The Rat and the Roach
This is a story I was told one evening in the company of a few friends and three or four bottles of good wine. I didn't know the storyteller well, and he was the type of person who enjoyed telling tales. He had spent years working on ships, surely the birthplace of many a legend. I spent the whole evening wondering, in a slight daze, whether to believe it or not. In the end, I'm still undecided.
"If a rat is in pain, it makes a noise that signals other rats to stay away from the danger. The frequency is so high that humans can't hear it. They make CDs for this—you play it at night, and the rats stay away. But you have to change the CD every so often, otherwise they stop working, and the rats come back.
"I thought, well, I can apply the same principle, but I can't get a CD. So I caught a real rat instead and put it in a cage. It sends out a signal to other rats to stay away if they want to avoid the same fate.
"But my staff were disgusted. 'You can't keep a rat in a restaurant,' they said. 'That's not clean!'
"They were right. So I thought about this problem and what to do about it. So I decided to clean the rat. I used my shampoo to lather it and then washed the shampoo off. Then I worried maybe the rat would get cold, so I used my hairdryer to dry it off—a real salon treatment!
"'Look—see? Now it's clean. You have to conquer your fears. It's only a mindset that makes you think it's dirty,' I told them as I showed them my pet.
"But although the rat was clean, my staff were still not satisfied. 'Why is it disgusting? There's nothing dirty about it now!' I said. 'It's cleaner than you, probably!' But still, they couldn't get past the scaly tail.
"I thought and thought. They were right, in a way. Now that it was clean, the rat was really cute with its small eyes and pointy face and soft, fat body. But then it had a long, scaly tail—it just didn't match. So I thought about what to do. Then I came up with another solution: l would cut the tail off.
"I took it out of its cage and snipped off the tail at its base with a pair of scissors. The rat scampered back into its cage, the bloody stump dripping behind it.
"The other rats have stayed away. But one night, my pet escaped. You know, actually, the cage I had been keeping it in was for my cat. The cat ran away so the cage had been empty until the rat came. The spaces between the bars were too big, so the rat crawled through one night.
"But I saw it and caught it again, and slapped its face and told it we had a deal. 'You stay here, and I take care of you,' I told it. Back into the cage it went."
We stared at him, the disbelief plain on our faces.
"You have to conquer your fears," he repeated. "I have always been afraid of cockroaches. One night, it was late; I was burning the midnight oil. A roach scampered across the counter next to my computer. 'That's it!' I said to the roach. I snatched it off the counter, held it up to my face, and spoke to it directly. 'I told you not to bother me while I'm working! That's our deal. We need to come to an understanding.' I was so fed up. You can keep your place completely clean, the cleanest place in the world—but any bar in any city around the world, I don't care if it's five stars or what—they have cockroaches.
"So you ate it!?" I interjected, bracing myself for the worst.
"No, I didn't eat it. But I was fed up, and I grabbed the cockroach's head and tore it off. The innards followed, white stuff coming out where I had torn the head off.
"The good thing is, ever since then, I can just smash them easily. I'm not afraid anymore."
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 50 ("stories")