“There’s a rat on Bob?”
Pete turned, hands still fussing with his bass, and nodded.
Marc gave him an expectant look. “Sorry, maybe I wasn’t loud enough. There’s a rat.”
Pete looked to Bob, and nodded at the rat on his shoulder, seemingly watching as Bob helped set up his mic and stand. “There is.”
Marc frowned. “You aren’t concerned.”
“Not the first time,” Pete shrugged. “Won’t be the last.”
“And it’s of no concern to you, as it is to me, that this studio apparently has rats?”
“You invited us!” Pete smiled.
Marc’s frown broke to a smile. “Fuck off, I’m trying to be serious! But that’s a rat, not a pet rat, just a rat, on him-”
“It happens,” Johnnie interrupted. “He’ll go when he’s bored with Bob.”
“You just have rats crawling on your lead singer, as a regular habit,” Marc said. “I...actually, I don’t know that I can talk. I did have Boink, though that didn’t lead to random mice crawling on me to befriend me…”
“Usually only one or two,” Pete said. “And they just sort of...find him? I dunno, he doesn’t talk about it and it doesn’t bother him, so...yeah.”
“Rat whisperer?” Marc suggested.
Pete and Johnnie looked over at Bob, who had now noticed the rat on his shoulder and appeared to be explaining to it how his mic was set up.
“We don’t want to hurt them, is the thing,” Roger said, mindful of the leftover equipment littering the floor of the barn. “But the previous owners left this place a mess, and they’ve really made it their home, so they don’t want to go, and this was maybe stupid to call you for-”
“Little weird, maybe,” Bob cut him off as he followed him in, dodging cobwebs. “But apparently this is my ‘thing’ now…”
“You do have a talent for it.”
“Is finding rats and befriending them really a talent?”
Roger shrugged. “I think so. Better than having them find you and immediately go after you to bite you.”
“So your alternate scenario for me is that I still somehow have this ability to find rats, and for rats to find me, but only for violence?”
Roger shrugged again, then cocked his head. “Oh. Speaking of, how long has that guy been on you?”
Bob looked to his shoulder, where a tiny brown rat sat, looking up at him.
“...I have no idea, but that’s one found to take out of here, yeah?”
Roger nodded. “Yeah. I guess I’ll just...leave you in here to gather them? Then do you do...is it a Pied Piper thing, and you lead them out-”
“Oh fuck off!”
Roger grinned. “Couldn’t help it! What else am I supposed to think, with you doing this and-look! Two more! I should be videoing this; it’s like Fred with cats! He’d get a kick out of this, actually…”
Bob looked to the accumulating pile of rats at his feet, all gazing up at him. “Y’ever absolutely want to smack one of your dearest friends, but in a loving way?”
The rats, being rats, said nothing, but another climbed up his pant leg and shirt to settle on his other shoulder, and he took that as a yes.
“I don’t need your help going through flats!”
“Don’t argue with me on this; it’ll help more than you know,” Bob said, and followed after Fifi as she led him into the latest in a line of flats she was looking at moving into. She’d been frustrated about his insistence the entire time, and he could understand why. The whole thing was about wanting to be independent, and he did want that for her.
However, he wanted her to be moving into someplace kept up as well as possible, and if he could use his one trick to help determine that, then he was going to do just that.
“Small,” he remarked as he ducked to fit under a doorway.
“It’s old, Dad,” she sighed. “You’ve been in a flat before, yeah? The older ones aren’t made for people as tall as you.”
“I’m aware,” he smiled. “So aside from it being small enough to keep me out and away, what else do you like about it?”
She rolled her eyes, but laughed. “It’s near enough that I can walk most places I frequent, the rent isn’t terrible, and I just really like how it looks. Does there need to be much else?”
“What’s the word on upkeep?”
Fifi shrugged. “It isn’t falling apart, far as I can tell.”
“That won’t do,” he sighed, and tapped the wall with his fist.
There was a shuffle, then the sound of skittering, and Fifi letting out a tiny shriek as a rat bounded towards him from down the hall.
“Hang on,” Bob held up a finger as the rat crawled up and settled on his shoulder.
It only took another few moments for three more to scramble in from the kitchen, two from down the hall, and another four seemingly from out of nowhere. All arranged themselves on him, clinging to his clothing.
Fifi stared and took a deep breath. “What the fuck.”
