Click-Click-Click. Click-Click-Click. Rats scurry back and forth down the short hall to her daughters’ cramped bedroom. Little rat claws Click-Click-Click along the linoleum floor and run along the rotting baseboards, squeezing through a hole two little girls plug with rags or wadded up newspapers every night, an obstruction the rats easily dispense with long before the sun rises. Click-Click-Click.

Mama sets mousetraps and tries beating the rats into oblivion with a broom when she sees them. They used to hide and she saw only their droppings, but their numbers have been multiplying and they are emboldened. Now they run across the girls’ blankets in the darkness. Ha, Ha, their high-pitched sqeakings say. Ha, Ha, you can’t stop us. Mina and Donna kick their feet under the relative safety of their blankets. They feel the rats’ heft depart.

They hear the rats at night eating through the thin walls that separate one room from another. Not long after, rats are chomping holes in the back of the dresser, jumping out of a drawer when someone opens it looking for socks or shirts to wear. Sharp teeth sink into the fleshy part of Mina’s palm below her thumb when she pushes aside the anklets and reached for her knee socks. She jumps back trying to stay upright but falls over a footstool behind her, screaming for fear the rat that bit her will jump on top of her. She cries for Mama as blood drops from her hand onto the threadbare rug beneath her legs. Her mother hears the Click-Click-Click of tiny claws running along the linoleum in the dark, narrow hallway. She finishes bandaging Mina’s hand and goes after the rat with a large broom.

A few nights later another rat bites Donna’s cheek as she sleeps in the twin bed next to Mina’s. Donna screams as a nightmare rooted in the real world draws warm blood that streams down her fast-swelling cheek. Mama comes running and tries to stop the bleeding. The ubiquitous Click-Click-Click tells her the rat she’s after will too quickly disappear. He’s too fast, too clever.

Click-Click-Click. There’s a baby in this house. A third girl who can’t jump up and run away. All she can do is scream and flail her tiny baby arms. Click-Click-Click.

They aren’t afraid of Mama’s broom anymore, and they’ve become accustomed to the noise, called screams, that the girls’ make. Click-Click-Click.




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