RATS! A SLEEPLESS NIGHT

The motel had no laundry. Too tired to care, I washed my riding clothes in the shower. Outside, a warm wind was still blowing. I hung my clothes on the communal line and hoped the last hour of daylight would be enough to dry them.

We decided to stop in this two shop confluence of roads and climb Lewis Pass in the cool of the next morning. For three days in a row we had battled a strong, hot headwind for the last twenty kilometres. It was beginning to wear a little thin, but the sight of a motel with a café connected to it had buoyed our spirits; tomorrow was an eager anticipation.

The food in the café was just what we needed: big, hot and flavoursome with everything on the menu served with chips. I harbour a latent desire to return to this café when I’m fresh—not tired, sunburnt or windblown—just to see if the ‘Alpine Big Burger’ is as delicious as it was that night. Somehow I have a feeling I will be disappointed, but to its designer and constructor’s credit, it did its job that night.

“OK”, I thought ,“One rat. I can handle this.”

Fed, washed, with our clothes dried we turned in. The sounds of the day receded, the wind dropped away, darkness enveloped the small motel complex. I was just falling into a well-earned sleep when the first rat ran across our motel ceiling. I couldn’t see it, but I knew the sound. I hate rats. In fact, I am terrified of rats. Never share an important secret with me, for your adversary—my interrogator—would only have to say the word, “rat”. I make no apology, your card would be marked, and one dark night you will be woken by a knocking on your door, to then disappear into a dark unmarked car…

“OK”, I thought ,“One rat. I can handle this, I will be asleep soon.” But no. One was soon joined by two, then three. How do I know this, you ask? Trust me, being a fervent rataphobe—I knew. By three o’clock in the morning the rat festivities had reached a crescendo with what sounded like an organised race across our ceiling. This was not any old race, but a heavyweight derby with closely matched participants pushing for a glorious win. The finish must have been breathtaking, with three going down to the wire, two falling as they crossed the line. Oh, how the crowd would have cheered their display of speed and power.

It was draining for all involved. Slowly the crowd dispersed, the last making their way home as the dawn broke over distant hills—the very hills I was destined to climb in a few short hours. Turning, I pulled the sheets over my head and fell into a fitful slumber.

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