A friend of mine posted a video of a rat killing a pigeon in NYC, and it started automatically playing on my Facebook page and I couldn’t stop watching even though I wanted to. And the images are haunting me. On the one hand, it’s survival of the fittest between two animals that are generally considered pests, and on the other hand, it’s a ruthless killing of one living being by another. And the action of the human that recorded the rat killing the pigeon without stepping in at all… I wonder what that person is like in life. And I wonder what it says of humanity overall that we have that tendency of not being able to look away from something brutal. It’s like people slowing to a crawl on the highway to check out an accident scene, isn’t it? And maybe it’s silly of me that the death of a pigeon is hanging around, especially when I’m still a meat-eater (albeit I try to be an ethical one as much as possible). But brutality is brutality, in any form, and it’s that I tend to try to avoid in my life.
I am concerned about the audacity and aggressiveness of the rat to kill a pigeon in broad daylight on a city sidewalk. I was a history major, and there are documented cases of people on ships or in the slums of busy cities having to have someone keep guard during the night or otherwise getting bits of their noses, eyelids, and ears nibbled off by aggressive rats. They are smarter than most humans give them credit for, and if the NYC rats are this brazen now, we could have some problems.
I also couldn’t help thinking “Oh no, Penumbra is coming true! The rats and the pigeons are at war!” And the inspiration for that part of my story actually came from my experience in Long Beach, CA. When I first started grad school for my MFA, there was a rat problem that had been an issue for years in the building. These rats were smart. The school had laid down adhesive traps, and one of the other students in my program had placed a piece of food in the center of one of the traps. A rat flipped the trap over into the dust, then walked across the dust-covered adhesive (thus no longer sticky) and taken the food. We saw the paw prints the next morning. But my second year in the program, there was an increase in cockroach activity in the city of Long Beach and the rat problem diminished, so I hypothesized that the cockroaches and the rats had done great battle, and the roaches had won. Maybe the pigeons and rats in NYC are doing the same now.