheetrock wall through the gnawed out entry and exit route to his domain. He saw his master double over in a coughing spell. When he recovered his breath was shallow and his face flushed in torrents of red and crimson. He finally collapsed to the floor writhing in his misery.

Jimmy did not know what to do. He squeaked and squealed and ran around in circles. Jimmy sensed his master in danger but he could do nothing to help. The tormenting moments swelled into turgid minutes of impotent fear. Time stopped for Jimmy. The clock stilled and motion arrested save for the slow heaving of his master’s torso tortured from the gasping for air.

The shadows dwarfed and finally the door opened and Hilda walked in. Suddenly the silence was lifted and through the wild gyrations of the woman he had loved to hate, soon the paramedics arrived and took the master away on a gurney with tubes dangling from his arms. Jimmy cowered behind the sofa. Hilda seemed to have forgotten her favorite sport too. Her face was red. Her jowls shaking and her hands trembled with anxiety.

Jimmy did not venture near Hilda hoping his master would return soon. He missed him. He promised himself that he would perform for him for hours. He would let him hold him hostage in his hands as long as his master wished. He would give up that little fear of captivity for his master’s presence.

The passage of many daylights and dark nights was throttled with the fear and loneliness within Jimmy. Hilda appeared daily but spent less and less time. She busied herself with surface cleaning and once in a while her eyes would dart back and forth looking for Jimmy. Not finding him instantly she went back to her abbreviated chores. She would spend most of her time sitting on the master’s sofa with her feet up on the futon speaking to her friends on the phone. She would make herself comfortable with food from the refrigerator that she stocked for her employer, but now consumed it with the same verve. Jimmy saw this from beyond all the nooks and crannies he could hide behind.

Then one day as the sun had found a higher plane to cast shorter shadows in the house, Hilda became animated into her old self again. The dusting, vacuuming and cleaning reached a higher-level intensity. The dirt and debris disappeared in one single day. The windows were spotless as were the picture frames. Something was afoot and Jimmy got caught up in the tide of change. He revealed himself.
“You!” she shrieked in the highest decibel he had heard from her yet. “It was you! It was you all along. I knew it. You dirty little rodent. You nearly killed him. I am calling the exterminators and will get rid of you once and for all.” She screamed as she went exercising her right arm rights all over the room chasing Jimmy back into his home behind the walls.

That afternoon, two men, a portly one balding at the top with a brown fluffy moustache and a tall thin one with glasses the size of his cheeks sporting a leonine face of evil came with machines that spewed a white spray. They spoke with sweet soft voices enticing Jimmy to come out from behind the walls. But Jimmy had grown accustomed to that sweet talk from Hilda before. He hid in the corner. The hiss of the spray became louder and louder as the Laurel and Hardy pair neared. Jimmy wild with fear knew whatever this spray was he had to stay clear of it. His intuition was strong. He slowly worked his way between the four-by-fours and found a small crack in the foundation. There was light streaming from there. He squeezed his way through the crack and found he was outside between the tall blades of grass. The sun was hot and the breeze warm. It felt good to be outside. It had been a long time. Jimmy felt a little safe. He now had access to the house from outside.

                                                          Rattus Norwegicus

Three days and nights it rained and Jimmy stayed sheltered beneath the trees and the leaves. He ventured out and met some of his kin. The whiskered one told him not to trust any human. “I knew that they would turn against you. I told you so many times.” The bald one said, “How does it feel now?” The thin one who had lost some of his fur intoned his belief, “All they are looking for is a scapegoat for their problems. Find the scapegoat, kill him and bury the problem. The problem will keep resurfacing and they will keep finding more scapegoats to suit their need. This is the way of the human. He will never tackle the problem. He prefers to sweep them under the rug. To blame it is to solve it.” Jimmy listened quietly from these sages of the Rattus Norvegicus family, the highest and mightiest rats in the known neighborhood. Experience and knowledge had elevated these three to the highest promontory of wisdom. Yet all three remained the aloof, thinker-wanderers, never giving into the comfortable life. The whiskered one winked and said, “I know your master. He is strange. He closes his hands over you. Not good. I bit him a few days ago when he picked me up outside the house.” They comforted Jimmy and asked if he wanted to join with them and gain the wisdom. But Jimmy had allegiance to his master. “No.” he answered, shaking the raindrops off his back. He told them that he wanted to make sure his master was well and then he might consider the option.

The fourth day when the rains ended, Jimmy saw a large vehicle pull up to the door of the house and to his delight he saw his master being wheeled in through the front door. All would be well he thought. Life was on its way to its norm. Maybe.

                                                     Master's Cottage on Bubon Street

The sun had set and the twilight cast dark shadows of unknown realities from the figments of Jimmy’s imagination. Jimmy slipped through the crack in the foundation and back into his domain once again. He found all sorts of mechanical devices with cheese and peanut butter perilously dangling from the strings and metal. He avoided all that for he had seen many of his friends killed through their hunger.

That night as the dark enveloped the outside and the incandescent lamps lit up the inside of the house Jimmy carefully made his way to the spot where he had gnawed out his gateway. That was now closed. Jimmy knew the two men had done it. He searched for other areas to gain access to the inside of the house wherever he saw light streaming through. He finally found a crevice large enough to work his teeth. That night he gnawed and gnawed till the hole in the wall was large enough. The day dawned early for Jimmy. He saw his master sitting on the sofa reading the morning newspaper. His face was thin as was his body from the ravages of his illness. Jimmy hesitated and then slowly made his way to the master all the while staying close to the edges of the room behind the table and chairs. Jimmy forgot to keep an eye on his nemesis, who was watching him.

                                                Coxiella Brunetii causes Rat Fever

                                                Leptospirosis in the kidney tissue

“You little beast!” she cried. “You are responsible for the master’s illness”. A swipe of the table hit Jimmy flush in the body and reeled him over to the sidewall. “I thought the exterminators had taken care of you. You vermin.” There was clear unadulterated contempt and hatred in her voice. Before she could swing again with her lipid-laden arm, Jimmy scurried around the master’s couch and hid underneath.
There was a muted statement from his master that he could not hear. Jimmy stayed under the couch shivering and looking at all the open areas where he would be exposed in order to reach his destination-the portal to his sanctuary. This was the end of his time in this house. He knew with such vindictive sentiment his master would turn against him. It was a matter of time.

Minutes that felt like hours passed ever so slowly and before he had completely formulated a plan, he saw a shadow on one side of the couch, he edged away from it thinking this was a trap by Hilda. He saw his master’s hand open and stay there. Jimmy slowly moved towards the hand. He sniffed at it making his presence known. The master did not make any movements to catch him. Jimmy finally pressed his body against the hand and the master picked him up with the same care he always had.
“Master!” Hilda cried, “You, you can get sick again. That pest must be killed.”
“No Hilda dear, this is Jimmy. He never hurt me. It was one of those whiskered wild rats that I accidentally picked up at the doorstep thinking it was Jimmy. The rat bit me and that is how I got the lepto-something or the other infection. No! No1 it wasn’t Jimmy.”
“I just don’t like the rodent.” Hilda cried.

“Jimmy is very well behaved. He is clean and has shared this house with me and given me his company. No, I think we will keep him and you will learn to like him if you want to keep working for me.”
“Ok Jimmy lets see you do the dance.” The master said and closed his hands on him momentarily. Jimmy danced and twirled and did all the tricks in his book till his master was roaring with laughter.

                                           Jimmy and his tricks

All was well once again in the small little cottage on Bubon Street.