Ally's Rat

Finally, the Picture Gets a Narrative....

(Ally will be mortified I put this up, but them's the breaks....  She had to write the story below for a school essay, and I had to share it.  I hope you get as much enjoyment from this as I did -- Mike)


              Rats are cute. What with their beady little red eyes and their adorable hatred for the entire human race. These were my thoughts before an unforgettable experience occurred concerning the little creatures.

              This takes place at St-Arts, a special art program held in Winthrop over the summer. This was my second year. There are many classes you can take, like, Paint, 3-D, Print (oh, fun.), and Photography, you know, the whole lot. Photography was one of my favourites and I was really excited when the teacher gave us film cameras to go take pictures out on campus. We were paired off in groups of two (I was with someone named Emily.) and we were sent out to get the most interesting pictures we could.

              I was determined. I wanted to be better than everyone else. I wanted pictures I could show off. Because that's what artists do, make good art, and then rub it in the faces of the people who couldn't do the same. I wanted that privilege more than anything else at that point.

              I took the regulars; fun angles of trees, signs from different perspectives. This was not enough.

              “Eww! There's a dead rat over here!” Emily announced.

              Something, then and there, pinged in my head. Dead rat equals something unpleasant and gross. Something my wimpy classmates would never imagine taking a picture of. Something that would be grotesque but yet still in good aesthetic taste (even if this is self-proclaimed, I say it still counts.). Any regular passer-by would wonder why I was crouching down on the dirty pavement with my camera facing something on the dirt that resembled a perished rodent as Emily swatted the insistent flies away with a makeshift flyswatter (I think the unimaginative people call it a “stick”.).

              Of course, if said passer-by asked, “What are you doing?” I'd answer in my finest posh voice, “Making fine art.”

              Unfortunately, any onlooker could care less about some strange children taking pictures of dead animals. But it represents something so much more than what they think; this rat could depict the circle of life. The end of the circle. There's a lost beauty in it, I'm sure.

              After I finished taking my picture and Emily quickly dropped the stick she was using to shoo the flies, I eagerly kept looking around for more pictures to take.

              –I'd like to say here that I'd not felt the strange sense of foreboding that the poor deceased rat somewhat gave off. I'm never good with that kind of stuff.

              “Can we go into the garden to take pictures?” I queried. I was really hoping so, the garden was a beautiful place on the Winthrop campus that belonged to a different building (It belonged to the dance building, while Emily and I were from the visual arts one.). It had pretty statues and fountains, trees and bushes and all kinds of flowers. It sort of makes me wonder why the dance building would have it. It's a perfect place for pictures that would be nice at the art building, but they gave it to the dancers. The world works in strange ways.

              “I guess so. We were allowed in last year,” Emily replied. I was delighted. I stepped onto some stairs and made my way to the cobblestone path of the garden.

              I had about seven pictures left to take on my roll of the camera film, and then it'd be Emily's turn to use the rest of it. I really wanted to do my best with it, since film is hard to find anymore and it'd be a waste if I took plain pictures. I also had to keep in mind that there'd be no colour, so I had to find the most contrast from the colours of the flowers to that of the leaves that surrounded them. Or I could simply get a close-up of one of the almost-budding flowers while trying to catch the blooming ones in the background. My mind was racing with different methods to use while trying to take the pictures.

              Out of nowhere, Emily inquired, “Did you hear that noise coming from the trash can?”

              I paused, a little disturbed by the sudden question. “No...”

              “I think there's something in there.”

              The next event is more of a blur, I remember Emily walking toward the trash can, her scream (which is quite piercing, might I add.) and her saying something about a rat in the trash can.

              There was that ping in my head again. If a dead rat was a good image, a live one would leave my audience in awe!

              “I wanna take a picture of it!” I blurted. (You can tell I really put thought into the coming action.)

              We both peered down into the garbage can. There was the rat. It was fairly big. There was also a Cheez-it. I think Emily put it there in case it got hungry.

              “It's so cuuuuute!” I said, with a strange amount of enthusiasm over the possibly rabid creature splayed in front of me. I clutched onto the camera, positioning it just right so I could get a good shot.

              “Just take the pic–”

              That was the last thing Emily said before the unspeakable happened.

              It lunged for us.

              I've never researched rodents, nor did I think I'd have to. But apparently they can leap.   That rat got some seriously horrifying distance as it embarked on it's journey to dislocate our faces. (In all actuality, it probably didn't jump that high, but in the blind panic of the moment, anything could've happened. It even fell back into the trash can.) What followed that I can remember, both of us screaming in unison, racing in the opposite direction out of the garden.


              (Now that I think about it, the dancers can keep the garden. We artists have better places to be.)

              We kept running until we saw a few people and informed them about the menace lurking in the depths of the garden. They just looked at us as if we were crazy. When two other visual art students passed by with their camera, we told them to avoid the trash can, and they ended up going straight to it out of curiosity. And letting the rat free. Which I guess is a good thing for the poor animal, but all I know is that I'm never going within thirty feet of that garden again.

              Later, a sadness fell over me as I realized something incredibly disappointing – I hadn't taken the picture. And what a fine picture it would be, of a rat's snout hitting the camera lens. It really would impress my classmates. It would be in art galleries everywhere.   And I had missed the golden opportunity.

              Sulking around as Emily took her share of pictures, I'd nothing to look forward to. Except for maybe lunch. That was next period. But still, I had used up the rest of my pictures on more trees and signposts (and one of Emily's foot—but that was an accident, I swear.). No other animals with dynamic poses were to be found on our side of campus. Or dead ones, for that matter. I heaved a sigh of hopelessness with thoughts running through my head such as, “Now I have no good picture. Of course this would happen to me.”, “Some jerk-of-a-classmate is going to have something better–which comes with bragging rights. Although I cannot dispute the fact that they'd earned the privilege, I can still backhandedly insult them with no real consequences.”, “I wonder if rats are edible?”, and “I wish it was lunch time.”. The thoughts may seem unrelated, but they all have an underlying sense of negativity to them.

              Then, my head pinged again for the third time that day.

              I still had the picture of the dead rat. Those gloating rights were definitely mine.