When the cat’s away…

So there I was, sitting on a bench in Central Park at dusk with Sonny. We were enjoying the sunset and talking about our day in the Big Apple, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. Surely it’s a little birdie kicking around in the leaves looking for a worm, I thought to myself.

We went back to our conversation.

Again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cat run across the path and into the bush right by where I was sitting.

“Did you see that cat,” I asked Sonny.

“That was no cat, Mama,” said he.

It was a rat. A big one at that. And as the sun set and night commenced to overtake us, I started noticing that there were more rats. Rats everywhere — on the grass, on the rocks, on the path blocking what was becoming my very hasty exit from the park.

The next night, while waiting for the subway, Sonny and I witnessed a rat wrestle a Cheeto down a flight of steps and off into the darkness. And he wasn’t alone. The shadows throbbed with scurrying figures. My heart throbbed with anxiety that one might get on me.

Whether it’s rats or their smaller, cuter cousin the mouse, a rodent is a rodent. And in the south, just like in the north, these nocturnal, intelligent, somewhat sinister (rats) or somewhat cute (mice) critters will find their way into your conversation just as quick as they will into your barn, or your attic, or your basement, or your office, or your garage … So before I freak myself out, let’s take a look at some idioms involving rodents.

It was so quiet you could hear a mouse pissing on a cotton ball. As if you could hear a mouse pee anyway, cotton ball or not!

He’s as poor as a church mouse. Churches used to not typically store food, so a mouse who took up residence in a church would surely be bad off.

She’s quiet as a church mouse. Everyone should be quiet in church, but the mice are especially quiet. Probably because they are poor and hungry (see above).

When the cat’s away, the mice will play. When no one’s watching, people will do just as they please — sometimes breaking the rules.

I smell a rat. I’m sensing that something is wrong. Bad wrong.

They left like rats off a sinking ship! It is said that rats can sense disaster and, driven by self-preservation, will leave before it’s too late.

I don’t give a rat’s ass. A colorful way to compare how much you care to the size of a rat’s patootie, which, even on a big rat, is practically not there at all.

And my favorite …

She’s as crazy as a shithouse rat. Driven mad by the smell? Too deranged to leave? Either way, that’s pretty darn crazy.


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