Tales From The Ridge

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The perception of guinea pigs

As is often the case, Pongo Richter himself was the only person who did not think that he had gone mad. The authorities certainly thought he was; they were convinced of it. And the guinea pigs were convinced as well, which was ironic as they were the ones responsible for his condition.

Pongo hadn't minded at first. It was unusual, certainly, to be sharing the Tube with a six-foot tall guinea pig dressed in a business suit and reading the Financial Times, but no-one else batted an eyelid. And besides, he didn't think that guinea pigs were so bad; in fact he thought the way they snuffled those little noses of theirs was rather charming. So Pongo simply accepted them as one of the changes that he had to accept as part of modern life - some new genetic miracle or something - in the same way as he had accepted the Chinese family that had moved into the house across the road from him.

He saw more and more of them. Working in his bank, driving about town, playing football in the park, they were everywhere. He looked forward to seeing them; their soft, exuberant fur always made him feel calm. The guinea pigs, that is; not the Chinese family.

But one Sunday morning, as he was digging his garden, Pongo saw in the street one of the guinea pigs hop up onto another's shoulders, crack into its skull with those brutal incisors and lap at the brains inside as though they were the yolk of an egg. Horrified, Pongo leaped over his fence and whacked the guinea pig in the head repeatedly with his shovel until it lay crumpled in the street, dead. Panting, sweating, he walked into his house and called the police.

The police arrived within minutes, and the psychiatrists soon after, when he'd told the police what had happened.

"We can't have this," they said.

"You're telling me," said Pongo.

"Just killing people like that."

"You mean guinea pigs."

"Ah yes, the police told us about that. Do you see these guinea pigs often?"

"All the time. They're everywhere."

"And you say they're six feet tall, some of them? The same size as us?"

"Yes, yes! Haven't you seen them?"

"Dr Berner?" one of them called over his shoulder, "Will you bring the kit, please?"

As the sedatives began to take effect, Pongo reflected to himself that he really should have expected this - one of the psychiatrists was, after all, a guinea pig herself.

Even after years in the asylum Pongo didn't consider himself mad. But unfortunately for him, everyone else did. Especially the guinea pigs. Sadly for him, it was all simply a matter of perception.