Lisa Matthews has a perfectly normal bedroom in the perfectly normal house she shares with her parents, her sister and her brother. The peach-and-green walls are hung with posters by Van Gogh and Matisse (not surprising choices, since Lisa hopes eventually to teach art history, at either high school or college level). Her skis stand in the corner near her favorite piece of furniture -- her grandmother's cedar chest. It's a room like any other, with one small exception -- an exception named Chester. As roommates go, Chester is ideal. He's quiet, clean and friendly. When he and Lisa are alone in their room, Chester's idea of a great time is to eat raisins out of Lisa's mouth. Chester is a chinchilla. Lisa is the first to admit that a chinchilla is not a run-of-the-mill pet. But, as an animal lover, she already owned the usual animals - a dog and two cats - and when her boyfriend wanted to give her another pet two years ago, Lisa chose Chester. It's true that no one else in her suburban Los Angeles neighborhood has a pet chinchilla, but Lisa is used to being a little different. Her father was a corporate nomad, and the Matthews family was uprooted numerous times, from Peoria to Ohio to Chicago to Georgia to Ohio again, to L.A., to Florida and then back to L.A., just in time for Lisa to finish high school. Finally settled in one place, she began to blossom, making friends and finding success as a model at the age of 17. Now 20, she's a student at a local junior college,thinking about her future. However her plans work out, there's one thing she knows - Chester will be with her. "A chinchilla is a big rodent," explains Lisa helpfully. "He has the body of a rabbit and the tail of a squirrel. He has mouse ears and kangaroo legs, and then big back feet and little front feet. He's really cute. I talk to him." The few people we've heard of who owned chinchillas had a lot of them and turned them into coats. Lisa's brown eyes blaze when she's asked if Chester will end up in the garmet industry with his relatives. "No!" she shouts. I do not like fur coats!" "You're going to tell everyone that Chesters eats raisons out of my mouth, aren't you?" she asks. "I mean, that sounds kind of gross, doesn't it?" Nah, we tell her; everybody does it. "I could only love an animal lover, obviously," says Lisa. "I'd like to have a ranch, maybe in Colorado. I'm going to have horses and I'm going to have dogs. And I'll need plenty of room for Hank." Hank? "I really want a cow named Hank. Cows are my favorite animals, and I think Hank is a good name for a cow, even if it is a girl." What will Hank eat? Lisa eyes us sternly. "Not raisins," she says, beginning to smile, "and not out of my mouth."
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