ANDREAS ECONOMAKIS

MOUSEHEART

by Andreas Economakis

4:30pm.  I’m standing outside of TK Films, on Cory Avenue.  The day is hot and humid.  The brown litter of a million exhausts sticks to my skin like an itchy Teflon coat.  July in Beverly Hills.  Overhead, a noisy police helicopter competes with the constant drone of Porsches and Land Rovers and other large combustion engines whizzing down Sunset Blvd., a few meters to my left.  Chris’ cigarette smoke wafts over my shoulders, around my sunglasses.  I don’t mind.  My eyes are glued to the spectacle across the street.

Two young women, actress-types, are on their knees, shrieking.  Their long, tanned legs are stretched out on the pavement, their arms swishing underneath a gold-colored Buick with ugly rims that’s parked next to a dumpster.  A squad of frantic green parrots buzzes overhead, raising all kinds of hell.

“Check THAT out!” gurgles Chris, his eyes pinned on the two women.  For a distracted moment, I think he’s talking about the parrots.  I squint directly at sun, following the squawking.  I look at Chris.  Through the dancing sunspots that momentarily cloud my vision, he looks distorted.

“What do you think they’re looking for?” I ask, not really wanting the two women to get up and straighten out their hiked up miniskirts.

“Beats me,” my friend says, patting his beer-belly and letting his mirror Rayban sunglasses slide down his nose, “…but I sure hope they don’t find it!”  He shines a wide tobacco yellow grin my way.

Brian, the discontented receptionist, waddles up next to us.  He lights a cigarette, his eyes locked on the gold-colored Buick.  Those two women must know they are attracting a lot of attention.  In the reflection of a passing van’s windows we look like a bunch of horny frat-boys.  I shudder at the thought but don’t budge.  We’re talking backlit thigh hairs here.

“Damn!” is all Brian says, inhaling deeply from his American Spirit Light.  Chris and I nod together.  Something beeps and I look down at my cell phone.

“The client will be here any moment boys,” I mutter.  I’m hoping Chris will get the drift and get back to work.  I don’t want it to look like we’re all fucking off, which, of course, we are.   Though I’ve personally made sure that all is ready for the pre-production meeting that’s about to take place, I need to warn Chris anyway.  That’s my job.  That’s why they call me a Production Coordinator.  I coordinate people and things.  Well anyway, I act like you do.

The words bounce off of Chris, who’s no less interested in the meeting than if chipmunks mate in springtime or summer.  He pushes his mirror Raybans up his nose, tucks his shirt in and turns his twin mirrors towards me.  For a moment, he reminds me of Jon from CHIPS, only after an all-night bender and with a few years and beers strapped to his frame.  In the mirrors, I kind of look like a freaky Ponch, only with a touch of William Burroughs.  “What keeps mankind alive?” I ponder, staring at this sepia-tinted, receding-hairline hybrid that’s me.  “Bestial acts!”  I clear my throat and look towards the two women.

“I’m going to check it out!” Chris gurgles, snapping me out of my reverie.

“Insolent, this assistant,” I think to myself.

Affecting the other John, John Wayne, Chris swaggers across Cory Ave.

Well, it takes all of 30 seconds before Chris is on all fours as well, swishing his hand under the gold-colored Buick. The girls don’t even pay attention to him, all focused as they are at whoever or whatever is under that ugly hunk of Detroit’s finest.  For a brief moment, Chris is totally stretched out on his stomach, skinny legs poking dangerously into the street.  In a maddeningly quick psychedelic flash, I picture a car rolling over Chris’s legs, his beer belly exploding, me running, people screaming, blood and guts and beer everywhere, mirror Raybans cracked on the street, seven years bad luck.  Fuck!  Are these psychedelic flashes weird tracers from my past?  A friend once told me that eating psychedelic mushrooms more than 7 times makes people legally insane.

Curiosity finally gets the better of me.  Feigning indifference, I stroll over to the circus act, throwing one last glance at my cell phone and an apprehensive look at the window upstairs.  I want to be sure that Eva, my Swedish producer, isn’t looking out of the window at us, wondering why the hell we’re all fucking off.

