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Friday, January 29, 2010

Lesson Learned

I was quite young, in primary school, when I received my first and only score of less than perfect in a class. Having earlier forged a compact with my mother concerning my education, I knew that my punishment would be swift and extreme. Frightened and humiliated, I showed my marks to Mother. And elicited her rage.

“A-minus?” she bellowed. I cowered under her mammoth shadow, my voice temporarily paralyzed by fear.

“Why?” she cried, “Do I not provide for you your every need? Do I not allow for you your every want?”

“Please, Mother,” I begged, finding my voice, “I promise to do better. I’m such a good boy!”

Mother smiled menacingly.

“Good boy, you say?” she taunted, “Why don’t you show Mr. Wiggles what a good boy you’ve been.”

I gasped as she produced a hammer from behind her massive back. My hamster, Mr. Wiggles, had just received his sentence for a crime I had committed. Mother thrust the hammer into my tiny hand.

“Mother, I beseech you! Not Mr. Wiggles!” But my entreaties went unheeded as she stood silent, pointing toward my bedroom door, behind which Mr. Wiggles lounged, blissfully unaware of his rapidly impending doom.

Mother, her face now wearing a hideously evil grin, led me forcibly by the arm to my bedroom door. The struggle had abandoned me, and I stopped before the door, slump-shouldered and sniffling.

“Now, go show Mr. Wiggles how much you love him,” she ordered, “Let him know how hard you’ve toiled at your studies. Exemplify for him his importance to you.”

But my strength was rapidly diminishing, and I felt unable to carry out the sentence. I could feel Mother’s heavy impatience enveloping me, and peripherally sensed the movement of her bear-like paw grasping for the hammer. I immediately withdrew the implement, and quickly twirled about.

“No,” I protested, weakly, “He’s my hamster. I should be the one to do it.”

Mother’s features softened, and I could see the pride flash in her eyes.

“Perhaps,” she said, “You are a good boy, after all.”

I managed a thin smile and entered my bedroom. Closing the door tightly behind me I quickly discarded the hammer and rushed to Mr. Wiggles’ cage. He was napping.

“Mr. Wiggles!” I said, shaking his cage, “Wake up little friend! Your life is in grave and immediate danger!”

Startled, Mr. Wiggles awoke, his eyes flashing with urgency. Our eyes met briefly, and I could sense the depth of his appreciation. But our tender moment was interrupted by a sudden violent rapping at the door.

“What’s going on in there?” Mother demanded, “Is it done?”

“One moment, Mother,” I stalled, “I’m, I’m just reading the last rites.” I felt the burning onset of panic as I rushed the cage to my bedroom window and opened both.

“Go to your freedom, Mr. Wiggles,” I cried, “You must hurry before Mother discovers our treachery.”

But Mr. Wiggles hesitated. Even though my bedroom was on the first floor, the window’s elevation was too high for his rodent bones to withstand the fall. I quickly decided to carry him the last few steps to his liberty. As I stepped out the window onto the ground, I realized that the knocking at the door had stopped. The silence was eerie. I gently placed Mr. Wiggles on the soft grass.

“Go now, my friend,” I stammered, “Run to sweet freedom!”

Mr. Wiggles looked at me, gave a slight nod and a wink, and scurried away. I wiped a tear from my eye, and, removing my hand from my face, noticed a shadow moving over my newly liberated former pet. I looked up at the form blocking out the sunlight. It was Mother! Looking at me, her eyes ablaze with furious delight, she raised a furry object above her head, the sunlight revealing Esmerelda, Mother’s diabolical housecat.

“Don’t you want to go to college?” Mother roared.

With that she cast Esmerelda downward, precisely on top of Mr. Wiggles as he fled. The countryside became alive with the sounds of her demonic laughter and the tearing of flesh and bone. Oh, the blood!

And as quickly as he had found liberty, Mr. Wiggles found death. In shock, my eyes found Mother’s.

“If you need me,” I said softly, “I’ll be studying.” Lesson learned.

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