Sunday, May 20, 2012


Betsy longed for a hamster. The chaos that often broke out like an aftershock of siblings came unexpectedly and with large booms. Betsy figured hamsters would soften the blow.  She had done research, pledges, polls, and even plucked shameless tunes of the tiny rodents on her baby Taylor guitar. In any normal household, Betsy’s extreme devotion to a pet she didn’t even own would grant her the permission needed to get the hamster, but with both parents having bad experiences ranging from psycho hamsters to seemingly brain dead ones.  It would take a lot more than a baby Taylor to win them over.

Betsy made collages, diagrams, and just plain asked so often that her parents began running out of ways of saying “No.” Eventually, they ran out completely. One day Betsy asked the usual question. “Can I get a hamster?” Betsy pleaded, holding a wilting bouquet of pale pink roses. Betsy braced herself for a loud NO, for she had heard far too many sincere, apologetic responses lately. Instead, she was surprised by her dad stepping up and beginning a story:
“Once upon a time there lived a normal hamster,” he began, “who went on suicide missions in the air duct, chewed through walls, and escaped to every nook and cranny whenever the chance came knocking.”

Betsy stood utterly confused by her dad’s proposal of hamsters being such trouble. Trouble. Could hamsters really cause such a thing?  Betsy chose to ignore the horrifying story and continue to plead and beg while her parents continued to threaten and poke at her dream. “Trouble” they continued to say, “Trouble.” Finally, after the 496th “trouble,” Betsy gave up. She stopped pleading and begging, and her parents stopped threatening and poking at a dream that no longer lived.

Betsy suited herself for the longest time with duct tape hamsters living in their cage that she assembled herself using loose chicken wire from her dad’s old projects. They made great company until one birthday; Betsy realized that fake hamsters would not suit her any longer. She inspected her gifts thoroughly but none of them were moving or hamster shaped. Betsy sat in a frozen mix of emotions until it was time to open her presents. She received shirts and bedspreads and socks and everything was normal. Before long there was only one present left. It was large and hastily wrapped with a pink bow that was monopolized by the shocking fuchsia paper. Unwrapping the present, Betsy took slow, deep breathes to the beat of the ripping paper. It took Betsy a couple of seconds to realize that she had unwrapped a state of the art, fully assembled hamster cage that was waiting to be lived in. Betsy was a cherry Popsicle of happiness.  Her face, flustered and red, was rooted stiffly to her head in a giant smile. For a while she stayed frozen just staring at the thing. Is this for my duct tape hamster? She wondered. Are they pulling my leg? It took Betsy a while to notice how her parents’ smiles were just as big as hers. The cage was not for her duct tape hamster, but a real one.  There was no need to go into long complicated speeches. Betsy understood immediately that all she needed to do all those times was take a break from begging. 

The cage would not be lived in for a while though. Betsy needed the time to find the perfect hamster. Every afternoon, after school, Betsy rode her bike to the local pet store. The hamsters, as Betsy now knew, flew off the shelves like a best selling book, so there were new hamsters nearly every week. All new except one. One lonely, gray, scrawny hamster remained. Week after week it was excluded from the pack of shiny, new, mahogany colored hamsters. 

One special day, Betsy decided to bring her dad to the pet store for her final decision on which hamster would be hers. “That one.” She pointed to the scruffy homeless hamster. Her dad looked slightly confused. “He sure doesn’t look like a TON of trouble,” Her dad agreed. Trouble. Not that word again. “What are you going to name it?” Her dad whispered.   

“Trouble,” Betsy replied. “I’ll name him Trouble.”  


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