Thursday, 18 June 2009

Cincinatti Rat

Scientists have released new evidence that rats have the capacity to gamble. I bring an exclusive interview with the team of researchers, some of whom wished to remain nameless.

"I first started by chewing discarded lottery tickets when I was a kid," remarked a brown faced rat who simply wanted to be known as Number Five. "I noticed the numbers and I calculated the odds and thought that it was a mug's game. I mean the odds were around 14m to 1 to win the jackpot. So I went with a mate who used to rummage rubbish at the back of a Ladbroke's and we found used betting stubs. When we compared the losing slips to the form guide in the Racing Post, it was obvious that the idiots who were betting had no idea. We also knew there was no point on betting on other animals. So I decided to go with cards, dice and roulette - numbers never lie and it's all about playing the odds."

"I quickly became good at it. By playing the odds, I earned more food on simple games like Blackjack. Soon we progressed onto Stud Poker and some roulette and I was getting very fat and very happy. Then they introduced that damn drug and it went wrong. I just couldn't get enough of the cards and I kept making stupid, reckless decisions and soon lost weight and became a gibbering wreck."

He held out a paw, which shook markedly and and looked wizened like an old man's. His colleague, Snake Eyes Joe, cowered in a corner nearby. His was a sad story.

"I played craps and I couldn't lose for ages," he whispered. "For a while it was so easy, I just kept winning more food and I had to give some away to family members it was so much. Then one of those 'pushers' in a white coat slipped me some pellets with loads of dopamine in them - they tasted great. After that I kept throwing nothing numbers and snake eyes but gambling all I had. I'm ruined, the bank is foreclosing on our sewer and the only thing that is keeping me alive is the fact the councils collect the bins every two weeks rather then one. My family have upped sticks and found a Chinese restaurant they can forage in and no one ever talks to me any more. Gambling has ruined me."

Conversely, I found the leader of the team in filthy drain, his fur shiny and the smell atrocious. King Rat was a big, healthy specimen and had several helpers to carry his food around. I found him reclining on a chaise longue and chewing on a rotting meat bone.

"Gambling is in my blood," he said simply. "My grandad was a bookie, my dad owned a casino and I have a super casino out front - the first granted by that nice Tony Blair. He was a man of business - he saw an opportunity and he went for it; he's my kind of rat. Rats have done very well under new Labour - there has been a boom in cafe culture (and rats love their coffee and more accessible bins), the sewers are rich with garlic flavoured food, thrown away wine and chinese take away rice, all day drinking means there is more vomit piles to chew on and now we have super gambling. This online stuff is no good - you can't touch or smell it let alone eat it. I just love casinos and slots - the smell of winning is awesome."

"I made my money through running books to start with then I opened my first super casino in the drain by Corals and the rest is history. I can afford this opulent sewer and my own rats thanks to gambling. I don't see it as an addiction - people love fun and if fun is about losing vast sums of money then who am I to stop people. The young have started now - as long as they have their dad's credit cards, their credit is good with me. Some say gambling should be limited or outlawed but Blair and I see it as coinciding with Christian values I mean, Jesus took his risks and ended up on the cross. He was the ultimate gambler and so losing money is a pious thing."

I asked a white rat wearing a dealer's hat if the recession had hit gambling. "No way," he replied. "If anything, rats gamble more in a recession. True, the sewer and second home markets have dried up, we don't go for so many lavish meals at the back of restaurants anymore, but gambling gives you a chance to end all that and win big money. So business has been booming and since the Government introduced new super casinos, rats have never had it so good."

Finally I saw a thin rat, with a slimy grey coat in the corner, it was clearly in some distress and was offering a bowl to passers by. I asked him his name. "Bertie Big Bananas," he replied in a barely audible hiss. "I was a big noise in the City. I made big money on gambling derivatives, exotics and shorting. Times were fantastic - loads of food, champagne, loose women and fast cars. I wore sharp suits, wide ties, braces and shoes. Everyone thought I was the big cheese - I could afford accountants to save me paying tax - I was the elite."

"Then it all went belly up big time. One minute you were the big man, the next a penniless pauper and no bonuses. Other rats despised me and I couldn't even get a pension. No more suits, shoes and food for me."

I asked him if there was any hope for the future.

"Yes," he replied with a small glint in his eye. "I have been attending a politics class by Derek Conway and read Alistair Campbell's autobiography. I am going to where the money really is and where rats can really flourish and get all the perks they need. I am going to be a politician. All I need is a nice safe sewer and I'm laughing."

It seems rats do mimic humans or perhaps it is the other way around.

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