Can somebody tell me whether the joke at the end comes across when read? It's a verbal story and i'm having trouble making it as funny textually.
The rat wasn't doing well. Or, at least Adam didn't think he was, given his limited rat experience, which was why he found himself trying to drive to the pet store and keep a nervous rat subdued at the same time, a rat who insisted on rooting around in his lap. Lacking any sort of carrying device that the rat would take gracefully, Adam had found an old purse of Carly's that she must have forgotten in the closet, and shut the rat in that with a two-week supply of Frooty-Os. The cereal had lasted ten minutes, and the rat had either located or created a hole in his prison, and the trip finished out rather jerkily while Adam fought to keep his driving steady enough to not be pulled over for weaving with rat claws dug firmly into his thigh.
Heaving a sigh of relief as he pulled into a spot near the pet store and turned off the car, Adam slumped in his seat and gave the rat a baleful glare. The rat flexed his claws a little and sneezed. Scooping up the recalcitrant rodent, Adam jogged across the parking lot and slipped into the doors, peering around for large dogs that might pose a problem. He wasn't positive the rat wouldn't seek one out himself and talk it into assisted suicide.
The rat scrunched itself into a small ball in Adam's hands, Adam supposed because of the noise and the smell of cat and dog and bird and chlorine that had slapped him in the face when he'd come in the door. Cradling the rat protectively, Adam glanced around for a directory and ascertained that the small animals section was in a back corner.
"Excuse me?" he asked the only person in the appropriate section, and dark-haired guy of about his age who was currently tapping the glass of one of the terrariums, enraging the Russian Dwarf hamsters within. Adam eyed the hopping, spitting balls of fur. "Should you be doing that?"
"Nope," the guy turned to grin at Adam, straightening his green employee polo shirt. He looked rather familiar, but Adam couldn't quite place him. His nametag, which read 'Eightball', was of no help. "But they're such nasty little bastards anyway that I can't help pissing them off more just for fun. Besides, it isn't my turn to feed them, I don't have to stick my hand in there. Can I help you with something?"
"Er…" Adam took a moment to absorb all that, "I think my rat's depressed."
"You brought him along?" Eightball raised an eyebrow. "Let's see then."
Adam held the rat out, the animal flopped across his hands. He twitched a little as Eightball picked him, nicking Adam's palms with his claws for the nth time, but dangled limply in the firm grip as Eightball held him up for inspection.
"He doesn't look sick," Eightball pronounced after a few moments, turning the rat this way and that. "His eyes are clear, he isn't wheezing, his fur's a little dirty but I don't see any parasites. What exactly is the problem?"
"See, he's really my girlfr…fian…" Adam took a breath to organize himself, "…my ex-girlfriend's rat, but she's broke up with me and left him, and he's been acting weird ever since. Mostly he just sleeps or lays around. I think he might be angry with me."
"Broke up with both of you, yeah?" Eightball's grin took some of the sting out of Adam's indignance. "What's his name?"
"She used to call him Adlebert," Adam and Eightball made identical faces, "but we haven't picked a new one yet. It was Letterman yesterday, we pick 'em out while we watch late night TV, but he didn't seem to like that." The rat sneezed as punctuation.
"Poor guy," Eightball settled the rat laying across his forearm and ran his knuckles down the animal's spine, "she calls you Adlebert, then she breaks your heart? Rough life."
Adam was weirdly jealous of the rat. He'd been called stupid things and broken up with too and nobody was rubbing his back. The rat regarded him out of a half-closed eye as if he knew what Adam was thinking, twitching his whiskers smugly.
"I pronounce your rat slightly depressed," Eightball handed back Letterman nee Adlebert with a last scratch behind the ears, "with a full chance for recovery. Rats get very attached to their owners, but he'll snap out of it in a little while. Give him plenty of attention and feed him junk food. And cheer up, yeah? He can tell that you're depressed too."
"Thanks, er," Adam settled the rat into the crook of his arm, "Eightball."
Eightball barked a laugh and glanced down at his tag.
"It's just so that when people catch me tormenting the hamsters," he explained, "then they have to tell my manager 'Eightball' was doing it. She hasn't figured out which one of us that is yet. Name's Steve."
The name didn't help Adam place him, but he was convinced that he knew Steve from someplace. Finally he asked if Steve went to the college or worked there or something.
"Not exactly," Steve shrugged, "I graduated a few years ago, but I do audit a German class there. Ich bein not so hot."
"That's it!" Adam snapped the fingers of his free hand, finally placing him as the guy who'd nearly taken out his eye. "I have the class right after yours in that same room, I've seen you talking to the professor."
Mystery solved, Adam bid Steve a 'see you around' and picked up some rat food before heading to the front of the store. While standing in line, he noticed the girl at the counter had a nametag which read "Shithead".
"Shithead, hmm?" he asked with a smirk when it was his turn, feeling very on the in for getting the store-wide joke.
"Oh no you didn't," the girl glowered at him. "That's Shi-THEED."
AN: this really happened to someone I know at a Blockbuster.