I didn’t mean to kill him. Honest. But he was a biter, nothing like his predecessor, Oscar Meyer, who was one gem of a hamster. Oscar spent most of his life outside his cage, squirming up my sleeve to rest soft against my neck or tackling the miniature obstacle courses I built out of Legos, Tinker Toys, and cheese. One time he got away, and my mom and I spent the better part of a week trying to catch him as he darted in and out from beneath furniture. “There he is!” one of us would screech, and we’d scramble toward him, only to watch him scuttle underneath the nearest appliance. I wondered how a ravenous and dehydrated rodent could muster the energy to play Hide-and-Seek day after day.
When we finally caught him, I put him in an extended time out. I think he got depressed in his cage because it wasn’t long before he made his transition to hamster heaven. We wrapped him in toilet paper, put him in a chicken pot pie tin, and covered it with aluminum foil. I made my mom poke holes in it because I couldn’t bear the thought of him suffocating, even though he was dead. We dug a grave under the weeping willow and held a solemn ceremony, complete with all six stanzas of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
It was most unfortunate for Oscar II that he followed so closely on the paws of the first. Mom thought he would fill the hamster-sized hole in my heart, but I could only compare the Oscars, which I knew wasn’t fair. Nevertheless, I found myself reluctantly offering Oscar II a friendly gesture one day and “forgetting” to feed him the next. When I discovered him stiff in his cage, I was stricken to realize that I was the cause, but I told my mom that he must have been defective.
Fifty years have passed and I’m still ashamed of my evil streak. Sure, O II was just a rodent and I was only ten, but the fact that I’ve never told anyone I’m a hamster killer tells you a lot about me. I intended to take this secret to my grave where I could make post-mortem amends to my needle-toothed victim, but now my sponsor says I have to confess every lousy thing I’ve ever done if I want to stay sober. Evidently, as long as there’s a dead hamster in the dark hallway of my conscience, I hide him at my peril. I hope my sponsor will show mercy when I admit that I’m the one who’s defective.