He’s Not a Rat, He’s My Brother

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From Jane's World

“Finnegan! Finn-egan! FINN-AGAIN!” That annoying dinky rat, Finnegan. If I hear another word about that mutt of a brother, who’s not even as big as my head, I’m gonna run away and never come home.

Today I was out sitting on my wicker chair on the front porch, protecting our homestead from six in the morning till Ma got home at three this afternoon, while that lazy dog was inside sleeping away the day on Ma’s couch. Her new couch!

Around 1:30 p.m. the ducks ran up from the creek, the donkeys started braying, and the geese began honking. I jumped out of my chair and ran full-speed around the house, into the backyard. Sure enough, one of those lone, hefty, lean dogs with the bushy tail, the color of dirt, was out there. Ma calls them coyotes. I call them a nuisance. I barked my deepest, scariest bark and charged straight at it. The darn thing was unfazed, just turned its head and sauntered slowly away. But thanks to me, Wily the Coyote (that’s what Ma calls him) didn’t help himself to a duck dinner.

When Ma came home I met her at the car, eager to tell her all about it. I jumped up on her with my two front paws, wagging my tail like a kid would a sparkler on the 4th of July. But she said, “Down, Téte,” and kept on walking toward the house. I followed her inside, and what was the first thing she did? Bent down as Finnegan, for the first time all day, hopped off the couch and trotted out to greet her. 

“Hey, Finny-winny doogles, how’s my big boy today?”

“Hi Mommy, I missed you. Hug me! Pet me! Oh Mommy, I love it when you come home!”

I swear all that sweetness is going to give me cavities! 

The dang dog is nothing but a half-pint actor with short, stiff, worthless hair. Ma never even has to brush him. His hair is so thin I can see his pink belly through it. “Thin-skinned rat-terror” is what I call him when Ma can’t hear me.

Now, my fur is thick and full, with a layer of insulation underneath that allows me to enjoy winter on even the coldest days. Finn has to wear a stupid jacket! And in summer, after we go swimming, I shake once or twice and I’m good to go. Finnegan shivers like a baby. But still, Prince Finn is all I ever hear about.

And it’s getting worse.

Last summer, while I was busy overseeing our flood-worn property and all of Ma’s other high-maintenance critters, Ma kept asking Finnegan to work with her on a new children’s book. The brat wouldn’t do a thing until she bribed him with his favorite peanut-butter-filled bones. How he finally got it done is beyond me. I think Ma helped a lot, but if I tease him and say so, he starts to sniffle and whine, and Ma tells me to stop because Finn’s “sensitive.” More like senseless! The day before last, when Ma wasn’t looking, I saw him chasing the cats.

His new book is a Guide to Springtime that helps children search for signs of spring in the woods, in their yards, and at parks. As if he was some expert! Last time we went to the woods, I was the one who noticed the garter snake sunning. I’m the one who usually hears the cranes first. And when we spied the bluebell fields, Finn ran right through them, crushing those beautiful flowers. Not too bright, I’d say; even I knew not to do that.

Soon I’ll have to watch Ma and Finn drive away without me almost every week. They’ll go to schools and libraries, and the children will feed him peanut-butter bones and ask for his autograph. I’ll be here working, all alone. 

When they come home again, I’ll lie in my chair on the porch and won’t get up to greet them—in fact, I won’t even lift my head. I’ll be like, “Oh, look what the wind blew in. Big stinking deal.”

But I’ll be the first one laughing my tail off when Ma throws Finnegan into the tub for a bath before each of their trips. Ha ha! Finnegan will come out looking like the undersized wet rat he is. He’ll race all around the house, end up on Ma’s new couch, and roll all over it like he’s having a seizure. And Ma will yell at the little-bitty fool for his craziness.

There’s really nothing I can do but put up with all the attention Finn will be getting. I mean, he is my kid brother, after all, and I do kinda love him. When we go to the woods he follows me all around, and Ma has told me more than once that he adores me. She thinks I should set a good example for him, and tells me that Finn looks up to me and would be lost without me. I guess that means I shouldn’t run away from home like I was planning.

Last night, before Ma went upstairs to bed, she stopped and sat next to me on the couch. She rubbed my ears just the way I like and whispered, “Goodnight, Téte. Mamma loves you very much. Thank you for all you do, sweet girl. I don’t know what we’d do without you.” And just as I started to tear up, Finn stood on his hind legs and licked my eyes with his soft pink tongue, like he always does. I put my head down on my front paws and started drifting off to sleep.

When Ma started walking up the steps, Finn at her heels, I opened one eye and watched, and I whispered back, “I love you, Ma—and you too, Finn-again.” I slept soundly and dreamt of writing my own book, called Téte the Terrific Dog.

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Originally Published March 29th, 2018 in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout