When I came down to the kitchen that morning, the door to the garden was closed and blocked by a chair. Thinking Mum was tidying up and had shifted it there, I made myself a cup of tea and started reading the day’s paper.

The chair remained propped against the garden door, and I finally asked Mum if I should place it back by the kitchen table.

It was then she told me about the rat.

We had seen it before. It was I, in fact, who had spotted the small creature a few days ago.

“Look Mum, a mouse!” (sic)

“Oh, no!” The reaction was one of horror.

“It’s a rat.”

And so it was, but I still found it hard to look at the creature with anything other than endearment. Mind you, from behind the glass.

There it was, scampering just beneath the window, lifting one of its hind paws painfully, as if someone had just stepped on its toe.

“We’ve got to get rid of it,” was the unanimous decision of everyone else.

I felt rotten. I had ratted on a rat. And now it was to be done away with.

“Let’s hope the cats get it,” they said.

I hoped they wouldn’t.

And, it seemed, Mr B. and Sybil had not done their job, for there it was now, right outside the kitchen door, dangerously close to the cats’ trap door, only its tail visible from our vantage point behind the glass pane.

The rat was not moving. Neither did we, as the morning wore on, sipping our tea and watching vegetable peels pile up in the sink. We dared not step outside to toss them on the compost, as long as the rat’s tail remained within view.

Sybil was the first to be ushered out to deal with the rat. She would have nothing to do with the motionless rodent, and promptly returned to her patch of sunlight in the corridor.

“Where’s Mr B.?” Mum asked. It was the indignant tomcat’s turn to be carried outside unceremoniously to dispose of the intruder. After a sniff, the undisputed ‘master of the house’ took off in another direction.

“Oh, my,” said Mum. I kept quiet.

“Perhaps it’s ill,” I ventured finally.

That would explain why the cats wouldn’t touch it.

“Maybe it’s dead.”

It was time for the dog’s walk. We left by the front entrance, the kitchen chair still against the back door.

I tried not to look at the prostrate critter as we crossed the lawn, heading for the fields behind the house, with Tills bounding ahead in anticipation. I picked flints and striped rocks, kicking spiky chestnut casings that looked like tiny hedgehogs rolled into a ball.

Back home, the rat waited for us, lying motionless on the wooden step outside the kitchen door.

“I’m getting the shovel,” Mum ventured as we approached the house.

Gingerly lifting the rat, she tossed it into the garden.

“Maybe the fox will eat it.”

Oh, it was dead of course. A bite on its neck testified to a job well done on the part of one of the cats. No wonder Mr B. looked offended.

©aother 2012