Sunday, January 4, 2015
The Pet Shop by Alan
To make amends with his imaginary friend, the illustrious and forgiving (to most) Van Hulsitor, Jeremiah decided to visit the local pet store, which all the boys in his grade had dubbed “a weird vibe” based on their respective mothers’ lay evaluations in between car rides to and fro matches. The first thought was something in the reptilian family, but the stock was slim pickins. “Be careful for Solomon,” the disenchanted man behind the counter warned. “He’s a bit temperamental these days.” Solomon was busy negotiating a deal with a small albino mouse it seemed. Something serious. Jeremiah chose not to disturb him.
Then there were the crabs. Buckets full of them. They seemed to converse with one another in a series of gestures and genuflections. It was like church, thought Jeremiah. The congregation, the pews, one on top of the other. Van Hulsitor might like that. It was, after all, in church when the offense took place. Somewhere between the sermon and the trip to the bathroom. It was quiet. So quiet in the hallway. No one but the two of them. Until Jeremiah, once again, made the mistake of turning on the light.
There are some creatures that are nocturnal. The man behind the counter had loose and flexible handwriting. The characters seemed restless. The room in the back had no lights. Jeremiah entered cautiously, dared not let his friend know what he felt he had to do.
Clever the Dog by Johanna
Clever sat in front of the barber shop on the third block from the painted boulder two blocks from the smashed guardrail one block from his home. Home was a new word for Clever. He had spent most of his life roaming the streets of Grainville, the next town over. It was in Grainville that he got into his first fight and tore the ear off of a pit-mix trying to steal his garbage pile. It was also where he conceived his first litter after a late night howling. In those years, he had managed to escape Animal Control six times without a scratch. But the winters got colder, the scraps sparser and he slowed down. They found him jaywalking at dusk. He swore they gloated as they threw him into his cell at the pound. Steady meals and warm shelter aside, he hated being behind bars. He was a vagabond meant for the streets with freedom to roam. When they put him on a leash for a walk, he struggled futilely to tear his head from his infuriating collar.
When the little girl came in on that fated spring Sunday and begged her begrudging father to take him home, he finally saw his escape. He wasn’t fazed when they took him to a new town or when the little girl named him Clever and expected him to sit for regular grooming sessions. He knew his time would come and it did. One day, she opened the door for a package delivery and Clever cleared right past both sets of legs and kept on running. Of course, before long he was lost. He had never been to Red Crest before. He had no idea where to go.
It was early evening when the car lights rolled into the alley where he hid, trapping him. The father grabbed him by that blasted collar and threw him in the car. As tough as he was, the large hands of the father on his nape discouraged any fight he might have had left after his great escape. The father did not take him straight home. Instead he took him here, to this spot in front of the barber shop. They sat in the car in silence for a while with the heat running until the father finally spoke.
“See those two storefronts there, across the street? One’s a pet shop. You’re too straggly a mutt to go there. That’s where the fine breeds are sold. That’s where I wanted to buy a dog. Lucky for you, my daughter insisted we get a stray from the shelter. She’s got a big heart that girl.”
Clever listened intently. For the first time, someone spoke to him without yelling or condescending. The father lowered the fan on the heater and continued, “See that other storefront. That’s where they butcher the meat and that’s where you’re going to end up if you ever run away again.” The father turned to look him straight in the eyes and what he saw there must have convinced him that his message got through because he started the car and drove home. Clever did not take the threat lightly. He had no doubt that the father meant it.
At the house, the little girl squealed with delight to see her dog again. Father glared sternly from above. Clever hung his head low and obeyed. After a few months, he got used to the comforts of home—the petting, the treats, the yard where he could bark at pedestrians. But every once in a while, when he got an itching to run, he’d walk here, sit and stare at the two storefronts, remembering his inescapable fate.
The Late February Sunlight by Bill
Trumbling into the parking lot the big pick-up with the quorum of us in the back kicked up a fart of dust after I knocked on the window indicating we should stop when I saw the sign for the pet shop figuring this strip mail ought to be a low-key spot to wind down and regroup. Of course he tossed us a bit against the side of the bed with a sharp left turn to come up short of a sudden right in front of the coffee shop. The truck’s owner sure had a black hand sense of destiny about him.
Who knew what town this was, hours from the capital. We’d beat a hasty retreat from the conference on the advice and seeming concern of someone I had to try hard not to think about. Despite the suddenness of our arrival to this nowhere place, Rob yawned ambitiously against the sunlight and the rest of us moved a little slow and chilled, clutching a bag here and there began to shift upwards, Gail and Cliff jumping off the side edge of the truck under the propultion of caffeine promise and the rest climbing down off the rear bumper. The driver stood by his open door, stretching big and yawning in his jeans and tucked in western shirt and not to be outdone by his truck he let a loud fart rip in the wind. A few more days like this and I'd hire him full time but for the moment it was all I could do except wonder if another UN delegation had ever arrived in such a fashion anywhere. Probably.
The Red Crest Pet Shop Review by Lyle
The Red Crest Pet Shop, is difficult to describe. The front sign, of which I have provided a photo, contains two perfect circles, as if wormholes from (to?) another time and place. But the shop itself is orally inimitable, and thus, indescribable, especially as the shop owner forbade me from using metaphor (they are not animals to be understood as anything other than themselves, he told me) or from objective description (these are exotic animals, the likes of which you have never seen, he pressed — they must be experienced first hand), which precluded photography inside the shop. So I am left with the shop sign itself. The images on it are not accurate in the least — such common animals as snakes or cats or goldfish do not exist in Red Crest. They are otherworldly animals of which you have not heard. The best indirect referential statement I can make is that only the sizes of these images come close to how different these “pets” are from your pets. Look at the sizes! In relation to each other. In relation to their representation. I have inspected this image for far too long as I have nothing but memory and radio silence to report otherwise. I have been constricted, so to speak. Go see the place for yourself; though be forewarned, you may return with nothing — that most absurd of all animals.
Who Doesn't Love Sausage by Forrest
Because stories are the worst possible vehicle for sincere confession: I haven't been the only proprietor of the Red Crest Pet Shop to pass off expired merchandise to Farmer Jed's Meat Market next door. In fact, I've been told by my wife's grandmother, a clandestine arrangement has existed between the Pet Shop and Farmer Jed himself since Red Crest's incorporation in the 1940's, mostly in the form of Jed sending business back to us—senior citizens stocking up on ground chuck who miss the presence of a cocker spaniel, foodie hipsters buying python meat who are overly curious, that sort of thing. There's an odd correlation between the two that people who never run a pet shop are aware of: the devoted carnivore needing animal company. You'll see what I mean, Jed told me once as he picked up some rabbits laid low by a malfunctioning A/C one night out back. I still didn't feel very good about it. Only because the whole arrangement had a certain sense. Maybe Jed's customers knew what they were buying. Or none of it made any difference—we're better off that it came from next door instead of Argentina, I can hear the good folk of Red Crest say. I'm not really speaking any revelations here. That's what bothers me. What good's a confession, I tell my wife, when no one in town cares one way or the other? Feeding our lone goldfish, she shrugs her shoulders. She thinks it'll grow large enough someday to set it free somewhere. I doubt it has any conception of the outside, a world where there are always honest people lurking.