“So why did you ask me to meet you here?” Sandy and I stood outside of Milberry’s only pet shop. I had been here before, thus I was petrified of going in again. Animals terrified me. I had met a dog that I kind of liked… once. He was stuffed and had a tag.
“I… I… I… think I might need some help.” I swallowed, but my throat was so dry there was really no need. Sandy looked at me skeptically.
“You need my help in a pet store? What’s really going on here, Young?” If she had been my mom I probably would have grabbed her hand. However, I thought better of it considering I was supposed to be the brave, strong one.
“I need to pick out several specimens for my experiment. Nothing big, but I’m going to need a couple different species, so as to add a variable to my hypothesis and to get the best results.”
“So you’re going to need what? A couple mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, fish…” My skin began to squirm and my head started to feel a bit fuzzy.
“Sandy, let’s not talk about this. Let’s just get it over with.” Again she gave me a quizzical look, and I decided not to answer it. Instead I opened the door… or would have if I could have. I pulled and it wouldn’t budge. I pulled again harder with the same results. “I think it’s stuck.” This time I put my face to the glass and peered in, trying to see if the store was closed.
“Herbert, maybe if you followed the instructions on the door and pushed.” I glanced down at the petit figure beside me. Surely it couldn’t be that simple. My eyes swung back to the door. The word PUSH was printed neatly on the door handle. Sandy giggled beside me.
“I’ve never known anyone as smart as you, Herbert, who is also as dumb as you.” She pushed the door open and walked in before me. She was still chuckling and shaking her head. I would have made excuses, but I couldn’t think of any. Although… who goes around reading doors anyway?
The smell of the pet store almost knocked me over. I felt bad for the person who worked her. I turned to face the counter and saw the poor victim. She was young lady who seems to be brained washed to the nasty smell surrounding us. She was chewing gum loudly and blowing bubbles. I thought about giving her a lecture on how little particles of dust and germs fill the air, but I wasn’t sure she would appreciate my help. Instead I turned my attention back to Sandy who was staring into a small cage full of little rodents.
“Here are some mice, Herbert. They’re not all that expensive either.” She tapped on the glass, testing their reaction. “And boy can they climb.” My skin started to crawl. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Maybe we should come back another day, Sandy.” I said in a high strangled voice. “The girl at the counter looks kinda busy.” Sandy ignored me and continued on the next class cage.
“What are you going to keep these little guys in, Herbert?” I looked at what she was calling little. It was a huge black rat with red eyes. I took a step back as it seemed to be staring at me menacingly.
“That’s not a little guy, Sandy. That’s a monster. We have a ‘No Monster Policy’ in our house. He’s not invited.” Sandy looked at me incredulously.
“Come on, Herbert. He’s not so bad. He’s actually kind of cute.” I looked back at the cute monster to try to see it from her perspective. He was now cleaning himself and I caught a glimpse of his razor sharp white teeth. This was definitely not a cute rat. “You don’t have to make up your mind right away. We’ll look and see what else they’ve got.”
We moved down to the next cage. Miniature hamsters. These weren’t so bad, I thought. “I don’t mind these too much, Sandy.” She continued to study them before agreeing with me.
“You’re right. They don’t have that long skinny tail, but they’re a lot more expensive. Ten dollars per hamster versus two dollars per mouse. That’s quite a difference in price.” I had to agree with her, but it seemed worth every penny to me.
“Maybe you could get two of each.” I winced at the thought.
“I don’t want mice in my house, Sandy. Or rats.”
“Well, how are you going to conduct a balanced experiment if you don’t have a variety of specimens?” I would have answered her but she moved on to the next cage. “Aww! Look at these, Herbert! Baby rabbits! So adorable.” Sandy looked down at them like she had never seen anything so cute. I had. They were better than the rats, mice, and hamsters, but it wasn’t as though they were adorable or anything.
“Sandy, they’re just rabbits.”
“No, Herbert. These are baby bunny rabbits. They’re adorable!” I wasn’t seeing the difference between rabbits and baby bunny rabbits. I decided to look it up on the internet when I got home. Girls are so strange. “We have to get at least two of these!”
“Sandy, you do remember we aren’t buying pets, don’t you? I’ll be experimenting on these animals. There is always the possibility that something will go wrong and they won’t survive. That’s why I’m not experimenting on people.” I stared her down hoping that she would see how serious I was. She glared up at me and then turned back and smiled at the rabbits.
“Well, we’ll save the rabbits until you have all the ticks worked out of your experiment.” Ticks. I began to wonder how many of these animals had ticks. My arms started itching and I rubbed them in irritation.
“Let’s get this over with, Sandy. I’m going mad.” She smiled knowingly and moved to the next cage.
“How about a couple frogs!” Her exclamation startled me and I jumped. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t jumped backwards. Even this wouldn’t have been a problem if the glass cage of mice hadn’t been positioned right behind me. Right where I jumped. I heard a creek. I turned around as quickly as I could and grabbed the mouse cage. I would have been alright if my grabbing the cage hadn’t knocked the lid off. Almost as soon as the mice saw that a way of escape had been provided, they took it. One jumped on me. I screamed like girl. I faced a serious dilemma. Should I drop the cage on the ground and smack off the offending creature or should I wait until someone saw my dilemma and put the lid back on.
“SANDY!” Sandy swung to face me, her face a mask of confusion. Her mouth swung open.
“Herbert! What are you doing?” It was a dumb question but I didn’t have time to tell her so. Another mouse jumped out of the cage and onto me. The previous offender had climbed up my face and was playing in my hair.
“Ahhh!!! Ahhh!!!” I knew I had to get myself under control. “The stand, Sandy! I knocked the stand over. Ahhh!!! Ahhh!!! Pick it up! Pick it up!” We really would have preferred to have enjoyed our party alone, but bubble gum lady must have heard the commotion and felt left out. She dashed around the corner and grabbed the stand that I had knocked over.
“Put it down!” She yelled at me. I did. I wasn’t about to argue with her. Sandy had retrieved the lid and slammed it down on the cage just as I was setting it down. Bubble Gum lady cut the mice’s fun short and took both the one out of my hair and the one that had begun to crawl down my pant leg. She flung them back into the cage and then turned to me accusingly. “Young man, if you would like to hold one of the animals, you need to ask for assistance.” She pointed to the sign clearly written on the glass cage. “PLEASE ASK FOR ASSISTANCE BEFORE HANDLING ANY OF THE ANIMALS.” I didn’t bother arguing with her and letting her know that some people don’t consider reading doors or cages, but instead I took a deep breath and said, “Yes, ma’am.” Then I fainted.