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Walt Photographs by Daniel Ehrenworth.


There is a ferret in my freezer.


My flatmate put it there—our flatmate, she’s new. She moved in to replace the Canadian, the loud one who talked too much and wore day-old eyeliner. The new one is a taxidermist—thus the ferret.

She is soft-spoken but very nice and generally clean. We found her on the internet and her Twitter presence appealed. She moved in last Friday and I discovered the ferret on Sunday. Today is Thursday.

On Wednesday I played Mario Kart, read some books and checked the freezer. On Tuesday, the same, but I worked my job at the bookstore in between. I have checked the freezer every day, with a few other activities (reading, shitting, the internet) added in to kill time. I don’t know what I will do tomorrow.

I DIDN’T REALIZE it was a ferret at first. I found a tube, wrapped tightly in aluminum, nestled near the ice cube tray. A cucumber, maybe, or a big, foil-wrapped cock, severed surreptitiously from an unsuspecting lover while he slept. I thought about castration as I unwrapped the stiff, frozen package.

I saw its tiny nose and was mostly confused. The realization that I was holding a preserved animal carcass dawned on me around the time I uncovered its rigid, reaching paws. Its eyes were open. It felt like the most pathetic possible version of that scene in The Godfather with the horse’s head and all the blood. I touched the soft, cold fur on its little snout and wondered about closing its eyes before realizing I wasn’t sure that ferrets had eyelids. I did not want to touch a bare eyeball that day.

I wrapped it back up, tighter than before, and removed my pizza from beneath it. I preheated the oven but could not cook my meal. It was tainted now, food from a crypt. Ferret pizza. I made some toast, got into bed and thought about things I found disappointing until I fell asleep.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to bring the ferret up right now. It is simply too early into Lisa’s tenancy. But it’s got to be hers. I don’t think it’s Erin’s. It could be Adam’s—although why a mid-level employee of the standards and practices department of a law firm would need a preserved rodent is unclear.

But, so, Lisa. I am not some kind of Etiquette Genius. I have no idea what to say. We are in that enforced honeymoon period between fresh co-habitants. We clean up carefully. We fuck quietly. We feign an interest in each other’s television preferences and make small talk about our lives that reveals very little of our selves. I have barely worked up the nerve to tell her she has been flushing the toilet only halfway since she moved in. Little îles flottantes of toilet paper circle in watered-down urine like ghosts. That is first on the agenda. The ferret is not even on the agenda. It is a Post-it note on the inside back cover of the agenda, the last entry on a list of undesirable tasks:

• Arrange flowers, transportation, eulogy

• Buy suit

• Cancel gym membership (fake injury?)

 • Tax thing

• Bring up own mortality at busy party surrounded by vibrant, youthful friends 

• Ask Lisa about ferret

Everything on this list has a one in ten chance of actually being accomplished. As a Magic 8 Ball might say, “Outlook not so good.”

EVEN WHEN I CANNOT SEE THE FERRET, I know it’s in there. I picture the frozen creature like a tiny Walt Disney—not dead or soon to be stuffed, but patiently awaiting reanimation, a fuzzy anti-Semite with particularly active anal glands.

I spend a lot of time reading the Wikipedia entry for ferrets. I realize that I, too, am “territorial, like to burrow and prefer to sleep in an enclosed area.” I learn that a group of ferrets is called “a business.” I picture little ferrets in suits around a tiny boardroom table. The ferret boss is mad about the lack of cecum in their digestive tracts. Plant matter is down this quarter. Sneaky colleagues at work are weasels; hidden objects are “ferreted” away. My own habits have become crepuscular—I am up at six to check the fridge, then back to sleep for long stretches.

I imagine the ferret waking up in the freezer one night, pushing aside my pizza and crawling out from among long-forgotten burgers and half-eaten, now-ruined ice cream bars to perform a weasel war dance. These are when the ferret executes a “frenzied series of sideways hops” and bumps into things while making a clucking sound. “Despite its zeal, this is not aggressive, but is a joyful invitation to play.” It would probably knock over those stupid figurines Erin put up as a “Halloween thing” and never took down.

MAYBE A FERRET would make a cool friend. Certainly a ferret would not resent me if I asked it to turn down the Katy Perry at 12 am on a Wednesday. (I might not mind so much if Erin was practicing a war dance, but it feels like she just does it to be rude.) A ferret would not return from Ibiza with a man named Jed and let him stay in our flat for three full weeks without even offering to pay extra utilities. A ferret would not give me sexy vibes I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. A ferret would let me take the time I need to myself right now. I would never come home to find that a ferret had eaten my last bit of chèvre—their diets consist mainly of raw meat and carbohydrates.

A ferret would, at least, be an interesting pet. It might be a whole new era for the flat. Adam with his weed, Erin with her stupid figurines, Lisa with her taxidermy projects and me with my ferret. I could be the Ferret Guy. I’d get it a little leash and a harness and walk it around our block of grubby ex-council houses and everyone would look at me like I’m not entirely sold but I’d like to see where this is going. There he is, the Ferret Guy. Off to the gym again. (In this fantasy I’m pretty ripped.)

The ferret could live in my bedroom with me so it wouldn’t bother anyone else. We would develop our own way of communicating—a kind of interspecies dialogue that was beyond language. I’d make friends on ferret message boards, meeting other people who were as dedicated as I was to nurturing and caring for their ferret companions. It would trust me implicitly. Even the vet would say, “I’ve never seen a rodent so clearly enamoured of its human owner.” One night I’d kiss the ferret on the lips, just to see. It would stare at me with its beady eyes and its eyes would say that I was the only one who understood it, that it liked me, really liked me, as more than just a friend and someone who knows where the food is. We’d wake the flatmates up. They’d all hear us.

I should ask Lisa if she has access to any live animals. Not for kissing, just to hang out with. I’d like to, but live things seem more and more like things that just haven’t died yet.

Maybe Lisa will move out. 

Follow Monica Heisey on Twitter @monicaheisey.