Small Talk: Rat Crocodile Princess


May 5, 2019


Illustration by Shreyaa Krritika Das

Niece – Should I tell you something so scary?

Me – You absolutely should.

Niece – One day there was a rat.

Me – Is that it?

Niece – And he had fourteen teeths.  In his ear.

Me – That must have been painful.

Niece – Ya. And he had a gun. And he was a crocodile also.

Me – I thought you said he was a rat.

Niece – He was a rat crocodile.

Me – That sounds very … confusing.

Niece – And he had a penis. Because he was a boy.

Me – Ok.

Niece – I don’t have a penis.

Me – No, that’s true, you don’t.

Niece – Because I’m a girl.

Me – Well, not exactly.

Niece – Hm?

Me – I mean some girls have penises. And some boys have vaginas. Is that confusing? If it’s confusing then I didn’t tell you this okay?

Niece – Can I be a boy?

Me – Sure. Would you like to be?

Niece – Not right now.

Me – Well that’s fine. You can be whatever you want.

Niece – Can I be a house?

Me – You know, that’s actually a really misleading thing we tell children.

Niece – Hm?

Me – Let’s get back to the rat crocodile, shall we?

Niece – He was a princess. Can a boy be a princess?

Me – I guess so. What do you think?

Niece – I think it’s ok. I think if he has his own crown then it’s fine.

Me – That seems fair.

Niece – Then you know what happened? The rat crocodile died.

Me – Aw.

Niece – And his teeths grew into….elbows.

Me – He had fourteen elbows? Coming out of his ear?

Niece – Yes.

Me – Wouldn’t that be really uncomfortable? Or does it not matter because he was dead?

Niece – He became alive again.

Me – Oh yay! How did he become alive again?

Niece – He … he just got up.

Me – Ok. So it wasn’t like he was actually sleeping and not dead at all?

Niece – No he was dead.

Me – Ok.

Niece – Because there was so much blood. And bones.

Me – Right.

Niece – Then the rat crocodile he ate up the girl.

Me – What the heck. What girl?

Niece – The girl.

Me – Why couldn’t he eat a banana?

Niece – He ate all the girls. And then he went swimming. And he had a coffee.

Me – Was this rat crocodile an investment banker.

Niece – Ya. Hm?

Me – And when you say he ate all the girls, you mean like every single girl in the world.

Niece – Ya.

Me – Did they give him indigestion?

Niece – No but he felt sad because then he didn’t have any friends.

Me – Because all his friends were girls.

Niece – Ya.

Me – And, for reasons best known to himself, he ate all the girls.

Niece – You know why he was a princess?

Me – Please tell me.

Niece – Because he liked to eat sparkles. And that’s how he got all sparkly.

Me – Does a princess have to be sparkly?

Niece – Yes. And they also have a pet.

Me – Aw, what kind of pet?

Niece – A bus.

Me – Do you think you could draw this rat crocodile princess?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Excellent. Sally forth with paper and colored pencils.

Niece – It’s going to be so scary.

Me – I shall gird my loins.


Me – So I was wondering if you could walk me through this picture. Because it seems very complicated, there’s definitely a lot going on here.

Niece – Ya.

Me – So right here, we seem to have…a mountain range? Or a chainsaw possibly?

Niece – It’s elbows.

Me – So then this box-like structure is … an ear?

Niece – Nose.

Me – Why is it outside his face? This is his face, right?

Niece – Because I put it there.

Me – I see. I honestly can’t think of a better reason for a nose to be outside a face.

Niece – Say what this is.

Me – It’s a … deflated egg? With feet?

Niece – It’s a shoe rack.

Me – Why is there a shoe- actually you know what? Never mind. Tell me what this fountain of rainbows is coming from his…

Niece – Mouth.

Me – Right, his mouth. Is he throwing up? Are those his teeth? Are you going to tell me it’s actually a piano or an artistic expression of regret?

Niece – He’s eating sparkles.

Me – Oh right.

Niece – And he’s throwing up.

Me – Ok. And so this entire being is half rat and half crocodile…how exactly?

Niece – His back is a rat. And his feet are crocodiles, see?

Me – Ah. And when you say they are crocodiles, I see that each foot is an actual crocodile. Unless those are slabs of cheese.

Niece – It’s crocodiles.

Me – Well. This is, by far, the best rat crocodile princess I have seen today.

Niece – I know.

Me – So is it a boy or a girl? I don’t think we resolved that.

Niece – He’s both.

Me – As are we all.

Niece – Except when he’s a house.

Me – Right. Remind me to talk to you about that one day.

Niece – You want my rat crocodile princess picture?

Me – Oh awesome, can I have it?

Niece – No.

Small Talk chronicles conversations between the author and her niece that could, in an alternate universe or in this one, be real.


Written By Kuzhali Manickavel

Kuzhali Manickavel’s collections “Things We Found During the Autopsy,” “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings,” and chapbooks “The Lucy Temerlin Institute for Broken Shapeshifters Guide to Starving Boys” and “Eating Sugar, Telling Lies” are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review and DIAGRAM. She used to blog at http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/.


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