Suzi Winson


Something Gross

Alice and Freddy spent Saturdays that summer digging up dead hamsters in the backyard. Freddy liked to see various stages of decomposition and he exhumed various brownish furry clumps wrapped in aluminum foil to show Alice what being dead was all about. Unfortunately she understood all too well and lived in fear for most of her childhood that she would get buried in the backyard and turn into one of those hairy shit-colored objects. Alice was 5 and Freddy was a fearless 7 year-old. The hamster collection was one of an extensive managerie of rodents and reptiles that Freddy had procured, alternately nurtured and tortured, and ultimately buried. The hamsters had a particularly fleeting existence. He had a succession of what they thought of as Hamster royalty: A pair of light gray hamsters named King Boudoin and Aunt Mona who died of suffocation or perhaps resentment in a badly ventilated fishtank, their successors, Hamlet and Cinderella, who turned out to be both boys, perhaps even homosexuals as Hamlet killed Cinderella in what looked to be a jealous rage over a Guinea Pig named Mr. Henderson. The sexual politics of this was over everyone's head so they figured that perhaps Hamlet died of grief and Mr. Henderson of Dutch Elm Disease which they had heard had killed a lot of trees on the block and rumor had it among the under-7 set that it was now after Guinea Pigs. When the real Aunt Mona died, the one from Rego Park, not the hamster, Alice wondered if she and Freddy could dig her up and unpeal her foil wrapped body, but there was no one to ask since Freddy had told her never to mention the hamster thing to mom and dad which probably meant she shouldn't ask about Aunt Mona either.