Yesterday as I stood waiting in the subway, a rat waddled up, politely sniffing, then climbed upon my bag, as if hoping for something to eat.
An image of our society in dissolution?
Upon noticing his approach I’d begun to call Shoo, then did something of a St Vitus dance. Finally he respected my panic and scrammed, taking cover beneath a garbage storage bin.
Days before a rat was found making the rounds on a subway car.
Usually of course they’re shy of the Big Folk.
In The Plague, it’s the rats who play harbinger on both ends of the disaster.
They are the first to die in agony on the streets, filling the inwoners with wondrous dismay. And then their reappearance on the streets, going about their business, is the first sign that the pestilence itself is dying out.
So yes, If rats all over New York are suddenly behaving in a sociable manner, why, I wonder what it means.
Years ago, while living on the expanding eastern edge of Chinatown in Manhattan, I was walking home from Wall Street late at night and rats must have been busy at work because as I strode along I was thinking about the portentous rodents of THE PLAGUE …
And suddenly a rat scurried out across my path, directly beneath my foot as it fell — and screamed as his spine snapped with a crunch then bounced straight toward heaven a yard and fell dead.
Perhaps as we are told the Evil flee where none pursueth, but see here too the innocent, the poor fool, mind boggled, who in panic was just trying to get out of the way.
I still recall the crunch of his spine and his scream.
Needless to say I felt terrible, and wondered what it meant.
A friend says the Chinese view rats with great favor.
For it is said that when all the animals raced across the river, the rat with its genius won out — by riding upon the oxen’s back and then at the last moment leaping from its head to reach the bank first.
So it is that to be born in the Year of the Rat is deemed a blessing.
How good of the Chinese to honor the rat. And how interesting to hear that the rat won the race …
The whole Get A Job business always struck me as futile, a poor expense of spirit.
Friends suggest that my encounter with this favored creature yesterday means that I’ve been forgiven for crushing, in my distraction, his ancestor during the 80s on a greasy Chinatown street.
Well and good. But why as a race are they behaving so sociably?
Perhaps the season’s record snowfall — the lack of accessible garbage on the streets — has them desperate?
Or does their frank boldness bode some eruption to our state?