(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mr. A. M., the senior householder in an urban apartment house, calls a tenants’ meeting in his flat to discuss the threat posed by an acute rat infestation that they are expecting. The media, both print and broadcast, have warned about the scope and destruction likely to follow the invading rodents. Reportedly, the aggressive rats are attacking even cats and humans. Accordingly, Mr. A. M. tells the ten tenants in attendance that they should meticulously carry out both his instructions and those from the authorities regarding preparations to meet the threat. He urges them to set traps, spread rat poison, and to have as many cats as possible in the stairwell, on the roof, and even in their apartments because cats are useful no matter what.

The source of the rat infestation is a matter for speculation. Some suggest that the rats originated from the evacuated Suez Canal towns, which were heavily shelled by Israeli guns positioned on the eastern bank of the waterway in 1969 and 1970 during the War of Attrition. Others believe that the explosion of the rat population is a negative consequence of the Aswan High Dam, which affected the irrigation canal networks downstream. Another suggestion is that the surge in the rat population is due to bad public administration. Some attribute the problem to Allah’s anger on account of his servants’ refusal to accept divine guidance.

At a subsequent tenants’ meeting in the building, Mr. A. M. expresses satisfaction with the residents’ preparations, though some of them complain...

(The entire section is 630 words.)