For father's day, my brother Kean forwarded an Op-Ed from the New York Times and suggested that perhaps we, too, should consider an 'alternative' gift for my dad. The columnist stated that "Father’s Day tends to be less a celebration of fatherhood than a triumph of commercialism...." and urged readers to think outside the box. The article was chalk-full of websites like that of the National Urban Technology Center, which helps low-income youths gain computer skills and the Black Star Project which seeks to get families in low-income communities more involved in the educational lives of kids. For those of you who know my dad, you must be thinking "Oh, well, The National Fatherhood Initiative is an obvious organization to support in honor of your dad...it must have been that" right? Nope. We bought my dad a rat. A Hero Rat.
Well, in actuality, we bought a year's worth of bananas for a Hero Rat in my dad's name. The African giant pouched rat, about 30 inches long including tail, "have poor sight but excellent noses, and are used to detect landmines in Africa. The rats are too light to set off the mines, but they can explore a suspected minefield and point with their noses to buried mines. After many months of training, a rat can clear as much land in 20 minutes as a human can in two days." Pretty cool, right?
I certainly thought so. Until four days later. Eleanor and I woke up early (Tim was in the field) and went into the kitchen/living room to read and play. After a 5 or 10 minutes playing on the floor by the table, I got up to start water boiling for my morning coffee. When I turned around from the kitchen I came face to face with my own hero rat-- sitting not 3 feet from Eleanor. I screamed (you'll recall that's what I did the last time I posted about a rat in the kitchen), swooped Eleanor from the floor onto the couch by the table, and tried to stop my heart from pounding out of my chest.
In response to an email description of this event, my friend Meghan wrote "funny. rat in your kitchen is annoying, rat for dad is great." So, so true.
Anyway, dad, if you think your rat is getting lonely, I think I know where I could find her/him a friend.
(PS- The images are fuzzy for exactly two reasons: (1) it was so d#*@ early and (2) I was shaking. SHAKING. And the reason I could get so close, turns out, is because this rat was dying. The guard that responded to my cries for help simply picked it up by the tail and carried it outside.)