Farley was always hungry. He just loved to eat. This was a big problem for Augie, since he was a small tan and white rat, and Farley was a big orange and everything cat. Both animals belonged to a kind lady with hair the color of broken Oreos. Even though she made sure Farley was well-fed, he taunted Augie by calling him “rat-snack”. He quivered with fear in his cage. He could feel the patter of Farley’s big paws and hear the sound of his hissing “I’m gonna get you, Augie” all over the house. But he had no way to tell the lady about Farley. All he could speak was squeak.
So Augie wasn’t entirely sad when the lady went to go live with her sister and couldn’t bring her pets. She found him a new home in her granddaughter’s classroom. Farley, though, went to the animal shelter. Augie was finally free from the bullying… Or so he thought.
Augie enjoyed the classroom and his human classmates. learning many new sights and sounds. All was going well one afternoon when suddenly Augie jumped up in his cage and started to run around. One of the students told the teacher that Augie was acting weird. At that moment the room began to shake. The children dove under their desks.
Fortunately the earthquake lasted only a few seconds and nothing seemed broken or fallen in the classroom. Everyone was safe.
“Augie predicted the earthquake!” shouted one of the students. Augie never knew he had such a talent. It turned out that the teacher’s boyfriend worked in an office that studied earthquakes and animals, and the next day Augie was given a job!
There were already five other rats working in the earthquake office. On his first day, Augie shyly greeted his new co-workers. “Hi. I’m Augie I’m here because I went crazy yesterday.”
“Then you’ll fit in here just fine!” smiled Angela, one of his new rat work-mates. The rats lived in comfortable cages, which they entered from the top. The door gently lowered, but did not latch. “We love it here. No need to lock us in!” added Angela.
Augie had fun working with his new rat pals, Angela, Leni, Zak, Benny, and Jason. The guys were a lot bigger than Augie. He felt safe with them. So safe that he had almost forgotten about Farley.
The rats enjoyed their job taking turns standing on a platform which their favorite human, Jim, moved in certain ways at certain speeds and noted when the rats felt the movement.
For another test, Jim played sounds at different levels to see which volume the rats could hear. In this way, Jim could determine how good the rats would be in predicting new earthquakes. He must have thought the rats were doing a great job, since he often rewarded them with their favorite snacks, dried cranberries. To the rats, Jim was like their big brother.
After a productive morning at their jobs, the rats went back to their cages to relax. It was then that Augie heard the unmistakable smug amble of the big, hairy paws of… Farley! He had been adopted from the shelter by Ditzy Alice, another human in the office. She lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, so she let Farley live in the office, day and night. The humans thought the rats would be safe in their cages, so Farley wouldn’t bother therm. Besides, he was so big and overfed that no one thought he would be interested in eating a rat!
“We meet again, Shrimpo!” hissed the cat. “You think you’re safe here. Well, you are not!” Farley had a dastardly plan to send the rats to the animal shelter.
“You think you’re so smart. You HEAR little tiny sounds, and FEEL vibrations so deeply! Oh, you’re breaking my HEART…HA!” Farley wrapped his arms around his chest pretending to be in pain. “Well, you also SMELL so BAD!” He snoogled down the hall, tail upright and swishing back and forth.
“Oh, boy, now what?” sniffled Angela.” We should tell the humans about Farley. But how?”
“It’s hard to be a rat in a people world,” lamented Augie.
Starting the very next day Farley made good on his plan to ruin the rats. While they stood on their platforms, Farley snuck underneath and used his paw to randomly jiggle the table.
When the rats tried to listen to the sounds, Farley made low pitched mee-yowls, disrupting the rats’ concentration.
Predictably, the quality of the rats’ work declined. The rats knew what Farley was doing, but had no way to ask the humans for help. It was particularly annoying to see the humans, even Jim bend down and pet Farley, cooing, “Who’s a sweet boy then!” Farley sloppily slurped up the praise.
Things got worse when Augie overheard the humans questioning the value of the rats’ work. “Maybe we’ll have to get rid of the rats, Jim,” said Bob, the head guy in the office. The rats called him Daddy Bob.
“Well”, said Jim, “I think we should give them a few more weeks, just to make sure the bad results weren’t just a temporary thing.”
“Ok, Jim. But after two weeks, if things haven’t improved, out they go.” warned Bob. “For now I’ll have to work in the office tonight to attempt to figure out what the rats are trying to tell us. Or maybe they are just dumb animals after all.”
Relaying the possible bad news to the other rats, Augie lay quietly in the cage, not hungry for the nice dinner of cut up fruit, cheese cubes and chopped almonds Jim had left for them before the humans went home for the evening- that is all but Daddy Bob, who was working behind his closed office door since late afternoon, “probably planning to send us to the pound,” worried Leni. She said that Daddy Bob was in his den planning the kids’ punishment. But Augie suddenly had an idea “I’ll show them we’re not just dumb animals!” he said as he saw one of Farley’s string toys on the floor. He grabbed the toy and said to Zak, Benny, and Jason. “Let’s go the kitchen- quick!”
Meanwhile, Farley had the run of the office and had planned his first busy evening of overturning wastepaper baskets and messing up the papers and office supplies on desks. He would have particularly loved the look of silver paper clips scattered on the green carpet in Daddy Bob’s office. Too bad his door was closed this evening.
With all this destruction giving Farley a big appetite, he headed hungrily for the office kitchen. On the handle of the great gift box of snacks, the refrigerator, was one of his favorite toys “How convenient!” he thought to himself. Perfect for Farley to grasp with his big clawed-paws and pull the door open. He then discovered a glorious treat- Ditzy Alice’s leftover lunch sandwich. Gracefully, for Farley, he leaped up to the top shelf, and started in on the partially-wrapped tuna-with-everything sandwich.
