The Rat in the Tailpipe


In retrospect, lighting the match was my mistake. But I was only trying to retrieve my son's rat.

Dick Stone told doctors in the severe burns unit of San Francisco City Hospital. Admitted for emergency treatment after an attempt to retrieve the rat had gone seriously wrong, "My son left the cage door open so his rat, Vermin, escaped into the garage," he explained. "As usual, it looked for a good place to hide and ran up the exhaust pipe of my motorcycle. I tried to retrieve Vermin by offering him food attached to a string, but he wouldn't come out again, so I peered into the pipe and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him."

At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman described what had happened next. "The flame ignited a pocket of residual gas, and a flame shot out the pipe, igniting Mr. Stone's mustache, and severely burned his face. It also set fire to the pet rat's fur and whiskers which, in turn, ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the exhaust pipe which propelled the rodent out like a cannonball."

Stone suffered second degree burns and a broken nose from the impact of the pet rat.

His son was grounded for 6 weeks.