I have never been particularly fond of hamsters. Oh granted, they are cute and not much trouble to keep, but I just have a few problems with the little rodents.
For starters, they seem to have a tendency to bite the hand that feeds them or cleans their cage, and there’s the food thing. They stuff everything in their cheeks, get it all covered with hamster spit and then tuck it away in their beds. That’s just icky. On top of that, there is the fact that their testicles are well, absolutely huge. I just can’t find myself becoming attached to any animal whose balls are bigger than its brain. (Men excluded, I guess)
Every once in a while I find myself getting stuck with a hamster. When we lived in navy housing, someone was moving overseas and talked me into taking their three-year-old hamster, “Sweetums”. I figured what the heck, it’s old, how much longer can it live? It turns out,a lot longer than you would think!
I soon discovered that there was NOTHING sweet about “Sweetums”. The rotten little creature would make a dive for your hand every time you reached in its cage and try to sink its well-honed fangs into your finger. More often than not, he succeeded. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but he continuously peed in his food dish, requiring someone to reach in there and change it.
I began to suspect that his owners requested the overseas duty assignment, just to get away from him.
He simply was not a pleasant animal. Every morning, I would go to his cage to cheerfully greet him and he would open one eye and glare at me. We took to calling him “Mr. Personality”. Mr. Personality lived in the laundry room on the back of the dryer, for about a year, before old age was merciful to all of us and we found him face down in his food dish one morning. I tried to muster up a tear, but my heart just wasn’t into it. Later when Levi got up, I told him of Mr. P’s demise and he managed to look sorrowful for about the time it took to discover the toy in the new box of cereal.
About half way through his Super Frosted Sugar Bombs (or whatever overly sweetened cereal he was obsessed with that week), he announced that he thought Mr. P should have a burial at sea. We had visited the whaling museum the week before and they had shown a short movie about life aboard a whaling ship. A whale had killed one of the seamen and the captain sewed him in a canvas shroud and committed him to the depths of the ocean.
I’m not sure why Levi thought that this was appropriate for a hamster, but I learned early on in mother hood, that sometimes, you just don’t want to know. I gave a weak, “Um, sure” and sank back into my coffee. I had a million things to do and I’d just have to deal with the expired hamster later.
My husband’s ship was somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean and I was involved in planing the children’s Christmas party for the families in a few weeks. Several other Navy wives came over to finish up the decorations for the hall and of course, they brought their children along. There is one thing you can count on in military housing…wall to wall children. At that moment there were several bouncing off my walls.
We told them to do something quiet while we worked. When they complied, I should have worried. A quiet child is a child up to mischief. The peaceful interval was short lived and I sent them all outside to play. As I returned to the Christmas project in the other room, I noticed that Mr. P’s cage was sitting on the floor of the laundry room and felt a guilty pang for not taking care of his remains yet.
We continued to work and the children continued to run in an out of the house getting snacks, tattling on siblings and using the bathroom. It wasn’t long before one child passed by on his way outside and called over his shoulder, “toilet won’t flush!” Since there were two bathrooms, I simply shut the door and added it to the long list of things I’d do later.
Every one finally left and “later” had arrived. The first job I tackled was disposition of the hamster body. I looked in his cage, but he wasn’t there. I searched all through the litter, thinking there may have been some miraculous resurrection, but there was no hamster, dead or alive. I tracked Levi down and asked him if he knew what happened to Mr. P. As he went spinning by on the merry-go-round, he said that they already had the funeral and Mr. P was buried. I was impressed by his maturity in taking care of such an event. That must have been why the children were so quiet earlier. Great, I could go make dinner!
About half way through preparing dinner of spaghetti and salad, I remembered the bathroom situation. I grabbed the plunger and headed for the downstairs jon. The kids were right, it didn’t flush. I plunged and flushed again. The water rose to the edge of the bowl and slowly receded. I plunged again. Same situation. I really hated to do it, but I was going to have to call “public works”.
The Navy base had several hundred housing units and the maintenance department was called “public works”. We used to joke about the inappropriateness of this title, as they often seemed to do as little work as possible. I always felt rather badly about the jokes, as I knew these men had a lot to put up with in their line of work. Just imagine all the things that could go wrong with several hundred housing units filled with wives and children who’s husbands were not around to do even the simplest tasks….like plunging a toilet. I usually tried to give these long suffering workers a break as I figured they had literally “Seen it all”.
I called to schedule a work request and they gave me a loose estimate of “some time tomorrow, maybe the next day, definitely before next week”. I was lucky, it was the former.
The middle-aged gentleman in gray coveralls showed up around three. He stubbed out the hot ash of his cigar and balanced it on the outside windowsill. I explained that the toilet refused to flush and that I was sure he would need a plumbers snake. He let out a long “oh-what-I-put-up-with-sigh” and got his tools from the truck. He began a long litany of what he felt were standard toilet clog questions about what possibly might have been flushed that shouldn’t have been. I assured him that I was very careful about things like that and left him to his work.
There was a lot of puffing and grunting and some questionable language drifting out from the bathroom. I did my best to ignore it. I offered coffee or soda, which he politely declined. He emerged for more tools and explained that he would have to take the toilet stool up so he could better access the pipe. There was more puffing and grunting and the language got a bit worse. Suddenly there was absolute silence. I looked up from my paperwork and saw him standing in the doorway.
“Lady” he said, “Are you missing a hamster?”
I put on my most innocent of faces. “A hamster? Why no. We don’t even own a hamster” (Well, we didn’t, ANYMOORE)
He held up a dripping wet wool sock, which I immediately recognized as the half of the hand knit pair of Christmas socks we had purchased on a recent trip to Maine. “Well, I’d thought I’d seen everything I possibly could in a toilet.” He said shaking his head, “But I’ve never, ever, fished out a hamster in a sock”
Just then, Levi came bounding into the house and announced, loud and clear, “Hey! That’s my hamster! He’s supposed to be in the ocean by now.”
It’s a good thing that child was still moving because if I could have gotten my hands on him right then, I’d have beaten him with a dead hamster in a sock.
The jig was up. The truth was out. All I could do is hang my head and say “I’m soooo, soooo, sorry. I didn’t know. As God is my witness, I did not know the hamster was in the toilet.”
Somehow, that wonderful patient man cracked the slightest of smiles. “I gotta ask lady, why the sock?’
I explained the whaling museum, the movie and the need for a shroud in burials at sea, as my new hero replaced the toilet back on the pipe. He wiped up the floor with one of my hand towels, washed his hands and gathered up his tools.
On his way out the door, he retrieved his cigar from the sill and clamped it in his teeth. He turned to me and winked. “Lady, I’m just glad you don’t have a dog”.