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THE HAMSTER

    Once a hamster took an animal rights group to court.
    The lawsuit came as a surprise to many, and none more so than the group being sued. They had long considered the hamster to be one of their staunchest supporters. It had never failed to respond to their financial appeals or to sign and send one of their weekly postcards to Congress and the president. So when they launched their campaign to free the hamsters of the country from their cages and wheels, this one’s opposition to their efforts was a shock.
    It shouldn’t have been, though. The hamster might be unwavering in its commitment to freedom in the abstract, but when it came to its own cage and wheel, that was another matter. Especially when it came to its wheel.
    Others might view the hamster’s wheel as the very symbol of imprisonment; however, it saw things differently. Not that it enjoyed running endlessly in place, particularly. It was tedious, the hamster readily admitted. Tedium was not the point, though. Or rather, tedium was a small price to pay for the steady confidence-building that running in place brought.
    As far back as the hamster could remember, the wheel had played a defining role in its determination to make something of itself. All through its youth and right through college, it had trotted along with both eyes fixed firmly on what mattered. It couldn’t wait to be finished with childish pursuits, then with boring studies, and to take its place in the real world at last. 
    When it showed up bright-eyed and eager for its first job interviews, the recruiters had been impressed with how quickly it mastered the wheels they asked it to take a trial run in. So much so that it had been able to pick and choose among the many offers it received and even to make some demands about the size of its first wheel.
    With each increase in that wheel over the years, the hamster impressed all of its superiors by its dedication and the long hours it willingly put in coming up to speed. It even found a secret satisfaction in the sympathy and worry for its health that it gained as it drove itself to spin the wheel faster and longer than any of its colleagues. If it ultimately died in the wheel, the mere mention of its name might be an inspiration to others for years to come. This thought was enough to keep it going for hours after the last lights in the office had been turned off for the night.
    The wheel had become inseparable, thus, from the hamster’s hard-earned sense of worth. It was the measure of its past accomplishments and a promise of more of the same in the future. Deprived of the wheel, how would the hamster carry on? What was to save it, in short, from a demoralizing stumble into self-doubt, or worse? And now here were these do-gooders it had thought were its friends trying to take from it the one thing it could no longer do without.
    “Can’t they see the obvious?” the hamster muttered to itself between gasps for breath.