I approach the spectacle. “What are we looking for?” I ask, knowing exactly what I’m looking for.  My question goes unanswered.  The beautiful legs continue to move and I hear some muffled exclamations.  I have a clear view of both women.  My heart skips a beat.  Deep down, I know that if I too drop on all fours, I will forever be a slave to backlit thighs and peach-colored lace underwear. “Ah, hell!” I drop down to my primitive state and peek under the gold-colored Buick.

I don’t see anything.  The women are swishing their arms wildly and Chris is groaning in an extended reach.

“WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?”  I half-yell.

“Rat!” Chris replies, matter-of-factly.  “They’re trying to catch their rat.”

A moment’s pause.  The reader will notice the diction, the grammar involved here.  “Their rat.”  There’s a rat under the gold car and this rat belongs to the beautiful backlit models.  I flatten out some more and strain to see the elusive quadruped.

“Rat?” I say aloud.

“He’s not going to answer you!  He’s a fucking rat!” Chris chuckles.

“I’m not talking to the beast you idiot,” I reply.

I picture myself catching the rat.  I have a clear shot at becoming a hero if I catch the large mouse.  The headlines will blare:  “Hero-Coordinator saves young woman’s pet mouse!  Couple to wed in April.”

But where is he?  I flatten myself onto the street for a better look, a few feet away from the future mother of my children.   My eyes drift up her back and settle on the base of her neck.  My heart skips another beat.  Something is looking back at me.  “Oh my God!  The rat is on her neck.  Wait!  No!  That’s not a rat,” I think to myself.  I look closer.  “That’s a tattoo.  A tattoo!”  A green snake is coiled around the young woman’s neck, its beady eyes looking directly at me.  The snake’s fangs are biting into a shiny red apple.  Milky white juice rolls down the apple seductively, onto the snake’s scaly green skin.  I’m transfixed, like Adam in the Garden of Eden.

“He’s running out of steam,” the other woman says.  “He’s over-exerted himself.”

“Amateur,” I think to myself.

A brown blur moves in the periphery of my vision.  The rat!  I have a bead on him.  Chris swipes his hand at the blur.  Suddenly, the brown fuzzy one scurries right up to my nose.  “Aaaagh!” I yell and jerk upward.  The metal clunking sound that follows is my cranium smacking the gold-colored Buick’s undercarriage.  Ouch!  This rat is huge.  Well, he looks huge, three inches from my nose.  Did the rodent just laugh at me?  I jump to my feet and back off onto the street cursing, rubbing the almost perverse little bump that’s rising out of my little bald spot.  A convertible Mercedes the color of a metallic prune honks aggressively and nearly runs me over.  The idiot actor/driver glares at me.  I flip him the bird.  He flips me back and mouths the word “jackass” from inside his ugly car.  The small crowd of TK employees gathered across the street laugh and hoot in unison.  I take a deep breath and plunge forward.

I crouch down and once again look under the gold-colored Buick.  My rodent friend looks back at me, beady black eyes trembling in their sockets, nose twitching.  He seems both energized and lethargic at the same time.  Chris’ hand swipes again and the rat dashes off toward one of the girls.  She makes a grab for him but he fakes to the right, bolting by one of her smudged kneecaps.  He banks to the curb and heads for the next parked car, a silver Beetle.

We all take our battle stations around the Beetle.  Outside of the office, more faces and murmurs gather.  A circus-like atmosphere is starting to develop.

Chris makes another swipe at the rat and he moves toward the curb.  I jump up and make for that spot.  I’m not exactly sure what I will do if I corner him.  One doesn’t think about these things when rat hunting.

As soon as I get there, the rodent makes a break for it and zooms past me, ducking around Chris’s blonde palm.  “Los Ratos!”  Chris yells, scrambling underneath the gold Buick again.

Like four seasoned animal wranglers from Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom,” we take our places once again around the Buick.  That’s when things take a surprising turn.

