Joe – creative writing
Monday 30 September 2002, 19:45hrs, I am walking down the High Street in Gillingham, North Kent after leaving the station when I finally got out of my delayed train from Victoria. I had to wait fifteen minutes outside Chatham station before the train was allowed to move. By the time I reached home, I would have missed Coronation Street and I would have to wait for the episode to be repeated on ITV 2.
As I reached the door and about to put the key through the lock, my 10 year old son James open the door with a smile on his face, saying, “Hello dad, come in the dining room.” As I entered the dining room, I could see a cage on the dining room table and in the cage there was a hamster.
James said with a smile, “It is my new pet Dad.” I asked who gave it to him and James replied our next door neighbour. I asked how did it happen. James said, “I was playing out and Frank’s sister Jade asked me if I would like to have a pet hamster. And I said yes please.” June came downstairs and into the dining room, smiling too and said, “Do you like the new arrival?” I asked June: “Are you and James going to look after the Hamster?” June, James’ mother, replied: “No, its James’ pet and he would look after it”. I asked where is it going to stay? And June said, “In James’ room.”
James said with a smile, “The name of the hamster is Joe after the lead singer of my favourite rock band, Slipknot.” The hamster was brown and white and it is known as a Syrian hamster and it is a common one for pets. There are other types like the Russian hamster but they look more like mice then hamsters.
I said to James, “Why don’t we call the hamster Snowy?” James smiled and said: “No, the hamster’s name is Joe after the lead singer of my favourite rock band.” After a while I agreed to Joe being the new hamster’s name. Then James and I took the cage to his bedroom. We decided that the best place for the cage was on top of his small wardrobe.
The following Saturday James and I went to the library to get some books on hamsters. On the way back from the library we visited a few shops including the pet shop on the High Street. When we got home, we started reading some of the books on hamsters and we learnt that they like to sleep during the day time and are active at nights. They like to exercise a lot on the wheel and in one of the books it said that we should take out the hamster about once a week and put it in a plastic ball for hamsters with holes wide enough for them to breathe and narrow enough to stop the hamster from escaping.
Our hamster ball was green in colour and James was keen to put Joe in the ball. I said we should wait until late in the evening when Joe would be up. The book also said that it was important that the water bottle is full each week, and the hamster bowl should always be full with different types of food to eat. Also the wood chips needs to be changed once a week. Hamsters like empty toilet rolls as toys. They enjoy going through them and biting the ends of the roll. As an addition, we added a thick piece of wood for Joe to bite and scratch on in the cage. This helps Joe to sharpen his teeth and nails.
James wanted to look up on the Internet to find out more about hamsters. I thought it would be a waste of time because I did not think we would learn anything new. However, I agreed to let James search on the Internet for hamsters and I sat down on the chair. James switched on the computer so he could use the Internet. The search engine picked up many webpages on hamsters and James asked which one should I look at? He continued to say that they were over a hundred to choose from. I replied with a smile you decide. James enjoyed looking at the different pictures of a hamster and after twenty minutes, he had enough and switched off the computer.
After reading the books and the Internet, we learnt that hamsters tend to live on average for about two years. We were not sure how old Joe was but we guessed he was over a year. Hamsters like to like to live on their own and it is very difficult to breed them. Joe was clearly a male hamster and he had the bits to prove it.
Later on in the evening, James took out Joe and put him into the hamster ball and let him roll himself around on the ground floor. Joe would move up and down our passage, living room, dining room and kitchen. We tend to leave Joe in the ball for no more then an hour or when he looked tired.
Sometimes, you can tell when Joe has had enough of the ball because Joe does not move and can stay in the same spot for a few minutes. That’s our calling sign to put Joe back in the cage. When Joe is in the cage, the first thing he would do is have a drink and then go below the first floor where he has made his bed. You can’t see him sleeping because he would hide himself with the cotton or bits of tissues.
On Sunday, James would introduce Joe to his friends when they came round and James was pleased to have a pet hamster because some of his friends had pets too and he wanted to be part of that group of children that had pets. Sometimes James would take Joe in the garden with his friends and let him move about in his ball while he played with his friends.
