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Tracey Schuyt

How to Catch a Rat


‘Get rats out of flats!’ the man has decreed.
‘Bring them to us for free beer.’

‘Nice one Johnny,’ says India. ‘Very creative.’
I know I’m not much of a poet, but at least I made her smile.

India and I are studying biology, so dead rats are nothing new to us, but we’ve never tried to trap them before. There’s this crazy conservationist going around offering students beer for each dead rat we catch. Turns out it’s a voucher to be redeemed at the student bar, and we’re only allowed one trap each. I guess that stops us getting drunk on the proceeds of dead vermin. And of course we have to actually catch the rats first. And deliver them to the lab. Pretty sneaky of them really, getting us to do the work without putting us on the official payroll, is that even legal? The more I think about it, the more I smell a rat, ha-ha, I must tell India that. Still, free beer is free beer, and we’re embracing it.

We don’t actually have rats in our flat of course. That’s a stupid stereotype, students and rats. It might be true in Dunedin but not in Wellington, New Zealand’s finest city. Our rats are hanging out in the bush minding their own business, and we are going to betray them for a bag of silver. Oh, that’s really good, I’m on fire today.

India’s all droopy because her boyfriend Charlie isn’t spending enough time with her. He’s a rat, but she’s in total denial. I’m sure she’ll work it out eventually. Everyone says don’t go flatting with a couple, well I didn’t. He just moved in without asking after his last girlfriend chucked him out. That’s not his version of course. India does all his washing and cooks for him every night so that he doesn’t leave her. He tells her she should be on MasterChef, but really he’s just bumming free food off her. She should totally be on MasterChef though.

Rats really like peanut butter. Our flat has six traps and we caught five rats overnight, so that’s a pretty good haul. Charlie took them in to the lab. He put them in a clear plastic bag so he could freak all the girls out. He’s so charming.

India has made lamb vindaloo with homemade naan for herself and Charlie tonight, but he’s disappeared off somewhere as usual, so I’ve talked her into coming out with us to redeem our beer vouchers. She’s left a note for Charlie and Bella (who’s also not home yet) to join us later. I bet they don’t.

Going out has cheered India up a bit. She gets a text from Charlie and surprise surprise he’s busy. ‘At home, dinner delicious, work to finish, see you later, kiss kiss.’ She’s still pretty happy though. Beer agrees with her. The bar is buzzing with rat vouchers. We’re going to have another round.

‘My shout,’ says India. ‘I owe you one anyway. I stole one of our rats.’ She’s laughing now, and she’s holding up a zip-lock bag with the fattest ugliest rat’s tail I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty. It must have come off one mean rat.

‘A leaving present for Charlie,’ she says.


Tracey Schuyt likes eating as much as she likes writing, which is a lot. She is especially fond of beef rendang and has always assumed it contains beef. Her current research on the gin renaissance has uncovered a great recipe for gin and tonic cake.


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