Minutes dragged by and Victor’s head nodded gradually forward. He rubbed his eyes and slapped his cheek.
“Come on. Can’t sit here all night.”
The rat continued watching him.
“Gross. Freaking rats. Disgusting.”
He picked up a pencil from the desk and threw it under the bed. From the shadows a whiskered nose emerged; Victor drew his feet up onto the desk. Two tiny black eyes followed the nose, which twitched up and down, before the rat ventured out into the dim bedroom light in its entirety. Victor shifted onto his knees, the desk creaking under his weight, and reached down to grab the stool. Lifting the stool up to shoulder height in front of him—as though undecided whether the wooden seat would serve better as a shield or a projectile—he threatened the critter creeping toward him.
“Stay back. You come near me and I’ll crush you. I swear to God.”
Whatever intimidation those violent words might have inspired, Victor negated with his posture: cowering on a rickety piece of children’s furniture. The rat advanced.
“Back off!” cried Victor, almost pleading.
The rat scurried around the desk, stopping at intervals to scratch the wooden legs. Victor prodded timidly with the stool, but the rat was undeterred. In fact, the more Victor reacted to the rodent, the more eager it became to terrorise him. It began to hiss and thrash its little claws. Victor stuttered curses in return. When the rat climbed halfway up one of the desk legs before losing its grip, Victor reached breaking point. While the rat launched an assault on one side of the desk, he leaned over the other, set the stool on the floor and slid it as far as he could reach, so that it stood about halfway between the desk and the bedroom door. He raised himself up on the desk and looked around below—his furry assailant was no longer in sight. A silent moment passed. Victor crouched and peered over one side of the desk. Nothing. He peered over the other side—the rat darted out from behind the pile of sketch books on the floor, leapt and dragged itself like a creature possessed up the front leg of the desk. Its eyes and mouth were open wide; its teeth jutted out, tiny ivory daggers. Victor jumped up and let slip an unmanly shriek. He turned and sprang from the desk, toward the stool. His landing was heavy and graceless but it stuck: the stool wobbled and rattled, then came to a stop. He puffed out a relieved breath. With his toes overhanging the seat, Victor twisted around in time to see the rat leap from the desk onto the floor. It raced over to the stool, positioning itself between Victor and the door. It stood on its hind legs and stared at him, offering no movement but the disturbing tic of whiskers.
The standoff lasted until Victor’s feet became numb.
“Damn rat. Move already.”
The rat made no reply. Victor’s eyes searched the room, finally alighting on the door. He stood with his hands on his hips.
“Gotta open the door. Get the rat out.”
He stretched his arm toward the door knob but it was beyond his reach. He tried again and again, to no avail. He sighed.
“All or nothing.”
He stood tall, his arms raised above his head as if about to dive from a high board. A slight sway, and then he leaned out. He teetered for a moment before gravity yanked him forward and down. Victor’s hands slapped into the door, leaving him outstretched, a half-naked human bridge between the stool and the door.
While his headlong flop had enabled him to reach the door, it presented a new problem. With the balls of Victor’s feet maintaining a perilous grip on the stool, and his body suspended almost horizontal, his arms supported much of his weight. With his arms pushing for dear life against the door, opening it inward would be difficult.
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