by Matthew Sanborn Smith
How many years was this going to go on? That's all I wanted to know. I'd already blown half the afternoon. The warehouse could hold thirty-seven space shuttles, Gabinder had said. Right now, among a billion other things, it held one hamster. And not even a fully grown hamster at that.
What did I have going for me? Not a lot. I had a pile of Hamster food at my feet at one end of the facility. I had a handful of dust that used to be hamster food in my hand. And I had an oscillating fan that dwarfed my car which the maintenance boys had spent the last two hours dragging here from its cushy wind tunnel job. I'd asked Steve and Joey to stick around after delivery. They became the oscillators of our oscillating fan, following a quick rigging of ropes.
We fired her up and the dust in my hand was soon spread to the four corners of the warehouse. The hope was that the scent of the food might lure Fluffy to us. We waited a half hour (The warehouse was one heck of a journey for a hamster at the other end of it). We got diddly.
"Well, he did have a big breakfast before he escaped," I said.
"So what are you looking for after a big meal?" Joey asked.
"A big nap," I said. "But he's had plenty of time for that."
"A big dump," Steve offered.
"He doesn't need us for that. So you've had a big meal, taken a big nap, and taken a big dump. What more could you possibly want?"
"A little action," Steve said with a smile and a nod.
About an hour later, a bewildered Anastasia, freshly delivered from Petland, swam through the air at the end of seven feet of green yarn in the most intense wind stream she was ever likely to face in ten hamster lifetimes.
"Yo, Harv," Jackson shouted from the door.
"What is it?"
"Boss says his kid's hamster is a girl."
I grumbled to myself, "I'm gettin' a paper on the way home, and I'm readin' the classifieds from end to . . ."
And then, there she was! Little Fluffy dashed through the door from behind Jackson, just as excited as she could be. Maybe Fluffy ate from both sides of the bowl, I postulated. But I never found out for sure because when she got about halfway to Anastasia, Fluffy was sucked into the fan and summarily sprayed across the whole of Warehouse 17.
I waited patiently while my brain struggled to process what had just happened.
Lured by Fluffy's scent, roughly thirty-seven hamsters (presumably male) and forty-two snakes all made their way into the general vicinity. In the chaos that followed, Anastasia seemed genuinely relieved to be soaring high above it all.