Your Kindred Spirit Is There

Paul Wiegand
From the July/August 1996 Rat & Mouse Gazette

Or so it was said to me that Friday, April 5, when Jason, A co-worker at the Coalition, phoned and suggested an evening at San Francisco's Civic Center Park. I knew before he finished the sentence he was referring to RATS! The word not yet spoken, I said, "what time?! How many?! Where in the park?!" He replied hundreds all over and around the dumpsters running over his shoes--some almost two feet long. Uh huh? Sure, I said. They're Norwegian, he said.

Before I hung up the phone I knew I had to pay a visit to these two foot terrors. Christi picked up the cat food, canned gravy, and loaves of bread. It was Sam's second birthday and what better way to celebrate than have a party in his name and invite hundreds to a meal they didn't have to scavenge for. We threw in the gravy in memory of the recently departed "Socks". Just imagine their joy over a seemingly unlimited food supply!

We arrived at 10:45 p.m.. The park is an entire city block directly in front of City Hall (now under extensive earthquake renovation), in the center a block long fountain pond lined with international flags on poles and four mini blocks bordered with benches and trees, a playground in one quadrant. Also present, many homeless folks unable to find shelter - not uncommon for San Francisco. We looked and saw nothing around the dumpsters, momentarily thinking we had been had. Then it happened...

"There goes one, Chris", I said - "look, look!" We saw the black silhouette of a slim rat leaping across a small meadow between the mini blocks into some shrubs. Yes, they are here - at least one. I suggested we recheck the dumpster area. By now, our eyes had grown accustomed to the warm glow of orange-pink sodium lighting basking the park and perimeter streets. We walked down a path in the quadrant with the playground and as we passed a shrub lined area, voila! About 20 sleek leaping rats like a mini herd fleeing certain doom flew before us. Reality - they are here by the hundreds. If only we could save a young male and female, the thought of a fresh gene pool. Who knows, maybe the end of mycoplasma. Hell, maybe even a five year life span! Then I came back to earth.

Chris threw out some bred - squeak, from behind our bench one said, you forgot me. Squeak, here I am! At times, you could see the brown fur with the shimmer of oil reflecting the glow of the sodium lights. Slender faces with pointed noses, very similar to ours before we fatten them up. Whole pieces of Wonder bread dancing across the playground, hopefully to a safe den. I'm sure the homeless folks thought we were nuts. We ARE nuts - about rats!

Chris and I emptied the food in a shrub patch and set out a lasagna dinner. Within minutes, the pan was lined corner to corner with a dozen or more hungry fur faces, munching away. Zip - another slice of bread disappears into a bush, along with the cut open bag of kitty kibble and gravy. Our mission complete, we felt joy and sadness. Joy for letting these scorned animals experience the comfort of a full belly and sadness for knowing they will inevitably experience the wrath of humankind. But...you do what you have to do for your kindred. Not the TV show of the same name, but the kindred we (my wife and I) are so drawn to - rats, of course, those kindred!