Flash Fiction : Rodriguez
First Draft Written March 24, 2016
There were some overripe grapes on a plate on the counter. I was going to throw them away. Our son Jeffrey asked if he could take them.
“We are playing at Henry’s. They are for Rodriguez, he likes them,” Jeffrey said.
“I didn’t think they were suitable for eating anymore but alright,” I said.
The next day Friesen, my husband, built a bird feeder, all of wood, for the back garden. It had a five foot stand, a platform for the bird food and a roof. I put seed out and a variety of birds including chickadees and finches would flit in from outside the garden for a minute to feed before flying off and arriving back again. After a few days I ran out of seed. I had only bought a small bag, to see if the birds liked it, and so I set some bread out on the feeder until I could get to the grocery store. It was after I put the pieces out a couple of times when I decided something was taking the bread, on its own, all at once, and I wanted to figure out what it was.
The bread would disappear at night. I would put bread out the evening before, stale pieces which I would rip up, as if to make Christmas stuffing. In the morning it would be gone.
“Squirrels don’t feed at night, do they,” I asked Friesen.
“No,” Friesen said. He was making himself an instant coffee. Black with two sugars.
“The feeder is cleared out. It’s not like just one or two pieces of the bread are gone. There is not even a crumb left,” I said.
“Prudence, are you sure it is not the birds eating it? Are you sure you did put some bread out there?” Friesen asked.
It was February and the weather that week had been clear and cold.
The next night Friesen was in the bath upstairs. I put bread out as normal and sat by the window in the lounge looking out into the dark garden, the bread still untouched. It was then I saw its brown carefree body scuttle across the garden pavement, up the pole to the platform where it leaned out and over to reach the bread pieces in its teeth, grabbed what it could carry and went down the post again and disappeared. It had pink ears and a long tail. I felt my stomach turn. I had never seen a rat before.
“Rat!” I shouted at the window, loud enough so the noise would travel upstairs.
“It’s a rat. I’ve just seen it.”
The rat was now back for its second trip. It scaled the post again and gathered the remaining pieces. When it was down from the feeder I looked to see where it ran to. Afterwards Friesen and I discussed the situation. We wondered if the rat was living in the bomb shelter in the back of the yard. The shelter was left over from the war although it didn’t have a front. It was just the shell against the stone wall, roof and sides of metal, with lumber and plant pots stored inside it.
The next day we stood outside the shelter and looked at the contents and knew the rat could be living in there, but we weren’t sure. If we removed everything and couldn’t find a nest it would be for nothing. It could be scampering in from somewhere completely different.
Later that day Friesen removed everything from the shelter so it was piled in the middle of the garden. I stood beside the pile of lumber and other items and looked into the bare shelter space that he had just swept clean.
“You didn’t find anything?”
“No.” he said.
“There might not be a nest. He could be just hiding in there on his own.”
“I don’t think he was.”
I didn’t know if rats hung out by themselves.
Jeffrey appeared in the kitchen looking for a snack. He said he was over at Henry’s. He said they were concerned because Rodriguez was missing.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Oh, something’s stealing the bread.” I answered. “Is that his younger brother? Have they called the police?” His parents must be so worried I thought. Jeffrey left with a jaffa cake crammed in his mouth and did not reply but just waved.
That night, Friesen and I were both downstairs when the rat was back. When we saw it we turned off the living room light and watched it consume a morsel of bread and then gather what it could carry in its mouth, making a couple of trips.
I realized it was around the same time, as the night before. It was always around 6:30 in the evening, and after a couple of nights of standing in the dark and witnessing the visit he decided some course of action was necessary. He didn’t think poison would work.
“Where am I supposed to put it?” he asked.
“You have to think like a rat,” I said.
One of Friesen’s friends, Barrett, visited. Barrett asked if the kettle was on, hinting he wanted a cup of tea. Friesen explained to Barrett about the rat. Later on I asked Friesen if Barrett had any ideas. He said Barrett had an air rifle. He would go over and pick it up tomorrow. Friesen was obviously going to shoot the rat.
“You are going to shoot it?”
“From the kitchen?”
“From the upstairs bedroom. The window opens there and I can watch and wait,” he said.
Friesen went over to Barrett’s in his car, after a cup of tea he picked up and brought home the air rifle and set up a small table and chair by the window in his son’s bedroom where he could position himself in a comfortable way and have a good view out the window over the garden and feeder. It was a cold night to have the window open. The window had a sash which you pushed up from the bottom so the lower half of the window was open. He planned to arrive and set up at around ten past six where he could wait silently to see if the rat returned.
Then the phone rang and it was Jeffrey. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Your Dad’s got an air rifle, with the bread going missing off the feeder, he’s getting set up to take a shot.”
“What’s he gonna shoot? Just a minute…” Jeffrey attention was called away.
“Well, we know that it’s a…” I started to say.
“Gotta go! I’ve had tea here,” Jeffrey interrupted. “Won’t be back for a bit. Looking for Rodriguez.”
Alright then I thought. Don’t stay too late though I said. I hope they find him. Surely them must have contacted the police about a missing person. There would be such concern with it being cold outside. I had made a cup of tea and had brought it up to the room for Friesen to drink just before 6:30 when the rat arrived in it’s usual way, up the bird table post and onto the platform and reached out to grab a large piece of stale current bun in its mouth when Friesen positioned to fire as it perched itself on the edge of the table as if it knew. I heard the front door slam and footsteps running up the stairs and Jeffrey appeared in the doorway with Henry at his side their lungs about to burst from running.
“Dad, wait, don’t shoot! It’s Rodriguez!!”
by Wendy Stewart