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​The Rats of Westmoorings

YOU CAN SMELL them, the rats of Westmoorings.

And I’m not talking about the “wan pah cent.”
Indeed, you use that loose Trini invitation-to-hate expression – “the one per cent” – at your own peril. (The expression arose in Trinidad when the late Anthony Bourdain came to Town to eat doubles and have dinner with an inebriated member of the ruling sector who, in his cups, confessed that the influence of his community was out of all proportion to its size, less than one per cent of the total population; it was seized upon by people who probably would be shocked to hear themselves described as “haters”.)
You may find that, through your using “the wan pah cent” to what you think is your advantage now, you may hear others use it against you down the road.
It’s a surprisingly versatile term, as Comrade Wes has pointed out.
And you may be shocked that people could use such a sweeping expression inviting such immediate hate with such carelessness towards the human beings involved.
Such as you.
And, the worst part will be that you footy well know you are NOT part of the wan pah sent!
Well, neither are the rats.
These are real rats, not figurative ones.
And the miasma of rats is the definitive scent of Westmoorings, more so than any other odour, including the rotting Gulf and the artificial lavender fragrance pumped through centrally air-conditioned homes. The perfume of the rats is their own urine, the wall-to-wall carpet of instant leptospirosis they lay down across their warrens.
Rat pee has its own peculiar stink, like cat pee or horse manure.
But step in it barefoot and all you need is a microscopic crack in your skin to contract a disease that could be fatal.
In one of the most sought after neighbourhoods in the West.
Rats do well when we do well. The more food we throw away, the better rats eat and the more they flourish. A bag of dog chow and a dripping tap will give rise to rat populations to rival Manhattan.
In the 70s, a moonlit barbecue at Maracas Beach ended with two ritual stops on the way back to St Anns: the first at Hawaiian Eye, to cuff down some lemon chicken and fried rice; and the second at the garbage pile in the Hotel Bergerac compound. You turned the headlights off and rolled quietly to the massive heaps of rubbish.
Then you turned the headlights on suddenly.
To reveal scores, perhaps hundreds, of rats, standing in the garbage, all fat, all eating greedily.
I remember hundreds of red eyes reflected in the car headlights and that scene in The Exorcist, where Linda Blair’s head turns all the way around on her neck.
You have to get a digital link to see The Exorcist on your TV today but you can see the rats in broad daylight in Westmoorings any day of the week.
Almost anywhere you look.
Sit in the park where the children play and let your eyes roam the perimeter. They are there, sometimes crouched against the wall, sometimes just walking around like they own the place.
Stop walking at any point of any road and listen: you may hear scurrying. Follow it to the rats. It’s never a pigeon.
Anyone charged with keeping the garbage bins closed in any Westmoorings home will tell you about rats boldly coming out of the ravines and drains into yards to help themselves to the 24-hour buffet that is the rubbish bin.
They do not run away from you.
Indeed, they watch you hard. It won’t be long before they stare you down.
And wait for you to run away.
The protagonist of a great B-horror film, Of Unknown Origin, spoke a line of dialogue in 1983 that still chills my blood this minute: “With an avenue of flight open, rats and human beings are the only creatures that will choose to fight.”
The only way we can beat the rats of Westmoorings is by living more frugally.
Try telling that to a Trini desperate to hold on to the only thing still making life worth living here.

BC Pires ent ratting out nobody

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