When I was in graduate school, I watched the movie The Abyss with three of my poet friends: Rebecca Davis, Jim Haining, and Gerald Burns. For what are probably obvious reasons, the character Hippy reminded them of me. Hippy is the guy with the rat.
I couldn’t find a really good scene from the movie—one that featured Hippy’s rat in a good way. There are a number. In particular, there is a scene where Hippy saves his rat (who is never given a name) by sealing her in a ziploc bag. Here she is being tortured by Ensign Monk:
As a result of The Abyss, my friends held a bake sale and raised the two dollars necessary to buy me a pet rat. This was not a terribly welcome gift. For one thing, I spent much more on food for my new pet the first week than they had on buying him.
But things turned out well. I had no place to put him, so he lived the first couple of weeks in my jacket sleeve. This included an airplane ride from Portland to San Francisco and back. (They didn’t check you before getting on a plane in those days.) At that time, I was crazy for the Coen Brothers’ film Barton Fink, and so I named my rat Barton.
The thing that surprised me about Barton was how he was nothing like a hamster. When I was young, many of my friends had these vicious rodents. They were not social and as likely to bite you as anything. Barton, on the other hand, was social, curious, and never bit. He was also very clean. And most of all: he ate with his hands; that was just too cute.
 People who buy rats to feed to reptiles? They are sick. Feeding a fellow mammal to a reptile is like feeding a fellow human to a bear. I know that snakes and bears have to eat, but we shouldn’t directly facilitate them in this way. It is wrong. Really.