Christmas In July

Christmas In July

Bad boy!” I said to the tan-and-white furball who was busy investigating a joystick when I walked into my room. “Mom, Rocky got out again,” I called.

“Again?” she exclaimed in disbelief, rushing toward me. “Well, at least we don’t have to look for him this time,” she said when she spied me holding my hamster. “We’ll have to tape shut that side door on his cage. I can’t believe he can still maneuver it.”

“But look,” I interrupted. “He’s been eating something.”

Mom studied Rocky’s bulging jaws, then asked, “Where’d you find him?”

“Beside the Nintendo. I was gone only about 10 minutes.”

“H’mmm, I guess he couldn’t have gotten into too much in such a short period of time. This messy room certainly doesn’t help . . .” Mom allowed the sentence to dangle. Then, sensing my guilt, she added optimistically, “Perhaps he found a piece of food.”

I kept Rocky’s supplies in a box beside his cage. He hadn’t gnawed a hole through the box, and it wasn’t overturned, but it was possible that he’d found a stray piece of food on the carpet.

Holding Rocky’s pink nose near mine, I examined him closely. Then I gently squeezed his cheeks. Annoyed, Rocky quickly opened his mouth and shut it again, but that was enough.

“It’s green!” I cried. “He’s eating something green!”

“Uh-oh,” Mom said.

This discovery was not good news. Rocky’s carrots were orange, and his seeds were brown. He had no green food.

I looked at my mother, who stood silently biting her lip.

“I’ll be back. I smell the eggs burning. Try to find out what it is,” she said, leaving me alone with my hamster and his mouthful of a green something that he shouldn’t have.

“Whatcha got, Rocky?” I asked. “What’s in there, boy?”

I knew why Mom was uncomfortable. I knew all about Herbie, the hamster she’d had when she was a girl. He’d gotten out of his cage, too. They had found him two days later in Granddad’s workroom. He was dead. No one ever knew what killed him.

Thursday, when Rocky had escaped, we’d found him in the bathroom. Mom had wagged her finger at him and said, “You’d better behave, Rocky. Curiosity killed the cat . . . and Herbie.”

Now I wondered, Will curiosity kill my “cat” as well?

I mustn’t panic, but I have to find out what’s in his mouth.

I held Rocky’s fur at the back of his neck and gently swayed him from side to side. This angered my rodent. His feet bounced up and down as he tried to get away, and he began rubbing his cheeks with his paws. Out popped a green pellet.

I recognized the object instantly. Now I could panic.

Racing into the kitchen, I yelled, “He’s been eating rat poison!”

“No,” Mom countered, dropping a fork. “Are you sure?”

“I just shook a piece out of his mouth. He must have gotten it from the back of my closet. Remember that mouse . . . ?”

“I remember. Just hurry and shake the rest out. Maybe he hasn’t swallowed any yet.”

I repeated the fur-swinging procedure until, one by one, Rocky ejected the pellets. I felt his cheek until I was satisfied that his pouches were empty.

Twelve, I counted, plus the one in my room made 13.

Mom taped the cage door shut, and I placed the hamster inside.

“Let’s take him to the vet, Mom,” I suggested.

“In what?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah.”

Dad had already left for his job in our only working vehicle. The station wagon was still out of service.

“I’ll call,” Mom said immediately. “Maybe there’s something here that we can give him. Go eat your breakfast.”

Eat? Was she kidding?

I watched Mom flip through the white pages and dial the vet. She explained our situation, even mentioning that Rocky might not have actually swallowed any of the pellets. Then she listened, thanked someone, and hung up.

“What?” I asked, my voice squeaking.

“The vet said we should bring Rocky in for a vitamin K injection and get some extra to take home. If he begins to vomit, you’ll lose him.” She sighed. “Let’s check on Rocky. Then I’ll search the cabinets for vitamin K.”

Rocky lay sleeping on his side, half on his exercise wheel and half off. He never sleeps on his side. Had he been walking and simply passed out? And was it my imagination, or was he pale?

I tapped on the window.

“I’m sorry, honey. He doesn’t look too good,” Mom admitted.

I already knew that, but why did she have to say it out loud? Tears welled in my eyes.

“What can we do?” I asked.

“Pray,” she answered.

So I did. “God, please spare my hamster. He’s the first pet I’ve ever had to myself, a wonderful birthday present from my grandparents–the best present ever!”

Then I got angry. My hamster book said that he could live for two to four years. I’d had Rocky for only three weeks!

“It isn’t fair,” I complained to God. “He couldn’t help it! Oh, please, God,” I begged, humbling myself again. “Please don’t let Rocky die.”

Rocky slept all afternoon.

I tried to stay out of my room; I didn’t want to find Rocky dead. But Mom wouldn’t let me avoid him.

“Go check on Rocky,” she advised.

“He’s probably sleeping.”

“Wake him up. Play with him,” she urged. “Did you pray?”

Glumly I answered, “Yes.”

“Then why are you giving up?”

“I’m not giving up,” I stated stubbornly.

In my room I lifted Rocky from his tuft of pine shreddings. No eyes flashing in excitement, no twitching whiskers, no sniffing the air in eager anticipation. Rocky just lay in my palm, peeping at me through slitted eyelids. I laid him back down and reported to Mom.

“Keep praying. I’m praying, too” was all she said.

So again I prayed.

Occasionally Mom would creep up the stairs. I watched her face intently when she came back down, but she never said anything. I knew Rocky was still hanging on.

Before going to bed we saw Rocky hobbling around.

“That’s a good sign,” Mom said.

“He’s going to the bathroom,” I noticed.

“That’s good too.”

“But it’s green.”


That wasn’t good. It meant that Rocky had definitely ingested poison. We waited for him to finish, then cleaned out his cage.

Before leaving my room Mom said, “Let’s hope he makes it through the night.”

I watched him until I fell asleep.

“Wake up, dear! Look!”

I squinted in the sunlight. Mom was standing over me, smiling. Rocky was running on his wheel at nearly full speed.

“I think the worst is over,” Mom said.

It felt like Christmas morning!

I scooped Rocky up and rubbed his fur with my thumb. I wanted to burst with joy.

Thank You, God, I thought. There is no way my hamster should have survived a mouthful of poison. Thank You for answering our prayers in this way. And thank You for allowing Your miracles to include small animals.

Written by Jonelle M. Broady
Illustrated by Terrill Thomas

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Christmas In July

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