Before I even crouch down, the little brown beast runs up to my like-colored hiking boots and pauses, nose twitching, body shaking like a leaf.  I look at the two women, then down at the rat.  Vortex vision.  The world becomes a slow-motion pinhole, the circle dominated by the rodent.  A rat in the pinhole.  Rattus Norvegicus is all that exists in the world at this moment.  No girls, no backlit thighs, no smoke or squished caterpillars or alarm clocks that don’t go off, no white crust around corroded car-battery terminals.  Just the rat and me.  Primitive hunting instinct.  Focus so pure it’s like sex.  Better.  It’s very primal…

So there I am, floating in this absolute, profound, vortex-induced silence.  I kneel down in slow motion, my right hand poised to grab my prey by the scruff of his neck.  I am two inches away from nirvana.  A predator, coiled, ready to strike.  Our eyes meet for second and for the first time in my life I look into the face of eternity, into creation itself.  I pause.  The rat twitches and springs forward with his muscular rodent legs.  My hand shoots out, faster than lightning but slow as a snail, a bullet against a gray background filmed at a 2000 frames per second, like those government films of a milk drop exploding on a lake of milk.

The bullet isn’t fast enough for a clean hit, but it lands on its mark nonetheless.  I miss the speedy rodent’s neck but my fist closes in on his haunches.  I have the rat by his ass!

I hoist the rat up above my head, half of my fist grasping his rump, the other half wrapped around his long, bony tail.  In a testosterone-filled moment of pure triumph, I bellow: “I’ve got him,” my voice booming, the world suddenly stopping to take note of my fearlessness, of my manliness, of my sheer Scottish-styled bravery.  Mouseheart!  I look over at the two women with a swagger and a sly smile, dripping some sort of manly 007 Venus flytrap aphrodisiac charm like Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig.  Definitely one of these Bonds.  Not the other ones.  They were poofters.

Both long-legged beauties are staring at me, mouths agape.  I bet they’ve never seen a man quite like me.  “This is how they make ‘em in Greece, girls” I want to say.  None of this half-caf double latte & a panini, manicure pedicure metro-sexual sensitive “I’m looking for the inner boy in me” bullshit.  Real men don’t flinch!  Real men don’t floss!  Real men don’t feel pain!  We roll up our sleeves and catch fierce jungle animals with our bare hands!

Just then, right then, my world is turned upside down.  My prey suddenly decides to turn Kujo on me.  Like a freaky Chinese contortionist, he does a 180, his toned athletic body folding in half.  I catch a tiny glint of the beast’s white fangs.  Then, the unthinkable happens.  Kujo bites down deep into my right index finger.  I bellow again.  Or is it a shriek?

Almost in response to my shriek, a black Lincoln Towncar pulls up in front of TK Films.  I look over towards the black Lincoln, the very car that houses TK’s big client, Mr. Miller Genuine Draught himself.  Mr. Draught steps out of his car, his mouth wide open, his eyes locked on the squirming rodent in my hands.

In a primitive moment of instinctive survival, I hurl the great beast across the street, yelling: “Aaaagh, get the fuck off of me!”

Kujo flies across the street in cartwheel fashion, a trapeze artist hell-bent on impressing my client.  He lands right by the client’s feet, dazed.  Dear god!  As if on cue, the rodent flops his bony tail across the client’s expensive Italian shoe.  The client shrieks and jumps back into his Lincoln, clunking his head on the car door.

“Why did you throw him?” I hear one of the women scream.  She’s barely audible over the guffawing of the office personnel, over the sheer horror of my breath as I look at my bleeding hand.  Across the street, the stricken rat hesitates and then high-tails it under another dumpster.

“He BIT me!” I snarl at the girl, watching my dreams of Coronas on the beach and sand on the sheets and that sweet, sweet smell on the pillows swirl down the toilet. “Aw hell, your rat bit me…”

“He’s not our rat!  Why did you throw him like that?”

Ten thoughts flash through my mind simultaneously.  One thought involves a violent act; all nine other involve a syringe the size of Baja with a rabies antidote being jammed with force into my tense stomach muscles.  I feel faint.

“Oh shit,” I mutter to myself, clutching my throbbing, bloody hand.  Ironically, it’s my belly that hurts more.

“He’s not your rat?” Chris barely whispers.  The two women shake their heads and look at me, irritably.

