Two years ago, Gabe was invited to a birthday party.  His twin sisters, who were 6 at the time, were very upset to learn they had not been included on the invitation.

“It’s not fair, Momma!  Why does Gabe get to have all the fun?!” they cried.

“It is fair,” I disagreed.  “Grant is Gabe’s friend.  Gabe will get invited to things that don’t include you.  And someday you will get invitations that don’t include Gabe.”

“But what are we gonna do while Gabe’s at the party?” they complained.

“We’re gonna go on a date with Daddy!” I tried to sell the idea.

“That’s boring,” they complained.

“Oh stop it!” I demanded, having heard all the negativity I cared to hear.  “You’re not going to the party, and that’s the end of the story.  Now go get dressed for our date.”

A short while later, they came downstairs ready for their date.  They opted for frilly dresses, white tights, high heels, wide-brimmed hats and purses – because that’s what they wore the last time they went on a date with Daddy to the Father/Daughter dance at school.  They looked adorable.  Craig and I had to hide our giggles when we realized how seriously they had decided to take this so-called date.

While Gabe was at the party, we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant to eat.  Much to my surprise, Craig ordered a pitcher of margaritas.

“Why did you order a pitcher?” I asked, shocked.

“I figured we’d be here awhile,” he explained casually, with a sly grin.

“That’s true,” I agreed.  “But don’t you think one of us ought to be able to drive our children home safely?”

“Oh yeah,” he pretended to be hit by my genius revelation.  “Oh well,” he shrugged.  “More for me!”

“Oh God,” I rolled my eyes, realizing this was his plan all along.

A couple of hours later, we left the restaurant in good spirits – especially Craig.  We still had a little time to kill before Gabe’s party ended.  We got in the car and the girls spotted PetSmart immediately.

“Momma!  Can we please go to PetSmart and adopt an animal?” Sydney, our animal lover, begged.

“Yes, we can go to PetSmart.  No, we are not adopting an animal,” I stated firmly.

“Why not Momma?” the girls pleaded.

“Because we already have 2 dogs and 2 fish.  The last thing we need is another animal,” Craig willingly supported me.

I felt safe walking into PetSmart.  I was confident we were just killing time.

When we entered, the girls walked straight to the hamsters and guinea pigs – as they always do.  Craig followed their lead while I went to find food and chew bones for the dogs.

I was only gone 5 minutes.  I should have known better than to leave Margarita Myers alone in a pet store with his precious twin daughters dressed in their Sunday best.

“What is that?” I heard Craig ask the sales clerk, who had spotted him as an easy target the second I walked away.  He was pointing at a small, white, fuzzy rodent with large ears.

“That’s a chinchilla.  It’s my favorite animal in the store.  We don’t carry them regularly, and it’s rare to find one this young,” she sold him.

“Really?” his interest peaked.  Craig is a sucker for anything “rare.”  “Why?” he needed to know.

“They’re usually older by the time they get to us,” she explained.  “It’s great to get one this young so that you can tame him to feel comfortable with humans.  When you do, chinchillas are super friendly pets.”

“Can we hold it?” he asked.

“Craig!” I scolded him under my breath.  “What are you doing?”

“The girls want to hold him!” he claimed.

“The girls have no interest in him!” I hissed the truth.  They were still busy debating which guinea pig was the cutest.

“Sure they do!” he lied through his teeth.  “Look girls!  It’s a chin-chill-a!” he grabbed their attention with his syrupy “Daddy’s-the-best-Daddy-ever” tone that he uses when he’s being smug with me.

He was drunk and playful.  I was in trouble and I knew it.

When Craig is drunk and playful, his inhibitions go out the window and his common sense goes missing.  When Craig is drunk and playful, he will do anything to get a rise out of me.  Anything.

“Oh Daddy!  He’s so cute!  We love him!” they swooned.

“I know you do!” Craig nodded his head condescendingly and flashed me one of his  famous “I told you so” smiles.

“Oh Daddy!  Can we get him?  Please!!!!!!!!!” they begged, as they batted their twin eyelashes at him.

“Well, it’s okay with Daddy as long as it’s okay with Mommy,” he offered them phony assurance, while daring me to be the buzz-kill.

He was drunk and evil.  He didn’t want that chinchilla any more than I did.  But he loves to be the hero – especially in the eyes of his little girls.

My competitive spirit got the best of me.  I was going to teach him a lesson and beat him at his own game.

“Girls, you know Mommy loves animals!  Mommy doesn’t mind if Daddy doesn’t mind,” I threw his bag of tricks right back at him.

YAY!!!!!!!!” they jumped up and down and cheered.

