Greenburgh Arts And Culture

         "We celebrate the creative arts!"

Sarah Bracey White, Executive Director. Advisory Board: Kevin Morgan, Town Board Liaison; Hope Corbin, President; Gwen Cort, Carolyn McNair, Jim Miller, and Barbara Mohr

   

Kids Short Story Connection News

Now in its 16th year, KSSC celebrates the literary creativity of children between 9 and 18 years of age. Our feature story this month is by 10 year old Julia Moser.

 


 

Cinnamon

By Julia Moser, 10

I’ve loved rats since I was three years old.  I don’t know why, but I always have.  When I asked to get some as pets, my parents told me to wait until I was eight.  They figured by then I would have grown out of it.  By the time I was eight, though, I still wanted them, and so we went out to the pet store.  Our rats, Mickey and Melchisedek, lived good lives and died after two years.  I was upset, but I knew they’d been happy.  We put a rat statue in the front yard in memorial, and emptied out the cage.  We lived in this state of ratlessness for about six months, until one February afternoon at the pet store.

We were just stopping by to look around, not looking for anything in particular.  My younger sisters and brothers ran over to the frogs and snakes, yelling.  My sister Mary loves frogs.  I wandered off towards the hamsters.  Most of them were snoozing in their cages.  I kept going to the ferrets… mice… rats.  In a small glass cage, sleeping in a pile under a translucent purple igloo, were three small rats.  When I peered in, a tiny white nose poked out at me.  I called my dad over.

“Just look at them!  They’re so sweet!”

“They are.”  He looked closer.  “Do you think we might want to bring them home?”

“Yes, definitely!”  I was so happy.  I’d missed Mickey and Melchisedek, and was eager to take home some new rats.  My dad went over to get an employee.  She came over, and we asked how old they were. 

“Oh, we just got them last week.  I’d say they’re about two or three months old.”  My dad nodded. 

“We’ll take-- two.”  She nodded and went off to get something.  The rats were starting to come out of the igloo.  First one, then two rats were snuffling at the glass.  I squeezed my dad’s hand.  I couldn’t wait.  The employee returned with two cardboard carrying cases.  She scooped up the two white rats and put them into them.  They wriggled quite a bit, but they went.  We were just ready to pay when I looked back at the igloo.  A tiny brown head was poking out from the opening, looking forlornly after the other two.  I showed my dad, and we asked the worker about him.

“Oh, yes.  They’re brothers.  That one’s pretty skittish; he gets nervous around new people.  My dad and I looked at each other.  We couldn’t just leave him there. 

“Make that three,” my dad said, turning back to the employee.  She nodded, and went back for another carrying case.

                Back at the house, we put the rats into their new home: a large cage in the basement.  They seemed to like it and explored every nook and cranny.  I decided to name them Sugar, Salt, and Cinnamon, based on their coloring.  We gave them a day to get used to the new place, and then started taking them out to play with them.  They were all nervous at first, but they started to get used to it.  They even began to ask to come out.  Cinnamon in particular would stare at you with his bright little eyes and keep staring until you picked him up.  This went on for two months, and we were all very happy. 

                On Monday, March 31, I noticed it.  I had just come home from a day of state testing, and thankfully had no homework.  I went down to visit the rats.  There was an odd wheezing sound coming from inside their tunnel.  I opened the cage door and peered in.  Cinnamon’s head poked out from the inside of the tunnel, and he was straining to breathe.  Feeling a wave of concern wash over me, I bent over and scooped him up.  He felt very limp and unenergetic, and he’d lost weight.  I stroked him quickly, and put him back in the cage. 

“Mom!” I called.  “I think Cinnamon’s sick!”  She came down quickly and looked.  She agreed with me that he didn’t look too good, and decided that we should call the vet. 

 

“Hello?  Yes, we have a rat… Cinnamon… He’s having trouble breathing.  Mmm?  Oh, really?  Alright, bye.”  She hung up the phone.  “They said we should bring him now.”  I quickly rushed downstairs and opened the carrying case.  Once again I scooped Cinnamon up and placed him into the carrier.  It worried he how little he protested.  Usually the rats hate small spaces.  Two of my younger siblings, Mary and Paul, came with us.  We got into the car and drove.  And drove.  The trip that should only have taken a few minutes was stretched out by a traffic jam.  With every passing minute I grew more and more anxious.  Finally, we pulled up in front of the Central Animal Hospital.  There was a small waiting room filled with dogs and cats; no other rats.  I saw a tiny dog with a cast on its leg, and a tired-looking cat.  Finally, the lady at the desk called out:“Cinnamon?”  Hands shaking, I carried the case holding Cinnamon into an examination room.

