wanders into a back-alley antique shop in San Francisco's China Town.
Picking through the objects on display, he discovers a detailed,
life-sized bronze sculpture of a rat. The sculpture is so interesting
and unique that he picks it up and asks the shop owner what it cost.
"Twelve dollars for the rat, sir," says the shop owner, "and a thousand
dollars more for the story behind it."
"You can keep the story, old man," he replies, "but I'll take the rat."
The transaction complete, the tourist leaves the store with the bronze
rat under his arm. As he crosses the street in front of the store, two
live rats emerge from a sewer drain and fall into step behind him.
Nervously looking over his shoulder, he begins to walk faster, but
every time he passes another sewer drain, more rats come out and follow
him. By the time he's walked two blocks, at least a hundred rats are at
his heels, and people begin to point and shout.
He walks even faster, and soon breaks into a trot as multitudes of rats
swarm from sewers, basements, vacant lots, and abandoned cars. Rats by
the thousands are at his heels, and as he sees the waterfront at the
bottom of the hill, he panics and starts to run full tilt. No matter
how fast he runs, the rats keep up, squealing hideously, now not just
thousands but millions, so that by the time he comes rushing up to the
water's edge, a trail of rats twelve city blocks long is behind him.
Making a mighty leap, he jumps up onto a light post, grasping it with
one arm while he hurls the bronze rat into San Francisco Bay with the
other, as far as he can heave it. Pulling his legs up and clinging to
the light post, he watches in amazement as the seething tide of rats
surges over the breakwater into the sea, where they drown.
Shaken and mumbling, he makes his way back to the antique shop.
"Ah, you've come back for the rest of the story," says the owner.
"No," says the tourist, "I was wondering if you have a bronze