Once upon a time, there was a rat that lived in the sewers of New York City. This wasn’t a nasty rat in the dirty sewers, oh no: Susan Regina Rat was the cleanest rat you ever did see. Her den was always dry, and neat, and tidy. She always washed her paws. She got fresh newspaper for her bed every night. And she always squeaked “please” and “thank you” when she asked for a bit of cheese.
Susan was a different sort of rat, of course. Her family thought she was strange as they played in the garbage and swam in the dirty water. “This was what a rat does,” they said, “so why don’t you want to do it?” And always, Susan’s reply was the same:
“I don’t know, it’s just the way I am.”
Because of this, Susan was very often alone with her bits of paper. But she liked to read, which another very un-rat-like thing to do. She even learned English, which is not all that different from Rat-ese, and she would often confuse her family with stories about Yankees and Mets and a street that was also a wall. “How can it be both?” Her family would ask.
“It doesn’t translate perfectly,” Susan would admit, sadly.
She tried to be part of her pack, but every time she felt like she messed things up. The worst was when some of the rats about her age, started calling Susan names.
“Look at all that junk she has in her den,” they would say.
“And she likes to READ the newspaper!”
“And she tries to be clean!”
When she asked her parents, Phillip Thomas Rat and Dorothy Rat, what she should do, they didn’t say much. Her father was a rat of few words. Finally, he said, “Susan, why can’t you fit in?” And she cried and cried until her mother, who had come all the way from Ireland, gave her a little bit of advice from an Irish writer:
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”
Susan was surprised to find out her mother liked to read, too!
“So if you feel like you’re making mistakes, Susie,” her mother said with a smile, “chances are you’re bound to discover something wonderful!”
So Susan kept reading her paper, and one day found an article about a farmer in some place called Upstate. The article said the farmer was old, and wanted to live with his children in Connecticut (which is a very hard word for a rat to read!) So, he wanted sell his farm, but he wanted to sell it to someone who wanted to keep the farm small. And Susan began to do a very un-rat-like thing: she began to dream. She dreamed of being in this Upstate place, where things were green and the sky was blue and seemed to go on forever. She wanted to be there. She wanted to live there. She wanted to get away from the sewer and own that farm.
And so, she took some of the money she had found in the sewer, and she went to buy a lottery ticket. The shopkeeper was very surprised when the rat started squeaking to him in perfect English, but he sold the ticket anyway because she had the money. The next day, Susan checked her newspaper, but she didn’t win. So she bought another. And another. And another. And on the fifteenth try, she won twenty million dollars!
“Wow!” the shopkeeper said as Susan jumped and skipped with delight on top of his counter. He had grown to like the odd little rat, so he told her he would call the farmer and let her talk. It was very hard to get her voice loud enough through the telephone, but Susan was able to set up a meeting with the farmer. “When they told me a rat wanted to buy my farm, I didn’t think they were serious!” the farmer said, surprised. “Why do you want to buy my farm?”
“I want to live where the grass is green, and the sky is blue, and the air is fresh and clean and the water is clear and pretty.”
And the farmer said, “that doesn’t sound like something a rat would like.”
And Susan said, “I know… but it’s just the way I am.”
“You’re an odd little rat” the farmer said with a smile, “I suppose we’ll need to change the name of the farm from Doddsborough Farm to Oddsborough Farm.”
And Susan said “I would like that very much indeed,” and she shook the farmer’s hand with her paw.