The honest truth about guinea pigs.
|Back away real, real slow, I whispered to Teddy. We were in danger here and we knew it.
Teddy was my little brother. Eleven years old then, about to celebrate his birthday. I was two years older.
Well, we began backing toward the shed door. It was half open, and the afternoon light slanting in made it only barely possible to see inside that old gardener’s shed. I remember thinking how far away that door seemed. It felt like we would never get to it.
'Don't run,' I told Teddy.
Guinea pigs can smell fear. That's the absolute truth. Whatever you do, don't ever run from a guinea pig. I want you guys to remember that!
I had heard about wild guinea pigs before, but I had never actually seen any. Well, I have now, let me tell you. They were everywhere. We backed up slowly, never taking our eyes off the furry little devils. They must have numbered in the hundreds. They were on the floor at our feet. They were up on the shelves above our heads; their noses all twitching, smelling our scent. I remember their eyes. Devil’s eyes. Little red beady eyes that seemed to pulsate inside their heads. The stench in the air filled our nostrils. Make no mistake, it smelled like death inside that dark old shed.
Well, with each step we took backwards, them guinea pigs took a bunch'a little guinea pig steps forward. Suddenly the shed door made a creaking sound and I hoped there was someone coming inside to save us. But no! When we turned around we spotted more guinea pigs, these ones pressing their front paws against the door. They were closing the door! They were closing it! They were trying to trap us!
Now we were in almost total darkness. But for one grimy window, there'd be no light at all.
I heard teddy’s voice, pleading, ‘Do something, Carl! You're my big brother, only you can save us now!'
I looked around for a weapon. Something to fend them off with. Anything. A rake, a broom, something! But there was nothing of use.
I could sense them getting closer. My heart was pounding in the center of my chest. I thought it was going to explode. They were all making little squeaky, wild guinea pig growls. As my eyes adjusted, I began to see them inching toward me like wolves with their hair up on their backs. They seemed to have forgotten about Teddy who was cowering over by an old rusted lawnmower. They had their sights set on me and me alone. They were in a half circle fanned out around me, inching nearer.
Now, I owned two guinea pigs when I was about eight. They were nothing like these, though. Mine weren't wild. Then I noticed that these hairy creatures stalking toward me weren't just guinea pigs. There were rabbits also. Perhaps three hundred of 'em. Maybe more. White ones, just like the two rabbits I used to own. They, like the guinea pigs, had little, red, beady eyeballs staring at me from everywhere. I don't know if you've ever heard a rabbit growl before, but let me tell you, it ain't a pretty sound.
Then I spotted something even more frightening than guinea pigs and rabbits. Hamsters! That's right. Wild ones! Thousands of 'em.
I had owned guinea pigs, and rabbits and hamsters at different times as a boy. My mother let me have two guinea pigs until I forgot to feed them, then she gave 'em away. Then I went to rabbits, until I forgot to feed them too. Then hamsters. Guess who my mother gave 'em to? Each and every time she found the dish bowl empty, guess who she gave 'em to? That's right, the gardener!
This was the gardener's shed! Could it be? Could these be the offspring of those nice little pets I had forgotten to feed? They were looking at me with such loathing. Such vile contempt. They wanted blood. My blood!
It was then I remembered about the snakes I once owned. Instantly I could hear hissing from all four corners of the shed. Snakes, everywhere, slithering toward me with their tongues darting out and their cold eyes fastened to mine.
Get out, Teddy!' I screamed. 'Don't worry about me,' I said. 'For the love of God, save yourself!
Well Teddy got out alright. Problem was, he ran. You never saw a kid run so fast. He must have just forgotten to not run. He crashed right through that old door like it was cotton candy. Soon as them critters smelled his fear they were after him. They all flew past me one after the other. Even the snakes were in a big hurry to slither after poor Teddy!
He ran panic stricken into the forest; a forest much like this one we're in now with all the guinea pigs and rabbits and hamsters and snakes in hot pursuit. It was my fault for not feeding my pets properly. I live with that fact to this day! We never saw Teddy again. Found one of his tennis shoes. That was it. Just one red sneaker all chewed up with little guinea pig teeth marks all--
“Are you scaring my children, Dad?”
“Just telling 'em about my kid brother.”
“Don't listen to a word he says, boys.”
“It's not true, is it Mom?”
“Not a word of it. Now go to sleep. We're going hiking in the morning.”
“Yeah, well, you guys can believe what you want, but you gotta admit, you haven't seen your Uncle Teddy around much, have you?”
“Dad, stop it! You never had a brother, and there's no guinea pigs in this tent. Good night, kids.”
"Sometimes late at night, people say they've seen a kid wearing one red sneaker..."
"Sleep tight, fellas."