The Hamster Chronicles
Saturday, June 26, 1999
Great things have been afoot in the Chappell household in recent months. We spent the first half of 1998 anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new human addition to our happy little clan. Then, in May, an ultrasound technician informed us that we should expect not one, but two: twins. A boy and a girl, they first saw the light of day on August 18, 1998, much to their consternation. We named them "Nathaniel" and "Theresa", and, while they're both doing just fine, they have occupied much of our time and attention ever since. Thus, I think I can be forgiven (and perhaps even applauded) for making all things hamsterish a somewhat lower priority than in days past.
Nonetheless, Buttermilk's death left our household with a gaping hole, which we could not allow to continue unfilled.
So it was that, on July 24, 1998, the very day that Buttermilk died, I awoke from an afternoon snooze to discover a small quivering cardboard box perched on my stomach. I shortly determined that its contents consisted of one tiny brown-and-white and utterly terrified rodent. 'Twas yet another male Syrian hamster; we named him "Nutmeg".
Nutmeg is a teddybear, so that, like Buttermilk, he has more hair than anyone could ever want or need. What he does not have are Buttermilk's spasms of jumpiness, Percy's warrior spirit, and Paul's generally psychotic condition; he appears to be mercifully sane. Now, this makes him a pleasure to deal with; on the other hand, an unrelievedly bland personality gives little to write about. Fortunately, Nutmeg has at least one bizarre quirk, as shown by the following hypothetical diary from late last year.
Saturday: Nutmeg was calm and friendly.
Sunday: Nutmeg was calm and friendly.
Monday: Nutmeg was calm and friendly.
Tuesday: Nutmeg was calm and friendly. Then he ate my finger.
Now, he doesn't really bite, and he never breaks the skin. Instead, he sort of experimentally chews and savors the flavor of whatever body part confronts him. I would get mad at him, except that he is so nice and friendly about it. I can almost hear what he might be trying to say.
What's this I find in front of my nose? <Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff> <Chew, chew, chew ... > Well, now, it's your finger, isn't it? Sorry about that, old chap.
And, with a shrug of his nonexistent little hamster shoulders, he is off to see what other appendages of mine he can grind up.
For a few months Nutmeg spent his nights happily running around in "Percy's Palace"; it looked like he was turning out to be a homebody, just like Percy. But in February, he decided to escape. Once or twice in each of the following weeks, we would find him under the desk, looking terrified, or sitting mournfully on top of his cage.
Then, in March, he discovered the great secret that changed his life forever: he already knew how to get out of the cage, but now he learned how to get back in as well.
The funny thing is that we don't know how he does it. We wire the cage shut with him inside. Later we see him running around on the floor. The next day he is back in his cage, which is still wired shut. Obviously he has been more or less impossible to keep locked up. The living room and kitchen have been declared his domains.
Fortunately, he isn't a vandal; he's more of a compulsive jogger. One night when I was working late in the living room, I saw Nutmeg run in front of the sofa, from left to right, then disappear behind it. A few seconds later, there he was on the left side again, and once more he ran over to the right side and disappeared in back. When this was repeated several more times, I realized that Nutmeg was using our living room as sort of a giant hamster wheel. I clocked him at eleven seconds per lap around the sofa. So in the three-plus hours of my late-night sojourn, he circled the sofa something like one thousand times. Scary, huh?
Now just about every night around 1 a.m., Nutmeg magically exits his cage and begins tearing around the sofa ... and around and around and around ....
Copyright 1999, 2001 Glenn G. Chappell. "The Hamster Chronicles, Part 13" may be freely copied and distributed provided that the text is unchanged, this notice is retained, and no fee is charged for said distribution. Distribution for a fee may only be done with express written permission of the author. While it is not strictly required, the author would also appreciate being notified if The Hamster Chronicles are made available to the public free of charge. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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