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the Rats and the Cheese

28 September 2004

When a family of down and out Rats discover the doorway to a mythical utopia for vermin they think all their troubles are over until they discover that they are not alone in this brave new world...

the Rats and the Cheese
By Graham 'Gray' Bird

Part I
How the Rats found Cheerth

There was a family of rats who had fallen on lean years. They were forced to flee across an Australian desert without knowing where they might find enough food and drink. They travelled as fast as the little rats could manage. Ma-rat lead singing to keep their spirits up and Da-rat often carried the two smallest rats, Lucerat and Tobrat.

One day, when they were still many kilometres from anywhere, it was approaching sunset. By now, all were so tired, hungry and downcast that it was only Ma-rat that was keeping a lookout. Suddenly Ma-rat shouted in excitement and said:

"Look there is Cheerth! I never believed I would ever see it. I thought it was a myth. It has been called a parallel world and very rarely comes into view. If only we can move to Cheerth. It is believed to be made of cheese to have many bees and beautiful clean lakes, rivers and springs."
So they all looked up and saw a wonderful golden orb floating near the horizon. As they got closer they saw a ladder leading from their path up to Cheerth. There was a notice that said:

That was how Da-rat, Ma-rat and family came to Cheerth. They found that Cheerthian bees were gentle bees that concentrated only on producing honey. They could pick up pots of honey and lash heaps on their cheese. The spring waters were also clear.

After experimenting a little, the Rat family decided that the best way to live on Cheerth was to eat tunnels into and through the cheese. This was what they did- they carried pots of honey and dragged a long thin plastic pipe to bring the water.

As they went, Da-rat's newly developed fine qualities came to the fore. When they first got together, Ma-rat had to tell him "you are not the Earth's most sensitive male rat". She explained this referred to his way of relating to young rats and to their love life. The "not the best" pulled him up short. Since then, he had learnt about the Movement for Fem-rat Liberation and studied manuals on parenting and lovemaking- 'Male Rat Tantric Practices'. He had become a caring lover. As their family grew, he became increasingly gentle with the little rats. Ma-rat always thought she was probably a fortunate fem-rat, but she was a little concerned about learning spiritual practices from books just to get the techniques but not the philosophy. She feared that Da-rat's learning may be only skin deep!

For several nights, as their tunnel got deeper, they heard occasional shouts of joy. Other rats were also setting up home on Cheerth. Ma-rat smiled and said-

"When our childer-rats grow up and marry some of those stranger rats, we can look forward to enjoying our grandchilder-rats."
Da-rat smiled and agreed.

A few days later, just when they needed to replenish their honey, they came out on the other side. By this time, they felt rather bloated and decided to fast for several days. While they were de-bloating, they let the younger rats play with some other rats who had emerged from a nearby hole. Ma-rat knew the children needed friends, but did not much like the look of these rats. They were Rattus fatticus- whereas Ma-rat and her family were Rattus moderatus or 'Modies' to other rats.

The Fatticus family had emerged from their cheese hole at the same time because they were gluttonous and ate heaps more than the Modies.
It did not take long however, before Da-Fatrat said:

"Ma-Fatrat!- Modie-kids! Soon you'll be letting our children play with Povie kids! It's not right for their future!"
As soon as this happened, Ma-rat went into a huff and called all her family to start their next hole.

Part II
What the rats did on Cheerth

Time passed. Cheerth was becoming more like a Swiss cheese. Each time they came to the surface there were many more rats and many more holes. By now Da-rat and Ma-rat were aware of the several different types of Rattus Povertus and that only one sub-type was actually impoverished. This group of Povies were from Fatticus or Modie families that had started to sink after falling prey to addictions for drugs and gambling.

Another group of the Povies made their holes slowly, existed on very little and were generally happy. They got up at 5 in the morning to go to their temples. In some temples, they rang bells and blew conchs. Then they meditated and danced. In others, they turned prayer wheels, banged large gongs and spoke of getting off suffering through right spiritual practices.

A third group had been on Cheerth for longer than other rats. They hadn't been noticed when the first of the ladder-rats arrived. Eventually, they had been pushed into small areas where they struggled for existence and shuddered every time they heard older members of the ladder-rats speak of themselves as "the first rats". Their culture was strong and they worked hard to maintain it. They felt rich in heart whenever they could get together for dancing, singing and painting.

They warned the other rats about eating too deep into Cheerth. No one knew why until Da-rat had started to eat something he did not like.

