The Iowa Review

Fishing in the Sea of Galilee Everything but Thomas

James Tate

- james tate

I was working in my stall when I saw a rat climb up on my desk. I was frightened, of course, but I was also ready to do battle. I picked up my notebook and threw it at him, but he didn’t seem to notice. Then I grabbed my pencil and tried to stab him. He just moved sideways about a foot and I missed him entirely. He seemed to enjoy this game we were playing. Then I remembered a Civil War sword I kept under my desk for no particular reason. I pulled it out and brought it down where he was standing. He took a hop forward and I missed him altogether. I took another swipe and another. No luck. I called for my boss. He walked into my office with a .45 drawn.

He saw the rat on the desk, took aim, and blew the creature out of the universe. Well, that’s not quite true. He blew him off the desk and smack up against the wall where he then slid down onto the floor. “Clean it up,” was all he said before leaving my office. And I proceeded to do just that.

I swept the floor and then got a wet rag and wiped the desk. There wasn’t much I could do about the hole in the wall. When I had cleaned it all up, I settled down to work once more. But I still felt those little beady eyes upon me.

I turned out the charts for next year’s production, though I don’t think they were correct. Something about the decimal points seemed arbitrary, wrong. But I couldn’t be stopped there. I plowed on through quotes and catalogues. When I looked up, a rat was staring at me. I called the boss. He showed up with his pistol drawn. “Kill him,” I said. He took aim and fired. I got the broom and dustpan and set to work cleaning him up. When I had finished, I sat back in my chair and took a nap. When I woke there was a colleague standing at my door. “Yes, what can I do for you, Henry?” I said. “Would you have a pencil sharpener I could borrow?” he said. “Why, sure. Let me have a look here,” I said. I opened the drawer, and there was the pencil sharpener. “Here you go, Henry.” “Thank you, Mac,” he said. I love it when everything in the office seems so clear and simple. I look back at my desk. A baby Jesus is walking toward me. I pick up my stapler.

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