He crouched to look at the guinea pig. “So that’s Baxter, huh?” I tried to conceal the quick look of shock, but he saw it anyway. “Yes, Lola, some dads can actually still squat,” he smiled. “No, not that, I’m just surprised you know his name,” I said, feeling the colour creeping into my face, starting at my cheekbones. He noticed the blush, motioned towards the cage. “You have a tiny wooden sign with ‘Baxter’ written on it right next to the cage, Lola. I’d have to be much more tired, stressed and old than I actually am to not see it.” I nodded, in the usual way, where more of my head than my face is visual.
“So the guinea pig bit it?” I asked, looking at the empty cage. “Hmm?” asked the director, not really listening, looking over the month’s lesson plans. “Guinea pig,” I pointed to the cage. “The sad sot finally bit it, huh?” She gave me a look that implied I was heartless. “Oh come on,” I protested. “There aren’t any kids here right now and it’s like ‘guinea pig the 15th’ so one gets a little, you know, inured to small rodent death.” A new thought struck me. “Can you even remember its name?” She put the papers down. “Of course! It was . . . George?”
I shook my head. “No. Bonnie.”
“Oh yeah Bonnie of course I was thinking of the, um,”
“Hamster. George was the, well, hamsters.” I wonder if she noticed the plural. She didn’t seem to be in a very good mood.
“So what did you tell them happened to it?” I said, hoping I could steer the conversation away from the sudden chill. “Oh!” she smiled. “I told them he’d gone to see his grandma.”
“Grandma?! That’s novel.”
“Well you know how right now the parents are discussing whether it goes to Heaven or it just dies? I thought it would be best to just say something no one could argue over. So: grandma’s.”
“Did the kiddos buy it?” She brought the papers in front of her, stood them up and aligned the sides. “Not at first. They said they’d never heard of a guinea pig having a grandma. Then I told them ‘You know how all of you went on vacation for Christmas? So did the guinea pig. And you know how all of you came back to go to school? Well the guinea pig didn’t.”
It suddenly stuck me a little sad. “That guinea pig is a callous bastard, you know.”
“I covered that too,” she continued. “I said that ‘oh, the guinea pig doesn’t want you to be lonely, so he’s going to send his cousin,”
“Her cousin,” I corrected before I could stop myself. She glared at me momentarily. “The children corrected me as well. Anyway,” she sighed, “then they were all excited to meet the guinea pig’s cousin.”
“Great story,” I told her. “But where’s the guinea pig cousin?” She looked at me blankly, then quickly at her watch. “Shit! I have to buy a little furball don’t I?”
Havana sleeps on the pillow beside my own, which is either sweet and comforting or completely unsanitary, depending on your proclivities. Sometimes at night when dreaming or nightmaring my hand falls on her and she purrs. Mostly it wakes me up but sometimes it just becomes integrated in my dreams, which is why this morning I awoke with a start from a dream about an Iphone that was licking my hand.
The kitten – Havana – is unlike any other abandoned five week old kitten I’ve known. I would make a joke about devils and possession but I haven’t decided if that’s in bad taste, so I’ll refrain.
Of course she has been to the vet (“Where’d you get this? It smells like motor oil!”) and is now completely healthy.
I won’t go into excruciating detail about how cute she is drinking her tiny bottle, or any of that sort of thing that is solely interesting to pet owners and usually the specific owner. She has a tiny bottle. She sucks from it greedily. She chases dust incessantly, and she can climb anything (this does not bode well for six weeks and onward).
She has also changed lying in bed with mono into a game of survival (she will chew a human ear) – which, given the tone of the past few weeks (i.e. morbid) is actually preferable.
So, Havana = probable hellion. Definite life enhancer.