Eight-Stone Press

Infestation! (Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! #7.75)

Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! COVER

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Willam P. Tandy
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Glen Arm, MD
21057 USA

Table of contents

Page 3 by William P. Tandy
Grease is the Word
Page 5 by Joe Higler
The Kickin' o' the Rat
Page 8 by Misty Letts
The Second Legend of St. Patrick
Page 9 by Joseph Young
Page 11 by Dan Taylor
They Shoot Rats, Don't They?
Page 12 by Cheryl Fair
The Pedestrian-Rat Relationship: A Reflection
Page 14 by Sean Stewart
A Mouse Saga Off Falls Road
Page 16 by Matt Crocamo
Damn Good Address for a Rat
Page 19 by Davida Gypsy Breier
Turned-Out Rat
Page 21 by Shannon Tegeler
The Rat-Fisher King
Page 22 by Nikki Verdecchia
A Few Rat Occurrences
Page 24 by Nikc Miller
Lost in the Supermarket
Page 26 by Nemetz
Cactus Needles and the Damage Done
Page 30 by Anonymous
Replace as Before (The Faultless Rat Trap)
Page 31 by J. Gavin Heck
Moblos Tells the Tale of How Our World Came to Be
Page 32 by Brad Grochowski



In Baltimore, rats are like bad roads: they run everywhere.

In fact, like the pocked, arterial patchwork of asphalt, steel plates and concrete that draws all the city’s neighborhoods together into one hard, throbbing mass (with the exception, perhaps, of a few well-connected blocks, where the streets are smooth as a Brazilian wax), the ubiquitous brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) is an equal-opportunity offender, driven by a hunger that is blind to the dichotomies of man.

Bottom line: everyone here has a rat story.

This will come as no surprise, of course, to the average city-dweller (in Baltimore and elsewhere), who has long known that wherever people go, the rats soon follow.

“I think of rats as our mirror species, reversed but similar, thriving or suffering in the very cities where we do the same,” Robert Sullivan writes in his study Rats (subtitled Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants). “If the presence of a grizzly bear is the indicator of the wildness of an area, the range of unsettled habitat, then a rat is an indicator of the presence of man.”

Throughout his book, Sullivan’s firsthand observations refer most often specifically to New York, but given Baltimore’s close working relationship with that city – particularly its penchant for importing the finest the Big Apple has to offer – Sullivan’s book and most of his conclusions apply just as equally to Mobtown (or any other city, for that matter).

Of course, different cultures develop unique ways of dealing with common nuisances, and Baltimore is no exception. Perhaps the most revered/reviled around Charm City is the time-(dis)honored sport of “rat-fishing”, a practice at one time so popular that annual “tournaments” were held in the alleyways behind some of the area’s finer watering holes.

Or so I’ve heard.

But not everyone in Baltimore is baiting a hook. While a mutual preference for somehow keeping the rats at bay prevails here, there are those who, like Sullivan, recognize something in the face of Rattus norvegicus that hinders full-bore assault.

“It is cheering to see that the rats are still around – the ship is not sinking,” the social critic Eric Hoffer once noted. Perhaps a similar sentiment echoes through the minds of those for whom the rat on some basic level has the same appeal that the sight of a gull does for the drifting castaway: that somewhere, in the not-too-far-off distance, there is land . . .

* * * * *

On a penultimate note, before I’m besieged by Mobtown purists (whomever they may be), I should note outright that two (2) of the pieces herein – namely, “Lost in the Supermarket”, by Nemetz, and Dan Taylor’s “Cat-Rat” – are not set in Baltimore at all, but rather in my non-native/native state of New Jersey – a place to which I am still umbilically attached, for better or worse, like a fetus too small and weak to survive completely independent of its drug-addicted mother. Both Nemetz and Taylor are Jersey natives and great friends of mine…and when now thinking about it, I suppose the nepotistic undertones alone could have qualified them for inclusion in anything of, by or about Baltimore (or Jersey, for that matter).

But that’s not why they are here. No. Nor is it because of Dan’s current entrenchment in the foothills just north of Charm City, or all the times that Nemetz has made the three-hour jaunt down 95 to inflict his company upon the good-natured residents of this city who so graciously opened their homes and hearths to his tourist dollars. Instead, their stories are included because, in addition to their names having turned up time and again in the pages of Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, the nature and tone of their tales were, I felt, very much in keeping with the “spirit” of Smile, Hon and the city it celebrates.

Finally, though the submissions in this collection put forth a fairly broad representation of the rat-human dynamic, to be sporting I should offer a word of warning: while some of these stories are quite funny, others are quite gruesome, and still others administer equal doses of humor and gore. Rat-friends, those with deep reverence for life in all its forms (or who simply house a weak stomach), proceed with caution

Copyright 2006 by William P. Tandy

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