Please be aware that this story contains harsh language.
For eighteen years, I never let a single gosh darned freaking swear word slip off of my tongue, and I was proud of that. I still am proud of that, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with those special four letter words. I developed all kinds of elaborate shenanigans, fillers, and replacements to take their places. ‘Freak’ was a pretty good one. ‘Fudge,’ ‘Frack,’ and ‘Frick,’ were all heavily utilized substitutes, but there’s something you miss by adding a fifth letter to the equation. It’s like eating sugar free candy on Halloween, or a tofu burger at a cookout on the fourth of July. You can pretend all you want that it’s the same thing, but you know what?
It’s just freaking not.
I was on my way back from work, in a little bit of a hurry, because I planned on going for a run before dinner with my family, who were coming in from out of town to visit at 7. I’d started training for a half marathon, but the past week had grown incredibly busy with errands and work and school and watching Richie’s motherfreaking hamster.
My friend Richie went out of town on Friday for a spontaneous trip to the beach, and had asked me to watch his glorified rodent, named ‘Squash’, for the week.
I left work in a hurry, planning to swing by Richie’s place, feed Squash, go home, go for a quick run, shower, and meet my parents by 7 at the Denali Grill. As I started my car, I heard my phone ring.
“Hey man, can you grab a gallon of milk for me? I’m going to a cookie night and I’m afraid that we might run out of milk…”
This is my roommate, Rob. Rob does not cook, he is not a homemaker, and he has never baked cookies in his life. He will, however, do anything to spend time with certain ladies, including going to events like ‘Cookie nights’. I assumed, rather correctly, that this was another feeble attempt at gaining the unique attention of a certain lady.
“Yeah, sure.” I said. “I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”
“Oh, dude. Thanks. You’re a lifesaver. Be sure to get whole milk, none of that skim milk stuff.”
I hung up the phone, swung by the grocery store, picked up a gallon of whole milk, then raced over to Richie’s house to feed an impoverished glorified rodent.
It was about this time that things started to get complicated.
I could feel my blood sugar slowly dropping – Having nothing to eat throughout the day can have that effect. I decided I’d feed Squash quickly and get back to the house as fast as I could before it dropped any lower. But as I opened the cage to feed this poor excuse for a domesticated animal, it leapt out, onto the floor, as if gasping for air and reaching for freedom.
I chased the rodent around the room, grabbing random objects, including a cup, a bowl, a pillow, an Xbox controller, and a dvd case, to try to corral the beast into a corner. None of those were very successful, and I could feel my blood sugar dropping faster.
I needed something with sugar in it. Preferably something to drink, so that I wouldn’t be full when I went to dinner in an hour and a half. I checked the fridge.
I looked at the jug of milk.
I considered it.
Then went for it.
I cracked open that gallon of rich, whole milk, and took a long swig, rescuing my blood sugar from a deep plunge. I turned to the hamster and continued the chase.
My blood sugar dipped lower, and I chugged more milk, somehow thinking that I would have better luck catching the rodent with higher blood sugar. Finally, after nearly 30 minutes of chasing that freaking beast around the room, I grabbed a box, threw it over the rodent, and grabbed it’s furry, fragile body in my hands. I returned it to its cage.
Just then, the door opened and Richie stepped inside, all sunburnt and tanned from the spontaneous beach trip. He trotted into the kitchen.
“What’s up, man?”
I ignored him, carefully lowering the rodent into its confinement. I let him crawl in.
But before I locked the cage, it jumped out, leaping toward the kitchen, where it leapt toward the open gallon of whole milk. My hands followed the demonic rodent, and collided with the jug, spilling thick, whole milk all over the kitchen and all over Richie’s red, sunburnt skin. I slipped, and saw the rodent running toward the open door.
“Don’t let him get out!” Richie squealed.
I grabbed a large plastic bowl that had been left on the counter, and tossed it toward the door. It plopped down right onto Squash’s head, announcing it’s landing with a soft ‘crack’.
And that’s when I said it.
Squash was dead. My stomach was full of whole milk. Richie’s kitchen was full of whole milk. My parents were arriving in 45 minutes, and I was absolutely sure that I would never stop hearing from my roommate about missing the chance to impress that certain lady at the cookie night.
I stood, slowly, as if I was some kind of ridiculous warrior rising from a battlefield. Richie examined the fallen rodent with solemn silence. I wiped up the milk and watched as Richie placed the rodent body back in his cage.
I later apologized to Richie for killing his rodent, and he accepted my apology.
“I got pretty scared.” He shrugged. “I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’d ever heard you say ‘fuck’. That was some scary shit. I mean, sorry. I know you don’t say that, but you have to admit, it was scary.”
I was ten minutes late to dinner. My parents were glad to see me, regardless of still smelling of whole milk and dead hamster.
“What did you do today?” My parents asked, in their obligatorily curious tone of voice. “Anything eventful?”
I considered. Then answered:
“No.” I said.