One of our beloved hamsters, the same hamster that survived the flight from PDX to DCA, misjudged the width of that tiny slice of space on display when an interior door is open; the back edge of the door where hinge meets wall.
She tried to ram herself through that space and got stuck, head on one side, little body frantically wiggling on the other like a tragic Pooh Bear. Unlike the A.A. Milne version, the beginning of my story was heralded by shrieking children ascending from the basement in a panic.
We tried moving the door, ever-so-slightly, to see if we could make that small space slightly wider. I had the bright idea of dousing the hamster with water to see if that might make her slide out.
By the time I returned, ten seconds later, it was too late. A puddle of blood had formed beneath her mouth. Her eyes were vacant.
I covered the hamster with a cloth and ushered the kids upstairs to the living room. We all cried. They suggested mouth to mouth. They suggested a pet hospital. They told me stories of people who have been technically dead then come back to life.
Here's the thing I realized about my kids. They don't accept death easily. Here's the second thing I realized; they were going to need to see the body.
Except, gruesomely, little Nixy's body was still stuck in the door.
It's funny how quickly our instinctual aversion to dead things sets in. What was alive and cuddly ten minutes ago quickly goes to an it, something we don't want to touch.
I found a spatula in the kitchen, (the long-handled variety) and maneuvered the hamster out from between door and wall, trying not to notice how said maneuvering made her head twist at Linda Blair angles. I laid her on a towel and told the kids they could say their good byes.
"I just want to go back to that moment before she ran in that direction and scoop her up," said my daughter. "I want it to not have happened."
I wondered if that's the way everyone feels after a tragedy, even one as minor as the death of a hamster.
Whenever bad things happen in my life, I too find myself longing for that moment right before the cloud of badness burst open to reveal what was lurking around the corner. Even in movies or novels I have a hard time with destruction. I don't like things to get messy or go too deeply under the surface.
Which makes it odd that my books focus on all those dark, uncomfortable places. Or maybe not so odd. If writing is a cheap form of therapy it stands to reason some of us writers would use our words to push on the sore spots, testing to see if they're still there and what it means when you press down hard and they hurt.
What about you?
Is your writing therapeutic?
And don't worry, I'll have part two to the hamster diaries coming up in the next post.