Friday, January 13, 2006

Rat in me kitchen, part 1: Lèse majesté

When I was on my mission -- don't you hate it when guys in Sunday School start their spiritual anecdotes that way? I mean, come on, 24 hours a day with another guy, no entertainment, no women, and that was the "best two years of your life"? Yikes. But don't worry, this isn't a spiritual anecdote, it's a rat anecdote. Anyway, when I was on my mission, the first area I was sent to was up in the snowy mountains of northern Japan. The branch I was in had about four active members in it, so we didn't have our own church building or anything. Church was in a rented building. Downstairs there were a big room that we used for sacrament meeting, two smaller rooms that we could use for classrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

Upstairs there were two little rooms, which is where the missionaries slept. That's right -- we lived in the church. So every Sunday, we'd invite people over to our place for church. Most of them didn't come. Maybe it was because they thought we were poor hosts. All we offered our guests was a torn-off piece of bread and a tiny cup of water; some guests we wouldn't even let have that.

So anyway, this was a small, prefab, cheap, dingy commercial building, not a real house or anything. Like most buildings of its type back then, it had no central heating and no insulation. We heated whatever room we were using with kerosene stoves. Now, this was up in the mountains in winter, in a place where the snow stayed on the ground from December until late March. We had to turn off the heat overnight, because you can't leave a kerosene stove on when you're asleep without the risk of turning that sleep into an eternal one. That meant that on really cold nights, the temperature would drop below freezing inside the building. A couple of times, I left a half-glass of water by my pillow and woke up in the morning to find it partly frozen. Seriously. If you had food in the kitchen, the only way to be sure it wouldn't freeze overnight was to put it in the refrigerator.

OK, sorry for the long set up. Now for the rat. There were just two of us missionaries living there, me and my "companion." (Fortunately, the situation wasn't nearly as homoerotic as that may sound. We hated each other's guts.) Anyway, we started hearing scuffling noises under the kitchen floor. We had a rat. Like many thieves, this one began with the theft of petty objects of little value. Leftover food would disappear if we forgot to wash the dishes. We'd find a little garbage scattered on the floor after the rat had been at it. Things like that. As with many thieves, however, success bred greed, and the rat began to move on to better and bigger things. Our own food began to disappear. An apple. The three-inch remainder of a loaf of French bread. A banana. Clearly, this was a most enterprising rodent.

The last straw came one Sunday morning. The night before, I had left the remainder of a loaf of bread -- two and a half slices -- in what I thought was a rat-safe location. The bread was for my breakfast and for Sacrament Meeting. Two slices for me, and, since we only needed bread for about six people, a half slice for the sacrament. When I came downstairs Sunday morning, though, there was no bread where I had left it. There was only an empty wrapper and half a slice of bread on the floor. No bread for my breakfast, but apparently the rat was a pious one, because it had left the half slice for our Sacrament Meeting. That is to say, it's a little hard to tell tooth marks from the marks left by a serrated knife, but I was pretty sure that it was the same half slice and not another one that the rat had eaten half of and left behind.

After Sacrament Meeting, my companion and I discussed the matter. I'm a tolerant man, but this rodent had gone too far. Stealing my breakfast was an act of lèse majesté for which even the piety of leaving bread for the sacrament could not atone. The rat was condemned in absentia to the sentence of death, without appeal, may God have mercy on its soul.(To be continued...)


  1. NO FAIR!

    You can't leave a girl hanging like that. Your stories are too good. I'm too engaged.


  2. Well, you have Barney beat. He only had a mouse, you have a rat; good going.

    We are eager to hear the end and find out if you caught the critter or what you did to him.


  3. Of course, it was Barney's blog that reminded me of this incident.

  4. Reminds me of my first branch in Japan Central Mission, Kanazawa. I came from the Language Training Mission (as MTC was called in 1970) in Hawaii and playing touch football on the grass on New Years eve to "the worst winter we've had since 1892" Central heating was a Sekiu stove in the middle of the room. One waited until the Hydrolic pressure was way up before venturing to the toilet. We tried washing dishes wearing fur lined gloves...


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