“Now, rats aren’t the worst thing you can have,” Bob said. “They’re not bad little things, usually, or at least in my experience. But that said, if they’ve got rats here, then they might well have other issues they’re not taking care of, you know? Why don’t we keep this place on the back burner, and see where else we can look at for you?”
Fifi nodded, and strode quickly past him out the door and to the sidewalk.
“Shall I taxi you lot downstairs, and let the landlord know he’s got guests?” Bob asked the rats.
They watched him and twitched their noses, but didn’t move.
“Nah,” Bob answered his own question. “He’ll only want to kill you, and I’d rather see you humanely trapped. I’ll send along someone for that, and then maybe we can come back and see if the landlord takes the hint to fix up everything else…”
As if on cue, the rats clambered off of him, and back to wherever they’d last been hiding.
“Now that’s fucking cool,” Dave pointed up at the stage. “Look at that shit! Actual rats! Where the hell did they keep them all; I didn’t see anyone bringing cages in from the bus.”
“Maybe they had them brought here a few days ahead of time?” Melinda, jumping to see over the tall gentleman in front of her, suggested. “It really is something; they’re so well-trained! He’s wild tonight and they don’t seem bothered at all.”
True to her words, Bob was bouncing all over the stage, limbs flailing, and the rats seemed completely content. If one fell off, they simply followed him until they could hop back on again.
“I wonder if they’ll do this at every show?” Dave asked. “We’re following them for the next three stops, we ought to keep count!”
“What, to see if they make this a thing?”
Behind them, an usher was in a silent panic, gesturing to their manager and up at the stage. There had been the fear that they had rats, but now they knew for sure, and now they were mobbing the talent . Even if the talent didn’t seem to give a single fuck about it, that still seemed like something that needed to be addressed.
“Look at these fuckers move!” Bob shouted into the mic, arms wide as he showed off the rats. “Show me you love the show as much as they do!”
The crowd roared, and Bob grinned. “Alright! Now we’ve got a fucking party going, right? Who wants to dance with the rats?”
The crowd cheered again, and the usher calmed.
This was still a problem, yes. But not for the moment, and they’d have to scramble for something nice to put backstage to thank Mr. Geldof for making the rats seem intentional, rather than a terrifying revelation that the manager and owner put little effort into the care of the venue.
And at least, the rats were cute to watch, rather clearly enjoying the music.
Bob stared at the rat climbing up his pant leg, patiently waiting for a reply that he knew wasn’t coming, it being a rat and all.
But that didn’t mean he was going to be impolite.
“Awful lot of rain, isn’t it?” Bob continued as he kept on walking down the sidewalk, umbrella up and now covering him and his new friend. “Bet you’ve nearly been drowned out, hm?”
The rat moved up to his shoulder, and he smiled at a woman who passed him, stared, then shrieked.
“Ignore that,” he said. “She’ll be alright. Now, I don’t know your destination, but I can’t have you in my home. Be one thing if you were a pet rat or something, but-”
It hit him like a bolt of lightning, and he smiled. “Actually, my own destination has changed. Shall I drop you off here?”
The rat let him set it down on the stoop of the nearest house, enough out of the rain to not be soaked.
Then he turned, and went back down the road towards the pet shop he had passed some blocks back.
He had a new friend to buy.
“So there’s a rat-”
“We know,” Pete interrupted the crew member, a new one at that, who had been relatively quiet up until now. “He’s meant to be there.”
Pete nodded. “That’s Pete.”
“Well, Pete the rat,” Pete clarified. “I’m Pete the me, the human, as it were. But Bob decided it would be funny to name the rat after me, and it is funny, honestly-”
Pete whipped around to Bob, the crew member’s gaze following.
But Bob was talking to the rat, who was trying to balance down his arm to reach the catering table.
“You will get some food! But you need to wait your turn; I mean really, I have trained you better than that…”
They listened to him go on, and the crew member cleared his throat awkwardly. “That happen a lot?”
“I’ll give you three guesses.”
“So the rat-”
“Has his own backstage pass, in the little backpack he’s got on, if you need it for any reason,” Pete continued. “But he usually stays with Bob or in the dressing room during the show, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that.”
The crew member frowned. “I don’t know what to do with all this.”
“Say hi, give him a grape from the catering table, and let him do his thing,” Pete said. “He’s well-trained mostly, doesn’t try to escape.”
“...Pete the rat, or Bob?”
Pete thought for a moment. “Both.”