My girlfriend Kate left me in charge of feeding her guinea pigs while she was away over the weekend. It should have been easy because they’re basically small, furry cows devoid of complex needs or even souls.
What I could not foresee was rebellion.
The first night was mundane enough. I fed them hay, at least, I think that was hay, and made sure they had enough water in their bottle. After seeing to their dietary needs, while still crouched beside their cage, I studied the guinea pigs closer. (Mostly I was tying my shoe.) Wiggles, the runt, cowered behind their premature puppy-sized bed, but Wheezy, the alpha pig, rumblestrutted up to me and clicked his tiny teeth. It was not intimidating.
I spent the rest of the evening trying on Kate’s underwear. Now that was scary.
The hunger strike did not last long because a guinea pig is only good for two things: eating and casually defecating.
Later that night, at around 3:30 AM, while I slept in the middle of my girlfriend's bed for once—instead of at the foot of it, next to her socks—I awoke to chattering sounds. Guinea pigs chatter often, that isn’t normally a sign of civil insurrection, but they rarely chatter overly elaborate proclamations.
“When in the course of guinea pigian events,” declared Wheezy, the more liberal-minded of the pair, with the tone and timbre of a pre-pubescent state senator who has just taken a hit of helium, “it becomes necessary for two guinea pigs to dissolve the pet-master bands which have connected them with that kind of weird girl…” He went on to lodge several complaints, including Kate crocheting ill-fitting Bigfoot beanies and making the pigs model them on Instagram, how she routinely told them about nightmares she had in which she caught me getting along with her father, and that every so often she would put on an Uma Thurman wig and pretend to overdose on the carpet.
I knew I had to take immediate action so I tossed a thick beach towel over the top of their cage and went back to sleep. That might have been a mistake.
The next morning I pulled off the towel to find that the pigs had built a fortification made of pellets from which they had raised a flag woven from their nibbled hair. The flag showed an X drawn across what looked like my girlfriend’s face when she first wakes up in the morning. It was extremely rude. Not the X part but the uncannily accurate representation of her expression.
“Kate will be home tomorrow,” I told them, crouched beside their cage with a mist spray bottle hidden behind my back. “I don’t want to trample your rights but I have no authority to negotiate with you pigs. Do you mind holding off on the revolt until she returns?”
They went on hunger strike around noon. That did not last long because a guinea pig is only good for two things: eating and casually defecating. Unfortunately, once the hunger strike ended, the bombardment of droppings began.
When my girlfriend called to check in, we were in the middle of a true siege, with a line of splash guard cardboard surrounding their cage and all negotiations stalled. I told her everything was fine and not to worry about the strangely specific protest music she heard in the background. Wiggles was singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” but with additional references to bumblefoot.
I slept at my own house that night because they were only guinea pigs, after all, and my girlfriend likes me too much for her own good. For instance, she forgives me every time she catches me trying on her underwear (every other week minimum). However, when I returned the next day I found that the situation, like most revolutionary movements, had spiraled beyond containment.
The cage was toppled, the drawer in the refrigerator where Kate keeps her vegetables had been seized, and foreign parties had intervened. I don’t know how those French guinea pigs even got into the house, but they sure looked cute in their tricorn hats. I was less enamored of their miniature muskets, but thankfully they only had plastic toothpicks for bayonets.
The rebel allies held me prisoner until my girlfriend came home. Technically I was too big a human being to be much of a captive, but I did not wish to flee the theater of war, either west across the Appalachian Parkway or north to Tim Hortons, because I knew Kate was going to be really mad when she saw where they had dumped all her tea.
“We’re breaking up,” Kate said when she came in, but luckily she was talking to the guinea pigs, not me. The treaty was signed by 17:83. Kate agreed to grant them independence and as many pellets and hay as they could carry (or consume on sight).
Afterwards, filled to the brim with patriotism and carbohydrates, the guinea pigs marched out into the backyard to meet their manifest destiny: mass-mauling by possum.
Kate was devastated but I was mostly just grossed out. Eventually, she decided to adopt a dog. I was a bit nervous initially but I’m optimistic because Tory is an English Setter, very loyal to the crown. At most she might insist on a constitutional monarchy.