"Uggh! Yuck! Spit! What could that be?"
Soon they heard that a lot of the other rats had this experience and had been calling out
"Uggh! Yuck! Spit! What could that be?"
The rats called together the Cheerthian Council and as the first to land of the Ladder Rats, Da-rat played a prominent part in the meeting. He said-
"I suggest we call Sci-tech Rat! He'll know what to do. He is well trained in science and is highly respected"

Ma-rat was now in a quandary. If she spoke up Da-rat could be upset. But, she felt she had to do it. So she said:

"I have to speak. I had assumed we would discuss the 'Uggh! Yuck! Spit! What could that be?' problem carefully before we pass it to an expert and ask them to fix it. With great respect to my partner Da-rat, we would be better advised to call E-Star, the Ecological Searching, Thinking and Action Rat. She is a leading member of the Green-cheese Society and well known for helping with problems which are complex and difficult to overcome. E-STAR emphasises searching for understanding to clarify how we relate to the difficulty."

Some of the Rat Council were immediately on guard because they knew that E-STAR was an adopted spiritual name, and preached that a day would come when the strain of sexual repression would be lifted from the tunnels of Cheerth.

Shortly after Ma-rat spoke, Da-rat confirmed Ma-rat's worst fear about New-Age Rats. He shouted-

"What would a rat-wife know!"

Just before the tension hit, Sci-tech Rat and E-STAR both came in with their ears burning from where they had been listening outside the Council. Both had been warned they might be needed.
Sci-tech Rat sang:

"I am not a rat who sits for days talking and writing on butchers' paper! I'm a looking carefully rat! I'm a measuring rat! I'm a rat that loves making gadgets. Give me some time! Just for a small fee, I'll soon find the problem and fix it, you'll see!'

And E-STAR, who did not like to blow her own trumpet, but felt she had to stand up and be counted on this important issue, sang-

"I'm also a looking carefully rat! But I'm not a reductionist rat! I charge nothing at all.to take in the big picture, as well as the small. Oh Yes! I'm a chaos struggling rat! I'm a complexity mapping rat, who believes in our rattish creativity. Now I've a hunch This problem won't be so simple, it will have something to do with too many rats, especially those that are eating too much of our wondrous small planet! We'll have to talk it out until we swim much further upstream to nip the problem off at its source!"

By then many of the male rats had red grumpy faces, including all the Rattus Fatticus. They started shouting at E-STAR-

"Your approach is too complicated! We'll not waste our time Listening to fem-rats, who should be getting on with their knitting!"

One also called out-

"Nobody tells us how much to eat or how many baby rats we can have!"

Although Da-rat could see he was in for trouble at home, he called the meeting to order and asked for a vote. Many of the gent rats and some of the lady voted for Sci-tech Rat, giving him a majority. E-STAR and Ma-rat, both looking dismayed, went off together. Everybody else went back to their holes.

Several weeks later Sci-tech Rat called the Council together and said-

"Careful searching and testing shows we've been biting our own shit, all this time. So, using space junk, left lying around by those lazy people from Earth, I have now made a factory which makes a shit detector. This shit-meter's so small, it will fit in your pocket, no trouble at all. Then as you go tunnelling you'll hear a high beep, well before you bite in and have to say 'Uggh! Yuck! and Spit' one more time."

Once long before Da-rat had been to an Ag College which taught systems thinking, but the training had gone right past his ears. A Shit-meter was just what Da-rat had been hoping for. He jumped up and bought the first one, not noticing the name Rattus Fatticus Corp. stamped on the base. The Corporation had financed production and now it would be a good little earner for them. The stock sold out quickly so Sci-Tech Rat hurried back to the factory.

So, on went the rat family. Ma-rat, determined she would not forgive Da-rat, slept with a group of girl rats. She decided she'd stay with the family until the youngest rat could look after himself. Then she would join E-STAR and work with her to conduct bigger Greencheese campaigns. To ensure she was in good shape for this she intensified her spiritual practices and established a laughter club for her family. Da-rat joined in the training and found that the laughter and a period of celibacy was taking him deeper into an understanding of what had gone wrong.

By this time the meetings of the Cheerth Council had become difficult. All Rattus Fatticus had been rich when they arrived on Cheerth. All the rich rats funds were either held in Bank Cheerthian, where they invested in the Rattus Fatticus Corporation, which would soon pay good dividends. The Corporation was in good shape and by now all the Rattus Fatticus families and groups had set up squatting colonies where they built fences around prime areas for tunnelling. Spearheaded by the R. Fatticus Corp, they set about "developing" Cheerth. By excluding large groups of other rats, and threatening the one's that worked for them, they railroaded property rights legislation through the Council. They had then established a property market. Now more and more of the best surface areas were in their hands.

Recently, the R. Fatticus Corp had also employed Dr C.A. Spinrat was an expert in Public Deceptions. Dr Spinrat kept issuing bulletins and speaking about how the "trickle down effect" meant that the lives of all Cheerthians would be improved by the programs implemented by the R. Fatticus Corp.

