Many years ago in a far, far away galaxy named Madison, Wisconsin I was single. In between pints of beer I thought it would be acceptable to meet and date somebody. One night through mutual friends I met a woman who I thought may have had the best sense of humor I had ever seen (actually heard – although she seemed to handle slapstick with equal competence). I laughed so much the first night we met that I asked if she would like to get together again.
She said she was available the next night and I should come over to her apartment for dinner. What? No shampooing of the hair? No other plans for the next six weeks? Wait. Maybe this is telling something about me. I said yes immediately. Then she suggested that we watch her favorite movie of all time. Oh, no. Here it comes. What could this be in 1988 – Dirty Dancing? Pretty in Pink? Beaches? So, I asked with teeth invisibly clenched what that movie might be.
She responded with “Caddyshack.”
It sounded like she said Caddyshack. Like a cross-examining attorney with the whole case on the line, I asked her to repeat her previous statement. Once again, she responded, “Caddyshack.” I thought it would be an extra measure of caution for me to clarify that this was the Caddyshack I was thinking of – you know, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, just in case there was a black and white French movie of the same name.
“Caddie Chiac” could have been a movie about a trolley (Caddie) that is owned by some people who speak a mix of French and English (Chiac). The whole movie would have the prerequisite amount of “I love you, I hate you lines” and the screen filled with fog – no, wait. That’s just cigarette smoke. In the time I asked the question and before she had a chance to answer me, I had played the trailer of my make-believe movie in my head. I had also realized that even if this was the film, I would still show up.
“It’s a Cinderella Story,” she said.
I was stunned from my black and white dream.
“What did you say?”
“It’s my favorite line from Caddyshack.”
Now we were truly talking a “Cinderella Story”. I believe my eyes may have batted like a girl Rankin/Bass Reindeer. I exhaled a sigh of what I thought could have been love, which I would find out later was mostly composed of relief commingling with lust.
Before we completed our plans for the next evening she said she had an important question for me. The question was if I liked pets. Of course, I like pets. Who doesn’t like pets? If she had asked if I liked feral cats I probably would have said “sure”. The term “pet” assumes that said creature is paired off with an adorning human. I can most certainly get behind that. If she had asked if I would like to have a pet, that may not be a simple answer – but in this situation I could probably, once again muster up agreement with her particular leanings, based on the intonation of her asking voice. That’s sort of the beginning of any healthy relationship – right?
The next night I showed up with a bottle of wine that probably was bad, but neither of us had any knowledge to determine one way or another, so we drank it. We had dinner. Most likely spaghetti. Then it was time for the movie.
Before starting the movie she said she wanted to show me her pet. It was in her bedroom. OK. I followed her into the room and the late setting summer sun threw thick orange light in from the outside. I saw what looked like some kind of cage in a shadow in the back of the orange room. I sensed that the pet was going to be a guinea pig or maybe a hamster. I was starting to talk myself into maybe touching my finger to the top of its little rodent head.
“Hey, Ben!” She said with the kind of excitement that warrants an exclamation point.
We approached the cage and I could see that it was actually made of glass, like a large glass fish tank. I didn’t see anything in the tank.
“Do you see Ben hiding?” She asked.
I didn’t see anything. So technically, I guess I did see Ben hiding. If that’s what she meant. She approached and deftly reached in under some kind of plastic bridge. I was right behind her. As she grabbed at this unseen pet I could only see her back – until she wheeled around with said pet in hand – actually both hands.
I was face to face with the biggest, oddest looking guinea pig I’d ever seen. Then I realized that this guinea pig looked remarkably like a huge mouse. But the moment she kissed the top of Ben’s head I realized that Ben was in fact a rat.
I think she was thinking that I was thinking that I might want to pet the rat on the top of the head – maybe even in the region that had just been kissed – by the same lips that she might use to kiss a human person. I pulled myself together to gingerly pet its little bony rat head a couple of times.
