Freedom Fighting Hamster On a whim, I recently tried to reconnect with an old friend using one of the popular social networking sites. Not being a member, I had to send an anonymous email without any obvious proof of who I was. In response, like the "secret question" you have to answer when you forget your password, he asked what I had once given him for a birthday present in order to prove my identity. Fair enough. Here is my story:

We met during my first couple of weeks in college. As far as guys were concerned, he turned out to become my best friend. For many years. He was big on birthdays. I wasn't, and tended to forget. Growing up, birthdays were simply just another passing day.

Over the years, a b-day gift-exchange deficit accumulated, and it wasn't in my favor. He never missed a year, and it was only when I didn't receive at least a birthday card from him that I realized we were no longer "in touch". In my defense though, given the nature of the "secret" question,  one year in particular must have been  memorable...hopefully in a good way? It was in my junior year of college that I didn't "forget":

Me: Randy's birthday is next week. Any ideas?

Amy: "Key-riste, not this again. Get him a damn hamster," she barked, rolling her eyes as usual.

Jennifer: "That's a great idea!" she said with her usual people-pleasing enthusiasm, as she finished coloring in the hearts she used to dot the "I's" in her latest letter to her boyfriend. He lived two doors down, by the way, and they had been dating for like 8 years. She was maybe 20 years old at the time.

Me: No way! All hamsters are Freedom Fighters and die tragically. *dramatic hand gestures

Amy: "How so?" she laughed, almost blowing beer through her nose.

Me: Have you ever had any?

Amy: Sure, two in fact.

Me: And how did they die?

Amy: One escaped and fell into the drain pipe. The other one, I don't remember, maybe I forgot to feed it.

Me: Jennifer, you?

Jennifer: Only one, he drowned in his water bowl.

Me: Just exactly how big was...never mind. I had two as well. They both escaped. One died in the dehumidifier's water tray, the other one I found in the toilet bowl. Don't ask, I don't know either... but I always envisioned both of them shouting, "Freeeeeeeedom" during their final breaths.

Jennifer assured me that even in light of the overwhelming evidence I had presented to the contrary, that a hamster was the *perfect* gift. So off we went to the pet store. I tried to find the least Freedom Fighter-like hamster I could. Upon arriving home, Amy chuckles, "Ya know, I was only kidding!"  Bitch.

Randy's birthday came and went. A few weeks later I inquired about the "perfect" gift. Randy said he had died. I ask him not 'what happened' but 'how did he do IT'?

"The sump pump", he said.

I rest my case.