Cong-rat-ulations! It’s the Year of the Rat. The lowly rodent can look forward to enjoying an entire year of celebrations and “infestivities.”

As a matter of fact, I spied on a few of the rats the other day, at an international conference taking place in Boca Raton, Fla., in the field of rat research.

The goal of the conference was to discuss how to bring about “ratical” change to the new year while hopefully improving the image and reputation of the rat.

The participants of the conference were not normal rats, but bureaucrats. The president of the conference was Mr. Konezumi from Japan, and participants from over 50 countries included the farm minister of Russia, Mr. Ratsputin, immigration expert Speedy Gonzales from Mexico, Stewart Little, a literary figure and adventurist from the U.S., along with his compatriots the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, the Three Blind Mice from England, a delegation of pack rats from, of course, Pakistan, and various delegations of field mice from around the world who are experts in their fields.

Mr. Konezumi: First, I’d like to give a summary of rats in technology. The computer mouse has come a long way since 1996, the last time the rat was in charge. We have moved from cords to the wireless mouse and we hope to continue improving the image of the rat through technology.

City Mouse: Regarding global warming, we have received scientific evidence from water rats and sewer rats warning about rising of the seas which will lead to flooding and destruction of their habitats. They seek a rational solution to the crisis.

Country Mouse: I’d like to bring attention to the work done to preserve our ancient “ratuals” such as grain hoarding and maintaining socially agreeable behavior.

I’d like to see a movement back to the three pillars of healthy living: to beg, burrow and steal. I would also like to see better health care in the countryside, noting the shortage of “rodentists.”

Pack Rats: We hope to clean up the rat image destroyed by the “ratical” extremists threatening to take over the world and reclaim Tailaban.

Ratsputin: We hope to ratify more treaties on trade between Asia and European countries, especially concerning imports of exotic cheeses.

Three Blind Mice: We want more rights for disabled mice, including tenchi block on sidewalks and walls in buildings.

Mr. Konezumi: We have a special guest this afternoon, the Super Rat, who has flown in on the new Airbus 780. A new species to science, just discovered in the Foja Mountains of western New Guinea in Indonesia this year, this is the Super Rat’s first appearance in the United States.

Stewart Little: “Cheesus Christ, look at his size!”

City Mouse: “He’s five times the size of a city rat.”

The conference personnel bring in extra chairs to accommodate the 1.4-kg rat.

Country Mouse: He looks “furrocious.”

Super Rat: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at the tail end of this conference. There is no need to be afraid. But there is something that has really been gnawing at me lately. After having attended the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Indonesia recently, I can tell you that this global warming problem could be very serious for us.

Speedy Gonzales: “Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba!”

Super Rat: We will need to increasingly rely on our scavenging skills to find food in the future. We must diligently hoard food so as to have a sufficient supply. Some day we may have to squeak by on rations of crumbs. As the humans recycle and compost more, we are at a danger of finding less and less food. With the cutting down of the rainforests, Super Rats like myself are losing our habitats, which means we will be forced into the cities.

City Rat: We already have a problem of overcrowding in the cities. We cannot have more rats emigrating to join the rat race.

Mr. Konezumi: We will now break for lunch and continue with the afternoon session: “Common mousetraps: over breeding and medical research” Have a nice lunch. Chew-chew!

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. croon in the background as the rats scurry off to a lunch of cheese and nibblies.

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