“We were just trying to catch him,” one of the women says.  I laugh at myself, trying to laugh at them.

I don’t wait around for the two mini-skirted freaks to justify their outrageous action.  Clutching my bleeding hand like a pistol, I yell “OUT OF MY WAY!” and barrel across the street.  The client steps in front of me and I barrel past him too.  I’m an injured man.  This is an emergency.  I hustle through the office door, screaming past Michael, the Executive Producer.  He’s busy screaming past me to go see what all the commotion is about now that his client has arrived.

“What’s going on here?” I hear Michael yell as I rush to the office bathroom.  Thinking he’s talking to me, I yell back “A fucking rat bit me!”  I kick open the bathroom door and plunge my stricken mitt under tepid water.  I try to catch my breath.  Rabid red water swirls down the drain.  Spots not unlike the earlier sunspots cloud my vision.  I feel dizzy.  Surely this is all a dream.  Rats don’t bite people in Beverly Hills.

Before I know it, Michael is crowding the bathroom door in a visibly perturbed and ominous manner.  Stale cigar smoke wafts directly to my nostrils.   “What the fuck just happened?” he asks.  Then, with a distinctly NY Italian accent, obviously exhumed in a state of crisis, he says: “Why’d you fucking throw a fucking rodent at the client?” He obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his diction or the fact that I’m rabid, slowly dying and a prime candidate for workman’s compensation.

“I thought he was a show rat!” I reply, staring at my finger.  It’s beginning to throb.  The puncture wound is gushing blood in spurts, timed perfectly to my beating heart and brain, my dying heart and brain.  Suddenly, the bathroom feels tiny.

“What?!” Michael yells.  Chris appears behind Michael’s fat shoulders, dancing from foot to foot for a peak at the freak.

“I thought the rat belonged to those two actresses. I was trying to help them catch it,” I breathe.

“I don’t fucking believe this,” Michael belts out, sounding more and more Bensonhurst by the minute.  Any moment now he’s going to cut my head off and hold it over his head like a watermelon.  The bathroom gets even smaller.  I shut the water off and turn to Little Italy’s finest with determination.  He’s a big man, twice as wide as me.

“I think I’d better be getting to a hospital,” I manage to choke out, holding my injured finger out front as proof.  Michael glares at me like Tony Soprano.  He doesn’t budge.  His glistening eyes move slowly from my hair to my feet and back up to my face.   Fat Italians are a scary fucking people.  Sure, they lull you in with that mama pizza, let’s all sit at the same table and break bread with the kids crap, but deep down they just want to slit your throat, wrap you up in plastic garbage bags and stuff you into the trunk of a Cadillac, pumping a few 357 slugs into you for good measure.  Hell, I saw “Goodfellas”!

I wrap my hand in toilet paper and make for the door, eyes diverted so that a battle of the wills won’t ensue.  Little Italy rumbles, then moves.  As I glide past Michael, I hear Chris address him in a meek manner:  “This is all my fault.  I feel responsible here.  If I hadn’t gone over to help those two whacked out chicks, this wouldn’t be happening….  I’ll take him to Cedars-Sinai Hospital….”

I make my way back onto the street.  A small crowd has formed. I see someone mimic my rat toss across the street.  Everyone bursts out laughing.

“Chris!” I yell.  “Get your car.  Let’s go!”  Chris hurls his ample frame up Cory Ave.  Before I can spit, a baby blue ‘68 Camaro pulls up and Chris swings the door open.  I pile in and slam the door shut, eyes glued straight ahead.  What the hell, I turn and wave my bloody toilet paper finger to the small, merry crowd.  Chris chirps the tires and leaves the crowd in a cloud of blue-grey smoke.  At long last, we’re on our way.

“It’s all my fault, dude,” Chris says as he speeds down Doheny Ave., on the way to the hospital.  The afternoon lighting is incredible.  Is this all a dream, a bad remake of “Thelma & Louise”?

“No it’s not.” I reply, looking dreamily at the rose colored clouds.  I’m sinking into a dream.  Or is it death?  My hand sits on my lap like some bloody object I picked up accidentally from the street.

