Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
By Holly Westefeld
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"Yes. My name's Charlie."
"So are you looking for a lost pet or a new one?"
"A new one. I've never had a pet before."
"You get very attached to them, you know. My dear, sweet Lady has been gone several months now, and it will have to be a very special one to draw my attention any time soon." Sol turned away briefly, and Charlie was almost certain he swiped the corner of his eye. "Have you thought about what you're looking for?"
"Definitely companionship. I've been a loner, but that's getting old fast. Having a pet, I've heard, improves health, which helps one live longer."
"Yes, but there are other things you should consider when choosing the right pet for you. For instance, younger ones will want to play a lot, and may still need some training, whereas older ones tend to be more placid, but could develop health problems much sooner." Sol blinked rapidly for a few seconds. "All vary in how much attention they seek, or their responsiveness to your attention."
"A playful pet sounds fun, and I want it to be young so we will have many happy years together. Anything else to consider?"
"Trust your instincts. Examine each possibility carefully, and do not approach too quickly. The right one may not be in the first group you meet."
"Okay. I'll be very cautious."
"It sounds like Gloria is coming now with some prospects."
The door opened. Charlie and Sol peered through the wire grid with slitted eyes as a parade of prospects poured in from the hallway.
"But Mom, I don't want a kitten; I want a puppy," whined a redheaded boy.
"Pete, puppies are a lot more work, and if you don't follow through with the responsibility, guess who's stuck doing the work."
"Oh, Mom! A cat won't go for walks with me in the woods, or learn tricks."
As the boy tugged his mom back toward the door she warned, "If you don't take care of it, I'll bring it back."
"Angela, is this the registered persian you mentioned?" queried a woman indicating a tortoise shell in the back right corner."
"Yes. Her name is Samantha."
"She's quite a pretty little thing. ... Yes, we'll take her."
The whole row of cages on the left vibrated as a boy and girl curled their fingers through the mesh and jumped up and down. "Mommy, come see this cute black kitten!" Charlie backed slowly toward the wall.
"Mark, Mary, don't shake the cages. You're frightening them. Come see this calico over here."
Charlie remained frozen in place as a man who reeked of grease and burned vegetation tried to coax him closer. "Well, I don't want no animal that ain't friendly, anyhow."
A young woman walked slowly down the left row, and Charlie started to move forward, but paused, remembering Sol's advice not to be hasty. She continued past him, then back up the other side. Turning, she wandered toward Charlie. "Aren't you a cutie. You couldn't be more than six to eight months."
Before Charlie realized what he was doing, enchanted by her soft voice, he found himself at the front, flopped on his back, swatting playfully at the end of the honey-colored braid she dangled through the grid. A cautious finger followed, scratching beneath his right ear. "Absolutely precious. What a motor you have! ... My name is Beth. And you look like a--Charlie."
Beth got a lump in her throat as Charlie got up and nuzzled the tuxedo cat next to him, as best he could through the wires.
"Thanks for the good advice, Sol."
"Happy to be of help. She looks like a keeper, though too young for me. You are really lucky to find one on your first day here."
When Angela started helping the pets get their new owners into carriers, Sol dropped his chin to his paws, and squeezed his eyes shut.
All was quiet once more, but a familiar scent caused Sol's whiskers to twitch.
"You remind me of my Inky."
Sol's ears perked at the gentle murmur. He opened his eyes to a vision of a smiling woman with a silver bun. Hesitantly, he moved forward, sniffing her extended fingers. "And you remind me of my dear, sweet Lady."
As he rubbed his whiskers along her knuckles, Beth returned. "I see you found one after all, Mom."
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