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 against soft my neck and 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 disappear under 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 idea of him suffocating, even though he was dead. We dug a grave under the weeping willow and held a solemn ceremony, complete with all five 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 because all I could do was compare them, which I knew wasn’t fair. Nevertheless, I was passive-aggressive, reluctantly offering a friendly gesture one day and “forgetting” to feed him the next. When I found him stiff in his cage one morning, 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 still suffer the shame of being a hamster killer. Sure, he was just a rodent and I was only ten, but the fact that I’ve never told anyone tells you a lot about me.