Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Cool Cats and Fat Rats"

Terrence tried to cover the hole in his bedsheet with his bathroom towel, but that, too, had a hole in it. “We have a minor rat problem,” he said. “But, I mean, don’t worry. They don’t have any diseases or anything. At least none that humans can get.”

Terrence sat on the edge of his bed next to Vivian, the freshman he had just failed to please sexually. “It’s fine,” Vivian said, monotone. “I always dreamed my first time would be with an audience of rodents.” She looked at the wall. "That's a cool photo of Bon Iver. Did you take it?"

"Yeah. Well, sort of. I clipped it out of the New York Times, so basically."

Vivian had only moved to school four weeks ago and was racing to catch up with the style that would make her cool. In high school she was a doormat and in college she was determined to blossom into a vintage, thrift store doormat. She wore pink, pleated high-waisted shorts that she had selected because they were the ugliest pair in the store, and from what she had observed from the palest girl with the thickest glasses in her Women’s Literature class, that made them the best.

A few flies swirled around Terrence’s collection of LPs the same way guests did: they were searching for the record player that did not exist.

“We set off a bug bomb last week,” said Terrence. “Me and my roommate, Kyle. You should meet him; he grows his own spices.”

“Where is he now? He’s never here.”

“He’s filming an experimental documentary about yeast.”

“Does he know much about yeast?”

“He knows enough.”

A cockroach that the FDA would consider a serving of meat scurried across Vivian’s $140 used Keds.

“Listen,” said Terrence. “I think we need to talk.”

A hummingbird-sized moth fluttered to the dim overhead light. Vivian stared at it. “Does Robin Williams live here, too?”


“Your house is totally Jumanji-fied. You know, the movie?”

“Oh, right. Was that by Wim Wenders?”


“We’ll talk about that later. I need to ask you something. We’ve been seeing each other for what, two weeks now?”

“Yeah, ever since we both bought those organic apples from the farmer’s market.”

“The best seven dollars I ever spent. I just need to know, what are we?”

“Like as people?”

“No, like us. What is going on with us? This is my last semester before I graduate and start the rest of my life writing intelligent screenplays that will reignite Hollywood, and I just need to know where we stand so I can properly evaluate my life at this key transitional stage.”

“I think we’re just… I don’t know…”

“I don’t want to start writing my screenplays until I know where we stand.”

“You haven’t written any?”

“I have notes. Are we official? Boyfriend and girlfriend? Together? A couple? An item? A fling? A hook-up?”

“I haven’t thought about it.”

“Look at this. I made a Venn diagram. It shows us. You’re this circle and I’m this one and in the middle is what we have in common. The only thing I could think to put in there was ‘brown hair.’ But I know there’s way more in here, but I just think we’re going to have to really try to find those things out.”

A rat tugged a loaf of bread past Terrence’s dresser and neither he nor Vivian noticed it.

“So what are you saying?”

Terrence crawled off the bed and got on one knee. His kneecap drove straight through the rat’s head. Blood stained his cut-off blue jeans and leaked onto his frail legs.

“Shit,” he said. “I’ll deal with that later. Vivian, what I want to know is, will you marry me?”

As Terrence opened the ring box, a support beam creaked above him. Vivian looked up and saw a crack forming in the ceiling. Terrence’s gaze was locked on Vivian’s eyes. The crack grew exponentially, birthing generations of tributaries in an instant. The cracks spread and squealed, past the dirty ceiling fan and across mildewed patches. Vivian was too stunned to move. With an explosive crash, a two-ton rat the size of a Buick burst from the ceiling, dropping like an anvil onto Terrence. Terrence exploded on impact, sending blood and bits of undigested frozen organic pizza onto his Animal Collective poster. When Vivian ran outside, the rat stared at her, uninterested, idly chewing on a rotten cat.

The Center for Animal Control found thousands of rodents living in the attic of Terrence’s hipster heaven. In fact, the orange house Terrence rented was the Kingdom of the Rats, a mecca for rodents and roaches looking to feast on locally-grown produce and vegan burritos. For a rat with a taste for over-priced groceries, 589 North Milledge Avenue was the place to be. When Terrence’s flattened body was lowered into its three-inch grave, Vivian sat in her dormitory and said to her roommate Jessica, “I mean he was kind of cool because he was older and mature and I really considered saying yes for a second before than big-ass rat fell on him, but honestly his record collection was kind of cliché.”

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