I’ll clean the cage, mom,
I swear
I’ll take care of her

said my brother.

Hands dug indelicately
through the mass of scampering fur
in pursuit of the perfect
Seven-dollar hamster.

I cleaned the cage once,
I swore as I stared
at stoic, limp Lucky
teeth bucked toward the
Great Habitrail in the sky

Cancel the dentist, mom,
there’s been an accident
And I can’t do homework at a time like this

When you get to be my age
you’ll understand,
I comforted my cross-legged brother
No. 2 pencil slanted in clammy hands
Diligently poking air holes in the cardboard coffin

The solemn shovel scratched away
six inches of mud
Father fumbling for the appropriate epitaph
for a seven-dollar hamster

Smearing dirt on my face
batting stray tears

I’m going to miss her

said my brother