Me, My Pet and Humanity by Timothy
This story is inspired by a friend.
Can the creative part of mercy be pocket size?
During the course of my somewhat lonely childhood, I found consolations in my tiny pocket kangaroos otherwise known as gerbils. Being nocturnal rodents, they came active at night. Upon retiring, I would hear them taking their turns on the exercise wheel. If they really built up steam I would hear the metal wheel jiggling on the on the main support frame. It was always a comforting sound to me.
Mornings were always a dreary time for me, it meant facing another day at school. Another day of humiliations. I chuckle at it now, for I think what a bulls eye I must have been. I was extremely thin. Face red with acne. I wore braces and a headgear. My nick names were radar, pizza face and frog face. In time, I grew to numb myself to it. I had my pet gerbils to give me joy.
By the beginning of middle school, my original two gerbils had died I missed them The new activities of middle school had, at first, kept me from considering buying a new pair. I got involved in track which for a limited time provided a success and a chance to make a few friendships. As the winter grew near track was taken indoors. And what I had thought had ended returned. School once more became a horror.
One cold and bright early Saturday, I took a bus and went to the mall. Walking inside the huge concourse lined with marble pillars, glass elevators and exotic flora were the many tempting stores just waiting to drain my wallet. One store that caught my eye, was a pet store. I walked in. The smell of cedar shavings immediately brought back memories of my two dear pets. The store was lined with colorful tanks full of brightly colored fish. Birds chirped. Puppies barked in hopes of finding a home and loving hug from a willing child.
I was slowly looking around when my eyes fell upon a group of cages that appeared empty. I smiled. I knew they weren’t. I went over. Huddled together at the far end of a plastic habitat were the light brown and tan furs of several sleeping gerbils. Wrapped around themselves were their long brown tails that was capped with a dark ball of fur. Such handsome creatures. Going over to another cage I saw a smaller one. It was by itself. I tapped on the side. Its long ears popped up. I sighed. I began to walk away. As I did I turned back a few times.
Nearing the entrance, I turned around and went back over. As I grew closer to the solitary rodent, I saw its ears pop back up into kind of a salute. I chuckled inside. I began to think. I still have the old cage. Though it had been need of repair from sitting in the damp cellar.
I moved in closer to the cage. I tapped again. I wanted to see its face. After a few taps its head groggily lifted up. It had a cute face. It seemed to me its ears were larger than most. “Cute little guy,“ I said. It yawned and laid its head back down. I took my wallet out of my pocket. I had enough for a new habitat and gerbil.
Slowly walking away. I stopped once again looking back towards it. I said out loud, “I’ll do it.” A few people gave me a strange look.
A teen with a running nose picked up my new pet and placed him in a small box. I felt bad that the gerbil had to be stock in a dark cramped box. I was wearing pants with side cargo pockets. I had thought about taking it out the box and letting it ride in my pocket. Even though my pants were of a thick khaki material, gerbil teeth are strong. And they are inventive. I didn’t want to risk losing it. I kept it in the box and slipped it in my pocket.
Once home, I removed the gerbil from the box and placed it in my shirt pocket while I immediately set up its new home. I put in a liberal amount of cedar shavings. Set up its water bottle. I cut up part of a flannel shirt of mine for it to shred up as bedding.
The gerbil began to move around in my pocket. It sprang up gripping its long digits to the lip of my pocket. I stroked the back of its ears. It yawned again and settled back down. I felt it would be a pity to disturb it. So I let it sleep a while in my pocket.
I made myself lunch while it slept. Smelling the food it sprang up again. I took a few pieces of corn flakes and fed it. It made quickly ate the flake. I gave it a few more. “No that’s enough for right now,” I told it pushing it gently back down into my pocket.
After lunch, I placed it in its new home which I placed on a table next to my bed. It ran around sniffing everything. Occasionally, it would stopped and stretch itself on its hind legs as if looking for something. “I have stuff to do. When I come back I’ll take you out again.”
I met up later with the few friends I had. I decided not to tell them about my new pet. I figured I would let it get accustomed to me and its new setting first. And later, after I did a few chores around the house, I went back to my room. I was surprised to find it was up being still daylight. I reached in and gently took it out. I sat on the edge of my bed. On its belly were little thin streaks of white that reminded my of sparks. It was at that point I decided what to call it. “Sparks, that’s your new name.” I tickled its belly with my finger. Next, I placed it down on my bed and watched it go sniffing around. “Don‘t leave any surprises,” I told it. Sparks huge ears lifted up.
At night, like the others, it was most active. While I was doing homework, I would let it crawl around my computer desk. Once, when I was online with a friend, Sparks crawled onto the keyboard, he must have hit something because I was cutoff.
Other times, I let it crawl around on top of my head. Or I would keep it in my shirt pocket. During the day, when I was home, I would place it on my lap where it would sleep. If I whispered its name; straight up went its ears.
When my pals came over, I let them handle Sparks. I was surprised how tamed Sparks was.
One scary time, a friend who had a cold was handling Sparks. The next day I saw how unresponsive he was. I called a veterinarian. The doctor told me it sounded like a very bad cold. I added more cedar chips to his habitat and more flannel for his bedding. He was too weak to take water from his bottle. I cradled Sparks in my hand and fed him water with a paper cup. At night, I wrapped him securely in a sock and placed him with me in bed. Under the covers, I kept him close to my chest. I felt guilty in letting someone who was sick handle him. For a few days I was afraid I might lose Sparks. Slowly he recovered.
I was so happy that he had recovered; for a few extra nights I kept him close to me in bed. I think that is when we kind of formed a bond.
One day, I was severely beat up after school. I was rather bloodied and hurting. When I came home, I went straight to bed in pain and frustration. Before falling off, I heard a scratching sound. Turning my head I saw Sparks at the side of the cage. “I can’t play with you now,” I told Sparks with a swollen mouth. It continued to paw at the plastic side. I reached over and opened the top. I lowered my hand. Sparks crawled up my hand onto my arm. I picked it up with my other hand. Keeping Sparks encased in my fist, I laid my head back down. A few moments later, I felt Sparks little tongue licking at the wound to my chin and its thin tiny paws holding on underneath.
Full of anger and humiliation I began to cry. Later, I realized I was soaking the top of Spark’s head with my tears. “Sorry little guy.” It sent its little arms over it’s a head a few times. It them moved its head against my chin that it had tried to nurse.
I really grew to love my little pal. I took Sparks many times with my outside. I once took it to a restaurant with a few pals. I think they must have thought I was nuts. Maybe I was. Well, anyway, a patron saw me feeding it and complained. I had to leave. Still, I took Sparks many places with me. To the movies. Sports games. Kristine a friend of mine, in Home Education class made a special pouch for it. I attacked it to a tank top of mine which I could place inside of my shirt. When I was at the gym on the treadmill so was my little Sparks. Kristine was nice enough to make also a little sweat shirt for Sparks. He didn’t like it. But he wore it.
After three years, Sparks began to show his age. He slowed down. On Tuesday, April sixteen, I was getting ready for class when I saw Sparks stretched out on the cedar chips. I suspected. But tried not to let the thought re-enter my mind. Opening the small plastic latch, I put my hand in. Touching Sparks with a finger, I felt how cold and stiff he was. I removed my hand. And sat back on my bed. I could feel that tension tears make building behind my eyes. I said to myself, “Its just a tiny rodent. A pet.” After a couple of minutes the tears streamed down my face. “I don’t care if he is a rodent I loved him.“
I took an expensive handkerchief my grandmother had given me for Christmas a few years back and that I had never used out of my dresser drawer. My fingers felt numb as I picked his cold, stiff form up in my hand. I placed him on the handkerchief and wrapped him up.
Placing Sparks, ironically in the same box I had brought him home from the pet store in, I went outside and buried him beneath a tree. I stood up after putting the dirt and a few stones over his box. My eyes were blurry with tears.
That night I threw the cage away. I kept Spark’s little sweat shirt. I never after that bought another gerbil. How could I. Nothing could replace him.
Slowly the pain subsided. When I took out the little sweat shirt, I smiled remembering my dear little pet with love.
After I graduated I was planning on entering college until that dark day of September the eleventh. Several days later I enlisted in the army.
I was in Iraq for three years. During a particular savage battle with the insurgents, I got shot in two places. One in the leg and another in my lower chest. I tried to find myself a secure position in an abandon house. I prayed that I would die rather than be taken by the insurgents. I prayed too for my fellow soldiers. Alone in the dingy smelly room I slowly grew weaker. At one point I heard footsteps. Entering my room were three Iraqi children. My first thought was, they would be used to kill me. I had no malice against them. I gave them my remaining rations. They picked them up and ran out of the room.
I waited for the end. I grew cold. I tried to warm myself up with my arms. I was going in and out of conciseness, when I felt something warm coil around me. To my tired mind I thought it was a snake. I ran my hand over the surface that was warm and furry.
The pain increased. Something grasped my head and body. I was pressed up against a very warm surface. I could feel fur touching the side of my face. The hand the grasped my head in a cuddling manner didn’t feel right. The fingers were long. Still, I felt at peace being cradled against this furry surface. “Who are you,” I tried to say. There was no response. “Thank you,” I wanted to tell the person.
Feeling a little energy coming, I moved my hands up. My fingers came across a thin, warm leathery surface. I moved my hands up it. As I moved my hands, I could feel thicker hairs. The object ended in a point. It reminded me of an ear.
With my face pressed up against the fur, I laughed. All I could think of was my pet Sparks. I remembered hanging on my dog tags, I had placed Sparks tiny sweat shirt. “Funny, I never forgot you,” I said out loud as the strange hands kept me in their warm embrace.
In a half sleepy state I heard many footsteps. I felt the strange hands withdrew. I fell into darkness.
Upon waking up, I found myself in a makeshift hospital. The first thing I did was reach for my dog tags that were tapped to my chest. With relief and joy I felt the tiny sweat shirt.