                After a few minutes, I was shaking worse than ever.  The vet had taken Cinnamon into a separate room to check something, and Mary and Paul were starting to complain.  It was almost 7:00, the time the Central Animal Hospital was supposed to close.  Finally, the door swung open.  A man walked in, without Cinnamon. 

“Well, we think we’ve figured out what Cinnamon has.”  He paused.  I held my breath, waiting for him to continue.  “It’s a common rat respiratory disease: mycoplasma.  It’s been let go for a little too long, and his breathing is in pretty bad shape.  We’ve put him in an oxygen tank for now, to help for a little bit.”  I felt my heart pounding in my chest.

“What can we do for him?”

The vet stopped to think for a minute.  “Well, if you want, we can give him some medicine.  It won’t cost too much, and it should help with the breathing.”  I looked at my mom.

“Yes, we’ll definitely want to do the medicine.” 

“Alright.”  He paused again.  “I’m sorry to say there is still a chance we might lose him tonight.  With your permission we could keep him here on oxygen overnight, but we can’t guarantee anything.”  My mom and I looked at each other. 

“Can we have a minute to think about it?” my mom asked.

“Certainly.”  He walked back outside and closed the door behind him, leaving us alone.

                “What did he mean, we might lose him?”  Mary was confused. 

My mom took a deep breath.“He meant that… Cinnamon might die tonight.” 

Mary immediately burst into tears.  “I’m never going into the basement again!”

“Mary, stop.”  I was fighting back tears myself, and seeing her so upset wasn’t helping.  “So, what do you think?”  I turned to my mom.  We discussed for several minutes, and even called my dad at work.  Finally, we decided to take Cinnamon home.  There was no guarantee that he would make it either way. Also, whatever was going to happen, we wanted to happen at home, not in a strange place he’d never been before.  We told the vet our choice. 

“Alright.”  He handed me the carrying case, and my mom a bag containing a small bottle.  “We’ve given him the first dose of medicine.  You should give him more about every twelve hours.  Keep him warm, and separate him from the other rats.  Okay?”

“Okay,” I answered, my hands and voice shaky. 

My mom looked at her watch. “Wait, it’s 7:45!  Your closing time was forty-five minutes ago!” 

The vet shrugged.“Don’t worry about it.”  I felt a rush of gratitude.  These people had stayed way after their closing time for my rat.  I didn’t know how to thank them. 

                When we got home, my mom went to get a laundry basket.  We put Cinnamon’s case in the center, and surrounded it with towels to keep him warm.  Then my mom had to go put Mary and Paul to bed.  Carefully, I unzipped the carrier and reached my hand inside.  A feeble sneeze greeted it, and I felt a tiny paw brush my finger.  I gently lifted Cinnamon out.  He was so limp; but he was still breathing.  The awful wheezing sound he was making made me feel so bad.  Slowly, he turned his head up to me, as if I could make everything better.  A tear trickled down my cheek.

“I’m so sorry.”  When I finally had to put him back, my mom and dad gave me a huge hug. 

“He still has a chance,” my mom whispered.  “There’s still hope.”  I nodded. 

“Goodnight, Cinnamon,” I called.  “I love you.”  I slowly walked upstairs.

                After a not-so-restful night, I darted down the stairs to the basement.  My heart was pounding as I unzipped a tiny bit of the carrier. 

“Cinnamon?”  No answer.  “Cinnamon?”  Achoo!  A tiny pair of bright eyes blinked up at me.  “Cinnamon!”

                After a little bit, my mom and dad came down, too.  We were all so relieved, and my mom went straight upstairs for his medicine.  I took him out.  He seemed to have quite a bit of his energy back.  At first he struggled against the medicine , but then he started to like it a little bit.  It was tutti-frutti flavored, and he was licking it by the end.  I held him for a while, and then put him back, my heart feeling a lot lighter.

                Over the weeks, Cinnamon has gradually improved.  His breathing is very smooth now, and all his energy is back.  Soon he’ll be able to go back to the big cage with his brothers, and I’m very happy about that.  Both Sugar and Salt seem to be perfectly healthy, and I’m happy about that, too.  I just can’t stop thinking about how much Cinnamon has been through, and how much he’s grown from the tiny rat in the pet store a few months ago.