Varieties of Mischief, 2006/09/14:13:24
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A group of rats is called a mischief.
Many things are made more difficult when one befriends a mischief of rats. Cleaning, for example. They make a mess of my glass tabletop. I clean it at least once a day. If they are out, they think that by my cleaning motions I am inviting them to play. They chase my hand back and forth across the table, and try to pull the wet napkin from my hand; if they manage to get a piece or all of it, they streak inside the cage and put it in their litter box. They get so excited about this that they start doing other things to interfere, like rolling up the rat blankets like little carpets and pushing them off the table, especially if they detect that my goal is to neatly pick them up with their contents to shake outside.
I take down their hammocks once a day too, and wash them, and put up clean ones. That's even more difficult. Even if they are dead-asleep when I start or even if they have just started eating dinner on the table, the mere sound of one clothespin being squeezed open is enough to send them all scrambling up both the inside and the outside of the cage, where they will jointly and severally plop themselves down in the hammocks, balance on the perches to which the hammocks are clipped, try to pull my shirt through the bars of the cage, and get into all sorts of unsafe predicaments that cause me to stop what I am doing and rescue them. They are unbelievably fast. If I pull one off me, claws digging into my shirt for all he's worth, and put him on the table, I have approximately half a second to work before he rematerializes back at the top of the cage, where he teeters on the edge of something I'm trying to remove or attempts to shove himself into my shirt sleeve. I often have four rats in one sleeve while cleaning. They balance on their back feet on the edge of the cage, and with their hands they pull open the collar of my tshirt so they can climb inside. Then they panick, because instead of sitting quietly in a chair for their snuggling convenience, I am standing up cleaning.
When they are clean themselves, they smell like warm cherry Poptarts. When they are not clean, they don't.
Long, long ago, in the ancient city of Baltimore, Thomas and I terrorized the neighbors by playing a primitive form of Splendid Frisbee in tight spaces between row houses and cars, sometimes in an empty, steeply sloping, partially wooded lot known locally as "The Field". Many co-created science fiction stories revolved around the disc and our travels through the paths in The Field, so frisbee was not just a physical sport for us: it was art, intrigue, and drama. There was serious danger, both real and imagined (I suffered my first broken bone chasing a frisbee in this field). Running through the paths was involved, though not usually directly. Incredibly, this nonsense went on for many years.
When I was in college (around 1984), the game solidified. I had just played a year of varsity lacrosse, so I was inclined to run and dodge obstacles. I missed lacrosse without missing the competitiveness. I made up for it with the new twist on an old beloved game.
In grad school in Bloomington, Indiana (around 1987), I began running regularly. But running is not only painful, but boring. A running partner is good, but a running partner throwing a frisbee is immeasurably better. The frisbee provides more than enough motivation to sprint and to get more of a full-body workout. Fortunately, there were several willing victims around. Liz and Tom were my best partners. We honed the game. Somewhere around there I named it: "Splendid Frisbee," a tongue-in-cheek, stilted, pretentious name partly meant to express how the players feel about it, partly to poke fun at the people who named Ultimate Frisbee with a superlative, as if that were a game than which no greater can be conceived. It is a bit of a filtering mechanism, because you have to have something of a sense of humor to hear that name and try it anyway.
Rules were developed, as one might expect, ad hoc, after much induction from empirical data. They are subject to revision and addition. But let there never be contrived and pointless rules, irrelevant standards to live up to. It shall always remain a laissez-faire game, on pain of becoming a completely different game.
A possible "goal" for the game is to be the last player able to speak a semi-coherent sentence and stand upright without staggering. That person could then be required to purchase electrolytes for all the other players.
I have played the game wherever I have traveled. Discs are easy to pack, and I really only need one other player, or a stiff wind, to make a game happen. But I have never caught *ANY*one else playing the game without me, ever. Why? It seems like such an obvious thing to do! Everyone who plays it with me likes it, but I don't think any of them have ever reported back that they played without me. Perhaps *I* am Splendid Frisbee, and when I die, Splendid Frisbee will fly up onto a roof and get stuck there forever. That is why I am writing this history: maybe one day after I am gone, someone will read this and resurrect it simply because it is old and not in fashion.
More likely, though, it doesn't catch on because it apparently *looks* really hard to spectators. People often stop me on the beach and tell me how amazing we are and how much fun it is to watch us. I have been asked if we are training for a biathalon (or for Ultimate Frisbee). They embarrassedly reject my offer to put them on the mailing list to join us, insisting that they could never keep up with us. Mostly, people watch us going by with wide eyes and surprised smiles; sometimes we get applause and cheers. It probably also looks like we have some definite yet mysterious plan, especially if we are zigzagging and circling to accommodate a slow runner. So no one knows what the "rules" are, so there's nothing to go home and duplicate in the back yard. I'd love to change this. How awesome it would be to wander into a park and find a gamein progress, and join it if I were properly shod!
For now, until we are featured on the news, we have to content ourselves with being a very small collective who incidentally provide entertainment to beach-goers.