Dr Spinrat had also been appointed to the Board of the CBA, the Cheerthian Broadcasting Agency. His secret brief was to advocate that as much money as possible should be directed to the CBA Distractions Dept, especially if it could be sucked away from the Department of Truth. The Distractions Dept was busy generating 'tittytainment' programs. These included beauty contests and seemingly endless replays of ball sports between teams of aggressive rats, who often had overdeveloped pecs because they were on steroids. The Corp believed that the many rats watching these programs had been sedated out of politics. They were ecstatic when record numbers of Cheerthian's watched the World Cup.

Dr Spinrat was also successful in blocking a story from the Department of Truth that would make everybody aware that although all R. fatticus, only comprised 8 per cent of the rat population, they now owned 50 per cent of the right of access to the cheese and were trying to have the Council privatise the crystal waters so they could charge every rat for using it. Of course, the belief that the water was unpolluted was now quite wrong and again the sleuths of the useless Truth Dept. were pulling a program together to bring this to the public. That program also had to be stopped.

The RF Corp also had a plan to start creaming a percentage off the honey. A team of rat scientists had been secretly employed, at Almost Lost, to deliver a genetic reprogramming which would allow the unsuspecting bees to be exploited.

The Corp. also expected another very good earner would soon come on stream. Through talk of a growing risk of eco-terrorism, they had harried the Council into making a massive commitment to the Invisible Crowd Control and Anti-terrorist Flying Gun Platform. For the short term they had only an invisible production facility which cost very little. Although they realized that there would be delays in fulfilling the contract if the platform was really needed. As long as the Dept of Truth was kept out of the picture the income was assured.

There had also been the issue of taxation. By now the RF Corp and most RF families had their profits in off-planet tax havens. The RM families were paying a disproportionate share of the taxes.
The volunteer members of the Greencheese Society had become increasingly alert and spent quite a bit of time tapping into the unheard stories from the Dept of Truth. Now, however, the Cheerthian Council had motions before it which would allow the banning of Greencheese, and all similar societies, and recording of all communication traffic to and from the Dept of Truth. Greencheese members knew there would be even harder times ahead, but became pre-occupied with a debate on armed struggle versus non-violent resistance, as well as arguments with other organisations with similar aims.

It was at this time, in new cheese tunnel, by the side of a once beautiful creek that Da-rat stopped, almost dead in his tracks, while the little Shit-beeper beeped and beeped. It wouldn't stop beeping Until he jumped back, while the whole family of rat children sang:

"There's shit above! There's shit below! There's also some shit to The right and the left!"
Immediately Ma-rat sang-
"Oh! We tried to! Tried very hard! To tell you so! But you stood on your dig! Just would not listen or think"
Then Amrat and Lucerat, two bright young girl rats,
spoke up. Amrat said, quite quietly for her:
"Stop fighting you two, we've got to pull together Or it'll be the last thing we all do!"
And, Lucerat said loudly:
When you had that Council meeting where Sci-tech Rat got the job I knew it would be better if both E-STAR and Sci-tech Rat worked together. But you had said I shouldn't have been there, so I could not squeak up!
Then little cousin Tob-rat, who'd come along for the trip, squeaked,
as if he also had something important to say, and all of the family who knew said-
"Yes! If we keep up like this, we'll be eating his future too!

At this Ma-rat and Da-rat looked at each other, for the very first time since their bust up. They said, as if they were one:

"We are both very sorry, we should have done more. Yet, apart from being very careful with the cheese, honey and water, we still don't know what to do. We also know you young rats are just as clever as we - so we will listen very carefully from now on."

Just then they heard singing and saw that a group of fat rats were locked in a struggle with a group of thin rats wearing Greencheese T-shirts. The Rattus Fatticus sang-

"Oh! We're Rattus Fatticus- the very best rats you will ever see. And as wealthy as can be! We know this is right because God sends his light and may trickle some down to thee!"
To this the Greencheese Rats sang-
"You said we're too suspicious..."
"You must privatise..."
"But your trickle's..."
"Your banks."
"Very fickle!"
"Your tels..."
"Even though we wear..."
"Your airports"
"Even though we wear..."
"And your trains..."
"Down to the bone..."
"Your water..."
"We'll see so very little..."
"And your brains!"
"That our babies..."
"You must even privatise..."
"Will starve"
"Your health..."
"As if God lost her light!"
"So our wealth is enhanced by taking more than ten percent..."
"On your pains and your genes!"
"We must not! We cannot leave it to you!"
And there was silence. All the rats looked at each other for a moment, before the Rattius Fattius burst musically out-
"We know this is right because God sends his light and may trickle..."
"Enough!" cried the Greencheese rats.
"Some down to thee!"
"Enough! We must not leave it to you!"

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Contact Details
Graham Bird
Ph:  +613 5338 4641

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