No mystery this week. Was tending the rat. Last night, Yuki, the rat who bit fingers and hated being scooped up and cuddled, demanded to be taken out of her cage. I tried to settler her in the box, or on my lap, but she was having none of it.

NO, went the rat. UP, goddamnit. UP.

She pressed herself to my shoulder, over my heart, and refused to be set down. The T had stopped for the night, so I sat there with her, under the collar of my shirt, until the trains started running again. I was afraid she wouldn't want to stay in the box, and considered riding all the way down to Heath Street with a rat tucked inside my winter coat.

I remember when I brought the three of them home the first time. I was on my way back from a gig in Allston, and there was a Petco on the way. I had some cash and no rats, and thought I'd be better off the other way around. I picked out the fat one and the speedy one, and then decided I couldn't leave the runty one behind. It was cold and the bus wasn't due for another hour, so I cradled the box against my side, and walked them all the way back to Harvard Square as quickly as I could. They were less concerned with keeping warm than with stepping all over each other so they could press their noses to the gaps in the box, and smell the outside world.

I kept their cage darker than I usually do. Albino rats are light-sensitive. so much so that light begins to destroy their sight as soon as they open their eyes. By the time they're grown they're nearly blind. They don't seem to mind very much; their noses and whiskers work fine. I don't think Bianca could see anything at all for most of her life, and I have no idea how you'd even have told with Edelweiß, who went charging after anything she was interested in whether she knew what it was or not. Yuki had visible cataracts by the end.

Yuki slept most of the train ride. I didn't have a bag big enough for the boot box I stole to carry her in, so I took her wrapped up in a flannel blanket, hobo-style. I had my hand stuck in there with her, stroking her little head, just in case.

I took Yuki out as soon as I got inside the clinic, and cradled her. MSPCA Angell has a little waiting room, where you can sit with your pet and say goodbye, and they will put you in it even if you have brought them a tiny unimportant rat in a cardboard box.

She was very quiet. The vet gave her a sedative while I was still holding her, and she barely twitched. She fell asleep still pressed into my shoulder. Then I laid her back into her comfortable box, and he took her away. When he brought her back a few minutes later, he had tucked one of her towels around her like a blanket.

It was snowing a bit when I walked out, little flakes of Yuki's namesake fluttering down here and there.

I always carry them back home as carefully as I carry them out. It's the least I can do. Sometimes I even manage not to sniffle too loudly on the bus, although since the #39 stops right in front of the clinic, I expect I am not the only person who has ridden, crying quietly, all the way back to Copley.

I sent Yuki off in a box full of soft towels, with a handful of peas and some chocolate coins. I have made sure that none of my rats have ever known what it is like to be cold or hungry, and I see no reason for any of them to find out on their way to Rat Valhalla, or wherever it is they go.


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