Yesterday on our morning walk, my neighbor and I discovered a rat. Not an ordinary, wild rat. But a white, domesticated rat, with a brown stripe down his back. He stood up on his little paws and wiggled his whiskery nose right at the side of our path.
I stopped to stare.
The rat didn’t seem to care. He didn’t run. He didn’t hide. Just scampered to the side, cocked his head, and observed us.
“He’s not afraid,” said Hilde.
“Someone must have dumped him,” I said.
How could they?
We discussed it. He wouldn’t survive long out here. Hawks circled frequently. Other animals we didn’t even know about must come out at night. Not to mention the cats who ran freely around here all the time.
“We should try and catch him,” I said. “We could give it to a no-kill animal shelter or the Lindsay Museum.”
“I have a cat cage,” said Hilde.
We walked home and returned with it. I brought a cracker with peanut butter, and a small container with water. However, now we had a mission, the rat seemed to know. He zoomed into a mound of brush. We saw a flash of white beneath the branches. And then we didn’t.
“Where did he go?” asked Hilde.
“I don’t know. He was there, and then he wasn’t. It’s like he disappeared into thin air,” I said.
By now, we had attracted a crowd of walkers. They started peering into bushes and next to rocks.
“Look!” said Hilde, pointing to the brush.
There was the rat again, his head popping up. A hole was hidden beneath the twigs and branches. Ah, clever.
Our problem is that we weren’t thinking like an animal. We were thinking like people.
“He’s not going to come out now,” I said. “He’s going to have to get used to us. Each day we’ll feed him.”
Today was day two. He scampered right over to me, grabbed the cracker from the ground, and ran back to the safety of his ground cover.
What will day three bring?
Sometimes I find that my writing is like that. I’m hiding from my middle grade fiction right now. I write a scene, and then run and hide back into the safety of nonfiction, which is easier in many aspects for me.
Writing Exercise: 1. Take a risk. Write that hard scene! Go to the emotion of whatever it is that is the toughest part of all. Make your characters deep. Do the hard work that is required of writing.
2. Write about an animal you’ve known.
3. Write a fantasy story about an animal. Get into the animal’s thoughts and mind. Try doing the story from the animal’s point of view!