I look at Chris.  He’s sweating like a pro-wrestler.  Strange, considering a cool breeze is blowing in through the windows.

“I went across the street willingly, Chris,” I say.

“Still…” he replies, shooting past Beverly Blvd., forgetting to turn towards the hospital.

“You missed the turn, Chris!” I mutter.  I’m slowly coming to.  The urgency of my predicament seems very real all of a sudden.  I can feel the rabies and the plague crawling up my bloodstream, slowly making their way to my heart, to my brain.  If Chris doesn’t hurry, I will start foaming at the mouth.  I become nauseous.

“Shit!  See, you can tell I’m nervous, dude.”  He shoots me a worried glance.  I feel like I’m about to be sick.  “Whoa, dude!  You okay?  You’re not going to hurl, are you?”  He looks at me and then around the interior of his beloved car.

“I’m okay, but hurry up”.

Chris runs through a red light and snaps a Dukes of Hazard u-turn.  My stomach heaves to the right and then settles on the left.  I burp some sulfur and breathe deeply.

“It’s okay to break the law, isn’t it?  I mean, this is an emergency, right?  You’ve been mauled and we’re going to the hospital, right?”  He nervously peers into the rear view mirror for the imaginary cop.  He fumbles for a cigarette.

“Yeah,” I reply.  How far is this fucking hospital?  Seems like I’ve been in the car for weeks.

We pull into the emergency ward of the hospital.  A rather frantic Chris beelines for the ambulance parking space, nearly running over a security guard.  Ignoring the gesticulating guard, he runs around to my side and helps me out.

“Christ, Chris, I’m not a fucking cripple.  I got it!”

Instinctively, I limp into the ward.  An old friend in New York taught me the limping trick.  It was his contention that the more messed up you are, the faster the treatment in these big city hospitals. Actually, upon entering the squeaky clean lobby of Cedars, I notice that not a soul is waiting.  Rich people’s hospitals are such a trip!  The last time I was in a hospital was in NY.  I had to wait for four hours in a carnival-like atmosphere for treatment.  I saw some amazing things in those four hours.  The image of a hobo on a stretcher with the crucifix carved onto his face will be with me forever.

No crucifixes at Cedars-Sinai.  In an absolutely antiseptic and politically correct LA way, the hospital is rabidly non-denominational.

I drag my battered countenance to the front desk.  A young male nurse in clean civvies and a nametag looks up at me. “May I help you?” he asks politely, his fingers not leaving the keyboard of the computer.

“I need to see a doctor,” I reply.

“What’s wrong?” asks the calm nurse at the computer.

“A rat bit me on the finger about a half hour ago.”  I wait for his surprised expression.  There is none.

“Let’s take a look.”

I lift my hand, unwrap the toilet paper and hold my finger before him, like a kid presenting a broken toy to his daddy.  Not in the least bit impressed, the nurse pulls out a clipboard, attaches a form to it and points me to the waiting area.  “Fill this out and we’ll call you as soon as a doctor is available.”

“Do we need to catch the rat?  You know, what if it was rabid?”  Chris blurts from behind me.

“Oh dear me, no!  That won’t be necessary,” the nurse replies.

“I could hit him over the head with a shovel and bring him in, if you want,” Chris interjects.  I can’t figure this guy out.  What courses through Chris’ brain would probably mystify a few shrinks.

“That really won’t be necessary,” says the nurse, knitting his eyebrows in disgust.

“What about rabies, or the plague?  We’re talking a dumpster rat here.  Not the cleanest fella I’ve ever seen.”

The nurse is getting a little uneasy.  Obviously, not too many people like Chris walk into Beverly Hills hospitals.  Chris needs some southern logic to stop him from running back to Cory Avenue and assaulting that poor rat with a shovel or a shotgun.

“Don’t you worry.  Here…” the nurse says, handing me a pen and pointing once again to the waiting area.  A couple of other patients walk in and head for the desk.  I limp over to the couch.

“What’s wrong with your leg, dude?” Chris practically shouts.  He’s definitely in spontaneous combust mode.  The bigger the panic, the louder the Chris.

