“Chihuahua-sized Rat and I” Tanka 393


Rat I saw saw me:

scare a chihuahua –

we nodded, passed.

 

Bigger even than “The Grey”

I  knew in An Hoa bunker!*

 

(In mid-Summer of 1970 I got transferred from the 7th Marine Regiment to the 5th Marines, from the  Que Son Mountains (and its valley) to The Arizona Territory (and its Dodge City, Go Noi Island and even more frightening environs) whereupon I became acquainted with a monster-sized Norwegian Gray Rat who appropriated living – and foraging – space in my then-one-man regimental press center plywood and galvanized and corrugated sheetmetal-roofed Sea Hut.  There was a dug-out to hide and hopefully secure many body parts just outside the front hatch – doorway – to the seahut.  It was serving double duty as an orange-flavored mostly-mud wading pool with about five or six feet of ubiquitous orange clay serving as walls.  Why this is important to The Rat Tale soon will be seen.  Said rat came with the property, perching itself above my dusty orange cot, watching the Armed Forces Vietnam Television Networkprogramming with me of an evening.  I would open up c-ration can discards for its nightly provender and it would mostly leave me alone, expecting for its services of being King Rat  (with apologies to Mr. Clavell) on my street.  One day a newbie arrived in tow with a few others.  Quickly we got the newbie drunk and he passed out on a rack other than mine, shirtless in the late July heat.  We smeared his chest with C-Rat cheese and soon had secondary entertainment as King Rat hopped off of his shelf and began to reap the harvest.  His scritchings and scratchins awoke the newbie – Rick Lillie if you must know – KIA early the next year after I had been med-evaced – and when Rick awoke and saw the rat on his chest and the rat saw Rick’s Jupiter-sized eyes, bot let out a shreik and launched themselves in opposite directions: Rick to the deck and Rat to The Rafters.  After Rick and entourage left the next morning, well overhung and feeling guilty I am sure, it took me four days to coax King out of his hide.  I needed him: I had a match set up in my now-drying mostly rocket-hole beside my bunker with a neighboring street’s boss mouse.  I got King into a ginger-handed carry and launched him into the pit – it was not his first rodeo – and he promptly lit into the pretender and soon scampered out of the pit, went regally into the press hut and without a backward glance scrambled up to his rafter.  I spent the next fminutes opening up his share of the winnings – beef-n-balls, and other indescribably and even less-politely termed victuals in cans from a generation before.  And I gave him three cheese cans with a pound cake dessert.  My winnings were in cans of Bud.)

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