Too bad for Farley (lacking the rats’ sensitive senses) that he did not hear Bob’s door open, did not feel Bob’s footsteps on the carpet on the way to the kitchen, and did not see Bob until he was man face to cat face. Farley’s eyes grew wide and a slice of pickle snaggled from one of his fangs.
In his own cat way he said, “Uh, hi, Bob. Well gotta go.” He jumped off the shelf and skee-catled away as Bob boomed “WHY WAS THE REFRIGERATOR LEFT OPEN?! Just look at this disaster! Everything will have to be thrown out- including that dumb cat!”
Bob had a “little chat“ (that made a BIG noise in the office) with Alice when she arrived the next morning. Bob surmised that she left the refrigerator door open when she went home for the evening, and her cat went inside to grab her tuna sandwich. Alice said the only thing she was sure of was that she didn’t remember.
As the rats got ready for their morning work session, they saw Farley walking down the hall with a suitcase.
“Well I’m outa here! Nothing fun to do! Off to a new adventure! See ya, losers!” He strutted away.
“A new adventure in the same old pound,” said Leni. “I guess some human will adopt him. There are other Alices out there!”
”But I know that Alice didn’t leave the refrigerator open last night,” said Angela.
“That’s right, “said Augie. “She didn’t…. Farley did…while he was in it!!” Augie smiled. He couldn’t tell the humans how bad Farley was, so Augie let Farley and his love of snacks do the talking for him.
Now the rats could go back to predicting the shaking of earthquakes- without shaking in fear. It was great to be a rat in a people world!
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Hey Kelsey, just checking in again. ;) I know you're probably really busy, but I miss your short stories. They're beautifully written and whenever I need to be in a good mood, I go back and read them. Please post another one! Of course you don't have to, I'm just asking. Thanks so much! You're an amazing writer.
Scout, you are so sweet to write to me! Yes, I have been busy, writing just snippets of stuff, and notes regarding the construction site I'm living next to- a 4-story apartment building. It's fascinating to watch the progress, which I've seen from the demolition of the old building in August to the laying of the foundation going on now. Amazing and complex work. Everyone should know how a building gets built, since most all of us live, work or visit one. I hope you are well. Not sure when I'll get back to complete stories. But I will check ...
Thank you for replying, Kelsey! You should've seen the smile on my face. Please don't check out my story if that means cutting back on writing time for you. I have an idea, you could write about a building being built on top of a graveyard. The main characters sleep there because they're families are buried there and they don't want a building to be built over it. I don't know. Sorry, just excited for your (hopefully) new story. Thanks again.
Hi Kelsey, I must say, I have only ever read picture books or watched movies where a rat is the protagonist. You have cleverly formed this story allowing Augie to be the star. Also, I didn't know rats could detect earthquakes! Can all rodents do that, or only rats? Well, as Vieve said, you learn something new every day. Thanks for the fantastic and informational short story! Keep dipping your fingers in ink (and making fingerprints on the wall because it's more fun than it looks), -Scout
Hi Scout, Yes, rats (and mice) sense of hearing and feeling of vibrations are so acute that they can perceive the beginning of a quake long before the family dog starts whining and way before the humans head for the doorways, or dive under tables, asses to the window. In fact, my pet rats were so perceptive that they could smell dinner cooking a week away! I'm sure if they dipped their paws in ink and wrote on the wall, they'd create something amazing. Thanks for reading my story and for your comments! ~Kelsey
Hey Kelsey, it's been a while, and I've missed your stories and your kind comments! I just posted a new story and I was wondering if you could check it out. I don't usually self-promote in comments, but I'm kinda proud of this one, and I'd love it if I could get your feedback. :) Hope you're doing well, and I'm looking forward to your next story, whenever you decide to post (I miss reading your signature quickfire dialog). Stay safe! -Vieve
Hiya, Kelsey! I loved this story!!! It was very creative, and I loved the names. Unique. Awesome job! ~Aerin (P. S. Could you find time to read my new story? Thank you!!)
Thank you, Aerin! This story was inspired by my actual sweet pet rats. I will be happy to read your new story! Best regards, Kelsey
This story was amazing (as always), and a wonderful way to end my day! It's so light-hearted and sweet--just what I needed. I loved hearing about Augie's adventures, and the way he finally found a way to get rid of Farley. Also, I loved the line "all he could speak was squeak." That's such a creative and catchy way to describe Augie's situation. Are rats really being used to test for earthquakes? If so, that's so interesting! If not, maybe you're onto something. :) Loved reading your work! -Vieve
Hi Vieve, Thank you so much for reading my story and your nice comments. This story was also inspired by real events in my life. I was owned by 2 pet rats, Shasta and Sprite, when I was a kid in the 60's. In fact the 53rd anniversary of their birthday was yesterday, May 8. I loved my pets so much that I've written rat stories to celebrate the happiness and love they gave me. Rats have very sensitive senses of smell and hearing. As with other animals, it is possible they can sense an earthquake via detection of vibrations before they are d...
Wow, it's so perfect that their birthdays were during this contest! It's always good to honor an old pet (or pets). That's so interesting that animals can sense earthquakes. You learn something every day. It would be so cool to harness that ability and use it to help us prepare for things like that. A warning for the "Big One" would be helpful. :) Stay healthy and keep writing! Kind thoughts, Vieve