Wait a minute.  What had just happened?  I was merely engaging in a quiet verbal battle with my drunk husband.  Our words had  nothing to do with the actual purchase of a chinchilla!  We were still deciding.  We hadn’t said “Yes.”  Why were they squealing with delight?!

Craig looked at me with horror.  “What did you just do?!” he accused.

“I didn’t do anything you didn’t do!” I defended myself, warding off the blame.

To make a long story short – we went home with a chinchilla that night.

After we got home, Craig spent hours setting up the cage while I hopped online to research the irresponsible, uniformed decision we had just made to buy a pet.  Imagine my surprise when the first site I stumbled upon stated the following:

So, you are thinking about getting a chinchilla.
WARNING!! Although these furry, nocturnal creatures are cute and cuddly their favourite pastime is gnawing everything and anything in sight. So, if they are to be given liberty to run around please be aware of this fact.
LIFE SPAN – A chinchilla’s life span is between 18-22 years.
As they sleep all day, they are just waking up when everyone’s coming home and therefore can be ideal for someone who works all day, wants a pet, and doesn’t want to feel guilty for leaving it all day. Fun to watch. Cannot be housetrained but relatively clean with hardly any odour.
Their gnawing habits. The fact that they really need to sleep, undisturbed, during the day which may disappoint children.

Good Lord.  What did we do?  18-22 YEARS????  Are you kidding me?!  Hell – at this rate, our grandkids will be able to play with Willow too!

He does indeed sleep all day, never making a peep.  At 9:15 every night – just after we’ve put the kids to bed and are craving peace and quiet – he wakes up.  And runs in his squeaky wheel.  And runs.  And runs.  And runs.

When he’s not running, he’s shitting.  Willow shits more than any animal I’ve ever encountered.  His rear-end is like a projectile missile launch.  There’s shit everywhere – inside his cage, outside his cage, on the closet shelves next to his cage.

That’s right – he lives in a closet.  A closet that we cleared for the sole purpose of containing his shit.

Unfortunately, the kids – especially Sydney –  love him.  He is a friendly pet, in direct contrast to his red, demonic eyes.  Due to his pleasant nature, Willow is a hit when the kids’ friends come over to play.

This leads me to the rest of the story – which is as close to a happy ending as Craig and I will ever get wherein the damn chinchilla is concerned.

The girls have a buddy named Luke.  Luke fell in love with Willow.  He used to have 2 hamsters of his own, but unfortunately they both contracted a sudden disease when they were 8 months old.  The pet-store owner that diagnosed their mysterious disease was certain it was contagious and life-threatening to other animals.  For the safety of their beloved dog, Lily, it was imperative that Lukes’ hamsters be returned to the store – according to Luke’s mom, Chelsea, anyway.

Chelsea is a good friend of mine and a great mom.  She’ll do anything for her 3 boys.  She’s also a big fan of cleanliness.  When Luke came home from our house begging for a chinchilla, she was seasoned enough with rodents to know that it wasn’t going to happen.

But Luke is her baby.  And I know this.  Which is why I mentioned to him that we would be happy to share Willow with him whenever he wanted.

“Really?!” he couldn’t contain his excitement.

“Really!” I promised him.  “If you can talk your mom into getting a cage, Willow could even sleep at your house!”  (Yes – I’m that devious.)

A week later, Chelsea called me from the pet store.  After she delivered me a good thrashing that included some of the most vile expletives in the book, I guided her to purchase a duplicate cage, food, water bottle, bedding, treats, toys, exercise wheel, hide-out, litter, etc.  She even bought Willow a striped carrying case, for optimal comfort while the dirty rodent travels between residences.

The girls and Luke are thrilled to share custody of Willow.  Every week, the chinchilla travels to school for the hand-off between Chelsea and me.  Every week, the kids are sad to see him go and thrilled when he arrives.  Every week, the moms are sad when he arrives and thrilled to see him go.  Inappropriate parental banter is sure to be exchanged along with our pet chinchilla.

Willow loves vacationing at Luke’s lake house.  While there, he is the only rodent I am aware of that could be defined as a pampered pet.  Since Luke bathes in Chelsea’s bathroom, she contains Willow’s projectile shit and his cage in Luke’s walk-in shower.  It is the Ritz Carlton of rodent resorts – always pristine and shit-free as possible, which is a feat.  Because she spends so much time cleaning up after him, she has grown quite fond of the little ear-muff – even though she’d never admit it.  The evidence tells a different story: she knows his favorite spot to be pet, and recently bought him a leash.

Unfortunately we are stuck with this chinchilla.  At least now we only have to clean up his shit 26 weeks per year as opposed to 52.  If Willow does live to the age of 20, he’ll only have to bear slumming it in our shitty closet for a mere 9 more years.  I can only  hope that Luke never wants to start using his own shower – for Willow’s sake, of course.