1. Ensure it’s the proper time of year. January is preferable. The trees should be bare, and the ground, though hard and frozen, should still be pliable.
2. Be in the proper emotional state. You should be sad and anxious, but with no definable cause. Be a sophomore in college, a few months shy of twenty. You should have experience with the volatile way friendships change from freshman to sophomore year. You must feel down, but not depressed. You must decide than an animal companion is better than therapy.
3. Find the location of the nearest Petco. When the first heavy snow of the season hits and classes are cancelled, gather your boyfriend and a few friends. Take the T (the shitty green line that squeals like a banshee) all the way to Camberidge-side Galleria. Enjoy this outing with your friends, because you were sad before and you will be sad again soon.
4. Pick a guinea pig. He should be calm and look at your thoughtfully, he should nuzzle your hand. Name him Zuckerberg, or Zucky for short, because that Facebook movie just came out and your boyfriend admires successful business people who are the subjects of major motion pictures. Buy the necessities: cage, food, those little shavings to put on the bottom of the cage.
5. Formulate a plan: You are currently living in the dorms. There is a strict no-pets policy. To sneak past the RAs and get to your room, disguise the guinea pig and his things as a birthday gift. Send your boyfriend into a CVS to buy wrapping paper, a gift bag, and scotch tape. Sit in the food court with your friends as you wrap the cage in blue wrapping paper to match the blue gift bag in which you place the small holey cardboard box containing Zucky.
6. On your way back to the dorms, rehearse what you and your friends will say as you walk past the front desk. Pretend that it is a friend’s birthday. One of you should talk about cake, another should mention how so-and-so will love the presents you got them. When you swing open the door to the building, you will see the Resident Director standing before you as you hold the gift bag containing the illegal guinea pig. You and your friends should say your lines to each other. Act as natural as possible. The RD will say, “Oh, presents? Have fun!” Flash your student IDs and pass through the double doors in relief.
7. Have a shitty campus job. It’s actually not that shitty, but you work too many hours with too little to do. The campus cafeteria is a good place. A few nights after smuggling your guinea pig into the dorms, while you are working at your shitty campus job, you will receive a text message from your boyfriend telling you that Zucky is sick. It turns out that he wasn’t a sweet and gentle guinea pig because of his disposition, he was just dying. And then, of course, you transported him across Boston in a blizzard, so that didn’t help either. Look at the clock and realize you still have a few hours until the end of your shift. Google which vet is the best in Boston for guinea pigs, even though you can’t afford it. Hope that he makes it until you get back.
8. When you get out of work a few hours later, walk into your dorm room be surprised by the circle of people in the room. The resident animal lover will be cradling the corpse of your guinea pig. Your boyfriend will explain what happened, and despite wanting to cry, hold it in in front of all these people. The resident animal lover will say that there was nothing anyone could do, he simply stopped breathing in her arms and died.
9. Prepare for the burial of your dead guinea pig. Scavenge through your dorm room and finda a fork stolen from the cafeteria and a can of Planter’s Peanuts. Empty the peanut can and squish his body into it. Gather in a solemn procession with your friends and go to the Fens at midnight. Dig into the frozen earth with the stolen fork, but give up. Cover the can with snow and autumn’s last leaves. Listen to the parties nearby, as you and your friends dispose of Zucky’s body along the same river Whitey Bulger dumped his victims.
10. Walk away from the river, sad, but surrounded by friends. Decide that you are not an animal person. When spring comes and the snow melts and the ice thaws, look for the Planter’s Peanut can each day as you walk past the Fens.