Open Wounds

Of Rats and Street Crossings

I was on 7th Avenue and 24th Street, just come out of Whole Foods. It was late fall and cool, a breeze ruffling  hair, skirts, jackets, and pant legs. I gazed down at the corner while I stepped off, next to a sewer drain clogged with cups from Smoothie King and Subway, then up at the oncoming traffic. There was a moment then, with a lull in traffic, nobody in sight, though cars down-stream were fading away and cars up-stream were slowly heading our way. I was about to cross when from the center of a manhole cover not ten feet from me, emerged a rat. It was not a mouse, I was sure of it. It was too big, too much haunch and teeth, maybe a full foot long, not including tail.

It squeezed itself out of the impossibly small hole and flopped onto the street surface, gasping.

I stepped back onto the curb instinctually. Nobody else seemed to see it.

It’s leg was smashed to a bloody pulp and it dragged itself a foot or so towards me. It looked at me and whispered, “Edgaaaard. Edgaaaard.” I heard the word from where I stood.

Then it turned toward the oncoming traffic and stared a moment. I saw the cars coming with my peripheral vision. My mouth dropped open. Realization seemed to dawn on the rat and it’s mouth dropped open too. It’s eyes widened. Then it tried to run towards the other side of the road. It should have come towards me. The distance was shorter. Maybe it was panic that made it choose wrong. Maybe it was something else. It could not move fast as its back leg was useless.

The first car ran over it but it still lived. The second car struck it on a low hanging bumper and flipped it into the air. Then a cab hit it and I heard a crunching sound as bones broke. Then the body seemed to disappear.

Pedestrians around me continued to walk and talk around me, heading into Bombay Gardens for lunch or hauling Whole Foods bags full of groceries back to their apartments or jobs. I put on my driving glasses and looked for blood stains from my perch on the curb. There were none. When the light changed I crossed the street but stopped at the manhole cover. There was a small patch of fur next to the opening attached to a strip of flesh. I shivered, shook my head, and went back to work.

I have not forgotten the look on that rat’s face nor the way it emerged from the underground. It’s been five years and I still remember vividly, as if it happened yesterday.

That’s a true story.

All except for the word, Edgard.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to add that in.

If you haven’t read my interview of EJ Patten – From Wargarous to Monocles at Gotteenfiction, check out part IV, the final episode in the four-part series.

Happy Thursday, Edgaaard.

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2 responses

  1. It’s a nice detail, the Edgard.

    I once saw a cat who had just been hit by a car. What looked like it’s brain was leaking out through its nostril. I wanted to stop, wanted to call someone to help it, but I wasn’t on foot, I was in my own vehicle, and it would have been dangerous to stop.

    I’m still amazed by how vividly the image sticks in my mind, though I passed it moving at perhaps 25 mph. I’m also still ashamed I couldn’t – didn’t – stop to do anything.

    June 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

    • I know what you mean. The images are striking and stick with us. I felt bad for the rat and a bit ashamed myself too, even though it was a rat (I mean, a rat? not the most cute and fuzzy of creatures) that I could do nothing other than watch. I had a cat once that was run over (it was an outdoor/indoor cat) and I still feel that, picture the poor thing on the side of the road where I found it. These images echo one to another. It reminds us that we are human, I think – never a bad thing, as uncomfortable as it can be.

      June 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

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