As an itinerant teacher I’m often tucked away in odd little spaces to work with my students. In one Maritime high school, I worked in the attic. My students and I trudged up a steep, narrow stair case to find a spot under the sloping ceiling surrounded by shelves laden with dusty text books from the 70’s. It was a bit creepy.
At one of my current schools, I work in a tiny, windowless office that also houses the school rat. I admit I’m no friend to rodents. I recently put out a contract on a mouse in my attic. (He was never harmed. He moved on as mysteriously as he’d arrived.) This animal was different. Large and white, Nimms was a “specially bred pet-quality rat” according to the teacher who owned her.
Despite her long scaly tail, I found myself bonding with Nimms, filling her water bottle and even hand feeding her sunflower seeds and ominous looking “rodent pellets” every time I saw her. Yes, I even talked to Nimms, asking her how she was and what was new.
My students loved Nimms, too, and our sessions always began with some quality rat time.
One morning I arrived to find the cage gone, nothing but a half bag of rat chow on the floor to indicate Nimms had ever been there. I learned she’d suffered a catastrophic stroke earlier in the week and didn’t make it.
When my young student came in, she immediately asked about the rat. Where was she? What had happened to her?
“Nimms is . . . gone,” I said.
“Aw, Nimms is gone.”
“Well, rats don’t live that long.”
“What??? Nimms is dead???”
Sigh–I really need to learn when to stop talking.