The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

José and the Jaws of Death

Frances LeMoine

The hamster's rear right paw was caught in one of the spokes of his exercise wheel. The wheel had a blue rim and yellow spokes. His paw was the color of a pine cone.

The hamster, José, squeaked in a small, high, hamster-like voice, as if to chastise Michelle, saying, "Michelle…my paw…it is caught.…I fear I will lose the paw if you do not act immediately." His tone also implied that had Michelle cleaned the wheel earlier in the week, as she had intended, this state of affairs could have been avoided altogether. His small voice chided, "Ahh…the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

"Oh, no," Michelle cried when she saw José's predicament. "What shall I do?"

José could only look up in irritation with his grease puddle eyes and hope to somehow, without words, appeal to what little common sense the child had.

The pain had become excruciating, and it took all of the discipline José could muster not to wriggle and further entangle his paw, or quite possibly his right flank.

After a few moments of raising her eyes left, then right, Michelle squealed, "I know! The ice tongs!"

Michelle ran to the kitchen and after searching through three drawers, found the ice tongs in the fourth. She raced back to the room and found José barely conscious and gasping for air.

"José, I found them, the jaws of life! I'll save you!"

The hamster heard her words and despaired. "Now," he thought, "I am done for."

Michelle opened the top of the cage and gently inserted the tongs. She had the faulty wheel in her grip, and with her left had, gingerly tried to pry José's paw from the wheel. The wheel snapped in two, and with its snap came the sick sound of Jose's leg being torn from its flank.

"Oh, no," Michelle whispered, horrified at the sight and at her clumsiness.

"Be quick about it," Jose sighed hoarsely. "Take that pencil from the desk over there.…One shot to the heart.…Please."

But he knew he must die slowly. Michelle had never understood him. And she surely wouldn't understand his successor. And with that thought, his shiny grease puddle eyes slowly closed, resigned.

After much whining and pleading, when her ears could no longer bear the din of the familiar vows, Mommy promised to find a new pet for Michelle. "I'll take care of it. I'll feed it. I'll keep it away from Raymond. I promise, Mommy, I promise, please, I swear," Michelle begged, slick tears lighting her dull eyes.