The thing that worried him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about.*

What’s there to worry about, he’d mutter as he scuttled about the cage, sniffing out overlooked pellets. I’ve got food, I’ve got water, I have a place to lay my head. I should be happy.

And he knew he was probably looking even more worried now, and it wasn’t just the down- sloping way that guinea pig eyes sat under tiny furrowed brows. He looked even more worried than a guinea pig usually looked. Because he was. He worried about being unhappy, an unnatural state for a simple rodent.

Treadmill time, he announced to himself. There was no one else to hear him, but he talked to himself. It helped drown out the restlessness, the vague yet insistent malaise that beckoned him to hope for more, a compelling dream of self-actualization. But the bleak meaninglessness of his daily existence was ample evidence that he was crazy to dream. He turned to artificial pep, artificial conversation, artificial exercise. As long as he kept busy, relapsing into fruitless musing could be avoided.

“Hey Mom,” piped Jane as she peered through the metal bars. “Henry is on his treadmill, but he’s just lying there. Do you think he’s ok?”

“Hey buddy,” she offered softly through the bars. “What’s the matter? Don’t you like your treadmill anymore? What are you worried about, Henry? What’s the matter?” Her baby-talk voice gooing up the more she spoke.

“Don’t worry, honey,” her mother called as she hustled through the kitchen with a basket of laundry. “He’s fine. He’s happy. He’s got everything he needs. He’s so relaxed he’s even falling asleep on the treadmill.”

Must be nice to be a pet, she sighed, dumping out the clothes and trying to shake the resentful feeling that she couldn’t be as happy as a guinea pig.

*From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

(Note: This story originated as a writing exercise using a line out of a novel on my bookshelf.)