Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

When I was a freshman in college, I went through a deep funk. I couldn’t manage to pass any of my classes (One aspect of my life that has definitely changed over the years), and my love-life was a wasteland (Another aspect of my life that hasn’t changed at all).

To console myself in my misery, I decided I would buy myself a rodent friend: a hamster.
So I went to the local pet shop on Main Street in Provo (I think it was called “Jay’s Jungle, and I’m fairly certain it’s still there), in search of a brainless fur-ball. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I discovered three cages full of mice, two cages of feeder rats, and not one blessed hamster in the whole stinkin’ store.


Be that as it may, I would not be deterred: I had just purchased a $10 ten-gallon tank from off a Wilk-board advertisement and bought nine-hundred pounds of cedar shavings. I was determined not to leave the store without a friend. So I went back to reexamine the mice and rat selections.

The mice were pitiful, with their blind stares and pink albino eyes. I became totally uninterested.
Then, I looked at the rat cages.

I stared for a long time.

First, I saw two rats licking each other’s faces and cuddling together to stay warm, and I thought how bizarrely endearing they both were, if not somewhat disgusting. Then a little black-hooded boy popped his head up from out of a mass of others eating from a communal food bowl. He was smaller than the others, but he looked curiously straight up at me.

I bought him five minutes later.

I was obsessed with Jackie Chan movies at the time, and I wanted to name him something Chinese. My roommate’s fiancĂ© spoke Mandarin (I didn’t realize at the time, Jackie Chan was from Hong Kong, where only Cantonese is spoken), so we named him “Way-ba” or “tail.”

Wayba was something special. His disposition was sweet, and he was smart. He learned tricks, and he would sit on my shoulders for hours while I wrote papers or talked on the phone. He was the perfect friend, and when I would cry, he would lick the tears from my face. He was not unlike a very, very small dog.

I kept Wayba for two and a half years. During that time, I moved three times. He handled it well. For a while, he even lived at my sister’s apartment, when an unreasonable roommate would not let me keep him in the apartment (Neener, a best friend, would hide him during winter cleaning checks by rapping his cage up like a gift for a day or two).

When he died in the spring of 2003, my heart was broken. I don’t think, with exception of one dog I had, I ever loved an animal more.

I took his little body to the mountains, and buried it in Rock Canyon, after digging a more than adequate hole in the sand stone with a pick axe I “borrowed” from BYU Grounds Crew.

I tell this story, because after two years of being petless, and almost five years of being ratless, I’ve been looking into the possibility of some new friends.