This expat story was told to me by a woman who was born in Canada to two Chinese parents. She then married a man who was also born in Canada to one Spanish and one French parent. They both moved to London where their daughter was born. None of this has anything to do with the story, except to point out that good stories come from all nationalities.
“So, I pulled my hamstring this week–or as the kids say, my hammy,” I complain over a glass of prosecco on a chilly Friday evening.
“I had a hamster once,” one of our Champagne (prosecco) Friday companions interjects, her voice still breathless with icy air. She only just arrived at our end of the week gathering, “His name was Hammy. Hammy the Hamster. It’s actually a disgusting story.”
“Well, you can’t say that out loud and then not tell us the story,” another C(p)F companion, who kicked off her shoes twenty minutes ago, chimes in. She’s deep into her chair, her half-consumed glass of bubbles has made her demanding, she’s ready to be regaled.
“Ok,” our storyteller says reluctantly, “I’ll tell you, just let me have a bit of sustenance first,” she pauses to take in the comforting spread of cheese and charcuterie, “actually, you know what? I’ll wait to eat until after I tell you the story.”
“Tell us, tell us,” I beg as I pour her customary half glass of prosecco.
“That’s plenty!” she stops me from over pouring by a millimetre, “Don’t waste it on me.”
Too much alcohol gives her a rash–we should all be so lucky.
“So,” she settles in, “you know I have three sisters, right?”
“Yeeeesss,” the rest of us sing in unison.
“Well, we really wanted a pet, so my mother took us to K-Mart where you could get a hamster–a live one–for a dollar and seventy-nine cents–Canadian, mind you! That’s practically free.”
“They sold Hamsters at K-Mart?” I marvel as I eat a Marks and Spencers olive.
“They did!” our storyteller says proudly, “and for a dollar seventy-nine–Canadian! So, my sisters and I agreed on a particular hamster, but our mother wouldn’t let us have it. ‘Too scrawny,’ she said, ‘you’ll get the bigger one, more value for money.’ So we took the bigger one home and it turned out it was pregnant.”
“Oh no!” we toss our heads back in loud laughter, releasing some accumulated stress from the week.
“Well, that is more value for money, right?” our shoeless companion notes, “I mean, you ended up with what? Five hamsters for the price of one?”
“Well, yes except the mother ate all the babies but one.”
“Ewwwwwwwwww!” we all groan.
“Yes! And then the mother became pregnant again.”
Champagne (prosecco) flutes are placed on tables. Cheese and biscuits (that’s English for crackers) are placed on plates. Hands cover mouths. We’re horrified.
“All for a dollar seventy-nine! Canadian! Our mother was so upset,” our storyteller continues, “when the second litter was born she immediately separated them into individual yoghurt containers. Then, she marched us back into Kmart each holding a yoghurt cup apiece with a hamster in it. She walked right up to the salesperson and said, ‘These hamsters are disgusting.’ Then she demanded her dollar seventy-nine Canadian back.
“Did they give it to her?” I ask.
“They did,” our storyteller laughs, “either because, or in spite of the fact she was wearing a full length mink coat.”
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E. G. Wolf
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