Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
- Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"
A brace of Guinea pigs are in my house. My eldest, Sophie, is playing host to these two wee beasties for the weekend. They belong in her classroom, believe me. But while they are here they bring endless joy to my children and continuous temptation to my cat. Last semester there was only one wee beastie, named Roxy, but she died over the holidays. We think perhaps a dog got to her, but it was not our fault, not our watch. Two new beasties were then purchased, one named after the former, Roxy, and one named Bailey.
I walk into the girls' bedroom and there on their dresser is the Guinea pig pen, the cage. The door is open. "They won't get out," says my wife. "They leave it open in the classroom." But their escaping is not the problem. There in the cage lies Talullah, our cat, full-bellied and purring contentedly.
I am dreaming as I lie on the couch. I'm tired and I have a small headache. I wake and find myself in that middle place between waking and sleeping. Curled up, I face the couch and hear Sophie behind me talking to one of the pigs.
Sophie sits in the recliner holding Roxy (the new Roxy, not the old dead one). As she holds her, I hear, "She just pooped on me! Roxy just pooped on me!" And what I thought would turn into panic and little first-grader squeals becomes a strange source of delight and a "Whoop!" The squeals of joy summon the other children to assemble. Peals of laughter follow "She pooped again!"
The children gather. An empty styrofoam cup is picked up and I hear the small pellets being dropped into the cup by Anna. Plonk, plonk. I hear it, the sound is unmistakable.
"Don't touch the poop," I say, wasting my breath.
"Why not?" says Anna.
Like an electromagnetic pulse, her question shorts out my capacity to think rationally. I take a conspicuous step toward Insanity and say, "Do you touch Daddy's poopy?"
"Then don't touch Roxy's, okay?"
"Sure, Daddy." I hear another pellet plonk lightly against the styrofoam.
Soon afterward, their mother herds the children outside into winter to play. All of them go but Avery. The yellow-haired child wants to hold the other wee beastie, Bailey.
Avery grabs Bailey and sweet-talks her. She sounds like her mother or me as we cajole potty-trainees. "C'maw, Baiwey. Wes see yoh poopy. I wanna see yoh poopy," she singsongs. "You can do it. Wes see dat poopy." I suppose the pig-rat is being gently squeezed as well, as Avery tries to physically generate the little turds, but my back is turned and I do not care to roll over.
Bailey, confused, calls out a string of questioning squeaks and oinks. I don't speak the language of the little wee beastie, but I can only imagine she is saying something like "AAAAAGH!"