Although the short story, “Rats,” is indeed fiction, it has occurrences of truth while the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
This was originally published as a two-part story. You may read it in its entirety here: Rats
I pulled the well-worn wooden spoon from the jar of utensils on the counter. The handle dangled for a precarious moment before it bounced several times and came to rest on the Formica. “What happened to my spoon?”
Anita, my six-year-old, giggled, “It broke.”
“I noticed that.” I picked up the dowel and scrutinized what I hoped was a gob of rubber cement, “but how?”
Anita leaned against the cabinet in front of the unfilled brownie pan. Her blue eyes stared up unblinking. I could see the turning gears.
Clay, Anita’s eleven-year-old brother, crossed the room quickly. “Wow, brownies. What’s the occasion, Mom?”
“A funeral for my favorite spoon, do you know what happened?” I fished out a plastic spatula from the jar and frowned at the warped head, melted in a previous bake-off.
“Ah…, I think Shane broke it.” Clay recited our oldest boy’s common excuse for unexplained broken or damaged property.
Anita giggled at the family joke. “Shane breaks everything.”
I stopped the mixer and handed Anita a beater. “Maybe we should stop letting that clumsy neighbor kid in the house.”
Clay shrugged. “Can I have a beater, too?”
While the two kids smeared chocolate across their faces, I attempted to spread chocolate around the pan with the bent spatula.
The back door slammed. “Ohhh, brownies.” Fourteen-year-old Rick sauntered into the kitchen.
I sighed and opened the cupboard door to the wastebasket. “Rick, do you know what happened to my wooden spoon?” I threw the chocolate covered spatula into the trash.
Clay shrieked, “Mom, I could have licked that.”
“Sorry.” I frowned and held the two pieces of wooden spoon for Rick to see.
He looked from his sister to his younger brother. “No clue. Can I lick the bowl?” Clay hip-shoved his brother away from the mixing bowl.
“I wasn’t here.” Anita weaved her tongue in and out of the beater.
“What do you mean?” I picked up the Pyrex dish. “Where were you?” My words sounded off-hand, as I turned to open the oven door.
“I was down the street at Meagan’s, remember?”
I slid the pan into the hot oven. “Was this yesterday, when I went grocery shopping?” I had left Rick in charge of his two brothers, Clay and Michael while Anita went to visit her friend. “You were here when I came back.”
“I came home when I heard Michael screaming.”
“Screaming?” I bent down to Anita’s eye level.
“No.” Anita backpedaled, looking at her oldest brother glare. “Just hollering … a little.” My eyes widened as she spoke faster. “He was using the spoon, to get his underwear out of the pecan tree.”
“What?” I looked at the older boys who shrugged in unison. “I don’t understand, Anita—explain.”
“It was just funny, Mom. After they “pants” Michael they threw his underwear up in the tree where he couldn’t reach.” She pointed at the front door.
On cue eight-year-old Michael ran in from the TV room. “Are the brownies ready, yet?” He ran by the family crowd to look in the oven window. Michael turned to see my mouth hanging open. “What?”
“You were in the front yard naked?”
He looked at the audience standing at the counter. “I had a towel around me.”
Clay snorted a laugh before Rick elbowed him.
“Clay.” I turned to the weak link.
“I can’t help it, Mom. It was those leopard bikinis.”
I turned my head with a cough, knowing the youngest boy’s fashion obsession. I pursed my lips to stifle a smile.
“I gotta use it.” Clay ran towards the hall bathroom.
I turned to Rick. “So you pulled off your brother’s pants, took his underwear, and threw them up in the tree—in the front yard—for God and everybody to see?”
“They gave me a swirly too.” Michael stood looking in the oven window. “Are the brownies done, yet?”
“A swirly—is that what I think it is?” I grimaced with visions of Michael’s head in the commode.
Gastrocolic soundings rumbled down the hall. Rick tipped his head in the direction of the bathroom. “Just be glad he didn’t use it first.”
“I heard that.” Clay yelled from his throne.
“So did we,” Anita chimed in. Laughs erupted all around.
I scowled. “That’s enough, young lady.” Anita pouted her lower lip at me.
I turned to Michael. “What started all this?”
“I don’t know.” Michael glanced from his older brother to the oven. “It’s no big deal.”
“It was a big deal if your sister could hear you all the way down the street.” My voice rose with my mental mortification. “I’m surprised the neighbor’s didn’t call me.”
“Maybe they’re not tattle-tails.” Rick ran his finger around the empty chocolate bowl.
I shook my head. Eyes closed, I could only imagine the tailwind from the neighborhood mom’s. “Oh, God.” I bit my bottom lip.
To Be Continued…,
What do you think? Will Mom hear it from the neighbors?
What happened to the spoon?
Does chocolate attract Rats?
See you here next week. Chris