I swear all I did was turn my back for a second and the shoes were gone. Both of them.
And I was pushing the utter limits of my walking time and one more minute would make me late but now that I noticed, Alaska was missing too.
Coincidence? I think not.
Each of our two ferrets has her own, very different personality. I really wasn’t expecting that, those days when I harassed a landlord and won permission for a ferret in the apartment, or even a year later when we searched for a second one. I thought ferrets were like gerbils or hamsters — fun to watch but not companions and friends the way a dog or a cat would be.
After Vesper took over our home and our hearts, I still thought ferrets were mostly the same: fun and hilarious and occasionally affectionate but mostly curious.
But Vesper and Alaska? Well, except for being of the same species, they couldn’t be more different.
And Alaska is the thief.
She loves used floss, and chewed gum, with its bit of minty-flavor. She worships rubber, and plastic bags, and stashes anything she can move in closets or behind the desk or under the pull-out desk drawer.
Where Vesper attacks her boundaries and isn’t afraid to hiss at us when we’ve annoyed her one time too many and still bites my ankles just to watch me jump, Alaska is placid, gentle, easy to frighten and always a few steps behind Vesper.
So usually it’s Vesper who’s in trouble. (It was Vesper, for example, who popped through a kitchen cabinet, into the kitchen, out the open kitchen door, down the sidewalk, through space in a door frame and into the garage last week.)
But when we’re not looking, when we’re busy pulling Vesper back out of the kitchen cabinet or cleaning up the “accidents” she has on purpose? Alaska starts stealing – and stashing – stuff.
Of course, every ferret steals. Their name, supposedly, means little thief, and it’s fitting. Vesper once tried to steal a frying pan and hide it behind the piano.
But Alaska is the thieving expert. When my mp3 player disappeared from my gym bag, I started to wonder if it had been stolen; and found it a month later, dusty and hairy and smelling of ferret, from Alaska’s nest in a back closet, buried in the plastic bags she also stole.
We found an umbrella under a desk, once, and carrots behind the piano. We’ve found abandoned gum, hard and dry. Once she found her bag of treats and stashed those away.
So when my shoes disappeared from the rug this morning, I started my rounds: under the living room bookshelf; under the TV stand; in the closet; in the cabinet of the desk; under the drawer.
Alaska popped out from behind the desk when I started searching the office, her round body squeezing out of ridiculously small spaces, and I narrowed my search.
It wasn’t until I crawled under the desk, blindly stuck my hand into the cobwebs that live between the floor and the bottom of the drawer, that I found the shoes.
And I slipped them on and grabbed my bag and when I tried to run out the door they both sat there, heads raised, watching my hand on the door knob, ready to run out with me.
And all the way through the misting rain to work I wondered if anyone would, for a moment, believe my excuse.
I’m late because my ferret stole my shoes.