Martin the Pimp Rat – Mzimba, Malawi

Martin the Pimp Rat
Mzimba, Malawi

This story is set in the loft my mom and I slept in when we were visiting a friend in Malawi. We lived with rats and mice. Lots of them…

I woke up this morning to the now normal thump of Martin the Rat jumping off of the wooden pole in the middle of our attic loft. Weeks ago, I noticed Martin had a schedule of regularly scooting up the pole at seven every evening and coming back down at promptly six in the morning. So, to waylay our instinctual rat jitters, mom and I decided that Martin was simply visiting his girlfriend, Martina, every night. We refused to believe that there were more than two rats and one mouse in our cozy loft with us, so every rat that scurried by received a relatively calm, “Hey Martin,” (Martina hardly ever showed her hussy self), and every mouse was Martin’s jealous rival, Bart. Apparently Bart was in love with Martina as well, but Martina wasn’t about to settle with a scrawny little lump like Bart when she had big guy Martin around. Thoroughly insulted, Bart set out to strike down all that stood in his way of Martina – starting with us. (I guess he noticed how fond we were of The Pimp Rat Martin) What started as innocent, light hearted jokes (a small nibble on a banana, a flirtatious scurry across the floor) became intensely disturbing acts of revenge (threatening darts towards our beds and attempting to make a nest in mom’s hair). All of the shrieks, freak outs and high-pitched squeals culminated in one horror-filled night.

It started as any other night – it was a little past six and the sun had set. With no electricity there was not much else to do but sit in bed to read and write. We were sitting there, minding our own business when sudden, high pitched, glass-shattering shrieking erupted from across the room. I can only compare it to what a baby chipmunk might sound like being tortured to death by a ferret. Or anything with dull teeth. Jumping straight up, eyes as wide as saucers, my eyes flew to the direction of the sound. Nothing.

Me: “Oh my gosh! What was that?”
Mom: “A mouse, probably.” *head shaking and mouth turning down in disgust*
Me: “Do you think it was Bart? That’s the freakiest thing I’ve ever heard! I hope that it doesn’t…”

Suddenly the shrieking started again. Only this time it was right next to my bed. Like any 20-year-old daughter would do, I burrowed under my sleeping bag and lifted imploring eyes to my mother – begging her to make the monster go away. I would have jumped into bed with her if I hadn’t been afraid of getting my toes gnawed off as soon as they touched the floor. Instead, I tucked the sleeping bag as tightly around my neck as possible, to feel assured that even if my eyes were eaten through the night, the rest of my body would be intact.

For the next two hours we listened to Bart attempt (and almost succeed) in making us go crazy. Running back and forth across the room, never being seen or heard, Bart’s shrieks never lessoned in intensity. And then, as quickly as they had begun, they stopped. In the first minutes of the sudden silence, I wished the shrieking would come back. At least when he shrieked we knew where he was and would have a little time to prepare for the physical attack he was sure to launch. The silence was intimidating. Where WAS that mouse?

My last conscious thought was wondering if I would wake up with eyeballs the next morning. I sent up a prayer for myself and drifted off, only to wake a few hours later to the sound of Martin’s usual thump of greeting. My eyelids opened and light met my blurry, but otherwise normal, gaze. Mom and I searched the room for clues of Bart around the room, but found none. Not a nibble or a dribble anywhere. Apparently Bart was now the silent predator, making his presence known only when absolutely necessary. No more childish nibbles on socks or tomatoes. Bart meant business.

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