Four white rats with pink tails ran around the incubating glass box Andrew had designed two years ago. The transparent box was set on a firm metal table with a few tubes to provide their food and water. He watched the rats nibble on pieces of cheese and analyzed the fat stubby one hiding in the corner.
Andrew walked around to the rat and lightly tapped on the glass. A loud squeak was heard as the rat jolted away from his finger and ran to a different spot. The three other rats ate freely. They were always moving around the box, exploring and looking for new things to do.
But that one chubby rat with the short tail was never close to any of them. On most days he would be found in the far corner of the box, shivering and looking at the others as if they had once attacked him. The rat seemed to want to disappear, he seemed lonely and out of place; a natural misfit. Andrew slid the top glass open and pulled the chubby rat from its hiding place.
It squirmed around and squealed loudly in protest but the young adult could not help but notice the rat was a lot like himself. He ran a gentle finger down the animals back until it calmed down. Even when the rat was not as anxious, his heart rate was still high and he was still jumpy. Every sound terrified it.
"What's gotten you so worked up?" Andrew asked quietly. This was only one experiment out of the dozens that he had done over the past four years. Never once had he gotten attached to the animals he was testing.
But there was something about this rat that made him act different. He took up a small piece of cheese from the container and held it to the rat’s mouth. The animal was hesitant at first. It sniffed around the cheese before taking small bites.
Andrew smiled and began to set him back in to the container. Before he hit the glass box, the rat began to squeak loudly again. The other rats quickly turned to see the commotion, and then returned to their food and water.
Andrew elevated the rat and looked at the animal strange. He had never seen any animal act this way. When the rodent was back in his palm, safe and sound, he began to relax. Andrew analyzed it with great curiosity. The rat’s behavior was almost childlike.
He guessed that maybe the rat suffered from insecure attachment. The mother rat probably never showed it affection and so it would grow up frightened of everything around it. Andrew looked around the room for any small container. He would not put him back with the other rats.
Not if he wanted it to eat and drink. If it spent its whole life in a corner, it would die before the experiment was completed.
He decided to set the fragile animal in to a small plastic container. The rat didn't seem too afraid and began to nibble on the cheese he was eating.
Andrew aloud the participants to finish their cheese before walking to the table that held four small needles, each labeled with a form of medication.
Rat number 1 only had a small cold. The needle held a teaspoon of cough syrup.
Needle 2 for rat number 2 held crushed pills of the medication Videx for HIV positive patients. Rat number two was never to be touched without gloves.
Needle 3 for rat number 3 was labeled insulin, for the rat had already developed diabetes.
Needle 4 for rat number 4 was labeled Lithium for the anxiety ridden and depressed rodent, sitting in the plastic container.
It was his usual routine to feed the rats and give them their medication, every day after school. The Lithium, however, stopped working a week after it was given. The rat was nervous now more than ever. The small and fragile rodent was the only one reacting oddly to his medication. The other rats were improving.
They were healthy and vibrant.
Andrew waited an hour before recording the animal’s behavior on his laptop, then packing away all the food. Since the lab was in the basement, it was hard to tell what time of day it was. He knew he had been there for at least three hours but as always he had lost himself in his work.