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A memory

Guinea pig

Walking past a greengrocer I saw him line a box with cabbage leaves. Something different about the leaves first caught my eye, the dark crisp pungent green of them, the lighter veins, strong and juicy, the green looking almost knitted. I was eight years old and cleaning, probably under protest, my guinea pig’s hutch. I remembered the moist sawdust, perfume of resinous shavings, a sharp tang of urine, the darker note of the droppings. I remembered the light scratching of his claws as I held him in my hands, the feel of his ribs beneath his silky coat, the brightness of his eyes.

Guinea pig
Because I walked on a sunny morning in October, because the greengrocer cared enough to line his displays with cabbage leaves (not nasty plastic bowls), because I was open, I received the gift of this memory. I felt sad that I had not looked after my pet as well as I could, but moved to have his scent in my nostrils after so many years and, in that moment, happy to be alive.

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