Thursday, July 19, 2007

Breaking Free on the Fourth

It was July 4th. In the evening. During that vague, undefined hour after the cookout but before the fireworks. Our hamster sensed the lull and co-opted the holiday for her own personal gain.

“Let freedom ring!”, she squeaked. And busted out of her play pen.


The easy-fold metal panels were 9 inches high. The play pen - painted in “fun multi-colors” — was designated for small animals that do not hop or jump. We’d assumed that meant Teddy Rosabell. We were wrong. Turning our backs for only minutes, we found her wire corral closed tight, but no hamster. She must have leapt over the side! Or sprouted wings. Or summoned ministering hamster angels to assist.

We stared in disbelief, no sign of her anywhere. No sound. She was quieter than the mouse who sublets a hole in the kitchen. Her cage and bedding looked unkempt and desolate without her tiny brown form giving it coherence and meaning. We waited, but she was a vanished, vaporous thing. Flash! Gone. A memory. Just like that –she had leapt over the side. Cleared 9 inches. Who knew we had the Evil Knieval of rodents? We pricked our ears for rooting, scratching noises. She was as absent and soundless as fluff.

We mourned her disappearance on the way to the fireworks. Set up our lawn chairs in true American fashion, though our hearts were hamster-laden. In every explosion we saw little hamsters flying. When we got back hours later, we opened the front door, hopeful, expectant. Scanned the hardwood floor. Rosie’s wheel sat motionless, suspended, the ride shut down. Still no sign of her.

The children wept. I tucked them in, singing a cheery lullaby of the hamster’s return. Slept on the couch, dreamt uneasy dreams of small, furry beasts catapulting across a multi-colored, easy-fold sky…until I heard it –the tiny mouth pulling on her water bottle. Quick snapped on the light and caught her red-handed. Picked her up and patted her. Our eyes met for the first time. Man and furry rodent. She stared at me, unblinking as I stroked her fur.

A new understanding between us. She had tasted liberty, adventure, tested her mettle. She had known freedom. But I had the goodies. She snatched my tiny offering of cantaloupe with lightening speed, and greedily stuck it into her cheek.

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