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February 14, 2009
Re-draft of an exercise done last term, focusing on voice rather than on the weirder elements of the original excercise. Unfortunately, I don't feel that this piece reads quite right just yet, so may have to see if I can do some additional tweaking later on.
Hamsters and Eggs make the Best of Friends
The girl knelt by the cage and peered at the fluff-ball in the corner. She rummaged through the various foods she had raided from her mother’s kitchen, where she had hauled at a chair twice her size in order to reach the cupboards. She selected a stale cheese and onion crisp, poking it through the bars at the small rodent on the other side. It was eaten. The hamster crunched it.
So, that was a success: the hamster likes crunchy food. What to try next?
She knew. She’d had to clamber right up to the highest shelf to acquire it, banging her forehead on a cupboard door in the process, but she had finally looted her mother’s supposedly secret stash of liquorice toffees.
Not so good. Apparently sweet, hard, and sticky didn’t go down so well with hamsters as with humans.
So something softer? There were some leftover hardboiled eggs from two weeks ago that she’d found at the back of the fridge. She carefully mashed the egg through the bars towards the rodent’s quivering nose. The egg was well on the way to decomposition and had become a hive of different food-poisonings, all of which were now soaking into the hamster’s system – but she didn’t know this. In the child’s mind, the link between nasty smells and getting ill was non-existent. Getting bored with the repetitive process of giving her hamster supplementary nourishment, she started to absentmindedly pick at the luxuries herself, making up restaurant games in her head, until her Mummy made her tidy up and go to bed.
The next morning she woke up early, head spinning, stomach rolling, and feeling spectacularly sick. As she tottered on unsteady little feet towards the bathroom she noticed her hamster on its back in the cage, all four paws in the air. She stuck a finger through the bars and prodded it. Stiff. Strange… why wasn’t it moving? All thoughts of the pet vanished as her own illness clamoured for attention.
Two hours later she sat on a bed in the city hospital, an IV drip snaking into her arm. Her Mummy leaned over to her.
“Lizzy, this is Doctor Conran. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with you yet, but he’s going to help you get better, okay?”
No. It was not okay. Lizzy didn’t want to be here, she wanted to be home. She didn’t want to be stuck with the doctor, he had cold hands. He prodded and poked and she didn’t like it. The man had short blondish hair and big, hazel brown eyes, with a wide and welcoming smile, but his eyes were full of quiet contempt. Lizzy stuck her tongue out at him, turning away and crossing her arms in a sulk.
The next morning Conran told them it was a viral infection; he could only treat the symptoms, not the cause: that was down to her immune system.
As soon as she heard the news, Lizzy’s attitude brightened. Finally she would be able to escape the mean man and have fun. As they left, Lizzy sighed with relief and sagged against her mother, her body tired after killing off the infection. She was glad she was going home, and secretly started plotting Barbie tea-parties in her head. She wondered if she’d be allowed to paint her bedroom pink?
In the driver’s seat, glancing back at her little girl’s dozing form, Lizzy’s mother desperately tried to remember if they had any spare shoeboxes lying around the house.