No wonder the hamster refuses to poke his head out from the ball of bedding which he calls home.
After all, whenever he dares peek through the strips of paper and flakes of sawdust all he sees are the huge faces of three children, staring wide-eyed into the cage, the youngest thunderously slapping the metal bars, grinning widely.
"Come on, Albert," they coax, in that high voice everyone uses to talk to animals, along with the occasional squeaking-through-your-teeth sounds which form the universal noise for 'come here, tiny animal'.
But, like an eco-warrior superglued to a tree, Albert will not be moved.
I wonder whether Albert, quaking in the corner of the cage, is thinking back to that morning, when he was comfortably snoozing on brightly-lit sawdust with his hamster mates in the pet shop. Life must have seemed so easy back then, until a small blonde boy with a handful of birthday money pointed a finger at him. Then, without warning, he is scooped up and turned onto his back, his tiny hamster genitalia shamelessly displayed for everyone to see.
"It's a boy," says the pet shop employee, and Albert tries hard not to feel too indignant that there was ever any doubt. He's placed into a dark cardboard box, the only light pouring in through circular holes in the side, and driven home. Whilst inside the box, confused, scared and fed up, he hears the occupants of the car discussing what they'll call him.
"I was going to call him Edward or Henry, after the kings," pipes a voice from the back seat, and Albert makes a mental note that it must have come from the nerdy child who pointed at him in the shop. The voice continues. "But he just doesn't look like an Edward or a Henry."
"So what are you going to call him?" asks a man, who Albert identifies as the driver, the father, and probably a very handsome man.
"Fluffy," comes another voice.
"No," say two adult voices in stern unison, and Albert sighs in relief. There are too many Fluffys, and Cookies, and Toffees, and Peanuts in the world already, he thinks. The nerdy voice appears again.
"How about Albert, after Prince Albert? He was married to Queen Victoria," he says. There are murmurs of approval, and it's settled. Albert it is.
But there's no way Albert is playing the dutiful pet any time soon, not with those moon-faces gawping back at him. No way. Plus, he's nocturnal, and it's still light outside, and these children have ruined his day.
A few hours later, and it's time for Albert to get his own back. Peeking tentatively out of his bedding, he spies me lying on the settee. I've been relegated from the bed, thanks to our daughter feeling unwell and taking up all the space next to my wife. The settee, once comfortable, is now old and broken, and I'm struggling to drift off.
Time for revenge, thinks Albert, and despite the fact that I did nothing to cause him distress earlier, I'm an easy target. As he creeps out of his bed and onto his wheel, he grins a tiny rodent smirk to himself.
He can hear me cursing him as he runs, the wheel squeaking and rattling, but he doesn't care. He has plans: evil plans which involve squeaky wheels, gnawing on metal bars, and biting excited fingers.
Maybe things won't be so bad after all, he thinks, and carries on running.
More:Is It Just Me?
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