Tracy Beckerman is the author of a wildly popular syndicated humor column called LOST IN SUBURBIA and a hilarious new book “Rebel without a Minivan”. It's all about the funny side of kids, dogs, husbands, and life in the 'burbs!

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The Chinchilla Did It!

“OH, NO!!” groaned my son.  “The chinchilla ate my homework!”

This might be an odd thing to hear your child say, if it weren’t our house, and the fact that we do, actually, own a chinchilla, who does, sometimes, chew up things he’s not supposed to.

My son held up two sheets of paper, or what was left of them.  Half of the essays had been gnawed off, as well as a good chunk of the plastic folder they had been residing in.

“What were you doing feeding the chinchilla your homework?” I asked him.  “You know he is on a homework and folder-free diet!”

My son glared at me.  “I left my homework on the floor next to the computer where I was working, which is also next to Henry’s cage, and he must have gotten to it.”

If that was the case, Henry wasn’t talking.  Chinchillas are nocturnal animals.  Henry must have chowed down on my son’s social studies assignments while we were all sleeping.  By the time we discovered the evidence, Henry was out cold.

This would be a good time to mention that the whole reason we got Henry was because he was supposed to be a low-maintenance pet.  But this was not the first time Henry had gotten into trouble.  For an animal that is kept in a cage, he seemed to have Houdini-like powers for getting to things outside of it.  There was the cord to my daughter’s lamp dangling several inches behind his cage that was gnawed in half.  Ditto the cord to her clock.  A mitten that had landed on the floor too close to Henry and lost its thumb. A sock that lost its mate to the same demise.  Eventually we moved his cage out of my daughter’s room and down to the kitchen where there were no cords or socks or mittens.

The only thing at risk, apparently, was homework.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the chinchilla learned his craft from the dog.  As a puppy, the dog had eaten through a number of socks, scarves, a large ball of yarn, and part of an area rug until we finally wised up and bought him some dog toys to mangle.  He never actually chewed up anyone’s homework, though.  In the world of edible paper products, the dog preferred toilet paper to looseleaf.

It’s also possible that the chinchilla ate the homework simply because he was hungry.  Although this is also unlikely since he eats twice his weight in sunflower seeds everyday and has generally seemed to prefer electrical cords to paper.

“I wonder if the chinchilla is missing something from his diet that he is trying to get from your homework,” I pondered.

“You mean like INK?” my son retorted. “You know Mom, the issue is not really WHY the chinchilla ate my homework, but what I’m going to do now that he did.”

“Good point,” I said, staring at the half-eaten homework assignment and the snoring chinchilla.

“What am I going to tell my teacher?” asked my son despondently.

“She’ll never believe you if you tell her your chinchilla ate your homework,” I said. “Tell her the dog did it.”

©2009, Beckerman.  All rights reserved.  For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy Beckerman at www.lostinsuburbia.net, and check out her hilarious new book “Rebel without a Minivan” at Amazon and www.rebelwithoutaminivan.com

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