My friend and colleague Becka and I were walking home from the university. We were enjoying the warm autumn afternoon, the blue sky and the varicolored leaves on the trees surrounding us. We were both glad that it wasn’t summer anymore with the oppressive heat and rats running like crazy all over the apartment complex.
Right on cue, a rat ran in front of us. After that first involuntary exclamation of disgust, we noticed something odd about this rat. He seemed familiar.
Becka was worried. “There’s something wrong with him.” She bent down for a closer look. The rat was just sitting there looking up at us. “He’s got a tumor on his…” I looked in the direction she was pointing. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that rats have uh, male equipment, but this one did. I also saw the tumor, oozy and sore-looking. I trusted Becka. Her first degree was something in science.
“He’s a vertebrate, which means he’s not as interesting as an invertebrate, but we’ve got to help him,” Becka told me. “That tumor looks bad. He could die.”
I nodded. I was still shuddering, but not as much as usual when I encountered rats or mice. Why not? And why was I all for helping this rat get a tumor lopped off of his johnson so that he could go forth and breed with impunity? Something wasn’t adding up.
Then it hit me. OMG. Wait, I know that rat. “Yes, we’ve got to help him,” I said decisively. “It’s Templeton. From Charlotte’s Web.” I opened my school bag and bent down so that Templeton could climb in. He kind of limped in, poor fellow. A second later, I could hear him zeroing in on my lunch leftovers. Typical, I thought.
“Charlotte’s Web? For reals?” Becka was excited. “We’ve got to find a good vet.”
“How did he get all the way to Korea?” I wondered. “Wasn’t the Zuckerman farm in Maine or New Hampshire?”
“I don’t know. We need to hurry,” Becka said and we started back down the hill with Templeton.