Memories rise like swamp gas from dank depths to burst at the surface and propel me to days forgotten. Today’s blister holds the hamster that my sister, two years senior, convinced our parents we would care for after she’d seen a litter at a friend’s house. Ginger arrived in a small cage and drew blood when my sister put her hand inside.
Salve and a bandage were applied, plus Momma’s kisses, which I wanted badly enough to offer my finger for the swift bite that garnered no sympathy as I should have learned from my sister’s mistake, or so I was told. Hamsters are not born tame, but we didn’t know that. Nor did we know their life span was only two years. Our interest proved far less.
There were delighted weeks in which she napped in our shirt pockets and loaded her cheeks with sunflower seeds. But the novelty thinned, and the exercise wheel squeaked, and she was moved from our room to the garage, where not long after I found her dead. We said we’d take care of her, and we didn’t. I didn’t.
Guilt bit hard like those tiny razor teeth, and burrowed deep into the warren of my heart, to birth litter after litter of small things I couldn’t save, not least of which the fetuses that slipped my uterine grasp.
It’s only after all these years that I remember I was 5; hardly a responsible age.
© Dana Hughes 10.26.21