Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Babysitter

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
-Anatole France

This week my brother and his significant other were travelling outside the country. Mater and my cousin obliged them by tending to a family of five gerbils. They agreed to be caretakers, to be suitably respectful of their furry charges, feeding them regularly; but they were not inclined to exhibit much intimate affection for the little fellows.
When I was last at home in Ireland, and a female rat came to stay with us for a week in similar circumstances, I talked to her, promised that her owners would be coming back soon, reassured her that I was a friend, to the extent that I missed her when she went home again.
I could not expect that my mother would provide the same level of attention: she is reluctant to dwell too much on animals and their habits and her single task was merely to ensure the gerbils' safety and physical well-being. Curing their homesickness was not part of Mater's agenda.
All was going well until last evening when Mater, prior to departing for the airport to pick up the pets' human parents, entered the zoo-room and found not one but two gerbils inspecting her shoes, dashing about and generally running amok. Mater could see, from her frozen position in the doorway, that the cage door had been left open and so, of course, the curious creatures took the obvious path.
Mater's feet were welded to the carpet as the gerbils raced this way and that and all around.
Between being not sure at all how to begin catching the gerbils, and fearfully wondering how she would tell their owners about the disaster, Mater was suspended for a time in a frame of inner hysteria that did not manifest itself in physical expression.
She at last let out a roar for my cousin, a bellow that could be heard over the fields.
He came running, but the would-be hero reeled in astonishment when his grim task was revealed.
Mater took the opportunity to make that most essential drive to the airport and was out the door in a flash, leaving my cousin on his knees, scrambling around for the precious, wayward pets.
They were caught, eventually. Mater is an honest soul and told the resolved tale as soon as the passengers met her at the airport.
"Don't worry," Mater was told in jest, "you aren't fired from the job!"
I suspect that Mater, who was still trembling and traumatised, might have liked to hear otherwise.


Barb said...

Love this story ... brings back memories of my pet mice as a child, that escaped in our laundry room and my mother on her hands and knees crawling around to corral the little critters.

Great chuckle. Barb

Pappy said...

I'm with Mater on that one. Gerbils are just one gene removed from rats. I don't know if I would have been so accomodating even to family. I had to baby sit a small dog this past weekend and it was always in danger. One misstep and it would have been in doggie heaven. It survived and was returned to its owner. I haven't missed it. Pappy

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Barb, I liked your little story too. I once had to put my pet birds back in their cage, and that was tough because they were flying, and hitting the walls in panic. So it's not easy to catch an animal.

Texican, Mater will be glad to hear it, and I understand it.
I actually see squirrels as rats with bigger tails, I do. I used to think they were cute but not any more. I suppose some see gerbils and mice the same way. I could see why. I'm actually surprised Mater was so willing to babysit them.

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