He was a Syrian hamster, although he didn’t know that. And his proper name was Mesocricetus auratus, which means ‘middle sized golden mouse’, and he didn’t know that either. Something else he didn’t know was that the German word for hamster is ‘hamstern’ meaning to hoard, which is what hamsters do with their food. Come to think of it, this hamster didn’t know very much, did he.
He lived in a cage with Pricilla, Pricilla Amelia Henrietta Creighton-Smythe. “Cost, thirty five pounds from the best pet shop in town,” said Pricilla’s mummy. The cage, that is, cost thirty five pounds not Pricilla; and the hamster lived in the cage on his own that is, no room in the cage for the hamster and Pricilla. All on his own, for hamsters love humans, but are not so keen on other hamsters, definitely a case of “One’s company, two’s a crowd.”
He didn’t say much, for, as Pricilla’s mummy used to say, “Silence is Golden.” But he was a happy hamster, “A quean, fwendly hamster,” Pricilla used to say proudly, “an inquistive, an inquitive, an inquistitive, a nosey little hamster.” For Pricilla was only six and had noticeable difficulties concerning pronunciation.
It was a happy life He was well looked after and fed on peanuts, sunflower seeds and maize. In return he would perform little tricks, like juggling the peanuts and hiding the maize. “Amaizing, I’m sure he’s nuts,” said Pricilla gleefully, for six year olds are well into little jokes.
Mummy was not so certain. She had been strictly brought up not to play with food and thought it might teach Pricilla bad habits.
Being big and strong, and by hamster standards, handsome, he was called Rambo. Daddy thought it was a macho name; mother thought it vulgar and common.
Everyday Rambo exercised to keep in shape. Fifty runs around his hamster wheel; fifty runs up the stairs to the second floor of his house; fifty more to the top floor. Water bottle throwing to keep his muscles strong. Nut hiding to keep the mind in shape.
But favourite was the trapeze. Wheeeee, Rambo swung through the air with the greatest of ease, an awesome hamster on a flying trapeze. Wheeeee, backwards and forwards.
One weekend evening, when Pricilla was staying overnight at her friend Tara’s house in Wisteria Grove, the house was quiet and mummy and daddy were asleep. At least I think they were asleep.
Rambo practised and practised. Wheeeee, backwards and forwards, faster and faster. Suddenly Rambo lost his grip. He flew through the air with the greatest of ease, what a pity, minus trapeze. Rambo hit the door of his cage with a bang, the door flew open and Rambo, eyes closed, was launched into space.
Rambo landed on Pricilla’s bedroom floor with a thud, his fall broken by the sheepskin carpet. “One hundred and twenty five pounds from Mr al-Fayed’s Harrods.” said Pricilla’s mummy He opened his eyes and surveyed the scene, Rambo that is, not Mr al-Fayed.
“The night is young,” thought Rambo.
A leisurely breakfast in the Creighton-Smythe household, caviar on toast washed down with champagne, Cristal of course, was interrupted by shrieks and wails. An empty cage had been discovered.
The next few hours were hectic. Everything and everywhere was examined minutely. Boots, shoes, slippers, boxes, bags and bins, all were emptied or upturned.
Every room was subject to scrutiny: the bedrooms and the bathroom, en-suite of course; the kitchen, the lounge, the study, the drawing room, the library, the utility room and the conservatory; the linen cupboard, the toy cupboard and the broom cupboard; top shelves, middle shelves and bottom shelves; the loft and the wine cellar. Nothing, neither sight nor sound of the rascal rodent. Mother reached for her antidepressants and daddy for his whisky.
A plumber was sent for, “Double time on a Sunday, call out charge extra,” said mummy. The bath surround, marble of course was duly dismantled, to no avail. The fireplace was removed, the chimney behind examined. Mother ‘popped’ her pills, daddy made short work of the whisky.
Rambo was determined to enjoy his newfound freedom. He tiptoed into the master bedroom. Yes, Mummy and daddy were asleep. At least they were now. Rambo examined the books on the bedside cabinet.
“My! What funny positions human beings get into when they are together,” thought Rambo.
He peeped into the wardrobe. “And what a busy lady mummy is,” he thought to himself as he viewed the policewoman’s uniform and the nurses’ outfit. “And fancy keeping her school uniform after all these years.”
Rambo wandered into the playroom. The room was full of familiar faces: Barbie and Ken; Tinkerbell and Buzz Lightyear; Bratz, Jessie and Woody.
He visited the bathroom, climbed onto the sink and surveyed the first aid cabinet. Such an array of medicinal wonders. Ointments, capsules, tablets, drops, oils. To keep you awake and send you to sleep. For constipation and diarrhoea. To steady you down and lift you up. Oshadhi Oils and Armani Cosmetics, and lots and lots of pills. White pills, red pills, pink pills, brown pills; and little blue pills in a box marked ‘Daddies, Keep Out.’
Rambo tiptoed through the rooms, wide-eyed, at least as wide-eyed as hamsters can be. With hamsterish stealth, he viewed the wealth. Rambo invented a game, ‘Spot the Name’: Bang and Olufsen and Jimmy Choo, plus Linley furniture, all on view.
Dawn came and with it daylight. His adventure became less exciting, more frightening. It was cold and draughty. Everyone knows, or ought to, that hamsters hate draughts most of all.
Shrieks and wails broke the silence. Large feet, very large feet, at least to a hamster were suddenly everywhere. Almost terrified out of his wits, Rambo ran behind the Miele washing machine and climbed up the pipes. He espied a hole in the wall where the pipes went through. “A small hole for mankind but a large hole to a hamster.” Heart pounding, Rambo squeezed into the dusty, dark hole. And there he stayed.
The commotion seemed to go on all around him forever, at least it seemed like forever to a hamster. Rambo wished he had never escaped. But eventually the noise subsided. Rambo thought for a moment. “What was he to do?” But in his hamster heart of hearts he knew exactly what he had to do.
He made his way quickly back to Pricilla’s room and eyed his cage. Up the table leg he nimbly climbed. He deftly opened the cage door and, before you could say, “Happy hamster” he was in. He closed the door behind him, as any bright hamster would and settled down in his safe, warm bed in his safe, warm cage.
Time began to run out for mummy and daddy. The alternatives were not encouraging. Buy a Rambo ‘double,’ too late; leave the country, again too late; suicide, too drastic.
The doorbell rang. Mummy staggered to the door. Tara’s mummy stood at the door with Pricilla. “Good morning, Mrs Creighton-Smythe, my word you do look ill.”
Mummy leant on daddy for support. He too looked decidedly the worse for wear.
“Hello mummy, hello daddy, how’s Rambo?”
Pricilla was past mummy and daddy before you could say ‘Mesocricetus auratus.’ She vanished into her room.
“Hello Rambo, have you missed me. Have you enjoyed your weekend?” Her words drifted through the open door.
Pricilla reappeared holding Rambo carefully in her hands. “Thank you, mummy and daddy for looking after Rambo,” she said.
“It was nothing,” said mummy as she slid non-too gracefully to the floor.