"Small" prose piece for my Creative Writing Course at University of Windsor about small things
Never mind the rat. Bad things come in tiny bites
By Stephen Weir
Since this is the end of the term and you will have long forgot this 4-page story (oops) by January, I can shamelessly tell you about my bad habit of eating street food. No, I don’t mean an Island Patty from the food truck at the corner, I am talking about protein that has tumbled from someone’s mouth onto the road or a pet drenched lawn.
I can’t help myself. I am always hungry and what tastes better than free food, even when you get it from the gutter? With me the 5-second rule is my life’s mantra.
Haven’t heard of it? Author Mel Robins (The 5-Second Rule) describes it thusly. “Almost everyone has dropped some food on the floor and still wanted to eat it. If someone saw you drop it, she might have yelled, "5-second rule!" This so-called rule says food is OK to eat if you pick it up in 5-seconds or less.”
To be honest, after a near death experience in Iceland I will NEVER AGAIN stretch my count past the 5-second mark. Trust me, if you eat past the 5-second limit you will die, and from personal experience that isn’t a little lie. And, if you end up on the ground with the Icelandic EMTs shouting proudly to the instant crowd that the þrjátíu-seconds rules works, open your eyes and say that you are okay before their stomach pump hits the back of your throat!
I was in Iceland to cover the annual AirWaves November Music Festival for anyone who would buy the story. The music is unique, one of the big Icelandic songs that year was Dancing in the Street in Your Underwear.
But I digress a tiny bit. One thing you need to know about Iceland, everything is expensive and weird. A slab of BBQed Minke Whale will set you back $70 and apparently tastes as bad as their $80 Fermented Greenland Shark. I settled on $30 Mamaburger sized burgers (they are really small), which is why, as I went broke, picking up and wolfing down found street meat had a growing appeal.
The only place that you can get anything cheap is a 24-hour stand near the Ocean. They only serve $3 5-inch long hot dogs (that is quite small). The mini tube steak is made with lamb packed into a traditional casing of sheep’s intestine. It is broiled over the burning coals of dried lamb poop. You are allowed to drink $15 Viking bottled beer while you stand in an extremely long line-up, so you don’t mind the rain, the snow and the crazies dancing in the street in their underwear.
Drunk. Wet. Mostly Naked. More tiny-tot hot dogs hit the never-cleaned sidewalks, than into waiting mouths. After buying a deuce of dogs, I rushed back in the freezing rain to the festival hall. The sidewalk was a skating rink. Before I could count to five I was airborne. Horrors my two lamb dogs slid under a dirty Jaguar (owned by the hot dog chef).
I had already counted to 10 when I felt a small mushy bun under the Jag. I started the count again and pulled out three hot dogs from beneath the exhaust pipe. The bonus dog was lumpy and squirming a bit inside the sandy brown bun but I didn’t care, not even a little bit. As I wolfed down my newly found dinner, I noticed small holes in my hand and blood on my lamb dog!
I don’t remember when I went down for the count again. I woke up surrounded by two short paramedics. “What happened”? I asked. “Food poisoning and it looks like you’ve feed a couple of small Wharf Rats with your hand said one EMTer”.
“Hmm” I moaned lowly to her, “maybe it was the other way around. Coulda been a rat in my half-eaten sheep dog!”
They pulled up the carcass of a tiny Icelandic Wharf Rat from under my elbow. It was brown in colour with scattered mustard covered hairs. It had an oil stained grayish-white underbelly. It’s body was tiny but heavily built. Unlike a Dieppe Park River Rat, this fellow’s tail was super stubby. Ugh, both the tail and ears were hairless and covered in scales.
The medical crew figured the other rat had climbed into a hot dog and I had scarfed down the bun, the dog and a minuscule Wharf Rat in one gulp. Fearing the “knock” wurst, the medical team said it had to come out. Immediately. It wasn’t their first rodeo, a well-worn tummy pump instantly appeared. I instinctively knocked it away.The nozzle separated from the hose and rolled into the gutter.
Paramedic Number One began to count in Icelandic. Her partner found the nozzle and reconnected the hose. “Þrjátíu!” shouted Paramedic Two. “Following the 5-second rule?” ”Yeah” she answered. “Here we call it the þrjátíu-rule.” Still counting she rammed the hose into where the rat dog had gone before. Meanwhile Paramedic One found a small pair of dirty underwear and wrapped my smallish rat wound.
I had a little sleep in the hospital. 5-days to be exact. I woke up as they wheeled my gurney through the crowded airport. I was going home; 5 pounds down and a tad hungry.
The EMTs pushed fast and yelled FREE FOOD. Well, they had found some, sort of. My gurney had sideswiped a smallish man totting a tray of those dwarf lamb dogs. I started counting and hit the floor, the paramedics were right after me. No time to chew I swallowed down all the floor dirty dogs before reaching 5. Pity, the EMTers didn’t count in English; turns out þrjátíu means 30- seconds.
Iceland airport hot dog stand
Back in Windsor, in Dieppe Park, I spy five Detroit River Rats feeding on a small-sized Capri Pizza. Did that scare me? Not even a little bit.
Kicked the rats into the river, brushed off some icky things from the 5-inch“zaw” and swallowed it whole before I got to 5. I was cured.
True story? Mostly! I admit a few little white lies snuck into this minuscule rodent’s tail.