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Hi there, this is Scott. Have you ever watched Ratatouille? You know, that funny Pixar movie about a friendship between a French boy and a mouse? Well, that wasn’t just a fairytale.
Back when Scott was twelve, he was the proud owner of Strudel. No, not the German pastry, although those are very tasty. Strudel was his pet a rat, who went by that name because...well, Strudel was a fat rat.
Strudel was the baby of a lab rat that lived in Scott’s middle school science room. They were going to get rid of the babies, but he adopted one and brought it home. He can still remember holding him, that warm tiny ball of pink hairless skin, in his palms. But Strudel soon grew up and became very hairy.
Strudel loved Scott. He would get into his clothes and run all around underneath. Shirts, pants, socks, across his shoulders, over his head. And it really tickled, making him laugh.
His little head would poke out at some of the most inconvenient moments, and it seems this really scared some people. Scott would sometimes take him along to school, so that he didn’t feel too lonely and trapped at home. Strudel would hide in his backpack during classes. Scott made a small hole for him to breathe through and watch what was going on outside the bag, and also fed him through it with snacks his mom gave him. Whenever he took Strudel out to show off to his classmates, most of the girls were like, “He’s so cute! Can I hold him?” One time, Strudel somehow managed to slip away and ran all around the classroom, bumping into his classmates’ feet, and scaring the heck out of the teacher, Mrs. Robinson. You should've seen her face at that moment. It turns out that she was allergic to fur and couldn’t stand animals in general.
Some of the guys were not very fond of Strudel either. They started thinking that Scott was some kind of rat freak, and he ended up with the nickname Rat Boy. Maybe they were just jealous that Strudel and him were getting all the girls’ attention. Scott didn’t really care that much about what they said or thought, but the thing was that Strudel wasn’t really a pet – he was more like a friend. Scott loved watching him when he was sleeping peacefully; he had these little rat snores. It made him feel safe, cozy, and comfortable having him curled up beside him. Just having him there helped him get through some of his darkest moments and deal with the anxiety problems he experienced after his father died in a car accident.
Sometimes Strudel would escape from his cage and live in the walls, even for a few whole days at a time. Scott would worry that he might never come back and instead settle down with other rats, or even be killed by some homeless evil cat with nothing better to do. But eventually, Strudel would always find his way back to him. Sometimes Scott would wake up and he'd be snoring next to him on his pillow, or be under the covers. It sounds sort of funny, right?
But hey, he was a smart rat. It was just obvious from the look in his eyes. They weren’t the eyes of the average wild rodent. There was something so human about them. Like, he actually understood things when Scot talked to him.
Strudel would always come when he called his name, but he only did this with Scott. But he has to admit it – he did have some trust issues. And it wasn’t hard to see why. His mom would often say that she didn’t like him “hanging around a stupid, dirty rat,” as she called him. She was terrified of him, fearing that he might be carrying some kind of infection, and would eventually get us all sick or something. She especially didn’t like it when he would live inside the walls. Scott couldn’t believe how paranoid she was! What is he, the alien from the horror movies that's going to sneak into your mouth while you’re asleep and then eat you from the inside out?! No, he's just a tiny little guy running around doing no harm whatsoever.
So there was one time when he escaped again and didn’t show up for a week. Scott became really anxious, and couldn’t stop trying to figure out where his little friend had got to. He hoped he was okay and that maybe he had set up a rat colony of his own somewhere down underground, or married some girl-rat and they were together on their honeymoon in Paris, eating cheese on top of the Eiffel tower. A couple of days later he overheard his mom and his brother whispering about something. He didn’t know what it was, but he could feel that something bad was going on...
Music by Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com