Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer of my Suburban Rat

I remember clearly the day I found out he was coming. I was in my room, composing love sonnets for my sister, who threatened to beat me up if I didn’t have three written by tomorrow. Mimi was a field hockey star. She had very sharp toes.

         Suddenly, the phone rang. My Mom was at a nail appointment, and Mimi called downstairs, “Hey twerp- get the phone!” It was on the fourth ring already and I raced to pick it up. Little did I know that that phone call would change my life forever.

         “Hi- can I get a extra large pizza with anchovies?” The connection was bad- bad enough that I knew exactly who it was.

         “Uncle Pete!” My favorite uncle was on the line, probably to tell me he was sending another expensive package my way. It might be something cool and French, from the company he worked for in Paris.

         “Listen, Mimoo, I’ve fallen on some hard times.” As upset as I was, I was still proud. Uncle Pete always treated me like an adult, because he knew that my mother was but a child. And this meant no new French perfumes. That was all right. But then the bombshell came.

         “You and your Mom… There’s no easy way to say this, Mimoo… I’m gonna have to ask you to take care of Petey Jr. Just for a bit…. While I get things sorted out here.”

         I froze. I had never met Pete Jr., but I had heard some weird things about him, none of which I should take seriously. But this was also strange. Uncle Pete had two other children… why was he only sending one? A thought occoured to me. What if… he was a criminal? And Pete was sending him to the US to get away from the French law?

         “Uncle Pete?” I finally managed, “Can I have Mom call you back when she gets home?”

         “Sure, kiddo.” He sounded very cheerful. “And by the way, I just posted something that should be arriving soon…” With that, he hung up. And that is how Pete came to live in my attic.


         He would only be going to my school for a month. Just a month, but it would feel like forever. It had taken me two years to work my way up the social ladder, to the status I had now. My friends and I sat at the best lunch table, never finished our homework, and still came out with a pluses.

         But would that change when I brought a giant rat to school with me?

         Yes, that’s right- cousin Pete was a rat.

         Not like a tattletale rat, but an actual, living, breathing, glossy black-furred skinless tailed rodent. And he was actually sort of cool. My like was SO over.

         But maybe first, I should explain WHY he was a rat.