Good news for Fang! (That's what I've named this dog.) While he's still chained up and doing the exact same thing he was doing yesterday, when I said hello to him on my way home from work tonight he barked at me and he seemed a little less bitter. I'm hoping it's because of this:
I tell my kids a series of stories about a character named Randy Rat. This is pretty much every night, and we've been doing it for a long time.
They all begin exactly the same way: "Once upon a time there was a rat named Randy Rat, and he was the nicest rat that anyone ever knew. He was always invited to all of the parties, and all of the other animals loved to come over to his garbage heap to hang out with Randy and eat garbage."
Then it just kind of goes wherever it goes. By far the most popular Randy Rat story of all -- which both of my kids could recite verbatim -- is the one where Randy, a city alley rat, decides to venture far down the alley in search of a garbage can that's so stinky you could hardly believe it, so as to get himself the holy grail of snacks.
The first garbage can he comes to appears promising, but upon further inspection, and this is my son's line, "Nope, not danky enough!" Unfortunately the second garbage can proves to be a red herring as well, but then Randy is fortunate enough to run into his old friend Carly Cockroach. After the brief but sincere pleasantries that always begin Randy's interaction with another animal, he answers her inquiry as to why he's ventured so far down the alley. Carley, being a cockroach, is very familiar with the local garbage cans and heaps, and she gives him a lead on a garbage can that is so amazingly stinky it'll knock his socks off. (This is figurative, because he doesn't really wear socks. That would be unrealistic.) After Randy expresses dismay at having to leave his friend after such a short time with her, he follows her directions and finds the nasty can Carly told him about. (My son: "Yep, danky enough!)
As he claws his way to the top, he dreams of diving into the can and eating so much garbage that he can hardly move, and then taking a nap right there in the can. Sadly, when he reaches the rim, he meets the only antagonists to ever appear in the Randy Rat series -- the three, big, mean alley cats are already inside the receptacle.
The good news is that he spots them before he jumps in. The bad news is that they spot him immediately too. The first cat, who sounds like Vizzinni from The Princess Bride ("Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!"), stakes his lunch claim to Randy. The second cat, who sounds like the Lenny cat from the old Loony Tunes (based of course on Lenny from Of Mice and Men -- "Duh, okay, George!") quickly reminds the first that he's quicker and will be having this rat for lunch. The final rat, who sounds like Hand Banana from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, says: "Wrong on both counts. I'm quicker, and I'm smarter. I'll be having the rat today.
Of course, while they're arguing, Randy doesn't stick around to see who wins. He's down the alley like a shot. It doesn't take long for the cats to catch up, though, and our tender hero finds himself in a pretty precarious situation.
See, here's the thing about being as nice as Randy Rat is -- he's got a hell of a lot of friends. And it turns out, the three big, nice alley dogs happen to be in the vicinity. They catch wind of Randy's trouble and turn the cats from predator to prey in a split second. Randy's safe, and the cats end up treed at the end of the alley, where they falsely promise to never return if only the dogs give them another chance. (Their appearances in a host of other Randy Rat stories prove their dishonesty.)
So Randy thanks the three big, nice alley dogs for saving his life and invites them over to his garbage heap for a snack and some nice conversation.
Okay, so that's the top-selling story, as far as my kids are concerned.
Well, last night, we did a new one. After the standard intro, Randy decides to take a walk to the outskirts of town to clear his head. In doing so, he discovers a miserable, pathetic white dog who's chained up in a circle of mud. He approaches the dog in an attempt to make friends, and of course the dog goes ballistic.
Randy is persistent when he sees others in need, though, and he finds the courage to approach Fang's perimeter, where the rodent sits down and patiently waits. Eventually the angered pooch tires and just sits down too. Here's where Randy works his magic. With his typical genuine, caring, level-headed approach, he tells Fang that it's not true that he's a lost cause on paws. His solution for this dreadful existence is quite simple -- Randy states that if the two animals can establish a base level of trust for each other, Randy will attempt to gnaw his collar off and will take him back to the alley with him.
After some real soul-searching (it was fun explaining that term to my five-year-old daughter), Fang goes against his nature to distrust and promises Randy that he won't tear him to shreds if the rat comes closer. Randy, who of course has a mean set of teeth, makes short work of the collar and then rides his new friend Fang into town, into the alley, and into a life of wondrous, intoxicating freedom.
The end? For this story, yes, but not for our newest character. Because the first thing Randy did was to introduce Fang to the three big, nice alley dogs. And now, in all future Randy Rat stories that involve the the K9s, they will be the four big, nice alley dogs.
I'm just hoping that on some cosmic level this feeling of freedom made it down to Fang last night and he had the greatest dream of his miserable little life.
In case you're interested, some of other recurring characters in the Randy Rat series include:
- Paul Pigeon, who lives upstairs on the roof
- Pasquale Squirrel (also upstairs)
- Berry Bear (he's an immigrant)
- Tom Trout (his appearances have been limited to when Randy goes down to the river, except for the time when he made it to a party at Paul's place in a fish tank, thanks to Randy)
- Ricky Rat, Randy's good-hearted but trouble-prone brother (who was completely to blame for the infamous ceiling-fan incident)
- Ollie Owl, who's sort of a cliche, know-it-all owl, I'm afraid (sorry, it's not as easy as you'd think to make up a new, detailed kids' story every freaking night)
- Bob the Bicycle Badger, who scared Randy a bit at first because of a badger's reputation as being ferocious, but Randy later learned that the only thing Bob the Bicycle Badger cares about is riding his bike and teaching others to ride bikes. (He taught Randy in tonight's story, and Randy used his new wheels to get away from you-know-who)
- The Possum Twins, Perry and Polly, who always say the exact same thing at the exact same time. (I guess this could be an homage to Kubrick's The Shining, though I only just thought of that, so it wasn't intentional)