Kind, pet friendly animal loving reader, this was in a time well before the lovable rat from the movie Ratatouille broke down the walls that kept rats from being highly successful French chefs. The time of my first pet rat encounter was in a time closer to movies like Willard and Ben, when rats were sort of bad.
Well, that was fun. It was now time to watch the movie. And she carried the rat with her to the living room. The rat – Ben, that is – perched on her shoulder as she got the movie and put it into the VCR. We took a seat on the couch together. And when I say “we” I mean me, her and Ben. Ben was on her lap as the movie began.
Eventually, she put Ben on the floor to wander around and get some exercise – I guess. Things were getting better. I had put Ben out of my mind. At some point during the movie we kissed. I even put the rat kissing lips out of my mind – because I’m a guy and that’s the kind of thing guys can do.
As we were making out I realized that her petite slender finger was running along my leg. I knew wearing shorts was a good idea. Her finger weaved back and forth along my leg like nothing I had ever felt. Out of nowhere she pinched me. I paused mid kiss and pulled back slightly.
“You like to pinch?” I said coyly.
“What?” she replied.
That second I knew to look down. My leg was bleeding and Ben was sitting on the couch next to us. Ben had bitten me. I saw his long tail weaving around and realized it was not her sexy little finger on my leg but Ben’s big ratty tail. I jumped up. I startled Ben and he scurried away – you know, like a rat.
“Be careful. You scared him,” she said.
“He bit me,” I countered.
She kissed my leg where the blood was. Now the blood was on her lips. I hate to dwell on this, but once again, those same lips that kissed the rat that bit me.
“You must have sat on his tail or something. I have some Band-Aids in the bathroom cabinet if you want. I’ll pause the movie.”
Some kind of bandage made sense. Cover the wound so the tetanus or whatever other rat disease could stay in there and do its work. I went into the bathroom and found the Band-Aids and applied one to my rat bite. An odd odor caught my attention. It is a bathroom so not totally unexpected.
The shower curtain was pulled shut and it seemed taut at the bottom, like weight was being applied all along the bottom of the curtain. Just great. I needed to look behind that curtain and there was really no way around it. I pulled it aside at the top and peaked behind. I spotted a couple of banana peels on top of what looked like seven inches of spaghetti filling the entire bottom of the tub. Then I looked closer. That spaghetti appeared to be moving. That spaghetti was not spaghetti, it was an entire bath tub of mealworms. Undulating, wriggling mealworms.
For a brief moment my dinner spaghetti almost made an appearance on top of the spaghetti of mealworms. I composed myself and went back out to the living room. Mentioning the mealworms seemed as natural to me as mealworms ridding one of their banana peels.
“You have a tub half full of mealworms,” I opined.
“Yeah. That’s where I compost.”
I stared for a moment.
“I shower at the gym,” she added.
That’s where things ended. No matter how funny you are, a bath tub of mealworms doesn’t add up. Throw in a biting rat and you’ve got a solid deal breaker. I would like to say that I had a heart to heart with her explaining how a rat bite and a bath tub of mealworms just didn’t work for me. I would like to say we exchanged a warm hug and bid our adieus, agreeing that it just wasn’t meant to be. But I didn’t.
She was really attractive and we had Caddy Shack on pause. I sat down next to her and watched the rest of the movie with one eye looking out for Ben the rat and keeping the information in the back of my mind that there was a tub of mealworms in the bathroom.
We went out two or three more times. One of those times involved bringing Ben along on a picnic at a park. The other couples were playing Frisbee or fetch with their dogs and we were freaking everyone out with a huge rat on our picnic blanket.
I don’t even think we officially broke up. We just stopped hanging out and doing things together. It’s possible she just thought I wasn’t that funny. You know, not pulling my fair share of the funny weight in the relationship. Or she could see that I was a rat hater and didn’t have a gym membership for showering.
I saw her a couple months later in a bar and we said hi. Later that night some guy was obviously hitting on her and I could tell she was ok with it. When she went to the bathroom I thought I should go and warn the guy about the rat and mealworms. But who was I kidding. He was a guy. She probably had him at “Caddyshack”.