I sit down and look at the form.  For some unknown reason, Chris’ agitation rubs off and the paper goes out of focus.  The rabies and plague are obviously affecting my vision.  A bead of sweat trickles down my nose, making it twitch.  My eyes feel beady, like they’re going to roll out of their sockets.  I can feel myself trembling.  Dear God, I’m turning into a rat!

A young woman wearing way too many clothes walks up to the couch right next to mine and sits down with her clipboard.  I look over at her.  She clutches her head slowly and freezes, kind of like that “silent scream” painting.

I slowly peel back the tissue and look at the rat bite.  Two deep puncture wounds. The skin around the incisions is turning white.  My whole hand looks ghostly white.  Rabies!  I’m a dying man.

Suddenly, a large explosion issues from the silent-scream woman next to me, shocking the pen out of my fingers.  A deep, guttural, wheezing, wall-shattering cough bursts forth from her quivering lips, sending her into a tense fetal position on the couch.  Chris springs forth from his position like a rocket.  When the momentum catches up with him, he’s on the other side of the waiting room, examining the pastel paintings on the walls.

“Dude!  Check this out,” he half-yells across the fluorescent room, beckoning me over.  The king of subtlety, Chris is not.

“What?” I reply, not budging.  I gather my pen from the floor.

“Dude, seriously, come check this out!”  He’s pointing at a pastel painting not unlike the others.  Done with my test, I hobble over to the painting.  It’s either a flower, a building or a sailboat.  Or maybe it’s a mountain.

Chris whispers in my ear: “You know why I called you over here, right?”

I gaze at the woman and look Chris squarely in the face.  “Why’s that, Chris?” I ask loudly.

“Shhhhh!  Did you hear that woman?  Woah, dude!!  A cough like that has got to be contagious.  I mean, she’s in a hospital emergency room, dude!”

“So are you, Johnson!”  I reply and walk over to the nurse.  He takes the clipboard from me and I sit down by the woman again.  Chris continues to bounce from foot to foot by the surrealist pastel painting.

A few moments later, the nurse points at me and calls me over.  Another nurse is standing beside him.

“Are you our rat bite?” she asks, face wide with hilarity.

“Uh, huh!”

“Follow me.”

We travel down a long corridor, past several rooms with paper-covered beds.  A long, hysterical shriek issues from the depths of the building.  The nurse chuckles and looks at me.  I don’t think it’s funny.  There’s a certain feeling of powerlessness one gets in hospitals.

I’m ushered into a room with a partition in the middle.  A young woman is sitting on the bed on the other side.  A clean-cut fellow with an otherwise enormous Taliban beard is hovering around her.  They talk in whispers.

The nurse asks me to sit down on the bed.  She swivels a TV on an arm right up to my nose and turns it on.  The Food Channel blinks to life an inch away from me.  The nurse switches channels.  The Simpsons come on.  Homer has Bart’s neck in his hands and Bart is choking, his beady eyes almost popping out of their sockets.

“We’ve got cable here,” the nurse says with pride.  “Make yourself comfortable and the doctor will be with you shortly.”

I switch channels.  I once saw a documentary about this tribe in India that considers rats a delicacy.  The children fan out across fields and scare the rats out of holes, chasing them down and grabbing them with their bare hands.  How come the rats don’t bite them?  In the evenings, the tribe cooks the rats by throwing them as they are on a fire.  When the fur is singed off and the skin is nice and roasted, they pick the meat off, like we eat chicken at KFC.  Meanwhile, in New Delhi, one out of every god knows how many rats is rabid.  In the film, this guy pokes a stick at a rabid rat and it leaps four feet into the air, growling and gnashing at the stick.  I wonder if anyone in LA eats rats.  Didn’t someone once find a rabid rat in Griffith Park?  I switch the TV off.

The couple next to me are murmuring.  I think I hear the woman say that she has a brain tumor and is going to die.  The bearded man acts incredulous.  I’m obviously in the terminal ward.

“Are you the one who got bit by Mickey Mouse?” a young Latino man in green scrubs asks me from the door.

“Uh, huh…” I reply.

