“Mum, we need some new wood shavings for Duncan,” said Tom, as we walked past the pet shop.
“So we do.”
I searched my bag for change. The shavings are two pounds for a big bag, but I’d forgotten to bring my card out with me and didn’t have any cash.
“I haven’t got enough money Tom, we’ll have to get them tomorrow.”
We’d walked away when I reached into my pocket and found a two pound coin wrapped in a till receipt.
“Go on then, we’d better get them.” I said, even though it was biting cold and I wanted to get Tom home and fed.
Sods law says the gerbil dies tonight, I thought as I carried the big bag home.
And he did.
It was the middle of the night when I noticed. The house was quiet and I couldn’t hear him rattling about in his tank downstairs. I covered him with bedding, moved the new bag of shavings from where I’d dumped them in the hallway and went back to bed. After that, I couldn’t sleep. There were a few tears – for Tom and how much he loved his pet. He always included the gerbil when talking about his family and I couldn’t bear to see him sad.
“The thing is,” I said when the time came, “Gandhi died over a year ago so he will have been waiting for Duncan for ages in Gerbil Heaven and now that he’s got there, they’ll be racing round and running through tubes and digging and having loads of fun together.”
“Yeah. I am a bit sad but I am also quite happy that he gets to hang around with Gandhi again.”
I put Duncan in one of Tom’s little shoe boxes and padded it out with shredded paper. He was all curled up like a dormouse so it wasn’t too horrible. There wasn’t anywhere to bury him, so I paid a fiver for the vet to take him. I know it’s a freezer and an incinerator but it’s slightly better than the wheely bin.We said goodbye in the waiting room and off he went in his shoebox.
“Bye, Duncan!” shouted Tom, without any signs of sadness at all.
On the way home, we picked up some shopping. Afterwards, Mum rang and asked to speak to Tom.
“Tell her where we’ve just been,” I whispered.
“Tell Nan where we’ve just been.”
I have just sent my landlord a text message: “Hi it’s Emily. I hope you’re well. Is there any way on earth you would ever consider giving me written permission to rehome a cat?”