One of the “benefits” to my kids having split residences is that they have pets in both places. Since Gilly is allergic to cats, we could never have one at our house, so the kids have two at their mom’s. We have the dogs. And currently, at their mother’s, Will has a pet hamster – Nibbles (can we just say, ya’ll, that, for the first six months he had Nibbles, he mispronounced it “Nipples” which, you guys, I can’t even begin . . . )
Recently, the kids’ mom has changed her work schedule around – this means that, in addition to getting the kids every weekend, I now am taking them to school and picking them up from school a couple of extra days each week. Even though it means leaving the house way earlier, I’m thankful for the extra time with them.
So. Now that the stage is set, let’s get to the meat of this little story.
Friday morning was the first morning I’d be picking them up from their mom’s to take to school. Will has to be dropped off between 7:35 and 7:50, so, accounting for a school morning traffic pattern, I asked them to be ready at 7:20. At 7:16 (I know – I looked at my phone before deciding to leave it in the car), I proceeded up the steps to their mother’s apartment.
I knock. I hear Liv say “Dad, is that you?” and then “Will – it’s okay, Daddy’s here” in a voice that indicated reassurance.
The door swung open. One of my ex’s cats darted across the living room.
Liv: “Dad – we have a bit of an altercation” – (you have to love Olivia – she totally meant “situation” but was so flustered, and honestly not quite awake yet)
I looked past her, down the hall, where her brother stood, wearing a Duck Dynasty t-shirt, navy shorts, and no shoes, huge crocodile tears welling in his eyes. Looking back, I feel guilty that my first thought was, “um, that doesn’t look like it’s gonna meet the uniform code at school . . . ”
“What’s going on guys? Will – why are you wearing a Duck Dynasty shirt, bud?”
“Nibbles is gone”
I went into full on hunter mode. Have ya’ll ever seen that Duck Dynasty where they lose the lizard? If not, here’s a pretty good synopsis. We’ll wait if you want to watch it (the best part is at about 1:43 when Phil shows up with two methods of dispatching the “elusive reptile”). Well, that was me. And the kids.
By the crack of the door, sealing off any escape, were a toy from McDonald’s, a light saber, and a box of honeybuns. Situation: Locked down.
I entered the
arena room. It was as though every one of my senses were tingling. Man vs. beast.
“Will – make sure you brush your teeth . . . ” Liv was obviously more concerned with her brother’s hygiene than the fact that Nibbles was working to elude us plus two feline predators.
Now. At this point in the story, it’s important to note that Will’s room at his mother’s house is FULL. It’s not a very large room to begin with, and they’ve seen to it that it is stuffed with, well, stuffed animals (is that redundant) . . . at least 100 of them. Old school backpacks and paperwork from year’s past. A recliner. Approximately 4 million miscellaneous plastic toys, cars, cooking utensils, legos, and action figures. If you could get those hamsters from that hamster commercial where they drive the car, put them in a room with a whiteboard, and asked them diagram the perfect battlefield, this is pretty close to what it’d look like (they might’ve requested more pine shavings) . . .
I quickly and systematically begin taking everything out from under stuff and piling it onto his bed. I moved the recliner. I dug through books, including a Tigger book that makes a clanking pot sound periodically – “ClinkBangBoom” (it has one of those little touch pads on the side). I emptied, I’m pretty sure, his backpack from kindergarten. Cats are scratching at the door. I move to the toybox area – nothing. I move to the closet – I relocate the smart cycle, a gigantic toy he hasn’t played with since we got a wii (2008?) . . . I pause and listen, hoping for the sound of scurrying. What time is it? Left my phone in the car.
I finally get to the bed. Will still uses the red race car bed my parents bought him when he was 2. It’s pulled about 10 inches from the wall, apparently so we can stuff that space as full as possible with toys. This would be where we would meet. I felt a chill run down my spine. You guys, it was just like that scene in Braveheart, right before they do the battle and Bruce is charging everyone up and I’m blurring between a vision of Catherine McCormack and a Blue Webkinz Jr. Rabbit . . .
I begin systematically digging the toys out, piling them on the bed. I get from the front bumper of the car to the passenger side tire when I see a movement . . . NIBBLES . . . at this point, Liv is involved in the hunt.
EVERYONE IS AFRAID TO TOUCH HIM!!!!
Now, I’ve dealt with some critter removal in my day. The neighbors call me when snakes get into their porches. I’ve conducted armadillo relocation efforts. I once rescued a flying squirrel from my sister’s cat. But, I’m glancing around at my cohorts on this mission, and let me just say, they are not exactly displaying any courage. And I’m starting to wonder just how vicious this creature must be . . .
I flail blindly into the gap between the bed . . . I have him for a brief second . . . he bites me and wriggles away . . . the whole world seems to speed up . . .
“LIV – WATCH HIM!!!”
“I see him dad”
Slide the bed away. Oh no. He’s racing for the recliner. I pick the recliner up, set it on the bed, which is now piled taller than I am. I make a mental note that my ex will probably have some less than jovial words about this mess. I make a mental note about the fact that I’m chasing a vicious hamster around her apartment at 7:30 in the morning.
He beelines for the dresser. One more dive and . . . I got him! Biting and squealing (did ya’ll know hamsters could squeal), I cram him into his cage, still in the same condition it was in when he escaped.
I walk into the kitchen, open what I (correctly) guess to be the junk drawer. Grab a roll of shipping tape (is my ex running a fed-ex? Who has shipping tape but not Duck Tape?); race back the room. The kids had placed a couple of large books over the door Nibbles keeps opening. I straighten the stack and begin wrapping. I wrap the other door, the one to the wire part of the cage. I tape the entire structure together. With a couple of stamps, Nibbles could have been well on his way to, well, wherever hamsters are from . . . China? Africa? Auburndale?
Finally done, I walk out, verifying the cats aren’t in the room with the hamster. Will’s got his shoes on. Liv’s gathering her school work.
Out the door. Down the steps. Into the car.
Pick up my phone. It’s 7:31. Halfway to school, after some laughing and recapping and reassuring that Nibbles will never be free again, there’s a pause.
“Oh – Daddy – I almost forgot – because it’s free dress day.”