I walked right up to it and that was that. God, the stench, you wouldn't believe how much that thing smelled. It was like going inside a garbage dumpster on a hot summer day when the trash truck was due three days ago but there's a strike. That gross. That strong. But, like, I was right there. You have no idea. It's nothing like in the pictures. The pictures make it look glossy and ferocious and huge, but it wasn't like that at all. If it weren't for the smell I might not have even noticed the thing. And none of the descriptions mention the smell, so it's not like that's how I knew what it was. It wasn't sleek or glossy at all, more like, like a sheep with dreadlocks. That's how its fur was. Thick and matted and it smelled something awful, so I wondered if it was diseased or a reject or something.
But I'm telling you, it was the real deal. I looked it up and found out that it smells that way because it has to ferment its food before it can finish digesting it, but like how a cow has all those stomachs, it only has one, so it basically sweats like a drunk. Which is totally weird and totally gross and totally true. Apparently that's why it has all those dreadlocks, too, its fur is just a reflection of what it eats, the same way flamingoes are pink because of what they eat, they aren't born pink or anything. So this thing gets all matted if it eats a lot of seaweed or fish. It's some weird chemical reaction to iodine that comes out in its fur.
And you know how the pictures make it look absolutely huge? Like elephant-rhinoceros-hippo-huge? Apparently that's just National Geographic and their obsession with the telephoto lens. It wasn't huge at all. And it wasn't just a baby, either. Nah, it was full grown and about the size of a dog. Just a normal dog. The type every kid has. Not a Great Dane or anything, more like a beagle or a cocker spaniel. You know, just dog-sized. So on top of all this, that thing didn't even growl. Didn't bare its teeth.
It was just hanging out, lounging by a tree. There were squirrels running around that it didn't even seem to notice at all, there was even a little kid that kept staring at it, and, I'm telling you, if a little kid stared at me that way, I'd hit him for insubordination. Teach him some manners. But the thing there didn't bat an eye. I wondered maybe if it was old, blind or deaf maybe, but that didn't seem to be the case. When I snapped my fingers, it looked over, it noticed, but it didn't really care. No, it wasn't catatonic, or drugged, although, yeah, I thought about that. Like maybe it got into the Xanax or something. But there was a breeze and the wind was blowing leaves around, and it seemed to be paying attention. It was more like one of those Zen monks on top of a mountain, it had transcended everything.
So since it didn't seem vicious or anything, yeah, I touched it. I mean, I held my breath when I touched it, because it stank like a drunk hobo on a train, but it didn't mind me touching it. It wasn't really a side show, and it didn't seem to be anyone's pet. I couldn't figure out what it was doing there. These aren't even native to this area, and so I wondered if it was some wacko's escaped exotic pet, like those rock stars that have monkeys or those crazy New Yorkers with bobcats or those kids in Florida with Burmese pythons or that guy in, what?, Indiana? Ohio? You know who I mean. That guy with a private zoo who let all his animals out then killed himself. Land of the free, so if you want a piece of the wild in your subdivision, help yourself.
I thought maybe that's why it's so tame, maybe it was just used to being around people, and it was the right size to be a housepet, maybe if you've got a teenaged boy and a golden retriever and a drunk layabout husband, you wouldn't notice the smell. I mean, people get used to anything, the smell of gym socks or cigarettes or meth or burnt meatloaf, so maybe that wasn't really a problem for them. But it didn't really act much like a pet. It didn't really want to be patted like a dog, and it wasn't kind of stand-offish like a cat. I offered it a piece of hot dog, and, I dunno, maybe it was the mustard or the kraut, but it wasn't interested. And that was before I had looked up what it ate and knew that this one was more used to fish. Maybe it would have preferred the fried clams, but, you know, I had a hot dog. I didn't have fried clams. But it wasn't interested and, yeah, I was curious, but, wow, that was a stink.
And I kinda wanted to wash my hands after touching it, it was maybe a little bit gross, and I was still finishing the hot dog. Maybe I should have hung around a bit longer and tried to get some more information, but at the time, I didn't think of that. I just figured, huh, fair's different this year. Really, I left it there. I found a washroom which smelled of piss and beer and stale cotton candy, and I felt just as gross coming out as I did going in, and I rode the Ferris wheel and the hay ride and looked at the prize winning quilts on display and watched the tractor pull and the 4H kids leading their cows around the ring. Those cows were the cleanest things at the fair, I swear, some of them had been brushed and hair-sprayed just like a poodle at the dog show.
You know that I like to stay late, catch the last show and the fireworks, but the nachos had something weird in the cheese and my stomach was all gassy and I just wasn't in the mood. And I guess I felt worse than I realized, because, I swear, I didn't notice it again. I had seen it earlier sitting there under the tree and then I just didn't think about it again. I found my car in the field and drove home and pulled over once to throw up the rest of the nachos, and stumbled into bed. Maybe it was food poisoning, or maybe it was the flu, but I spent the rest of the weekend either asleep or throwing up. You should definitely avoid the Boy Scout nacho booth next time you're there. I still feel queasy just thinking about jalapeños.
But come Monday morning I felt okay enough to go to work, because you know how they've started using that software that analyzes sick leave, compares it to the baseball schedule and flags mysterious Monday and Friday calls, so I figured I was better off going in and feeling like shit and instead of staying home feeling like shit and finding myself fired. And, I swear, I am telling it just like it happened, but I'm running with a cup of coffee from the kitchen through the living room trying to find my keys, and I look over at the couch, and the thing is all curled up in one corner of my couch.
I didn't know if I was supposed to take it for a walk or feed it or what, so that's when I looked up what it to feed it, and left out a can of tuna fish by the coffee table. It looked at me as I went out the front door, but it wasn't interested in coming with me. It seemed happy there on the couch, so I left it there. And I was already gonna be late for work, so it isn't like there was anything else I could do. But I don't want it. I didn't try to pick it up or bring it back. I don't even know if it's legal to keep one around. Hell, I never even had a guinea pig as a kid, and now there's this smelly exotic that's settled in my living room.
What the hell am I supposed to do? Stop shaking your head. You know I'm not usually this confused about something, you know that I wouldn't kid about something so weird. I'm not trying to put one over on you. I really need your help.
Remember when I covered for you that time we swore we'd never mention again? Well, this is like that. I'm serious. I saw it, sleeping on my couch, in my living room, this morning, today, and I was awake, and sober, and maybe I had food poisoning or the flu but this thing was there. It was real. And now what? What the hell am I supposed to do? I need your help.
With god as my witness, I am telling you the truth and I will never ask for another favor again. Whatever you want, it's yours, name your price, just help me figure out what to do with this thing in my living room. Really, never again.
Thanks. I owe you one.