“The Mouse Is A Rat” – Flash Fiction from The Daddy Dispatch

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2009 at 9:18 pm

My two and a half year old boy was bopping and grooving in that way that only small children can, bouncing on bent knees, gracefully stepping to the beat as a huge grin split his face from ear to ear. We were at his favorite place in the world, Ralphie Mouse’s House of Pizza.

Ralphie Mouse’s is the kind of place that has arcade games, skee-ball, pizza, and animatronic robots singing and dancing up on stage.  The teenagers who work there start out all smiley, thinking it’s a fun place to be, until the non-stop upbeat song and dance routines start to wear on them.  Eventually they end up like the robots onstage, just going through the motions.

As I watched the plushy animals sing and dance, the only human-faced onstage persona caught my eye.  Or at least he seemed to catch my eye.  Alfredo the Italian Drummer didn’t fit in with the rest of the happy go lucky performers.  His porcine features were sad beneath his giant moustache and his eyes were on the verge of weeping.  No tear rolled down the molded plastic face, but the eyes, oh God, the eyes!

At the very end of the song, masked by the stilted crash of a cymbal, Alfredo’s lips moved soundlessly.  “Help me.”

I waited for the show to pause, when the lights go down and attention shifts to the cartoon characters on large flat screen monitors.  My boy was rapturously asking the now motionless Ralphie Mouse character if he could have his third birthday party here.  I slowly walked toward the enigmatic drummer.  His eyes moved dramatically down and to the left, urging me to look beneath his snare drum.  A heavy manacle was clamped around his ankle, chaining him to an iron bar set into the floor of the stage.  “Youse gotta help me,” he whispered, “the mouse is a rat!”

“The whole thing’s a front for the heavy stuff,” he explained, “the rat needs the kids to launder money through a series of intermediaries, see?  The games, the tickets, the crappy prizes, it’s all part of the system.”  My eyes darted nervously to the guitar playing dog on my left and Alfredo quickly assured me that we would not be overheard.  “The dog and the bird are dummies, decoys really.  The purple gorilla is the muscle and the rat is the ringleader, they run this operation all over the country.”  I placed my left shoe on the stage, untied it, and began re-tying the laces as I leaned closer.  The sibilant voice continued.

“You’ll never find the mafia in a Ralphie Mouse town, just like you’ll never find the rat in places like Atlantic City, Vegas, and Queens.  Ralphie started out back east, moved out to the desert and ran slot farms in the 60’s until the mob got wise.  They was the ones that did it to him, made him what he is.  They thought he was a goner after what happened, but guys like Ralphie never go down.  Guys like Ralphie Mouse go underground.”

My son continued to pester the rat as Alfredo made his play.  “So now you know, whaddya say you cut me loose and we make a run for it, whaddya say?”

It was too quiet at the far end of the stage.  Ralphie Mouse had his huge grey paw on the boy’s adoring shoulder.  The Rat turned his head, looked down at my son, then right at me as he slid a finger slowly across his throat.

“Where you going?  Youse gotta help me!”

“Sorry Alfie, I got a family.”  Then, “Hey Champ!  Let’s go to the park, this place gives me the creeps.”

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