The ratlings will rock you

It was Saturday morning at the Rat burrow, and the whiskered one was trying to sleep off another software migration all-nighter. Three pillows over his head could not reduce the din of what sounded like brand-new trash cans being reduced to sheet metal in the backyard.

Staggering outside in his bathrobe, the Rat squinted in late-morning or perhaps early-afternoon light. He strained his bleary eyes to see what fresh hell the ratlings had concocted at such sustained volume.

A trail of wires led to two overturned trash cans, which had been jury-rigged as speakers with the help of large electromagnets.

Queen's 'We Will Rock You' was blasting out at a decibel level higher than that of a major construction site. Banners of pin-fed greenbar paper flew from fence posts, trees and just about anything else that stuck more than five inches out of the ground. Trash can lids and frying pans littered the area like parts of an EP-3 surveillance aircraft on a Chinese runway.

The middle ratling came streaking across the lawn on his bicycle, rake under one arm with the handle pointed forward. A bucket covered his head, and he was screaming like a techie on a 15-minute shopping spree at CompUSA. He picked up speed as he approached a row of trash cans with targets drawn on them.

Aiming deftly, he rammed the rake handle into the first bull's-eye and sent the can flying. He hit the brakes.

'In your face!' he screamed.

The eldest ratling was about to start his own run with a spade balanced on the handlebars of his mountain bike.

'Hold it right there, Ivanhoe,' their sire growled. 'What do you think you're doing?'

width="110">'Uh, playing 'A Knight's Tale', Dad.'

The wirebiter couldn't decide whether to take pride in his offspring's literacy or offense at their destruction. 'You guys were inspired to do all this by reading Chaucer? So, which one of you is Arcita and which Palamon?'

'Huh?' his progeny chimed in unison.

'We're talking about 'A Knight's Tale' from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, right?'

'Uh, sure, Dad. 'Cept we're playing the movie version.'

The Rat's hopes rapidly imploded. 'The movie version. Ah, that would explain the soundtrack,' he shouted over a guitar solo.

Clearly, the bare-tailed one had been spending far too much time in the command bunker if he hadn't heard news of a movie based on Chaucer.

Covering his ears, he dashed over and kicked the sound rig's extension cord out of the wall.

'I'll give you boys a choice,' the Rat snarled, ears still ringing. 'I'll download you the eBook of the original 'A Knight's Tale' while you put everything back where it belongs. And then you can read while I go back to bed. Or, you can be the ones to explain to your mother why you've got her new cookware duct-taped around yourselves.'

Soon the Rat was back at rest, and the ratlings were discovering what anachronism means.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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