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My mother greeted me with a rat encounter first thing this morning.

Yes, we have rats in our side yard. They somehow manage to find their way in the small yard beside our house where we used to keep our dogs which now functions as an outdoor garage with old animal cages and cases of beer and coke.

So we have these little black cages where we put food leftovers as traps. And yesterday, mom said we caught a big one.

I didn’t bother to look at it anymore, the last time she showed me a big rat that we caught, it fit tightly in the cage with its long tail hanging out. I can just imagine the worst case scenario that it can free itself (because it is so big, I think it can destroy the cage with its wit and muscular strength) and be a monster rat and bite me in the hand. It’s that big and scary.

But earlier, my mom had a different story. She said when she walked to our yard for the rat kill, she saw a teeny-tiny rat (mouse is probably better) rushing towards a corner.

Maybe it’s the morning blues that got to me, or not; but I thought of a rat scene immediately and it went like this:

Baby Rat: Mommy Mommy, what should I do?!?

Clasping the big black metal bars where his mother is, the baby rat is close to tears and in a panic state of mind. It was just seconds ago that they were eyeing the drumstick bone with a couple of chicken meat hanging loosely, and carefully planning how to get that piece of heaven. They knew there’s a trap, but his mother had always outran this same trap several times before.

Mother Rat: Son, keep calm okay. I’m going to tell you something very important.

Any moment now, the giant lady will come and the mother rat knows it will be her end. She recalled watching her brothers and cousins die of slow death; or worse, the most dreadful unimaginable – be eaten by the neighborhood’s cats. She should tell her son the important things immediately.

Mother Rat: Son, in life there are TEN rules.

Baby Rat: What, only ten?! Wait!

And the baby rat took a leaf of – something which makes the giant lady mad – and a piece of his (man, I’ve grown) stubble for taking notes.

Life’s TEN Rules by Mother Rat
As written and translated by Baby Rat

1. Unless there are really good reasons for doing so, never trust a giant.
2. Always take time to stop, breathe, look and listen for a suspected predator lurking behind the shadows.
3. Master the art of playing dead, it always comes handy. ____________________ 4. There is no good food for a dead rat.
5. The most terrifying sound you will ever hear is ‘meow’.
6. Taste everything once. If it does not kill you, it’ll make you stronger.
7. If it does kill you, it’ll make your clan wiser.
8. A friend is someone who doesn’t try to kill you in the first five minutes of encounter.
9. Lastly, we’re born in the bottom of the food pyramid, get used to it.

This is where my mother comes in to get our catch.

A deafening rumble filled the place; the huge looks-like-chocolate door slowly moved and revealed the giant lady, smelling of hotdogs and kikiam – our breakfast for the day.

The baby rat was so scared it could have peed on the spot.

Baby Rat: Mama, I love you!
Mother Rat: What’s the tenth rule, Son?
Baby Rat: Ah I don’t know, we stopped at 9th.
The baby rat is shaking and his eyes are flooding with tears. He can’t lose now, he thought and held the leaf tightly – later on, the leaf tablet with the life rules – as his mother kissed him goodbye.
Baby Rat: What’s the 10th, Mom?
Mother Rat: Run. Run for your life.

And he did. He ran fast, without stopping and looking back, towards their hideout where he will later gather the whole clan and tell them of the life rules in the leaf tablet he held so so tight it could crumble.

Two feet up, his mother, looking at the tiny little mouse which will end up just like her someday, as head of the mighty rats only bigger and wittier, cried her last tear with a proud smile.

As my mom, walking with a black metal cage in her hand, prepared for the kill.

*Pictures from the film Ratatouille.