You never know what’s in store: you could get hit by a bus at any time. That’s what people say. I don’t know why being hit by a bus is such a thing, or why people are always getting thrown under one. It’s evocative. And yet very few of us know anyone who’s been hit by a bus. I do: that’s how my uncle died. But he wasn’t normal.
Rodent On The Lam
The thing is, whereas it is sort of true that you could get hit by a bus at any time, given adequate exposure, it is equally true that your life could get suddenly brighter at any time too.
Just the other day a huge happiness landed in our kitchen. Right out of nowhere. Dave was sweeping the floor and rather than sliding a chair aside he actually tilted it up. And what was under that chair but Tater’s missing hamster!
Tater has been missing her hamster for at least three years. Dave saw it in a store window and brought it home for her. She likes to bat around little stuffed things and in some cases she likes to disembowel them with her rear feet. It’s not unusual for us to come upon a tragic scene of shredded Poly-Fil stuffing and torn plush. I usually sew them back up again because we’re not made of money.
(Yeah, it’s a little like a young girl being surgically stitched to be re-sold as virgins. I simply have a problem looking at stuffed animals as passive constructions of lint. No. People think I, as a grown-up human, am way too invested in seeing after Pootie’s needs and desires, too. But they’re wrong. They don’t know our history. It’s thick.)
Anyway, Tater’s hamster is special. We thought she didn’t much like it at first. She ignored it. Until the day Dave took off and Tater didn’t realize I was in the house and she set up a low, mournful yowling completely unrelated to her regular voice, and I saw her transporting the hamster into a different room and setting it down. After that we noticed that the hamster was never in the same place it had been when we left the house. She’ll take it upstairs. Downstairs. If we catch her in the act she’ll drop it and give it a few pretend-bats, but there isn’t a mark on it. She protects it. It’s her baby.
[By the way, yes, it has a tail, and is not really a hamster as much as it’s a gerbil, but “hamster” is a funnier word and more fun to say, and that’s that. Rules are different in a logophile’s house.]
So we don’t necessarily find the hamster when we come home, but happen upon it later. And that’s why it took us a few weeks to realize we hadn’t seen it in a while.
I have been devastated on Tater’s behalf. She loved that hamster. I’ve been shaking my head in sorrow over it for three years. And now it’s back! We tossed it toward her and she put it between her paws and under her chin until we made too much of a fuss, and then she pretended to bat it around for a couple seconds. Later it showed up in another room, set neatly upright.
And Tater, who is somewhere around fourteen and has been slowing down, is a new cat. Lunging at squirrels on the other side of the window. Chittering at finches. Conducting spontaneous crazy-cat exercises at warp speed just because. Exuberating. Ain’t nothing in the house safe from her excess of joy now, except for the hamster. He’s spotless. And looking pretty bright in the buttons, too.