The bastards left me out in the run again last night. It’s no joke out here, I’m telling you. All manner of unspeakable danger comes out at nightfall. There’s been a spate of coyote attacks on small dogs in the locality. A coyote would have me for breakfast, no trouble. Even that bloody Yorkshire Terrier of theirs treads cautiously at night. I’ve seen them trying to get her to go out last thing at night and she digging her heels in. She might be a pain in the arse, but she’s not stupid that dog. Just imagine what it’s like for me stuck out here, if it’s so bad that a dog would prefer to cross its legs all night long than venture out for a quick pee. And I can’t run as she can. Not that running would do me much good in my two-foot run. I’ve got this lurid purple jelly mould for a summerhouse. (Yeah, I know, it’s embarrassing. I had no say in the matter. Guinea pigs tend not to get to choose). I hide in there, hoping against hope that I’ll survive.

Bright purple isn’t great if you want to be inconspicuous. I’m told coyotes are colour blind, but anything that can’t distinguish a purple monstrosity stuck out in the middle of a green lawn and glowing like nuclear fall-out in the moonlight would have to be certifiably blind. Anyway, it’s a bit of an irrelevance. They could smell my fear for a mile off. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I was shitting myself all night long.

But the coyotes aren’t even the worst of it. It’s the snakes that give me the shivers. Black rat snakes, copperhead rattlesnakes and timber rattlesnakes, they’re all to be found in this neck of the woods. Up to eight feet long. Jesus fucking Christ, do you know what eight feet look like to an eleven-inch guinea pig? They can slime into anything. Just thinking about it is making me come all funny. The sheer horror of coming face-to-face with an eight-foot jet-black constrictor in my little purple jelly mould is just too much.

It’s amazing I survived. I was gnawing frantically on the bars of my run desperately trying to attract their attention as they were sitting there all la-di-da on their nice new patio set while night slowly fell. I even started squeaking, but they didn’t notice. The bastards. Too preoccupied with themselves and their overcooked barbecue food. Fucking cannibals, why they can’t eat grass I’ll never know.

I’ve no idea how I made it through the night. Not only was I spared the coyotes, the black rat snakes, the raccoons and the black bears that all inhabit this part of the world, but my heart held firm. We guinea pigs are prone to malfunctioning tickers. One shock too much and it’s goodnight Vienna. Because of this dodgy lineage, I had to have a heart test before coming out here to the States. Apparently, the sound of those 747 engines revving up is too much for some of my kind, and we’re inclined to keel over even before we’re out of London air space. Guinea pigs weren’t designed for the jet age. Wanting to minimise their liability for inadvertently killing a precious passenger, British Airways insisted I had a full medical before they would take me. I passed. And now I’ve got a certificate with my name in big, bold type. Splodge Gravatt, it reads. It was the proudest moment of my life. Not many guinea pigs have been honoured with a certificate.

I wish my Mum had still been around to see it. I think of her a lot. Guinea pigs aren’t supposed to think, but I do. There’s fuck all else to do. I contemplate the purpose of it all. Why are we here? What’s the point? All that existential stuff churns over in my head as I sit chewing grass outside my purple plastic house. I’m not sure I’ve got any of the answers, but then anyone who thinks they know it all probably doesn’t. People like that George Bush, who goes around proclaiming to be God’s instrument on earth. This is what I don’t get. If mankind considers itself to be so great, having travelled to the moon, discovered the theory of relativity and split the atom then how can it possibly justify voting that Texan half-wit to be one of its leaders. It just doesn’t compute. And they think guinea pigs are stupid.

