Once upon a time, two weeks ago to be precise, our ten-year-old used his birthday money to purchase a hamster. He'd been begging us for well over a year and the answer was always no. A resounding no. For starters, we have a cat. Hamsters escape. I didn't want the bloodied carcass of Garrett's beloved pet strewn about the room. But he begged and begged and it was his money and I caved. Then, I caved Troy.
We brought Frisby home.
And Garrett became the cutest hamster owner there ever was. He doesn't complain about cleaning her cage (yet). He gets her out in the morning and he gets her out after school. He remembers to put her in the ball to run around. He invites his friends over to play with her. He calls himself her dad.
Yesterday, he had her on the bathroom counter while he was getting ready. As she has demonstrated, in her short time with us, a keen ability not to care if she falls from certain heights, we asked him to never put her on the counter again. We just weren't sure that she wouldn't jump to her suicidal death.
This morning, Matthew brought her into the bathroom and put her on the floor. It was his fault but it wasn't intentional. He didn't know there was an inch gap between a board on the floor and the cabinets. He didn't know that this gap led to a dark space under the cabinets. He didn't know that at the back of this dark space was a hole that led straight into the secret passages of the skeleton of our home.
The hamster disappeared.
Garrett came and reported her whereabouts. At that point, none of us knew the hole existed. I thought she'd eventually come out for food and was relatively unconcerned. He was asking us to take a sledgehammer to the wood. We were refusing. He started sobbing and begging to be allowed to stay home from school. Eventually, we were on the ground with flashlights and tools, trying to find her. It was then that we discovered the hole. I took the boys to school.
When I got home, Troy heard her scratching under our bathtub. It was then that we knew she had escaped the small cabinet space and was now free to roam about the edifice. We spent some time trying to figure out what to do. I decided, because I lean toward the dramatic, that she would die in the walls. My son would be distraught as we all had to smell her decomposing body for weeks. I tend to be every bit the unfeeling robot and, when Garrett asked if we could sledgehammer the wood, I'd replied, "For a 15 dollar hamster?" But, once I thought Troy had left for work, I sat in the middle of the floor and cried. He hadn't quite left and, when he found me, he asked, "Are you okay?"
"I like her!" I wailed. I didn't want her. I had hamsters as a kid. They were cute and fun AND SMELLY AND POOPY AND I DIDN'T WANT ANOTHER ONE! But this is a sweet lil hammy. And I expected her to live longer than two weeks. AND I hate when my babies are heartbroken. Girls, this is your warning. Hurt my baby and I will straight up cut you. (Or something more godly and less violent.)
I continued to hear her pattering around under our tub. As the day progressed, I became convinced that she'd somehow gotten down and couldn't get up. She was stuck. She'd die there, just beneath our showering feet.
I called my dad who gave me some ideas of how we might get to her. I called Troy and relayed the ideas. He had been thinking up some of his own and promised me he'd come home from work early to try to rescue her. I called my mom and whined about our terrible predicament. I prayed.
I kept checking to see if I could still hear her in the tub. At one point, I pulled a broken piece of grout out of a crack next to the tub. Sticking a screw driver in, I pried. I was hoping to create a hole big enough to send food and water in. As soon as I started messing around at the corner, she ran to that place and furiously started scratching. She was just a few inches away, trying to get to me and there was nothing I could do for her.
"Frisby," I said. "Please, I know you're in there. People are asking where you've been. They say have courage and I'm trying to. I'm right out here for you. Just let me in." No. I didn't. I did not start singing Frozen songs to her. Although, in hindsight it seems as good an idea as any. I did say, "I know you're there. I'm trying to figure out how to get to you." And then I recorded her frantic scratching.
And then, the tub went silent.
I couldn't hear her anymore.
When Troy got home, I wasn't 100% convinced that she was still in there. So, with my head nestled up against the toilet, I pressed my ear to the side of the tub and listened long. Maybe I hear something? And then I heard it loud and clear, her desperate, familiar clawing. Troy had removed a light fixture from the room below, hoping to be able to find a way to her that didn't involve sawing a hole into our tub or moving a panel out of shower and going through the drywall. Apparently, his messing around beneath her sent her into a frenzy. He decided that approach wasn't going to work.
He removed the piece that I have come to know is referred to as a bathtub trip lever (a.k.a. the drain lever). That didn't pan out either. He decided to cut a small hole in the drywall in the hopes that she would see the light and come out. It would seem that his stud finder is still single for a reason because, despite using it ahead of time, he was met with a beam. Unless the hamster planned to chew her way through a thick piece of wood, that option was no longer viable. We now had a hole in the wall and a hamster on the loose. He put the trip lever back together.
He asked me what I thought was better, a hole in the side of the tub that we would have to plug up or removing a bunch of the shower wall and cutting through drywall. Oh gee, um, lemme think. NEITHER. "You have to make that call," I told him. At some point during the fiasco, I'd gone to retrieve the boys from school and we were now working on homework. "I'll just keep practicing spelling and you can decide what you think is best."
When we got to a stopping point, I went upstairs to see what he'd decided. He wasn't in our bathroom. "Troy? Where are you?" I called out. The boys' bathroom door slowly opened. He had a finger pressed to his lips. "She's in there," he whispered.
Do you remember how I'd left a piece of food in the claw of the metal tool? Troy happened to walk past the boys' bathroom on his way to get his drill to demolish our tub when what should he see but that tool moving (seemingly) ALL BY ITSELF. We think his messing with the lever and cutting a hole in the wall freaked her out and she somehow managed to decide that she wasn't stuck after all and she was going to hightail it outta there right quick.
This is one of those things that I like to call a modern day miracle. Troy was on his way to destroy our bathtub. He JUST SO HAPPENED to walk past the bathroom at the precise moment that she JUST SO HAPPENED to eat the pumpkin seed that I had stuck on his tool hours before. THANK YOU, LORD!
I laid on the floor and stuck two of my fingers over the lip. She instantly nibbled first my middle finger and then my pointer. I grabbed a piece of food and held it up. Her tiny face emerged. Never have I been so thrilled to see the face of a tiny rodent staring at me. I held the food out and she tried to take it. I slowly pulled back. She placed one paw over the lip. I continued to pull slowly. Another paw. It was a tight squeeze for her and she flattened her body in pursuit of the food. Finally, she was top heavy enough to fall over the lip and onto the floor. I immediately scooped her up.
"Garrett," Troy called. "Can you come help me with something up here?"
He bounded up the stairs and, when he reached the bathroom, I held my hand out and gave him his hamster back.
We've only had her for two weeks and already the antics are outrageous. Tonight, Frisby, who Garrett sometimes affectionately refers to as Hammy Lammy Ding Dong, is happily trying to get out of her cage. Because, it would seem, she learned nothing from her day at large.