James even asked if we would let him have a dog like his friend Peter who lives seven houses away from us. I said no way because I did not want to be the one to lose two hours sleep getting up in the mornings to walk the dog and to do the same thing before bedtime. Also it is simply too much work looking after a dog. After a week, it was clear to me that if I did not take responsibility in looking after Joe, I would not know for sure, if he had a full bottle of water, his bowl was full of food and his cage has been cleaned. June clearly was not interested in taking the responsibility of looking after Joe even though she agreed for James to have the pet in the first place.
Every Friday was cleaning day for the hamster cage and I would always make a point of getting James to help clean the cage before he had his supper. While we clean the cage, we would put Joe in his ball and let him move freely on the ground floor. Each time we clean the cage, we would rearrange the things in the cage to make them more interested for Joe.
One night during a working week, James woke me up at 3 am and he said calmly that Joe is out of the cage. We rushed back into his bedroom and closed the door. We looked behind all of the bedroom furniture carefully and we found Joe behind James’ bed. Joe looked tired and must have walked around the bedroom for hours in the dark. I looked at the cage and noticed the cage door was open and it was clear to me that James had forgotten to close the cage door when he took Joe out to play with a few minutes before going to bed.
James picked up Joe from behind the bed and put him in the cage and I reminded him to close the cage door when he has put Joe inside the cage. I said to James try to get a few hours sleep and I put him to bed. I asked James, how did he know that Joe was out of the cage. And he replied, I woke up with Joe on my face. I said you must have been scared and James replied no, should I have been? I smiled and replied that I don’t know. James said that Joe must have jump off the wardrobe and made his way to my bed. I smiled and said that sounds about right and kissed him good night. As I went to bed, I made a mental note to check the cage door before going to bed for now on.
On Christmas day after James opened his presents, he started to open Joe’s presents, which were sweets, toys and food. James took out Joe’s bowl and threw out in the bin the remainder of the food and added Joe’s the new food and sweets that was part of Joe’s presents in the bowl. He also added fresh water in Joe’s water bottle and put a few of Joe’s new toys in the cage.
On Sunday 28 June 2003, I notice that Joe was not coming out from the bottom of the cage. So I put the cage on the floor and open it up and removed the first floor and I saw that Joe was dead. I put back the floor and left the cage on the wardrobe in the hope that James would not notice that Joe passed away. That evening, James was too busy playing outside with his friends to notice Joe.
His Mum, June called him in for his supper, which was always, a few minutes before 19:30hrs because James like to eat his supper while watching Eastenders and/or Coronation Street, pending which day it was. Before James’ bedtime was up, he wanted to play computer games with me. After about ten minutes playing computer games, James went to bed and he was too tired to notice that Joe was not up.
Monday morning, James got ready for school as normal and again did not notice that Joe was not moving around in his cage because he was busy rushing to get ready. Also James wanted to leave early too so he could get a lift from Ben’s Mum who lived next door. Ben and James both go to the same school but attend different classes. James prefers to be driven to school rather then walking.
That day, I decided to leave work early and when I saw James playing outside, I called him over. I asked James to come inside because there is something I wanted to say to him. James was curious what it was and I said to him to wait for me in the garden and James did just that.
I went into the garden carrying the hamster cage and said to James, “Do you notice anything?” and he replied no. I said that Joe is not moving in his cage and do you know why? James looked down and shrugged his shoulders and said maybe he is dead. I replied lets open the cage and see.
I opened the cage and removed the first floor and Joe was laying in a sleeping position. I asked James if he wanted to touch Joe and he replied no. I picked up Joe in my hands and there was no movement. I said to James, I am sorry to say that it looks like you were right about Joe. I asked James, “Where would you like him to be buried?” and James replied in the garden pointing to a spot. James got the small shovel and dug a big and deep enough hole for Joe. I put him in the hole and James covered him up and put a stick in the middle of the patch to show where Joe laid to rest.
As we went inside the house, I asked James if he would like another hamster and he replied not right now. James asked if it is ok for him to play out with his friends and I replied I have no objections but check with your Mum that she is happy for you to play out and James said thanks. As James was walking towards the main reception where his Mum was, he turned round and said Joe was with us for nine months so he must have been one year and three months when he first arrived. I replied that sounds about right. James also said I still have three gold fish and I replied with a smile you sure have.
James asked his Mum if he could play out and she agreed. I went to the main reception and looked through the window watching James playing on his skateboard with his friends and said to June, James took the news better then I thought.