Denis Bell ~ Jake and the Rat

While rooting around in his basement, Jake comes across a staircase he’d never noticed before. The staircase leads to a suite of lavishly furnished rooms.

One of the rooms contains a row of beds, all made up. Not as many beds as you’d find in a hospital ward but several, more, say, than in a children’s bedroom. Who are they for?

Another room appears to be a study. There is an oak desk littered with photographs and bills and old love letters and such, a lamp and a swivel chair. The classic study look. Bookcases too, but the spines on the books have no names and the papers on the desk are now pools of fluid, slimy. Faces dance in picture frames. Jake thinks he sees his sister in one, but it could be a girl he knew once. The girl committed suicide when she was twenty-five and Jake twenty-six, following a liaison with a deadbeat from the mill.

A group of people gather in a laundry room across the hall. Sigmund Freud, the foreman at the mill, the Marquis de Sade, Linda from Human Resources, a major league pitcher from Paraguay – Jesus something or other, and the kid from Leave It To Beaver. Last month the foreman fired Jake, something to do with a lack of commitment. Now he has the nerve to invite himself to his home! The whole thing smacks of the game of Clue and while the-foreman-in-the-office-with-a-pink-slip might seem the obvious choice, Jake has a better idea.

A fancy bathroom with a giant portrait of Quasimodo on the wall facing the commode. Jake opens his fly and takes a leak. When he gets out his father is standing there.

How’s it hangin’, sport? his father says.

Jake checks himself, then snatches up a loose-leaf binder from the shelf over the sink and waves it in the air.

Lookee here, it’s done! Stayed up all night to finish it.

How’s that for commitment, his father shouts through a hole in the wall. Half his life and the bum leaves it to the last freaking day.

This is strange because Jake never once heard the old man use that particular f-word.

It’s a family show, explains the Beaver.

Fuck that, says Jake.

And the pig you rode in on, growls Freud.

Works for me, says the Marquis.

Linda looks at her watch. Time to go, pumpkin, she says as she bends over to button his coat and kiss him goodbye. Freud and the Marquis exchange a wry smile as she heads off to commune with Quasimodo…

Jake is presenting his report to the class – on the role of recombinant DNA in the development of the mushroom. There is a new teacher standing watch at the back of the classroom. The teacher looks suspiciously like his father, except that he has long hair like Jesus that completely covers his face. Jake’s classmates are cheering and he feels proud. But behind the hair the teacher is mad. He reaches into his pants and pulls out a switch.

The teacher accuses Jake of lying, though Jake has never lied but once or twice in his entire life. Once to a girl named Melanie, who turned up on a slab with a belly full of Drano, and once about his name. Turns out Jake’s real name is Bryan and Bryan has a pet rat named Percy. Bryan feeds Percy little snakes every day, which he fillets with a penknife that he won in a boy scout bake off.

On your bike, bitch, says the teacher after the whipping but Jake’s butt is too sore to even consider it. Anyway he never even owned a bike, though he does happen to know some boys from the East Side who could fix him up with one on the fly.

See, now that’s what I’m talking about, says the teacher to the class. He’s a bum. Always was and always–

What did I do to make you hate me so bad? Jake shouts at his tormentor, but the message goes unheard because Jake’s features are starting to melt into a female form, and it is himself he is addressing…

It feels like Jake has been gone for an eternity, though in reality it may have been an instant. When finally he arrives home, disheveled and bloody, everybody has left apart from Freud who is on his cell phone to Tony Soprano arranging for a pick up of wet goods.

Seeking closure, Jake calls up a psychic help line and speaks to a woman named Wanda. Wanda tells Jake that his real name is not really Jake, who does he think he’s kidding, she’s a psychic, and that one day he will be elected Minister for Foreign Affairs and he’ll appoint Percy as his deputy.

Jake says he hopes this call is not costing anything cause she’s full of it and Wanda assures him that all 1-900 numbers are free of charge.

After they get off the phone with the psychic, Percy tells Jake to look in the trunk in the closet under the stairs. Jake looks in the trunk and finds there a box full of dreams.

DM Aug 14


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