Friday, June 6, 2008

That's A Morte

We never did find a substitute caterpillar for our visiting six-year-old. My response to his heartbreak over leaving it on our deck in the former peanut butter jar with holes punched (by ice pick) in the plastic lid was to observe that even if we did find him a replacement, caterpillars are not long-lived creatures and the relationship was doomed to disappointment. Since then, I've been informed that the key to keeping a captive caterpillar is to feed them every hour or so, like newborns. If you know a six-year-old who is capable of that, I'd like to know about it!

We've been preparing Walker for the imminent demise of his replacement guinea pig. See, when he was 9, he wanted a guinea pig, and we got two so they could keep each other company. He picked out a cute little short-haired pig and named him Legolas, which led to many merry confusions in our household (the most memorable was when Walker commented "Legolas is ambidextrous" and the rest of us looked at him and said "how on earth can you tell?" only to see that Walker was looking at a LOTR movie book and reading about the Tolkien elf's knives). When Legolas was three, we found him dead in his cage one morning. The other pig, Lady Night Heart, was not visibly distraught, but the kids thought she needed another friend. She missed having someone to pick on and outsmart, they said. So we got the loan of a companion guinea pig who was left over when the main guinea pig had died. This one's name was Sandy, and Sandy was already a middle-aged pig. Well, now Sandy is getting old and having some physical troubles. We hauled her off to the vet last week and found out that she's not in terrible pain, but probably is not long for the world.

In a typical case of life dovetailing with art, I came across this passage while reading John Scalzi's The Android's Dream this week:

"Why do you only sell unmodified animals?" Creek asked. "I'm just curious."
"I've got a PetSmart one shopping center over," Robin said. "All their animals are genmod. I couldn't compete. But they hardly sell unmodified pets anymore because unmodified pets die too easy. Genmod pets are designed with six-year-old boys in mind, you know."
"I didn't know," Creek said.
"It's true," Robin said. "I think that's kind of like defining deviancy down. You should be teaching a six-year-old that you need to respect living things, rather than making pets so they can survive a mallet attack. So, economics and morals. That's why. People who come in here respect animals and teach their kids manners...."

Part of respecting living things is understanding that death is part of the deal, eventually. Walker has been dealing with the issue in his own way, making up verses to a continuing song:

When a dart hits your heart
and it then fails to start...
that's a morte...

When a bear starts to tear
and there's blood everywhere...
that's a morte...


Alison said...

Have you ever read any of Spider Robinson's Callahan's books? One of them (and I am forgetting now which), includes a lengthy series of puns on "That's Amore." My favorite is:

When you swim in the sea
and an eel bites your knee
that's a moray.

Sorry about Sandy.

Jeanne said...

Yes, I've read ALL of Spider Robinson's Callahan books. Ahem... yes, I enjoy puns. Either some of the puns/jokes are derivative, or they've been imitated. I'm pretty sure that the comic strip Frank and Ernest pre-dates the Callahan book with this little rhyme:
When an eel bites your leg
and the pain makes you beg
that's a moray.

Alison said...

Wow - pretty embarrassing to have your humor scooped by Frank and Earnest...

Ron Griggs said...

To be accurate, I'm pretty sure Jeanne's eel lyrics came from a comic strip that we read in The Washington Post back in the late '80s called "The Fusco Brothers."

Anonymous said...

Ah, little sadder than a guinea pig on the decline.

Perhaps Walker can become the next Edward Gorey...nothing like a little levity with death.