Last January I returned to Thailand to celebrate my daughter's birthday. Ban-nok was cold that time of year and one night my ex-wife’s brother-in-law, his friends, and I drank rice whiskey around a blazing bonfire.
Halfway through the second bottle of lao-khao a young man entered the circle of light. A long small-bore rifle rested on his shoulder and he hefted a lumpy plastic bag. At first I thought he had shot a few snakes, but he emptied the bag onto a nearby platform. An avalanche of field rats cascaded across the wood. They were all dead, but my daughter yeeked in horror. She hated rats.
The men around the fire were of a different mind. Rats were good for their sex drive. Lips smacked in anticipation of an unexpected treat and my brother-in-law threw several more logs on the fire and then Bok picked up a cleaver to lop off the rats’ feet and tails with a machete. He fed them to the dogs.
The other men sliced garlics and chillies.
"Nuu a-roi." Bok was deep country. He had never been to Bangkok.
"Ching?" I’ve eaten small birds, snake, dog, and insects, but never rat or nuu.
Bok recognized my consternation and said, “Noo khao not same noo house. Only eat rice. Clean and aroi.”
Using a sharp knife Bok deftly sliced a small incision behind the ears to yank the fur from the carcass and then decapitated the rat. He repeated this with the other rats as a friend washed the body before gutting the belly. The dogs fought over the guts.
The bigger rats were grilled over the fire and the smaller one was mashed in a pestle with the chillies and garlic. The burning flesh had everyone but me licking their lips. Bok produced another bottle of lao khao. This time red. “Eat rat. drink lao khao si-daeng. have sex a long time.”
My ex-wife was already asleep. We hadn't slept together in years. Her family knew nothing of this and I was offfered the first piece of rat.
“What the fuck.” It can’t be any worse than snake.
Not bad. Not like chicken. More like rabbit.
After the meal we lay on the wooden platform and watched the stars circle the sky.
Bok explaioned that rat-catching is a good business. “150 one kilo. Make one day 500 baht. Rat steal rice. People eat rat. Good idea, mai?”
It was a pitch for money.
"Ban thii?" I answered all requests for money with a 'maybe'. I thanked Bok for the rat and went inside the house to fall asleep next to my daughter.
She was almost asleep."
"Pawther, khun kin nuu?"
"Mai kin." I had only had a few bites.
"Dii." She liked Mickey Mouse.
"Pai Non." I kissed her head. I didn't like lying to her, but Mickey Mouse wouldn't like my eating his kin, but he’s the house mouse for Disneyland.