The Rat

When I finally left the bar (assisted) it was much too dark, foggy and raining and I was much too drunk to care whether I was being followed or not. Besides, I’d spent too much time looking over my shoulder for no apparent reason.You see, 3 1/2 years ago, I was released from prison for the simple fact that I’d made a deal. That’s right! A deal. I ratted out and at that point, I would have ratted on my own mother just to get me out of that hole.They offered me a new life, a new identity and enough cash to start my life afresh.They lied.The minute I signed the statement to testify against my former boss (he was into everything and anything) they gave me the boot. Kicked me in the kister and told me to take a hike.So, I went underground for a few years and changed my own identity. The time I’d spent locked up had been for passing bad cheques and luckily, I had kept the doors to the world of lies open.As I staggered on my way home (if you can call a one room dive with a good view of the alley home) I pulled my tattered, yellow rain slicker closer, but it resisted any chance of being useful.Soaked to the bone, I reached the alley that had become the foyer to my front door.Lacking the balance that accompanies sobriety, I stumbled and fell over a pile of broken crates and my head met the ground, littered with broken glass and garbage, with a good solid whack.The pain that filled my head was followed by the proverbial stars and then, the blackness of the night with its whispering shadows became pure, solid black.I do not know how long I had been out for but I was aware of a steady, annoying buzzing in my ears.I pulled myself up off the ground and squinting my eyes to see better in the dark, I looked for my door. It was almost impossible to see in the dark, unlit alley and I knew that once again, I would have to rely on feel and count to find it.My door was the thirteenth on the left (well, what did’ya expect?) and here I was, only standing in front of door number 2. Only eleven more to go and I could call it a night.As I pushed myself along, counting out loud as I passed each door, I became aware that the game of feel and count was no longer necessary.The alley had become totally illuminated and when I turned to look for the source of light, my heart pounded in my chest and I was afraid it would stop.Headlights from a car at the entrance to the alley lit me up and picked me out like twin spotlights.Call it insight…call it whatever you want, I just knew that these were the people who had been looking for me for the last 3 1/2 years.Without another wasted moment thinking, I turned and ran.Having lost count at the sound of tires squealing, I could only guess at which door would fit my key and when I was sure I was at the right one, I frantically dug in my pockets to find the key and when at last I found it, it would not fit in the door.The car came crashing down the alley toward me and in its path was a hurricane of flying crates and papers.I desperately tried some doors in hopes of finding an open one, but in this part of town, all the doors are locked and nobody will let you in for fear of “becoming involved”.Hopeless, I ran blindly and the buzzing in my ears turned into the loud roar of the car’s engine behind me.I’ve heard that fear has often been the creator of strength, but in my case, fear was the creator of the weakness in my legs. Unable to run from my pursuers any more, I stopped but did not turn around and when I felt the heat from the car’s engine on the backs of my legs, I passed out.Surprisingly, the buzzing continued in my ears.I knew that I must be dead. Another fatality caused by an unfortunate traffic accident. Another statistic in the book of life.A series of metal crashing against metal sounds forced me to open my eyes, positive that I would be facing the hounds of hell and I was alarmed by what I saw.I was on a cot in a jail cell…MY cell and the guy that I shared it with lay sleeping on his cot.The sound of metal crashing against metal was the sound of doors opening and closing for the group of lawyers and prison officials coming to take me to the court house to testify against my boss…

I’ve decided to play dumb. I know that a lot of people are superstitious and other people are not ready to believe in omens and bad signs, but the reality of my dream, the sweat (or tears?) on my pillow were enough to convince me that ratting on my former boss would be as good as signing my own death warrant.
As we walked down the corridor that led to the courtrooms, I whispered to my lawyer and told him I was bailing out, I told him “I don’t know nuttin’”.
“Why?” he asked me. “Because,” I told him. “I don’t want to die .”
Shaking his head, he leaned over and said something to one of the officials and the procession stopped.

The Rat

deb cole

Hamilton, Canada

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