JUMP THIS, SHARK: THE STORY OF THE HAMSTER STORY
I was hanging with my buddy Rich today, and conversation turned to violence against household pets.
Bear with me here…I promise you that this is not a setup to me becoming a serial killer.
Not me, anyway.
I was the oldest of five–four boys and one adorable little girl, the youngest of the lot. You put two boys together, there’s trouble. You put three together, there’s constant warfare. You put four together, and some Geneva Convention accords are going to get violated.
We belted each other within inches of our lives; one of my brothers kicked out one of my teeth and hit me in the face with a wrench–not at the same time–among many other incidents. And when we didn’t feel like beating on each other, we looked to other targets. We never got to crucifying-the-cat-on-the-barn-door levels; we just used to do minor harm. We’d play Grenade–take magnolia buds, which look like grenades, and loft them at the dog across the street. We’d test the theory of cats always landing on their feet (as long as they’ve got room to turn over, they do–unless you send them on tail-over-teakettle flips). And we decided to do a centrifuge test on a hamster in a plastic ball, spinning it as hard as we could and sending it across the room. (Okay, that one wasn’t so minor–the hamster apparently died of a heart attack soon afterward.)
Man, why am I telling y’all this?
Anyway, the apotheosis of our pet-tormenting came when my little brother Andrew brought home from school a shoebox full of baby hamsters. Seems that his class hamster had just given birth, and the teacher–foolishly, in retrospect–trusted that Andrew’s house would be a safe haven. So Andrew brought the box of hamsters in, proud as all hell at his new responsibility. He sets down the box in our kitchen. We all oohed and aahed over the hairless, shuteyed little fellas. And then–inexorably, as if in slow motion–my brother Stephen took hold of both sides of the box. None of us stopped him; none of us really wanted to. He took the box off the table…
…and tossed the hamsters in the air.
And he actually caught most of them.
I honestly don’t remember what happened next, except that we were all laughing so goddamn hard that blood was coming out our noses. All except Andrew, of course. Anyway, we told and retold and re-retold that story so many times that its very name–“The Hamster Story”–came to represent any tale in our family that had long outlived its prime. Years before “jumping the shark” came into vogue meaning roughly the same thing, we were “tossing the hamster”…so to speak.
Please don’t hate me for this.
In the latest pimp, an interview I did with Jazma Online is now up; click here for a fine little interview that includes the rationale behind the violence in SUNDOWN: ARIZONA, plus my recap of the first story I ever wrote. If I can find it, I’ll post it.