Apr/May 2004  •   Spotlight

My Porcupine

by Frances Gapper

I haven't named my porcupine, but I do like his spines, the way they rise and fall. I had him shipped over from a Canadian pine forest because I'm fond of wildlife. He's costing me a fortune in sweet and salty things. I took him to the Exotic Pets Vet on Marylebone Road because of a little problem. He was peeing on me. The vet said he thought I was a female porcupine—I mean he thought the porcupine thought I was. But he pees on me, I said. That's not very gentlemanly. Maybe I've been giving him too much marzipan. The vet silently handed me a leaflet. I read it on the bus, my porcupine balanced on my lap in a cat-carrier. A child poked its finger through the wire. Don't, dear, I said. He's got prickles, look. The mating habits of this creature are bizarre, I read. The male approaches the female with embraces and nose-rubbing. Tick embraces, tick nose-rubbing. If receptive, tick receptive, she allows him to spray her with gouts of urine. When fully soaked, copulation occurs, and 210 days later one offspring is born, sighted, mobile and covered in hair and quills. Hmm. Back at the flat, I took down my calendar from the wall. I looked at April, then marked a day in November.