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Fuzzy-wuzzy was a rat...
- February, 1999

"And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, black rats, lean rats, gray rats, tawny rats, grave old plodders, gay young friskers, fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins.
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers, families by tens and dozens, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives followed the Piper for their lives"

  - Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamlin

Still sniggering over the phrase "gay young friskers" or "cocking tails and pricking whiskers"? Need a moment to catch your breath, chuckle-puss? Or are you just snorting and laughing harder now, because I said "puss"?

Mmm-mmm...with the fresh taste of rat
And you thought you hated giving urine samples...
If you read my previous Story from the Road you know that in January of '99 my last dove died. Now, a magician without an animal is like a sentence without an analogy, so I went to my local pet store to peruse the cornucopia of critters for sale. After considering birds and snakes and puppies and fish, I settled on rats. Why? Look at 'em! Could anything be cuter?

This first one here is named Crawley - Aleister Crawley (and bonus points if you smirk at that). When I got him he was tiny, no bigger than a walnut or so, and mostly all he wanted to do is eat, pee and sleep. Now, almost a year later, he likes to chew on plastic things, too.

I'll admit it, at this point I'm a total rat convert. They're great animals, hyper-intelligent (they get out of the cage more often than I'm happy to admit), and very affectionate. There's a lot of online stuff about rats, the best site I've seen is at Squeak! - lots of pics and info and so forth. Rats get a bad rep - always portrayed as little garbage diggers with glowing reds eye chewing on the decrepid flesh of the living, which is untrue. Mostly. The eyes are really more of a glowing burgundy than red.

Who's a cute little carnivore? 
If you ever need to get rid of a body...
And since one rat's not enough, I bought Crawley a pet rat, named Skave McGlade (and if you know where that name comes from, I'll give you a free Zoltan Tshirt - no joke, but just to the first three right answers I receive). If you're wondering what rats eat, the answer is: anything. I kid you not - they chew through wood, plastic, rubbermaid containers, anything. However, at the renaissance faires, they're particularly fond of turkey legs...

I took the rats down to Georgia with me for my second season at the GA faire, and they were a big hit. They're accomplished little shoulder-riders, and everyone who sees them wants to play with them, hold them, and be peed on by them. They're like little teeny kitty-cats...that chew on the decrepid flesh of the living. Really though and in truth, in all my years as a renfaire performer I have never seen a better prop in the streets than a live rat (and if you steal my idea, I will hunt you down, slit open your stomach and sew your rats up inside of you. Try me.).

But just carrying rats is not enough for ol' Zoltan. For the '99 season of the Ontario RenFaire, I started working with the rats on stage. In particular, I bit their heads off...really. If you got to see it, it's a treat. Not only that, but I've trained the little beggars to stick their heads inside my mouth at my command. Can you believe I'm still single?

Zoltan with stretcho the wonder rat
Look at that cute, furry rodent-face...and the little rat he's holding!

So next time you see me at the faire, in a loud, clear voice yell out, "Hey Zoltan! Lemme see yer rat!"

     signed, Zoltan the Adequate

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