This Gerbil’s on Fire

This Gerbil’s on Fire

Retired Bullhorn designer Curt had some fundamental anxiety. He moved from Paintsville to the big city of Richmond, Kentucky, for college. After he graduated from EKU, he moved to bustling metropolis of Lexington for a new job with Bullhorn.

Naturally, he moved to North Limestone. Not really because it was cool, but because he could wake up at 8:55 for a 9 AM meeting. And it was cheap. Really cheap. He moved into an apartment rented by one-time council candidate and self-appointed sheriff, Marty Clifford.

But back to the fundamental anxiety. Curt was a nervous guy. Griffin has a disturbing ability to sense the opportunity for a practical joke. He could sense a tightness in young Curt.

In those days, we had massive steelcase desks. As Curt walked into the office for his first week, Griffin squeezed his lithe frame under the desk, hidden from view behind the steel wall. Curt sat down, turned on his monitor. Turned on his mouse. He checked his to-do list, and he fired up Illustrator. All of this took minutes. Griffin gave him the subtlest tickle, and he nearly jumped through the window.

Griffin also rented from Marty for a couple of years, so he had a few words of wisdom for Curt. Marty had a unique health issue, he said. He had a tendency to sleepwalk. Naked. And he explored the properties in the night. Griffin told Curt stories of waking up to see Marty slumping across the room in the nude. This was – of course – a lie.

But it kept Curt on edge. Any rattling of keys would send a wave of tension up his spine.

We were working away one fine spring afternoon. The windows were all open. The breeze was a delight. Someone looked up and asked, “Do you smell something?” It wasn’t uncommon. There are lots of smells on the corner of Limestone and Loudon. No one looked up. Then a haze started to fill the office. We got up to shut the windows. “Where is that smoke coming from?”

After a few minutes, the haze cleared. We could see the smoke’s origin: it billowed from behind Curt’s apartment building. It wasn’t just a little smoky. It was a column of smoke. It was biblical. The sort of smoke that comes from smiting. From vanquishing.

This Gerbil’s on Fire

Curt jumped up – he was surprisingly agile. “That’s my apartment! My guinea pigs!”

He bounded down the stairs several at a time. Stunned, we watched him cross the street and continue through the empty parking lot of what was once the Centro-Americano Market and is now mostly weeds. It was Baywatch. It was Chariots of Fire. His love of rodents propelled him.

We didn’t know what to do. It seemed funny, but not quite appropriate to laugh. We didn’t know the guinea pigs.

We followed down the stairs and across the street, starting to get nervous. He came back around the corner and toward us, still jogging. He was transformed. Cherubic. Beatific. All worry fell away. His brain awash in endorphins, he smiled and said,

“Everything is good. It was just Marty’s Suburban.”