Sam, Destroyer of Hamsters and Dating Opportunities

by Robert McGee

When I held my son for the first time, I finally knew what love was. Looking down at his chubby face and rosy cheeks filled me with an aesthetic joy beyond anything I had ever experienced before, including seeing Coldplay open for Nickelback. Even the placental remnants matted in his curly blond hair couldn’t detract from his cherubic allure. He simply radiated love. I kissed him, wiped my lips off with my hospital gown, and I’m sure my red-flecked grin showed the hospital staff that I had found true contentment.

With their wide-eyed stares and hushed comments, the doctors and nurses couldn’t hide how impressed they were, either. Before I drifted off to sleep, I heard the young nurse remark, “Do they always glow like that? Are those wings?”

When I woke up the next morning, he was sleeping soundly in a crib next to my bed, his chubby little hand serving as a pacifier. The nurses had washed him, wrapped him is swaddling clothes, and affixed a sign to the crib with his name, weight, and length listed in the most adorable Comic Sans font. I didn’t remember naming him Samael Yama, but upon seeing it there, I took to it immediately and thanked whatever drugs the doctor had given me that inspired such a lovely idea. My little Sam Yam. Too cute.

A few days later, we could finally go home. Upon arriving, I had a little trouble getting him out of his car seat — all those straps can be confusing for a first-time mom. The neighbor’s dog took advantage of my troubles and started to hump my leg. The stress of trying to kick the dog off and get the buckles unbuckled must have been affected Sam because he started to cry, and glow a bit brighter. But I eventually got the seat figured out and got Sam inside, where I promptly threw away my socks and took a shower.

That first year I spent with him at home was a magical time, but, alas, my job wouldn’t allow me to stay away forever. So, just before Sam’s first birthday, I enrolled him in the daycare center near my office. Things went smoothly enough the first few months, but when spring came, so did conversations with daycare staff.

After the pick-up pleasantries one sunny day, the head caregiver came up to me. “A number of the kids said that Sam killed the plants in our practice garden today. Now, I didn’t see it and I’m not even sure how he could have done it — all of the flowers had withered and turned brown when I checked. But, the kids were adamant it was Sam.”

“That doesn’t sound like my Sam. How could he even do such a thing?”

“We’re not sure. Maybe he, umm,” she looked down, embarrassed, “Maybe he peed on them? At home, has he been drinking weed killer?”

“Of course not.” I shook my head, surprised by her strange place her mind had gone. Weed killer. Seriously? “Is there anything else, Ms. Eriksson?”

“No, everything else is fine. Sam gets along well with the children and the children, well, they just love his wings.”

Back outside, I got Sam strapped into his car seat and told him we were going to go play with Mikey, his friend from the fitness studio’s daycare center, who was also the son of the very hot and very single fitness trainer, Frank.

“Mikey good,” Sam said.

When we arrived, Mikey grabbed Sam’s hand and they both waddled off to go play in the toy room down the hall. Frank took my coat and invited my into the kitchen where he started to cut up some apples for the boys. I took a seat on one of the stools next to the counter and watched him peal. “So,” I said, leaning over a bit, putting my nursing cleavage to good use, “it must be hard being a single dad with the hours you keep at the studio.”

“It’s OK. Their daycare is good.” He put down the knife and locked eyes. “Can I get you a glass of wine, Susan?”

We heard a child scream and we both ran to the toy room, me trailing behind, admiring his skinny jeans and colorful socks. In the toy room, little Mikey was bawling in the corner but Sam was happily playing with a Nerf gun. I sighed, relieved he was OK. And then I heard another child’s scream and turned to see Frank holding a dead hamster.

“Fluffy Bubbles! No!”

It didn’t seem like the right time to ask him if he wanted to go out some time without the boys, so I put Sam into his jacket and left Frank and Mikey to bury their pet.

After pulling out of the driveway, I locked eyes with Sam in the rear-view mirror. “Do you want to talk about what happened, Sam?”

“Mikey good.”

“Yes, and I was having a good time with Mikey’s dad.”

“Hamster bad. He bites.”

“Maybe you should think about what bites for mommy, Sam.”

He didn’t respond.

The neighbor’s dog must have heard us pull in because as soon as I stepped out, he leaped over the fence and ran up to me. “I’m not in the mood for you today, poochy.” Just as I managed the last buckle on Sam’s seat, the dog mounted my leg. With surprising speed, Sam brushed past me and leaped to the ground. He drew a golden sword out of his diaper and split the dog from collarbone to navel right there in the driveway all over my shoes. I couldn’t help but be impressed by his resourcefulness; I would have never thought to keep a sword in my underwear.

Samael looked up at me with his sweet blue eyes and fat rosy cheeks and my heart melted all over again. I couldn’t stay mad at my little angel.

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Short fiction, creative nonfiction, and personal essays that will make you laugh. fustynutreview@gmail.com

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