The King is dead. Long live the King.

Flathead deteriorated while I was performing at Arisia. He did survive the weekend, but looked very ill. I felt slightly less horrible about having to leave him when Grue appointed himself the Designated Cuddling Rat. Whenever Flathead was on my lap, Grue camped out on the cage door, staring at me and emitting little fweee fweee noises. 'wat happen, wher my bruvver, u giev him bak'. I tried in vain to explain to him that, just this once, in this very specific situation, sitting on the other rat's head was the opposite of help.

(Normally I would catch the offending rat and give them a moderate smishing, to demonstrate what that feels like, but it wouldn't work on Grue, because smishing is Grue's favorite. He likes being mooshed into the bedding and smashed in various directions. He'll even let me clean out his ears with my big fat clumsy human fingers. If I do it long enough he falls asleep with his face smushed into my palm. So I just kept intercepting his misplaced altruism whenever I could, and Flathead threw him out of the hammock a few times when I wasn't fast enough.)

On Monday, Flathead started refusing to eat. Rats live for food and attention, not necessarily in that order. I never stop snoogling them, but chewing is a major vital sign in rats. If they don't enjoy nomming anymore then they're pretty much done. His back feet quit working so well. He went through bouts of coughing so bad he couldn't breathe. I made him a proper vet appointment as soon as I could borrow the money, but he went downhill fast last night, and I ended up taking him to Angell anyway.

Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive was an excellent rat. He received many pets, and ate many foods. He was so indescribably spoiled that he had the luxury of deciding he didn't like, and wouldn't eat, carrots, parsley, or unfrosted mini-wheats. He loved avocado, shoeboxes, and interrupting my attempts to pet any of his brothers. His ability to unwrap a Hershey's Kiss with two expert swipes of his teeth was unparalleled. I wonder if he loved me so hard, and so insistently, because he knew he had to pack it all into the shortest time.

He was also -- and I say this with love -- a hedonistic, self-centered little shit. (I am actually writing most of this eulogy before I take him to the vet, because I won't be able to do it afterwards, and he has already interrupted me twice. NO UR DUN TYPIN, TIEM FOR CUDDL. I'm pretty sure the Flathead family motto, translated from Latin, is 'omg no, ME') There will be no formal memorial service, as I despair of getting any of his siblings into an appropriate suit, but if you wish to honor his memory, spend a few moments not worrying about anything but your own happiness. Eat the cake for breakfast, sleep in forever, and warm your feet on a loved one. Chew on your brothers a little, if you have any.

The cage is still on the floor next to my bed. The other three are clustered around the door, staring at me, occasionally venturing out. I'm not sure if they're going 'wher bruvver' (I brought him home and let them smell), or 'wher brekfiss' (they have plenty, they're well overfed, as usual). I've given them all attention and they've forgotten why they came out in the first place, waddling into their house to go back to bed.

Predictably, Flathead was slightly too big for the boxes the MSPCA uses, so I washed his little face one last time and gave him something better, sending him off in a proper pharaonic display of rat luxury. An oatmeal canister mined from the bottom of the recycling bin, slave-imported to his door, still dusted with the crumbs of the food it once contained; a brand-new hammock for warmth, hand knit by a skilled artisan of the finest of scrap yarn; handfuls of sweet corn and chocolate chips and uncooked pasta and some Rollos for good measure, because of course he'll need snacks. I tucked an eyedropper with a travel supply of chocolate Ensure between his front paws, just in case. I don't know where the good rats go when they leave me, but I see no reason for them to be cold or hungry on the way.

Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi.

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