Diane Ozdamar. Rat

Photo by Diane Ozdamar

Sam was recently transferred to the University of Minnesota. He used to be a handsome fellow. In this other place — he forgot its name —  he’d been instrumental in the research having to do with hormones. Hormonal injections gave him large ass, foul mouth, remarkable virility. Besides, he felt horny all the time. Like right now. Right this moment, he wanted to mount Gladys. She was so close, so beautiful.

“Sam! Sam? What did they do to you?  What kind of neuroeconomic task?”

“The usual, Gladys. Restaurant Row.” Sam said unhappily.

“Was the menu any good?”

“Shitty most of it. I had to choose between the bad and really bad. Wait for better offer or to go for shit. Ah, never mind. I’m pooped and colicky. Come to me, baby!”

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“Who played the waiter?” Gladys asked afterwards. She always wanted to know everything. It was her usual post-coital behavior.

“That Professor… what-his-name… Turnip?”

“Redish. David Redish. With “e”, not like in a vegetable.” Gladys was good with names and an excellent speller. They’ve messed with her brains in earlier experiments. Whatever they’ve done to her, Gladys was now as sharp as a tack, her IQ topping 220 on human scale. Not exactly a genius as far as rats go, but pretty good for a working lab rat-girl. “Any good science thus far?” She liked it when good science was made before her very eyes. Preferably not ON her skin, brain or intestines.

“Fuck science,” Sam said. “I had to choose whether to wait a few minutes for a food reward, or move onto another one. I didn’t wait and went for some greens. I want to shed a few ounces from my a… ehm, my problem area. All for you, babe. I want to look good for you. You know how I hate lattice, so I stared at a plate of protein. You’ve tried it too, those brownish morsels looking like goose droppings. The entire time I was gnawing at fuck’n lattice I was gaping at protein. Stupid, I know.”

Gladys patted his cheek. “Don’t be hard on yourself. We’ve got to be strong. No blaming ourselves and no  regrets.”

“Regrets. That’s it, regrets. Turnip is convinced  my staring was significant: I moved on, clearly have chosen bad option, found myself in a regret-inducing situation and have shown regretful behavior.”

“Have you?” Gladys raised curious brow.

Of course not. Can’t you see?  I simply decided to go on diet. God knows I made a choice. I ate lattice that I hate, and I did it for you. Well, and for me, too. It’s getting harder to haul all that lard on my ass.”

Gladys blushed. Sam was magnificent. He always expressed himself better when he was either hungry, horny or immediately after sex.

“Turnip said I wasn’t as much disappointed by my choice as regretted it. For a good half-hour he bullshitted about the difference between regret and disappointment. Is there any?”

Gladys smiled. She liked it when he acknowledged her intellectual superiority.  “Of course. Disappointment is the realization that you are screwed.  Your expectations aren’t met, and you blame everyone but yourself. Regret is а recognition that the blame is on you, and if you would’ve chosen  differently you’d… Well, hon, you get the point.”

Sam nodded. “You don’t regret the thing you didn’t get, you regret the thing you didn’t do.”

“Excellent. I wonder what exactly Redish is trying to prove.” Gladys parted her lips and scratched  her chin. She looked awfully cute when she was deep in thought.

“Turnip is trying to prove that other mammals can feel regret. As if it needs any proof,” Sam said.

Gladys frowned. “I suppose, this is the first time they “discovered” that creatures other than humans can feel it. I pity them, humans.”

“Assholes. They think everything except farting is unique to them. I hate them, humans.” Rat&Wine

“You’ve been doing Restaurant Row for quite some time, haven’t you, hon?”

“Close to a hundred 60-minute runs. And I’m sick of it. Tomorrow, I’ll show them behavior consistent with the expression of regret, if you know what I mean,” Sam said and winked lasciviously. “It’ll screw their results big time. I’ll eat shit with no regret and no disappointment for the rest of my life. Now, come to me, baby.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Can’t you see?” Sam’s eyes filled with pink glow.

“Gladys swiftly waddled into the farthest corner, away from Sam. “I didn’t mean that,” she said. “Do you really want to dispel Redish’s  theory? He is hoping that the regret you supposedly felt today would  affect your decision making process tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if their findings are already reported in Nature Neuroscience.”

“Fuck Nature Neuroscience,” Sam snarled and turned away.

“Don’t sulk, hon. Just promise me that tomorrow you’d go for protein and show no regret you are off your diet. Remember, in humans, a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex is active during regret. So you must shut off your orbitofrontal cortex. Just forget about sex altogether. It’s only for 60 minutes. Never forget, by studying us they hope to  learn more about themselves. By letting them do this to us we learn more about them. We must confuse them the best we can. It should take them at least another hundred years to figure out we are not only more intelligent but — Go ahead, say it with me!”

Sam stood up on his hind legs, his tail up, well-grounded by the heft of his ass and joined Gladys in the chant.

“We are not quite as we appear! We are merely the protrusion into the dimension of vastly hyperintelligent pandimensional beings!”


In writing this short fiction I was inspired by a recent report on Behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of regret in rat decision-making on a neuroeconomic task by Adam P SteinerA David Redish published in  Nature Neuroscience




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