Become a Fan
The School Cafeteria, the Behemoth, and Mr. Rat
By Steve Robertson
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
For 17 of my 37 years in the Duval County School System, I was a teacher and coach at Fletcher Junior High—later to become Middle School—in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. One year, I was assigned cafeteria duty. I was very good at controlling the students, probably due to my size and stature, and I would spend several lunch periods a day maintaining order.
At that time, Fletcher was undergoing renovations and the workers had removed a section of ceiling tiles in a corner by the entrance to the serving area. There was a large pipe that ran from inside the ceiling down to the floor of the cafeteria. It was at least four inches in diameter.
I always stood and circulated around the cafeteria. I would talk with the students and tease them and joke with them while I made my rounds. Since I also coached, I would sometimes talk about an upcoming game or something with my players. On one of these occasions, there was a huge commotion near the front of the cafeteria. I was in the rear. The girls were shrieking and both boys and girls had jumped up and were running away from something.
A huge Norwegian rat had descended the pole and brazenly run out into the cafeteria and under a table to grab some scraps of food that had fallen on the floor. Of course it had made the children crazy. I hurried over and as I came close, Mr. Rat ran back to his pole and scaled it, nimbly climbing back into the roof. Well, I finally got the kids back in order, but there was a bunch of excited talking going on. Remember, these are twelve, thirteen and fourteen year old kids—talk about excitable. There wasn’t much more I could do.
In days that ensued, Mr. Rat continued to disrupt the lunchroom with his audacious appearances. And every time, I had to bust my buns to get the kids back in order. I have always been extremely good with animal nature. This was especially so because of my time as a cowboy working around the domesticated animals and because of the myriad of wild creatures I had captured in my youth and kept as pets. I understood animals and I had seen Mr. Rat’s method of operation. It was always the same, centered around the pole, which was his only route back home.
This had been track season and I was coaching the track team in the afternoons. Although I had passed 40 years of age, I had still been pressing myself physically as I always had. One of the conditioning drills for the team was running the bleachers. The running up and down steps was a tedious, albeit excellent training drill. I had been showing off and trying to beat all the kids at this and in the process, tore my Achilles tendon. My foot just flopped helplessly at the end of my leg with no tendon to control it. It was awful.
The orthopedist, to my relief, had decided against surgery. Instead, he had bound my foot and leg in a hard, fiberglass cast that had a high heel to relax the tendon so it could grow back together. I wore a high-healed cowboy boot on the other foot. So here I was, stomping around the cafeteria in a high-healed cast and a cowboy boot.
I had started hanging around the front of the cafeteria, not far from Mr. Rat’s pipe. He was getting mighty cavalier now that he had been able to grab his mouthfuls of food the kids dropped and make it back to the pipe and freedom without anyone stopping him. I knew that he would always return to the pipe and my plan was to get between him and the pipe and ambush him.
Sure enough, here he came, descending the pipe like a paratrooper storming Normandy. Out on the floor he ran and as usual, the kids were reacting. I hobbled over and got between him and the pole. Mr. Rat grabbed his mouthful and turned to run back to his pole. This time, however, there was a behemoth impeding his way. He looked at me and I was watching him. I had my knees bent in the ready position. I wasn’t completely sure what I would do but I trusted myself to react when the time came. Mr. Rat hunkered down like a fullback getting ready to break through the line. Here he came, darting to and fro like a prizefighter, trying to get back to his pole.
It was his fateful day. Just as soon as he got to me, I stomped down with that lethal fiberglass cast. My aim was true and, alas, poor Mr. Rat had been squashed. Talk about uproar. The students went crazy. The boys were laughing hysterically and pointing and jumping up and down in their glee. The girls had mouths covered with hands—some were screeching, others were shouting “Oooooo, Uuuuggg,” and so on. I picked poor Mr. Squashed Rat up by the tail and took him out into the hall and dropped him in the trashcan. Of course I washed my hands.
So there you have it—the saga of the school cafeteria, the behemoth, and the demise of poor squashed Mr. Rat.
Site: Ranch Boy Books
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|enjoyed the read, sounds like my school today|
|Reviewed by Katie Gabrielle
|Very well written!! And you are very brave for squashing that rat!! bravo!!! Yes, young people that age are very excitable and I am sure alot of adults wouldn't have done what you did and you knew exactly what he would do and your cast helped squish the rat!! I cheered for you too!! thanks for sharing!! katie :)|