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Strange but True Tales of D'Teque

A Rats' Tale

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Lafayad von Harbourat (Laffy to all but his mum and dad) was ambitious. He wanted it all – slaves, lots of females, the best of food and drink, and lots of shiny things. Lots and lots and LOTS of shiny things. All rats love shiny things but Laffy was obsessed. Shiny things meant that a rat could buy anything he or she desired if they had enough, and Laffy just never had enough.

Laffy wasn’t a handsome rat by any means. He had fur that was red. Bad teeth. Lips that just couldn’t shape that beautiful rat sneer because – well, they were bulbous. But he could spin a tale. Romance, mystery, crime, travel, you name it; Laffy could tell you a story about it. His stories weren’t always good but he sure had a lot of them.

But Laffy just never got enough shiny things for his tales, no matter how hard he worked or how many he sent in or how often he got published. But he knew that his big break was just around the corner. And he tried everything to make it happen. He tried to self-hypnotize his way into fame and fortune. Tried Rat Magic by conjuring up his own Scarlet Rattess. Tried conjuring up and controlling rat spirits and getting them to make him rich and famous. Invented his past endlessly to make it seem like he’d really lived the wildly improbable tales he told. But it just was never quite enough.

He joined all the right clubs (if he could get membership somehow.) He hung out with the more famous tale-tellers in Ratopolis in the hope something would rub off on him. And he read. Lots and lots of tales from other tale-tellers. He shamelessly stole their ideas but figured nobody would notice and he used EVERYBODY’s ideas all at once – who was going to say he stole their idea when he had taken so many from everyone and nobody could prove anything anyway – or so Laffy hoped.

He always watched what was selling – stories were a fashion that drifted this way and that, and Laffy had tried to keep up with the fashion of the day. When self-help stories became big in Ratopolis, Laffy tried his hand at writing one. He invented lots of research cases and results, threw in some obscure theories and therapies he’d read about from a country none of the local rats would never have heard of, let alone read anything from. And made astounding claims for his therapy. All in an authoritarian but simple tone. He was sure he had a winner if he could just find the right angle for it.

But the title was something that eluded him for ages. Then he got an inspiration while reading yet another popular self-help title, this one by a wealthy doctor who was raking in the shiny things with his latest best-seller. Laffy called his tale rather grandly “DiaRatics – the New Science of Rodent Thinking.” Sales slogan – “Escape the Maze Within.” He sent it off to every publisher he could think of and then he started on yet another story of rats in space. They paid the rent if nothing else.

And nobody was more surprised when the shiny things just started rolling in. Rats everywhere wanted to escape the “Maze Within.” And they wanted Laffy to tell them how. Or show them personally. And they would pay. They sent him envelopes full of shiny things. They turned up at his rathole and begged for more tales. They wrote him long letters and enclosed shiny things, hoping he would reply. And he became a media sensation.

But how do you follow up on a best-seller? With another best-seller? Laffy knew that was trickier than writing a best-seller in the first place. He’d seen plenty of one-hit wnders in the story-telling business. But “teaching” maze-solving? Nobody was doing that for the average rat. Only the big Ratvarsities did that, and it took ages and lots of shiny things to get through their courses.

So Laffy set up his very own “Ratcademy,” complete with teachers and certificates and research funds. And it worked. More rats came with more shiny things and wanted Laffy’s wisdom. Rats everywhere wanted instant relief from life’s problems and they were happy to pay Laffy for his short-cuts to happiness and freedom. Laffy was on a roll. L. von Harbourat was famous and becoming a wealthy rat in his own right.