“Attack Of The Gerbil” By Neal Murphy

June 25, 2020 - Around 1965 a new store opened in the Meyerland area of Houston, Texas near where we lived. It was a new kind of store, a forerunner of K-Mart or Wal-Mart. It was a “Sage” store, massive in its size, and contained most anything any shopper would need. The only thing different was that you had to “join” the club in order to shop there. I recall the price was somewhere around $15.00 per year for the privilege to shop, and you had to show your ID card in order to enter.

One summer day I took my wife and two kids, around 6 and 4 years of age, to Sage for a good look at this new store. Being reared in a small East Texas town, all this was new to me-- all your needs under one huge roof, from groceries to garden tools. The kids wanted to stop in the Pet section to ogle the puppies and kittens.

While we were examining all the exotic animals for sale, I spied a lone gerbil in a cage. I had never seen one before although I had heard of people who owned one. I had read in the paper that they made good pets. The little bugger looked cute and docile as I looked him over. The kids need to see this little critter I though to myself.

I called out, “Kay and Doug…you need to come look at this one.”  I stuck my right index finger over the open top of the cage as I spoke, pointing in the direction of the gerbil. In a flash this wild animal jumped up and bit down on my finger so hard it started to bleed rather profusely. Everyone thought the attack was funny, including the critter. But I had to wrap my hanky around my finger to stop the bleeding. Now it was getting serious. Suppose he had rabies, or some other disease.

Running up to the clerk in the pet department I showed him my injury caused by one of his cute little creatures. He seemed to be thinking something like “you idiot, you don’t put your finger where a Gerbil can get to it”. “Are these animals vaccinated against every disease before you put them for sale?”, I inquired. “Yes sir, you don’t have to be worried.” Easy for him to say, he was not the one bleeding. “Well, then, is Sage prepared to pay for any medical expenses?”, I queried. “You will have to discuss that with our manager, and he is not here right now.” so I was informed. How convenient for him.

Our shopping trip was now over, so there was nothing else to do but to go home and treat my injury. “It’s a good thing that Clara is a nurse”, I thought to myself as we drove back to Evergreen Street in Bellaire. A little cleaning with alcohol, anti-biotic ointment, and a band-aid were administered and my wound felt better.

“Daddy, can we get a Gerbil as a pet?” asked my son. “Are you nuts, Doug? Those things are agile, mobile, and hostile. They are attack animals as you can tell,” I replied while holding up my bandaged finger to show him. “Why don’t we get you some goldfish? I have never heard of one of them attacking anyone. Just make sure there is not a piranha in the bunch.”

It has been over fifty years since the little critter attacked me and I still have a small scar on my finger to prove it. So, if you are ever in the market for a small pet, I would recommend a rabbit, and leave the gerbils alone. They are vicious animals.