Rats are one of several animal species that can laugh. Scientists determine what constitutes a laugh by analyzing the frequency of the emitted sounds and what effects they have on other members of the same species. In other species, such as chimpanzees, it can be hard to determine when the animal is laughing, as it is not always apparent if the animal is experiencing joy when it emits its laughing sound. Rats, however, can be tickled to produce laughter on command.
The sound of rat laughter is inaudible to the human ear, but can be recorded and reproduced using special sound equipment. Once converted, rat laughter sounds like chirping. Rats have been observed laughing while playing and socializing with other rats, and it has been noted that laughing rats tend to get on better with other laughing rats. Scientific experiments have demonstrated that rats show empathy toward each other – do they also have a sense of humor?
“What do you think?”
“I don’t like makeup.”
“Do you like me?”
“Wash your face, and we’ll see.”
She replaced the lipstick on the tray and used a wet towel to dab the shadows from off her eyes.
“You’ve never seen me without makeup, have you?”
“I’ve seen you naked.”
“You’ve seen me without clothes.”
“I doubt you’re hideous under there.”
“How can you tell?”
“I look at the shapes, not the colours.”
“You’re missing out, then.”
She wiped her mouth with the towel and swivelled around. The bright bulbs around the mirror shadowed her face and lit the golden locks around her head like a halo. His breath left him. It was as if a stellar body had passed in front of the sun and cast the room into a silent, waving eclipse.
“Well? What do you think? No, forget it. You don’t like me, I can tell. Just forget it. Don’t say anything.”
He didn’t say anything. Someone called for her on the other side of the door. When she turned to answer, the shape of her head, enclosed in shining hair, appeared as a silhouette on a coin.
A few minutes later he was walking down the slope of cobbled rock that led from the theatre to the pub. By the old house at the bottom of the slope he stepped into the alleyway and closed his eyes. Her ghostly image was still there, fading quickly into darkness.
Like many other artists in the Warren Publishing-clan, Rafael Aura León, better known by his pen name Auraleón, started his career in Spain. Born in Barcelona (sources differ on which year, though it was probably between 1936 and 1940), he worked a regular office job before pursuing an artistic career. Having mastered the art of drawing without the aid of a teacher, he managed to impress the agency Selecciones Ilustradas, who took him on in 1959.
After working primarily with westerns, war and romance stories, Auraleón joined Warren Publishing in the early 1970’s. His work in Vampirella and Creepy (to which he contributed generously) was impenetrably dark and moody, framed by deep pools of black that seemed to consume the very pages on which they were printed. Contrasted starkly against the darkness were bright faces and shapes in exquisite detail, whether they belonged to maidens or werewolves.
Auraleón often recycled the same photo references for his work, but the familiarity that these faces established with the reader seemed to me, through the masterful direction of the artist, to elevate the characters into archetypes perfectly suited for the five-page length of the stories. To my young eyes, there were no drawings more beautiful, no standard higher to which one could aspire as an artist, and I admired Auraleón’s work long before I learned his name. It was therefore disheartening to learn that he, after a long bout of depression, took his own life in 1993.
“I can’t,” she said, “not when mum’s upstairs.”
“You can give me a kiss,” he said.
“Okay,” she said.
They kissed for a long time under the black, watchful eye of the window.
“Are you going to break my heart?” he said.
“I dunno,” she said, “maybe you’ll break mine.”
“I guess we’ll see,” he said.
“I guess so,” she said.
He walked away on the path under the elms. She went inside and read her book in the kitchen. Eventually, they both had their hearts broken, but not by each other.