Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rat On Toast—For Dinner

It has been a tough week for the P&PC Office cat Stella (pictured here). Courtesy of the SPCA of Pinellas County, Florida, where we found her the victim of two abandonments in a row and slated for, uh, disposal unless someone immediately adopted her, she's now an estimated eighteen years old and has been with P&PC since before there was a even a P or PC on the horizon. Moved from Florida to Iowa, then from Iowa to Oregon, she has done more than measure out her life in coffee spoons. But Time's winged chariot is hurrying near, and this week saw two trips to the vet, a round of oral antibiotics, the regular administration of subcutaneous fluids, and a series of pretty gross litter box-related events.

And so, to speed Stella along the road to recovery, we offer the strange 1898 "Rat on Toast—for Dinner" steroeview card issued by T.W. Ingersoll and pictured here. "Oh, infinite volumes of poems that I treasure in this small library of glass and pasteboard!" wrote the Fireside poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. of his stereoview card collection in "The Stereoscope and the Stereograph," first published in The Atlantic Magazine in 1859.  Credited with inventing the "American stereoscope," Holmes imagined that the mechanism's 3-D viewing experience would produce an effect similar to bodily resurrection and that "posterity might therefore inspect us ... not as surface only, but in all our dimensions as an undisputed solid man of Boston."

Stella is certainly no man of Boston, and we're not so pessimistic that we're already viewing her from the vantage point of posterity, but maybe the quasi L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poem on the card's reverse will help in some small way to restore her to her full dimensions:
Do you see the cat?
Do you see the rat?
I see the cat and the rat. The cat caught the rat and killed it with her sharp teeth.
Does the cat eat rats?
Fat rats make fat cats.
The Chinese eat rabbit stew made of rats.
The poem itself is an odd, paratactic stew of elements taken from nursery rhymes, grammar school food chain hierarchies, and nineteenth century American nativism culminating in that bizarre non-sequitur of a last line, and that stew is made even more perplexing when paired with the surreal image on front. But after the week of needles, drip chambers, and eyedroppers we've had, not even that is enough to surprise us.


Marsha said...

This post activated a pop culture memory from a children's songbook published by Faber&Faber. Herewith, Jennifer MacLean's lyrics to "What Do Witches Eat?"--a song that delighted my son's preschool in the late 90s:

What do witches eat?
What do witches have for a treat?
Who knows?
I've never been asked to join in their bunch when witches eat their lunch.
Rat tail soup and moldy cheese,
Spider salad just might please.
Or do they eat witchy things like
bat belly jelly on toast?
(that's gross!)
What do witches eat?
What do witches have for a treat?
Who knows?
I've never been asked to pull up a seat
when witches sit and eat! (1992)

pwlsax said...

That rabbit stew made of rats would still be rabbit stew, and not rat stew, strikes me as the innocent conceit of an earlier age.