A Guinea Pig Named Emmet
Emmet lived inside a pen, inside a room, inside a house. For as long as Emmet could recall, everything happened inside of a something. Emmet’s oldest memory of life was inside a pet store, but that memory was foggy and faint. In fact, all Emmet really remembered about life in the pet store was that amazing, wonderful day when a boy stopped in front of Emmet’s lonely pen and said, “Mom, Dad, come here!” Two adults had rushed to the boy, and David Davy – who would soon be Emmet’s super-bestest friend – said, “Look! It’s a teeny-weeny German Shepherd.”
That was the day Emmet left the store and went to live in a home. Emmet remembered how happy David had been that day. He told Emmet that he’d always wanted a German Shepherd, because they’re man’s best friend. It just so happened that earlier on that amazing, wonderful day, David had gone to a party for his other best friend, Jacob. David explained that Jacob was Jewish, and the Jewish people decided that when a boy turns thirteen, he’s automatically man and he gets a party. Since David had been thirteen for six months already, that meant David was a man, which meant he should have a man’s best friend, and that is exactly how Emmet became David’s German Shepherd.
It was a wonderful memory. Emmet recalled lying on the floor draped over David’s shoulder as he stroked Emmet’s fluffy, black and ginger fur. “You know,” he said, “my parents didn’t want me to have a German Shepherd. They think I’m too irresponsible. They think I won’t take good care of you.” He’d raised Emmet up in the air, and looking straight into Emmet’s brown eyes, he said, “I’ll show them. I’m going to be the best, best friend to my man’s best friend. Don’t you worry.”
On that amazing, wonderful day, Emmet’s only worry was being so high off the ground, but that dynamic would change.
The first few months after Emmet came home with David had been the best. He cleaned the cage regularly and feeding time often included treats like carrots and apples. David would also take Emmet out of the pen every day to play. Emmet loved when David wanted to play, because just sitting in a pen all day was boring for a German Shepherd.
It was not long after the amazing, wonderful day that Emmet got to meet Jacob, David’s other best friend. To Emmet, they were the three best friends. David and Jacob had toy figurines they used to recreate a story about a hobbit, and they knew all about the story from reading books. The two boys would play with those figurines a lot, and when they did, Emmet was no longer Emmet. Emmet was Smaug, the great and terrible dragon.
When reenacting Tolkien’s books, David would sometimes raise Emmet into the air and pretend the fearsome dragon had taken flight. At first, this was terrifying. But after a while, Emmet looked forward to the excitement of these little “flights,” particularly since it broke up the monotony of life in a pen.
“Oh no!” David would say as he carried Emmet over a pile of dirty laundry, “Smaug is guarding the treasure within the lonely mountain. His breath is death.” And David would growl, “Raaar!” as Emmet swooped down over Jacob’s figurines, which were fleeing into retreat. The memory elicited a melancholy sigh from Emmet. Because David had changed. Because life inside of this pen, in this room and this house had gone from wonderful to rotten. Really rotten.
The first big change Emmet noticed in David was when his voice started getting squeaky when he talked. Things got extra weird when Jacob started coming over to play and they didn’t play. They just stared at their phones and did nothing except talk about things other people were doing. Emmet would paw at the side of the pen, spin in circles, run back and forth, anything to get the attention of David and Jacob, but they stopped noticing. They stopped playing.
When David turned fourteen, the bottom fell out. Friends hardly ever came over, and David was gone a lot more than he used to be. He’d stopped telling Emmet all his secrets and bringing treats. David had a girlfriend and was busy thinking about other things than his pet. Life in this pen had become terribly boring, terribly sad and particularly lonely. Emmet spent a lot of time thinking about the past and hoping for something new and exciting to happen.
As David’s interest in Emmet diminished, so did his dedication to keeping up with the cleanliness of the pen. The cedar shavings were now piled so high, that if Emmet tried to run on the oversized wheel in the cage it would undoubtedly fling dirty bedding up in the air that would come raining down Smaug-only-knows where. The wheel had never been used anyway. Emmet had always preferred to play with David, but David no longer preferred the company of his pet.
Emmet knew David well, and it was sad the same could not be said about David. There were so many things that David did not know about his German Shepherd. Among the many things he did not know about her was that she was fastidious, fussy, and - that’s right - female.
As Emmet recollected the journey to this sad and lonely place, her internal code-brown alert system leapt into the red zone. It had been at least a month since David had properly cleaned out the pen. Every now and then, David would throw down fresh shavings over the old ones. Yet in its current state, Emmet’s home was an obstacle course of excrement. She shifted anxiously in the corner of the pen, surveying the filthy enclosure for a clean path and trying not to think about the growing urge to go.
Fresh from the shower, David, walked into his room, grabbed a slingshot on his dresser, dropped his towel and assumed his ritual after-shower pose. Copying the posture of Michelangelo’s David, he twisted his naked body just so, held the slingshot to his shoulder and made a very pensive face.
“I look just like him, don’t ya’ think, Emmet?”
David never turned his gaze from his reflection. Emmet had learned that these days when David started a conversation, it was really with himself.
Emmet liked things clean, and being unable to do much about the cleanliness of the living quarters, she was left to agonize about the best place to go when nature called and made a habit of going in the spot furthest from her food dish. Emmet raised each foot high in the air before carefully considering its forward placement. Finally reaching the far corner, she slowly wiggled her hind legs apart, digging down in the shavings hoping to go far enough to hide what she was about to do, but hoping not to go so deep as to encounter any of the foul things already buried in the shavings below.
One last little wiggle and No! Gross. She felt a familiar shape give way beneath her left foot and immediately knew she had stepped in her own poop. She suppressed an urge to gag and muttered, “My home is disgusting.”
Oblivious to the torment in the pen beside him, David tossed the slingshot back on his dresser and pulled a pair of boxers from a dresser drawer.
“Emmet, your cage stinks,” he said, once again speaking to his reflection and not to Emmet.
He pulled a grey t-shirt from the dresser and walked to his window, opening it to allow some fresh air into his room. Fall had finally arrived in South Florida and the sweet-smelling air wafted across the room. David took a bag of cedar shavings from under Emmet’s pen, and dumped the shavings over the old ones and over Emmet for that matter.
“Watch out below,” he said as he emptied the bag.
David pulled the grey t-shirt over his head but immediately realized it no longer fit. He pulled the shirt back off and tossed it across his cluttered room where it came to rest, dropping halfway off the dresser and dipping just above the wheel in Emmet’s pen.
While pulling another t-shirt over his head, David’s cell phone lit up and music began to play. Slipping on a pair of jeans, he watched the phone ring for just a few seconds, then picked it up and said, “Brooke, hey girl…” as he walked out the door.
Emmet delicately skipped back to the corner beside her overflowing dish, which was full of woody, compressed pellets of food. What Emmet wouldn’t give for a slice of apple or a carrot stick. She let out another sigh and nibbled unenthusiastically on a pellet as she surveyed the filth that was her home.
She wished she truly was a great, fire-breathing dragon. She could incinerate the filthy shavings in her cage or better yet, she could take flight and fly right out of her pen and out the open window…The open window!