Dallas Rat Gangs: The True Story By April May
For the past month, I entrenched myself undercover into one of the city’s most menacing groups—the East Dallas Rats (EDR). The origins of the EDR are mysterious, but the crime syndicate has been terrorizing people since the founding of the area of town called Deep Ellum.
The EDR has claimed responsibility for area graffiti, street intimidation, and a recent string of area break-ins. Foods ranging from cereals to cheese have made their way from East Dallas pantries into the black market through the EDR. Some of the resold items have been found to be laced with Warfarin and other foreign substances.
I decided to plant myself within the EDR to learn more and bring the information to you.
I donned my best pair of Mickey Mouse ears and set myself up on the corner of Crowdus and Commerce streets, a usual gathering spot for EDR members. An intimidating rat wearing the signature gold earring in its left ear rustled its fur and growled at me. I simply nodded, as a source told me to, and walked away. This exchange had to happen thrice before I would be at all considered for EDR. On the fourth time, the same rat signaled for me to follow him. He lead me to a garage where other rats were waiting in their intimidating fashion.
“If you want to join us, April May,” said the largest, grayest rat, “You will have to pass a test.”
This rat leader, I later learned, was the Keyser Söze.
My initiation was to break in to an Elm Street apartment, obtain a bag of Cheetos and a bottle of allergy medicine, and come back to the parking garage. I successfully completed the task despite nerves caused by an adviser’s watchful eye. When I arrived back at the garage, Söze greeted me and welcomed me into the EDR by piercing my right Mickey Mouse ear himself.
Söze told me about the history, symbols, and handshake of the EDR, which I cannot reveal as an initiated member.
“Rats have been underappreciated by society as a whole. We’re ran off or caught in traps. That’s why we have to stick together. You are an EDR now,” he told me.
To further prove myself and gather information, I ran special errands for Söze, advisers, and other high-ranking EDRs. Through these errands, I gained more intelligence about the gang’s structure (rats report to officers who report to lieutenants who report to advisors who report to the leader, Söze) and intricate cheese trafficking business. The closer I got to the high-ranking members, the more I heard about the tension between the EDR and the Downtowners—a rival rat gang that had started extending its reach outside of downtown Dallas.
“They’re poaching and invading! We gotta take care of this,” I remember hearing a lieutenant say in frustration after finding his usual corner occupied by Downtowners. I knew this was bad news because it affected the cheese business for the EDR, but I was ignorant of how serious it truly was.
The Downtowners were attempting to extend their reach east of 75—the unspoken boundary between EDR and Downtowner territory. It was not uncommon to see a rat with a purple piece of twine around its neck, the unmistakable sign of the Downtowners, instead of the EDR earring.
Violence reached a new high with scurry bys becoming everyday occurrences. At each EDR gathering in the garage, Söze would remind us of our fallen members and tallied our losses against the Downtowners’. However, both gangs were determined to end the stalemate and gain control.
“Today, we fight for our part of Dallas back from that scum,” Söze told us last Saturday. “We’re fighting for our part of the city, our way of life, our security. They’re trying to take that away from us, and we won’t let ‘em!”
There was growling, cheering, puffing of chests. I watched as EDRs sharpened their teeth and claws to ready for the impending battle.
“THIS ENDS TODAY!”
The EDR and the Downtowners met underneath 75 and the mayhem was instant. I saw strangling, scratching, biting, and bleeding from my hiding place behind a concrete beam. In the end, both gangs had successfully killed the other off and thousands of rat bodies lined that part of Pacific Avenue.
I saw movement across the street and ventured out of hiding to find Söze twitching and lying on his back.
“April,” he said through a bloody cough. “I know you aren’t a rat, but you are still an EDR. Don’t forget…”
He never finished his sentence. I took off my Mickey Mouse ears and headed home. I put my ears with the earring still intact on display in my bookshelf to remind me of Söze, the fight for cheese monopolies and turf, and whatever he wanted me to remember.
UPDATE: Since the eradication of the EDR and Downtowners, the rat population in their former territories has been sparse. However, the turf will not go unclaimed for too long.
Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 4 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.
(Illustration by John Spriggs)