The War on Rodents: Jerry’s Downfall
Brad stopped in his tracks. His claws sunk into the dirt, and his nose twitched. Moist earth. A hint of fresh air. Worms. Bugs. And…metal.
“Jerry, don’t go out the hole.”
“Yeah, I smell it.” Jerry huffed and backed up, which meant his tail ended up in Brad’s nose, which caused Brad to back up. “Let’s go out the other way.”
“What if they’ve found both holes?” Brad couldn’t keep the tremor from his voice.
“What are we? Cats? We can did another hole you know.”
“Right.” Of course Brad knew that, but the last trap the humans had set had been right by his exit, and in an evening stupor, he’d almost walked right into it. He shuddered, thinking of the snap of the metal, the crunch of his bones, then the end of his life.
When they reached a wide spot in the tunnel, Brad stopped and let Jerry turn around.
“Come on,” Jerry said. “We’re going to miss the grubs if we don’t hurry.”
“There are plenty of grubs,” Brad said automatically.
A soft snort escaped Jerry’s nose, echoing through the tunnel. “That’s mom talking. You need to learn to think for yourself.”
Jerry thought that because he’d been born before Brad that he was smarter. Brad didn’t think this was true, but had yet to find a way to prove it.
“I can think for myself,” Brad said as they turned. The tunnel sloped upward. “I can even do math, and the math says there are plenty of grubs for everyone.”
“Not the good ones,” Jerry said. “Newly hatched. Juicy. Tender.”
Brad’s mouth began to water.
“If we don’t get out there soon, we’ll be left with the big ones.”
“Which are bigger,” Brad said. They turned again, and a hint of fresh air got past Jerry’s wreaking butt.
“Size doesn’t equal taste,” Jerry said in what he probably thought was a wise voice. Instead it made him sound like their uncle. But Brad had made the mistake of making that comparison once before.
“If you say so,” Brad said.
“I do.” Jerry stopped, and Brad almost ran over his tail. “Dang it.”
Brad sniffed again. Sure enough, the tang of metal filled the air.
“We’re going to miss the good grubs,” Jerry wailed.
This is why Brad thought he might be smarter. Sure, Brad was afraid of the human traps, but he didn’t cry when he didn’t get the best food. “Better dig a new hole,” he said.
“There’s no time.” Jerry’s voice sounded manic. “I’m going to sneak past it.”
“Sneak past it?” Brad squeaked.
“Sure. Dumb humans didn’t do a very good job of hiding it, which means I can get past it.”
“Jerry, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re dumb as a rock.”
“Pretty sure a rock wouldn’t try to squeeze past a trap built to snap it in two.”
“Because rocks are dumb.” Jerry moved forward. “Let me get out, then I’ll dig it wider for you.”
Brad didn’t want to tell Jerry that he’d never, ever, try to get past one of those traps. He eyed the tunnel wall as Jerry’s tail slithered out of sight.
“I’m not getting cracked by that thing. I’ll dig my own way out.” Brad snorted and started to claw at the dirt. If he got lucky, he’d be to the surface before Jerry was.
Brad was good at digging, and it didn’t take him long before his claws breached the surface. Warm air rushed in, and Brad took a deep breath. A small stream of sunlight hit his eye, and he snapped it shut.
At the same moment, a zing sounded, followed abruptly by a crack.
Then a whimper.
Brad froze. His little heart sped up, and his paws twitched to run. “Jerry?” he asked.
Another whimper. Then a gasp. Then nothing.