Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Two Deaths of Chunky the Hamster

I thought I told you, but I guess I only told one of my classes. Yes, now that I think harder on it, I didn't write the story, I only told it as a whispered confession to an auditorium full of students to fill the last two minutes before lecture starts.

It went something like this.

For awhile my kids had two hamsters. At first they knew which one belonged to which kid, and I think for a week or so the hamsters were held and played with and even called sweet pet names.

After a month passed it was clear both of the hamsters were really mine. That's fine, I liked them. There was the chunky one who climbed like a monkey to beg for treats, and the tiny one that kept getting out.

The tiny hamster became known as Houdini for his relentless attempts to escape for freedom giving one millimeter of opportunity.  Once I found him in Zoe's closet. Once I found him in Zack's closet. One day I found him floating in my bathtub, hanging on to a hand towel shivering for dear life. I rescued it, we bonded.

Another day I spent time picking through the hamster food to figure out which seeds the chunky one really loved.

 Not the brown things, not the black seeds, not the pellet thingy. Each time I handed him those through the top-security bars that held him in his tiny zoo, he would spit them out and look at me like, "lady, you can do better than that, now come on....I'm hungry...."

Finally I found something that looked like a soy nut. He loved it and reached out for another.

 I found him another then another and for half an hours I sat there and let him stuff himself like Chip and Dale on a binge. His eyes started to get sleepy and he finally refused a precious nut.  I promised him we would do this again. We bonded.

Fast forward a year.  One day I get the desire to clean out both hamster cages and let them switch cages. One cage was metal and fun for climbing, the other cage was plastic with twists and turns to hide in.

Then a week later I went to feed chunky his binge nuts and noticed he'd broken out of his new zoo. 

Fantastic, maybe the other hamster wasn't Houdini, maybe the damn cage was at fault.

I looked here and there and over where Houdini would get off to when he ran out, but nothing, no sign at all of chunky hamster for over a day.

Then next evening I was sitting on the sofa and stood up to get some water.  Just as I shifted my full weight onto one foot to push myself (bounce? spring?) off the sofa, I felt a soft furry crunch under my foot.

Oh no, that damn chunky guy was trying to get my attention so I'd feed him. But no, I didn't seem him there and I killed him. I'm equal parts freaked out and grossed out.

 I want to scream but then the kids will scream and there will be no peace and right now the peace is my friend. 

I have to handle this.

What do they do on TV? I try to channel Sopranos or  Shameless or Boardwalk Empire or Orphan Black. What would they do?

I  get an old  hand towel and pick chunky's limp lifeless body up with the towel and... and... its dark outside and I can't bury him. Not tonight.

But I have to do something with him so I put chunky in an empty ziploc box  and put him on the deck.

No, no, no, once I've done it I can't close the door behind me.

 What if some hungry wildlife that lives in the forest next to the golf course sneaks onto the deck and eats my poor chunky corpse before his funeral?

I can't let that happen, so I find a ziploc baggie big enough to fit the fat lump of a towel with a chunky inside.

I zip it up and put it in the box and leave it out there until the morning when I can dig a little hole and bury him.

The next morning when I went to bury the hamster I found chunky had miraculously come back to life and unwound himself from the towel and tried to escape from the baggy that I had unwittingly entombed him in.

 I looked at it for one second - just long enough to confirm that chunky wasn't how and where I'd left him - and involuntarily shrieked.

That's how the kids found out chunky the hamster was dead.

When they asked how he died I told him that I"d stepped on poor chunky the hamster and left it at that.