Otay-A-Raang Part 1
Born the end of July 2007 all the way, died the beginning of June 2009
Survived by his living roof, Knee-otni McNett
At a rat ranch in rural Oregon, close enough to Eugene that one could meet their quota of self serving hippie bullshit and far enough away that one could still be who one was, where a lot of beautiful people lived off a combination of moonshine, Wal-Mart and giant home grown vegetables, Otay was born.
The rat ranch was the sort of place where rats were born and not so much raised. Rather they were sold as domestic snake food or sold to pet stores. The difference between a pet rat and a food rat was how colorful they were to the human eye.
Funny thing, people paid more for rats to feed to their pet snakes if the rats were already dead. It was like a denial tax. There o the property was a gas chamber built from an old beer cooler. Rats who had the misfortune of being born white with pink eyes were often killed there then shrink-wrapped and shipped.
Otay was born with 5 or 8 siblings, a pink, bald, blind little critter. He was unaware, as he suckled, that the shoebox-sized drawer they lived in would become very small, very fast. Under his mamas comforting weight his skin changed colors. It greyed around his face and tiny neck, an indicator of what color his precious fur would grow and in what patterns.
After he had grown just the first little bit of said fur, armor if you will, his little eyes cracked open for the first time. The box, however dark, dank and crowded, must have seemed huge in that moment. Unbeknownst to Otay, he was not far from discovering just how big this new world was.
Soon he began to wiggle, then to chatter, then to hop. Occasionally a blinding light would wash over him and his family. The food bowl would be wiped out of pee soaked morsels and they were replaced with fresh ones by giant faceless hands. He learned about the water pipe that came through the light crack.
For the hopeful possibility of future breakouts, I will not disclose the precise way that Otay escaped, nor will I give the details of his accomplices. Though you can be sure it was an amazing story he told often when he had a little wine in him.
Instead, we jump like Otay! There he is running for his life on the tiny edge of wood planks that created the structure that supported the little plastic rat filled drawers up along the wall, 8 high and 30 long. Every few feet he was evading a ginormous wall of calloused flesh that smelled like engine grease and 1000 other rats.
Through a series of what life is made of, those crazy turns, friendships, love and a universal sense of humor, I happened to be standing in the middle of the same room at the exact time when Otay was exercising his freedom for the first time.
The man who belonged to the hands that seemed to be every direction our young hero turned, was flailing around like a ballerina on speed, bending over quickly to catch glimpses of the escapee and then shoving an arm that barely fit, in and out between rat boxes. Eventually and all at once his closed fist popped out of the wall. Otay was wrapped and almost smothered in warm and rough.
I had rescued a half starved ferret I lovingly called Jaws earlier that year and as a result had developed a rather healthy fear of being bitten repeatedly by any small mammal. My scarred fingertips avoided holding them all together at that point in time.
It was an inconvenient fear and I was looking to loose it. I asked to hold the little fellow. Perhaps his tinnier, cuter mouth could act as a gateway for my willingness to interact physically again with yet larger small mammals. Thankfully I did not know then that even a rat the size that Otay was in that moment, can bite with 333 pounds of pressure if they get a mind to.
Otay breathed heavily in his hot seat as I was warned that he was in a stage of rat development known as hopper and that he would likely try to make a jump for it if he saw the opportunity. As the sentence ended the hand that held our sweetheart, our captive, this stories sweetheart, was opening. As soon as Otay saw a piece of light his size he leapt for all he was worth into the unknown.
Where he landed was on my shirt just above my left breast. As quick as day he followed his guts up to my collar and down my shirt where he found my right hip, the perfect ledge upon which to rest and collect himself. For the next six hours he stayed on that hip…collecting himself.
As it happens, if one rat escapes from an institution like that and then is returned to the population it is likely that he will teach all of the rats, seemingly by osmosis, how he did it and then…RAT MADNESS.
So as Otay sat n his new flesh couch cleaning his paws and sneezing, I learned that he was doomed for the cooler, or better yet the next pet store run. He did, after all, possess a rather attractive grey hood with little white diamonds that began in the middle of his ears and ran down into the white that was the rest of his body.
I pretended that it was I who decided that day to welcome Otay into the little family that was my world-renowned canine companion, Skrapen Lacken and myself. In reality, Otay called that shot, and it was only the first of many.