Here's the second installment of the book I was writing. —Marnie
My cockatiels lived at
that time in their own outbuilding, a flight cage of about a hundred
square feet, and so Rhody, the aptly named Rhode Island Red, was the
little house's only resident fowl. She had lost a leg after becoming
entangled in chicken wire and had thereafter been brutally ostracized
by her fellow hens. Chicken flocks, it turns out, are not equal
opportunity organizations. She passed her remaining days in the yard
with my three dabbling ducks and slept, each night, on my the
headboard of my bed: butt facing out, paper beneath. The ducks slept
in a doghouse out of doors, because even I had my limits.
cat—Mewzetica—and three guinea pigs—Piglet, Nellie, and Iggy
Tribble—rounded out the mammal population of my little house until
I brought home three mice and a pony. The pony, Sir Lancelittle, had
spent his first five years of life tied to the outside of a lion
cage, a sort of live entertainment act for the two resident cougars.
My mom drove by one day to the sight of the two cats crouching, tails
a-flick, and the pony twenty feet away pulling back against a
straining rope. She bought him there and then, loaded him into her
Vanagon, and offered no objection when I borrowed him as duck yard
mower and occasional house guest. In defense of my sanity, I will
tell you that he was only allowed in the kitchen, that he was never
permitted to poop indoors, and that he slept in the barn with our ten
big horses. There was only so much room in my bed.
The mice were a symptom
of my first crush: I was 14, recently returned from summer camp, and
a percussionist of 17 had captured my attention. He was the first
vegetarian boy I'd ever met. On my last night at music camp, he
walked two miles to bring me a rock which we had both admired. We
named it Howard: 52 pounds of garnetiferous mica schist.
My timpani player loved
classical music, Apple computers, and pet mice. We had music in
common—I played flute and cello. Apple computers? Check. I had one,
back when they were roughly the size, shape, weight, and color of a
standard cinderblock. Mice were the missing element, and in a fog of
teenaged thinking I decided that I needed some with which to lure the
object of my affection from his Seattle home to my Whidbey Island
Rimsky was plump and
golden, Korsakov exotically splashed with black and white, and
Glinka, their underweight albino companion, thrown into the purchase
out of pity. I set the three “boys” up in a nice large cage. All
was well, for a time.
Anyone who has ever
examined a male mouse will know that male mice are anatomically—how
to say this—well, let's say “testicularly endowed.” There is no
overlooking mouse balls, and yet somehow I overlooked the absence
thereof on little Mr. Korsakov until the day that I awoke to sixteen
little pink pups suckling at Mr. Korsakov's breasts. Make that Mrs.
Korsakov. My dad, ever the handy assembler of pet cages, had recently
moved to the area to set up his own household. With his assistance,
the little weanlings and their parents were soon moved into a set of
nineteen mousey condos: six inches per side, two feet tall, each
equipped with stairways and landings so as to lend interest without
taking up floor space. Still, the colony required about half of my
kitchenette and at least an hour a day of my time. Cleaning my room
was more akin to mucking out a stable, and I don't believe I ever did
get my percussionist over for a visit. I wouldn't have had time.
It is in this context
that you must understand my present day argument: that no, we do not
have too many pets, and that yes, I really should bring my two mules
in next to the hearth for next year's Christmas photo. It's really a
very reasonable request.