“Hi, I’m Tomas.  I’m going to irrigate your wound and the doctor will be right with you.”  Where is the doctor anyway?  He’s been “right with me” for hours.  The fucker is probably in the broom closet smoking a joint and getting it on with the nurses.

“How’d this happen?  Why’d Mickey bite you?”  He pulls out a massive syringe from a drawer.  Oh, Jesus, it’s true!  I gulp.  My stomach tenses into a knot.  Is it 30 or 40 shots that they have to pump into your stomach for rabies?  The nurse eyeballs me and chuckles.

“Don’t worry.  I’m only going to use this to irrigate the wound.”

I recount the tale of how I was attacked by the big mouse.  The medic doesn’t look up from the wound but keeps nodding and chuckling.  He sprays the fang bites with a saline solution.  My hand stings and throbs but I can take it.

“Am I your first rat case?” I ask.

“Oh, heavens no.  We see it all here.  Worst case I’ve seen was a dog bite.  A police dog chewed this homeless guy to bits.  He barely made it.  Really horrible.”

My rat bite seems kind of trivial all of a sudden.

“Am I going to get those rabies shots?  How many do I have to take?”

Tomas chuckles.

“What, for this little mouse bite?  There’s no rabies in LA.  You have nothing to worry about.  A couple of stitches and some antibiotics and you’ll be up and running.”  He finishes prepping my wound and waves goodbye.

“Hello Andreas, I’m Doctor Larson.  Are you our rat bite du jour?” a middle age man with a clipboard asks, approaching my bed.  He has squeaky-clean hands and has a touch of pomade in his hair.  I can tell he plays tennis and golf at some posh country club in Beverly Hills.  He probably has an Olympic-size swimming pool at home.  They all do.

“Hi Doc,” I say, feebly.

“How’d this happen?” he asks.  I repeat the story.  He looks at my finger, carefully inspecting the wound.  Doctors have such soft touches.

“Yup, looks like you’ll need a couple of stitches.”  He starts to prep for the operation.

“You get many cases like this, doc?”

“I wouldn’t say many, and none quite like yours.  Most people are trying to run away from or scare away the rat, not grab it.”

“I see…”

“And you have your weird cases too, of course…” he adds.

“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know, rats and other little furry things used in play, in bed, you know during sex.”

“What?!”

“They tend to freak out at the most inopportune times and bite down where they will.”

“Oh,” I say, wondering if Richard Gere lives nearby.

The smiling doctor finishes up.  He binds my finger in an enormous white bandage, scribbles a prescription on some paper and bids me farewell.  My white finger looks like a lighthouse.  An administrator comes by with a wheelchair and asks me to take a seat.  I’m wheeled out to the reception area.  After filling out a form, I am released into Chris’ custody.  He laughs at the size of my bandage.  We ride back to TK Films in perfect silence.  It’s dark outside.

We pull up to the office.  The rat and the two women are long gone.  I look up to the conference room and can see several heads bobbing up and down.  The meeting is in full swing.  They’re probably all laughing.  I bound up the stairs, my white finger a beacon of embarrassment.

Michael is at the top of the stairs, on his way down.  He shakes his head and stops.

“You okay?  You gonna live?” he asks.

“Yeah, except my ego has been mortally wounded.”

“What the hell were you tossing rats for?” he asks, half-seriously, half-laughing.

“Vortex vision, Michael.  It was me and the rat.”

“It was more than that.  Classic case of thinking with your little head, not your big head.”

“I guess so,” I reply, though I know he’s wrong.  I wouldn’t trade the rat in the pinhole for all the money in the world.  Michael will never know the vortex, the pure focus of creation, of life itself.  Michael will never feel temptation the way I did, the way Adam must have felt it in the Garden of Eden.  Michael will never be Mouseheart.

“Well anyway, the client’s okay,” he says on his way down the stairs, popping a glance at my finger.

“Cool!” I reply.

“Rat-boy!” he yells out and laughs before the door slams shut.

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.

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2 Responses to ANDREAS ECONOMAKIS

  1. billee says:

    super funny, love the pace, hate the rat!

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