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Making Jay Laugh This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Jay sits across the table from me, devouring the plate of chicken. It’s brown and juicy and there’s a side of yellow lo mein: stringy, gelatinous grease.

“Tell her the story about your hamster who had a blue esophagus!” he pleads, erupting in premature laughter. His friend Ashleigh looks on in helpless confusion.

“If you must know,” I said, giving him my look that reprimands and flirts at the same time, “it was his colon! And that’s not the point!”

When I was nine my only friend was a hamster named Teddy. I named him that because he was a teddy bear hamster and I was extremely creative. He was white with gray spots, and I loved him. At school no one liked me because this is America and at a young age we’re told that we have to question differences, even if you’re just nine and go to school with a cowlick every morning and love reading.

Teddy was always there to play with, to laugh with, to cry with, and to put into little Happy Meal boxes because he was the king of my room. My room was a separate kingdom of its own and all my rodents had unprecedented sovereignty over it. Teddy was the first king and he was magnificent. He mingled with the commoners on the Lincoln Log front, or chatted with the recently widowed Cat Woman who had just lost her husband, Batman, and was raising Robin by herself - a fair-minded and generous ruler!

The day of horror was preceded by a night of constant squeaks from Teddy’s exercise wheel that I had bought at a garage sale. I had become accustomed to the noise, much like city dwellers do to the constant traffic. Either way, when I awoke that morning I looked at Teddy’s cage and saw little red dots on his litter, but no hamster. I followed the trail of blood to his little house where I saw my only friend cowering with fright. It’s silly, but I swear he looked at me with utter remorse because he knew he was going to leave me. I called my dad and my dad called the veterinarian. My dad loved Teddy too.

The vet took Teddy and I’m sure she went home that night with quite a story about a nine-year-old and his hamster. She told me that Teddy had cut himself (presumably on his exercise wheel) and his colon was hanging out. There was nothing they could do except put him to sleep. I conceded, tearfully, and petted my Teddy for the last time. The next time I saw him he was in a box. They gassed my hamster and I buried him under the snowball bush, where he remains today.

About now Jay is dying with laughter and I’m glad that he finds amusement in my childhood pain. I love it when he laughs, even if it’s at something this cold-hearted. Now I can look back and laugh too, but in my mind I still smile and think of Teddy rolling around my living room floor in his transparent neon green ball - a hamster with a mission. I make Jay throw out the chicken as punishment for his cruelty and we leave for Nathan’s.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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