Ruth's Rat
By James E. McEldowney
On the Border of Tibet Stories - Table of Contents Alone At Sea

You may like little animals. Small rabbits are cute. Some children have tiny guinea pigs. Why is it you don't like mice or rats? If they get in your house your father or mother sets a trap and catches them. They make holes in the walls and do damage so no one likes them.

Some children are afraid of rats and mice. All her life my sister, Jeannette, was terribly frightened if she saw a mouse. She would climb up on a chair where she would be safe. Then she would call out for someone to come and take it away. My wife, Ruth, on the other hand, when she saw a mouse or rat she would go after it and get rid of it. You might like to hear what Ruth did when she found a big rat in her bed one night.

In India our beds have mosquito nets or curtains. Each bed has a pole at each of the four corners. The poles are about five foot tall and are fastened to the bed. The mosquito net is something like a tent, just the width and length of the bed. The top of the net is fastened to the top of the poles and the net hangs down on all four sides of the bed. It is long enough so it can be tucked in under the mattress all the way around. It is made of a kind of cloth called a net. The threads form little holes big enough for the air to flow through but small enough to keep out mosquitoes and flies.

Ruth's bed had a mosquito net and so did three year old Betty Ann's little bed. Her's was not as high or as big but it was like a tent and it kept the mosquitoes out.

One night after Betty Ann had gone to sleep I went to see that she was all right and I saw that her little finger was touching the net. There was a black spot on her finger so I looked more closely. It was a whole lots of mosquitoes stacked as close together as possible, all trying to feed on Betty Ann. That interested me so I went into the pantry and got a glass jar. I came back to Betty Ann's bed and carefully put the open top of the jar against the net to catch the mosquitoes. Then the mosquitoes tried to get out of the jar but they couldn't. Guess how many there were when I counted them. There were more than 20. Some mosquitoes cause people to have malaria. Betty Ann had malaria at times, so we had to be very careful that she did not touch the mosquito net.

Sometimes Ruth had to take care of Betty Ann during the night. That meant that we moved the two beds close together so Ruth could take care of her without getting out of bed. Because there had been snakes come into that bedroom I had fixed a light so Ruth could turn it on from inside her net.

One night Betty Ann needed attention and Ruth turned on the light and raised her mosquito net and lifted Betty Ann's mosquito net so she could reach into Betty Ann's bed. She had finished taking care of her and closed both nets very carefully. Then she turned off the light and laid down on her pillow to sleep. In a few minutes she felt something bouncing over her feet. She turned on the light again and there running across her feet inside the net was a fat big rat. It must have been hiding between the nets and when Ruth wasn't watching it got into her bed. Most women would have yelled and been terribly frightened. I asked Ruth what she did. "I took my pillow, lifted up a side of the net and chased the rat out," she calmly said, "then I went back to sleep." [By James E. McEldowney, August 1997.]

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