SHELLY’S WORLD: View from the Top of the Stairs

Updated 41 weeks ago By Shelly Reuben
SHELLY’S WORLD: View from the Top of the Stairs
My little guy’s name is Homer, and he is a ferret.

His name could just as easily be Rover or Lassie, Snowball or Calico, and he could have been a dog or a cat. The important thing is that he is ours, and we love him.

And he is getting old.

I walk out of my bedroom and see Homer lying at the top of the stairs. I stop short. There is something about the tilt of his head. Suddenly, my heart gives a pang and I feel that the entire history of humanity has been written in my aging pet’s eyes: Brave. Sweet. Fumbling. Finite.

We are born. We grow up. We dream dreams. We fall in and out of love. We try, we fail, we try again, and we succeed. We move on. We move slower. We stop. Then, with wistful smiles on our faces, we gaze out at the world from the top of the stairs, and we say, “Thanks for the memories.”

That’s what Homer is doing.

His fur was once brown. Now it is white. His nose has a goofy black blob off-center against a background of pink. Initially, I considered it a flaw and I called him Homer the Homely Ferret. Now I think he is absolutely gorgeous and I call him, “My Handsome Little Man.”

As with all mighty warriors, Homer’s heart is pure and he has the strength of ten. He has slowed down, of course. But only in the real world. In his mind, he is still bold. Persistent. Purposeful. Funny. His eyes dart here, there, everywhere. And he remembers…

That his top priority has always been his job. He has a routine and he faithfully adheres to it. Every day, he must inspect and topple all of the wastebaskets on the second floor, one in each bedroom, another in the bathroom. Then he glides swiftly and smoothly, like river water flowing over rocks, down the stairs to the ground floor.

First he tackles the wastebasket in the kitchen. Next, the one in powder room. A third wastebasket in the den. He knocks each over, rummaging through the contents, leaving a mess, and then padding onward to the foyer. There he finds a closet door not quite shut. After trying to nudge it open with his nose, he flips onto his back, claws at the door with his forepaws, and...Success!

He dives into every pair of boots, pulls out the insoles, and leaves them scattered across the floor like victims of a crime. Then he looks up and notices the fringe of a scarf dangling from an overcoat. He grabs it with his teeth, pulls it to the floor, and hides it behind the umbrella stand in the hall.

On to the kitchen where Homer finds a pail piled high with sponges, rags, and clothes pins. He overturns the pail. Out! Out with all of it!

He scampers back to the den, climbs atop a green velvet chair, tucks his head under a needlepoint throw pillow, and pushes it to the floor.

Almost done.

SHELLY’S WORLD: View from the Top of the Stairs

He has just one job left in his daily routine, and it waits for him in the living room. On his way there, he knocks over a potted fern, tracks soil across the carpet, and arrives at his ultimate destination: The sofa.

The back of this sofa butts up against the staircase, so Homer quickly climbs five steps and pokes his head between the spindles. Then he slides down a cushion, lands just inches from my purse, tucks his nose deep inside, shoves aside my wallet, and hears a jingle.

Objective attained.

He has located his all-time favorite thing: My keys. Homer clenches the key ring in his teeth, jumps to the floor, and drags the keys to an inaccessible corner beneath the sofa, where they can be retrieved only with fortitude and a fireplace poker.

His work is done. His goals have been achieved, and he can take a well-deserved twenty-two hour nap. Such is the life of an active ferret.

But that was then. This is now.

Homer’s black button eyes are alert, yet he seems haunted by visions of the past, when wastebaskets surrendered to his ferocious strength; when insteps on boots succumbed to his cunning extractions; when no sock, scarf, sponge or key was safe from his grasp.

His movements are slow, but his mind is quick as he surveys his realm. Remembering. Perhaps. And perhaps believing that new adventures are just a step away. A step he’ll take tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next.

My ferret reclines at the top of the stairs. He is not my mother, my father, my husband, or my child. And he is not me. He is my pet. Yet as I smile down at him, I feel that through his wise old eyes I can see all of mankind. We are born. We dream dreams. We try, we fail, we try again, and we succeed. We move on. But we move slower. And, like Homer, we remember.

So make room for me at the top of the stairs, my little friend.

Because I would like to remember, too.

Copyright © 2018, Shelly Reuben - Originally published in The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY - Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her books, visit

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