The Flying Rats

Short Story by Fouad Kandil
Translated by Abdel-Moneim Habib

The rat pulled up its car in front of the fruit shop. As soon as the fruit vendor saw the rat, he snubbed all the clients around and rushed to satisfy the needs of the rat.
The vendor darted toward the car boot door as its lid popped up. The vendor cast a look through the boot and was assured as to its depth and space. He rushed back to the shop, snatched a box of fruit and went straight to the car. All the waiting clients gazed at the box shaken by indignant thoughts. Out of the box, shiny looking and garish-crimson apples were lined in their white paper wrappings.
The vendor rejected calls of his clients out of hand as he lodged the box with assured care in the car boot. He rushed to his shop again and this time carried a box of red dates. The bystanders gazed at the glaring box as if it were filled with metal dates. They swallowed hard though some of them were busy assessing the weight and price of the box. Meanwhile, they went on to calculate the price and compare it to their meager monthly salaries.
The vendor went back to the shop and this time carried a box of mango and then another filled with pears and placed them in the car boot and gently closed its lid. Then he went to his majesty the rat. The rat was sitting behind the wheel, smoking whilst listening to some fat singer on a tape. The vendor whispered unctuously and said:
- Fine sir, everything is over.
The luxury car moved on, and the distraught bystanders thought it was a moving spacious palace. They could not tolerate the view of the petty rat. The car screeched in the opposite direction of the road. The traffic wave was dispersed in disarray, whilst small cars took to the side of the road till the moving palatial car of the rat go. The bystanders turned to the fruit vendor and every one became engulfed in his\her own business. They forgot about the story of the rat and paid no heed to the bewilderment that was drawn on their faces forever.
In front of the abode, the salacious car pulled up and sent a harsh disharmonious horn.
Doors pulled wide open and dozens of other rats rushed out. They went straight to the car boot. It was open and they cooperated to move the boxes. They threw them in the center of the house. They unloaded the contents. They assaulted the great hill of delicious fruit and violently went on munching as if it were a task to be finished in a short period of time.
The great hill of fruit began to diminish gradually and send various odors. Afterwards they lied prostrate with their heads and noses high. Upon their whiskers, the remains of a setting sun fell.
The big rat drank a cup of wine and surrendered to sleep. With a corner of his eye, he glimpsed a team of cats hovering around the house. He contemptuously roared with laughter. A small cat stole to the remainder of the food. It went scavenging here and there. The biggest of the cats came to insert its head in the remainder of food looking for a meager share.
The big rat sipped from the cup and took a nap. After some seconds that he thought an age, he found that the cats were still at it, eating and licking the remains of the food. The rat decided to end the banquet, therefore he released a loud cough and the cats rushed away distraught. The rat roared with triumphant laughter.
The house is now vacated of all strangers. The rat could then take a nap. It seemed that all cats disappeared from the planet. He cast a look at his little ones. They were throwing between them reams of dollar notes. He went fast asleep. As the morning light dawned out, the little ones said to the big rat:
- We want to have a picnic.
The big rat remembered that the day was a holiday. He raised his head high and said:
- Look up at the sky, is it fine today?
All replied: It s lovely.
One rat who was gazing at the sky: Why do birds fly while rats don’t?
The big rat retorted: Nothing is unachievable.
All replied in one voice: We want to fly?
The big rat said: We’ve got no wings.
The little ones replied: What can we do then?
The big rat said: Nothing is impossible, we’d get wings.
The big rat sat back, twirled its whiskers, and craned its head. For a while, it pondered about what should happen next, and said:
- Get me the dollar notes you’ve been playing with.
The dollar notes were ready and the big rat made wings out of them. He fixed two wings to each and every rat. All smiled in pleasure and the big one roared with laughter. All said approving that it was a great idea. Nothing is impossible.
One of the rats turned around pompously to try the wings, and then said:
- These notes of paper are wonderful, Mr. Big.
- Yes, they are wonderful. Let’s fly then.
The winged rats gathered in swarms. They formed a moving army. The little bodies had mousy colors and their eyes sparkled like rotten bubbles. On the side of every rat there were the green paper wings, pointed out and glamorous. They ran fluttering with the wings and flew up in the sky. Every rat screamed in amazement. They soared above houses, people and trees to the heart of heaven. Wings fluttered in earnest and the little feet disappeared under the bellies. Thousand of rats witnessed the unique experience from the ground. After things settled down, the rats on the ground had no patience; therefore they made wings out of the dollar notes and hilariously flew up in the sky.
They easily imagined that they are the luckiest people on earth; the richest, the smartest, and the strongest. They are in control of both ground and space. They laughed triumphantly:
- There is no place we can’t reach. Oh! What a magic do these dollar notes have. Verily, the drawings on the notes have much authority and sway; on them there are awesome minarets and pictures. Intimations of glory and power glitter in their eyes. There are numbers, and perhaps spells. We achieved with the dollars all the miracles in heaven and earth. Oh! For the magic of these green notes.
Birds panicked as they saw all the sky venues blocked, and all these mousy swarms creep to block the light of the sun. The sky was about to cry in indignation. The birds perched on the trees waiting to see what was going on. What was the matter that day in the sky? What were those weird creatures? What was their race and what planet did they come from?
Strain soon struck the rats as a result of flying; therefore they landed on the trees. They found the lush green leaves and ripe fruits and they went on to devour all of them as if they ate nothing before. Some rats eyed the birds and they proceeded towards them. The birds panicked and landed on the ground and resorted to remote corners. At their heart of hearts they had the perplexing question: “What the heck is going on?”The stray cats saw the swarms of birds hastening to the ground and sit exhausted and sad. They looked as if they lost the ability to fly. The cats attacked and the birds hurried to holes in the ground feeling that it was the end and are going to perish. The birds fell silent amid the dark and oppression waiting for a form of death. The rats went back to the sky. One rat said:
- Those birds and eagles had a great pleasure flying, while we were cornered in holes; but we are gonna fly, fly to the end of our life.
Ominously, thunder storms sounded and lightning struck the sky, and dark clouds filled the sky. The sun disappeared completely and heavy rain started to fall in anger. The rats got wet and the wings got drenched. The rats tried to push forward across the air. Meanwhile, the dollar notes started to fall off to their sides. The notes lost their vitality and were soaked. Their authority and charm had gone.
The mousy bodies began to fall off the sky. Rain pushed them violently so they hit the ground, the mountain, the homes and trees with tremendous force. Nothing was left for them to be able to raise a head or show the slightest of movements. It was a collective end for some unique creatures. Strewn upon the ground, were the bodies of dark bodies and ugly features wrapped up in wet paper with drawings, spells and sulky faces. The sky was soon clear and the sun shone again. Light was filtered into the holes. The birds were eager to come back to normal life. They came out to assess the world anew. The horizon was once again inebriated by light and serenity. The birds soared high and sang to life. This is life.