We were talking about pets. You told me about a family you knew in South Africa who had two rats, which they called mice because the fellow they got them from couldn’t tell the difference. As babies, tiny and hairless, all rodents look pretty much alike. But they grew into black-and-white fancy rats, and their favorite thing was to watch a human taking a bath.
It was a ritual. They would rush into the bathroom, station themselves on either side of the faucet and wait for toes to emerge from the water, whereupon they would lean over and lick them, their tails stuck out behind for balance. Perhaps it was the hot, soapy water they liked. But I wonder whether it didn’t trigger their parental instincts to see such fine litters of five, small and pink and wrinkled.
Were the rats ever disappointed at the lack of response to their licks—the eyes that didn’t open, the squeaks that didn’t come, the single, malformed tooth that wouldn’t chew? I’d love to have rats someday, you said—they’re very clever! But their lifespan is so ridiculously short.