I’ve done well for myself. That’s the other thing I find myself reflecting on as the sun beats down on my purple plastic bench. Me, I’m just guinea pig you can tell by the way I walk… sorry, I lost myself in some old Genesis lyrics for a minute. I was saying I’ve down well for myself. I came from a broken home. Not so much broken as ripped apart by a little shit of a Jack Russell. You grow up very quickly when you witness your Mum being torn to shreds in a South London backyard by an ugly inbred crew-cut canine with a Napoleon complex. I’ve never had much time for dogs after that trauma. (I have to tell you that I struggled to suppress a smile the other day when I heard a Darien Dachshund had been carried away in the claws of a hawk). There was nothing I could do about it, although that doesn’t alleviate the guilt. I really could do with some therapy. I need to know it wasn’t my fault. The trauma even put me in care for a few months. But funnily it was the making of me. They say you only really grow up when your parents die. I decided, there and then, to do something with my life. I determined to break out of the cycle of urban deprivation and violence that has plagued my family.

I found myself a nice place in Wandsworth before becoming the first of my family for many generations to cross the Atlantic. The boy’s done good, as they say. Actually, no-one’s quite sure whether I’m a boy or a girl, least of all me, but that’s a moot point. I’m an upwardly mobile guinea pig. Like Mr McGregor, at the end of Trainspotting, I chose a better life. I’ve now got my very own deluxe two-room cage complete with ensuite toilet facilities; a wall-mounted drinking unit; a bowl in which you can do all manner of things sure in the knowledge that it’ll always be cleaned up and returned full of food the next day; a summer run with a never-ending supply of grass; and a separate winter residence. Born out of wedlock into the jaws of poverty, I now live in the relative luxury of New World pastures. I’ve got three cages and, the curse of the nouveau-riche I know, but it’s more than my parents ever had, I even have two of those hideous lurid fall-out shelters. I’ve lost touch with my eighty-three siblings (we’re not as bad as rabbits, but my mother was a bit of a goer), but I’d be willing to wager that none of them have their own place, nor a certificate with their name in big, bold letters. As Mr McGregor says, you choose your future, and I chose a better life.

This what I reflect on, as I chew on the grass. I’ve done my evolutionary bit by improving my lot in life. My example has shown that it’s possible to improve yourself.

I’m the Christopher Columbus of the guinea pig world.

They don’t know what to make of me over here. Most of them think I’m a supersize hamster with an eating disorder. It’s quite degrading being confused for such runt of a rodent, but I remind myself that these people voted for George Bush and so they’re a shilling short of a five bob note. I mean do I look like the type that would expend energy on a wheel that’s going nowhere? That hamster of theirs gets on my nerves. I don’t know why they brought it over. I would have left it behind myself. Every bloody night it’s doing its exercises, swinging across the bars of its cage, like fucking Tarzan and then on to its squeaky wheel. One night the dimwit forgot for a brief moment it was on the wheel and stopped running. I nearly did my heart in, laughing. It was whisked around by the wheel before being ejected at high speed into the wall of its cage. I say cage, but in fact, it’s more a cheap moulded plastic cell. Whatever you think of the Yanks, you’ve got to admit that they’re better than the South Americans. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see the back of that Peruvian nanny. They eat guinea pigs south of the Equator, you know. I never liked the way she used to give me the evil eye. I’m sure she was sizing me up for her next Sunday roast. At least she would have been, had she been able to cook. We guinea pigs originate from South America. We escaped the bastards once and I, for one, want nothing to do with those Latinos.

The dictionary says I’m “a domesticated tailless South American cavy, originally raised for food. It no longer occurs in the wild and is typically kept as a pet or for laboratory purposes”. I don’t see why they have to go on about the lack of a tail. It’s not relevant. Humans aren’t described as tailless in the dictionary so why the fuck should we be? Why doesn’t it say ‘a domesticated trunkless South American cavy’ (whatever the fuck a cavy may be)? Or ‘domesticated hornless’? It doesn’t say that because it’s an utterly gratuitous feature, or lack of feature, that’s why. And anyway I’m not domesticated. Put me in their living room, and I’ll crap all over the place. And what’s with the laboratory purposes? You’re sadly mistaken if you think I’m going to sit there smoking forty a day and get injected with all manner of untested pharmaceuticals for the sake of science.

I’m getting myself in a state. I shouldn’t be writing this anyway. I’m a guinea pig for fuck’s sake. I’ve got nothing to say. All I want to do is eat grass.

Splodge Gravatt, 2003-2007. RIP

August 2005