petshop owner's revenge

Jimmy was a shy, nerdy little boy with ginger hair and a stutter. He was bullied at school but he didn’t tell his parents about it because he knew what his dad would say: “There’s only one way to deal with bullies and that’s to stand up to ‘em and be a man, not a snivelling little baby…”

And he knew his mom would say, “Daddy’s right darling…”.

He knew that’s what they would say because that’s what they’d said when he told them about a bunch of kids who snatched his school satchel and put dog poo in it and wrote “bad smell alert” on it with permanent marker.

He couldn’t tell his brothers or sisters or friends about it because he didn’t have any. He was an only child in more ways than one. He was always on his own---no-one would play with him at school and he wasn’t welcome in any of the various groups. He was the lowest of the low, and he knew it.

His parents didn’t spend much time with him either---they were very busy doing other things like investing in real estate and attending self improvement seminars and bonding workshops with their work colleagues.

One day, when he was feeling particularly sad and lonely, Jimmy got it into his head that what he needed was a pet, a living creature to love and care for, a devoted companion. So he waited and waited for the right moment to ask his parents. He had to wait more than a week before he got the chance to speak with both of them together.

His dad put the television on mute, and said, “I don’t suppose there’s any harm in it but you’ll have to save up your pocket money and pay for it yourself. It’s about time you learned the value of money. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way.”

He looked at his mom imploringly but his mom just said with a sad smile, “Dad’s right darling…”

Jimmy was very disappointed. He got very little pocket money---not because his parents couldn’t afford it but because usually they just forgot, or were too busy.

But he was determined to get a pet. So for a whole year he saved up all his pocket money and did lots of chores and odd jobs around the neighbourhood to earn extra money. Finally, when he had earned enough money, he asked his parents to take him to the Pet Shop and help him choose a pet. (He was very shy you see, and he worried that he wouldn’t know what to do at the Shop, or would make a mistake and everyone would laugh at him.)

His dad had a golf game that afternoon and wanted to get to the Club a bit early so he got irritated with Jimmy: “No, James. I think it would do you good to go on your own. This shyness of yours has got to stop, you’ve got to face up to your fears. It’s only because we love you so much. But I wish you’d be a man not a mommy’s boy all your life. If you want something badly enough you’ll find a way.”

His mom said: “Dad’s right darling…”.

Jimmy was very upset. He had wanted so badly to have a pet, had worked so hard for so long to earn the money, but he just could not go by himself without his mom and dad, it was just too scary. What if he did the wrong thing and everybody laughed at him?

But he was a very determined little boy, and after a day or two he gathered the courage to go to the Pet Shop on his own.

It was quite a long walk to the Pet Shop, about forty minutes. On his way, feeling scared but excited and happy and proud of himself he bought a large chocolate fudge sundae which he sucked at softly as he walked.

As he stepped inside the Pet Shop and the door closed behind him, a delicious shiver went up his spine. Somehow the Shop seemed much larger inside than it had from outside. It was like a dark mysterious labyrinth, with tall cabinets and cages stacked to the ceiling, and the air rich with the sounds and smells of a hundred different birds and beasts and insects and reptiles. (This Pet Shop was one of the largest in the country. It had a retail section in the front, and a wholesale section with a large storage area at the back for loading and unloading supplies, with or without the appropriate paperwork and approvals.)

Sipping softly at his sundae, Jimmy explored the Shop. There were cats and rats, and mice and kittens, and guinea pigs, and cute little puppy dogs, and budgies and ducks and parrots, and snakes and ferrets. There were sea horses and angel fish and turtles and stick insects. There was even a big hairy tarantula in a glass cabinet. There were so many amazing and wonderful creatures there that he couldn’t make up his mind. So in the end he thought he would go home and ask his mom and dad what they thought and then come back the next day to the Pet Shop and buy a pet.

But he felt embarrassed at leaving the shop without buying anything. After all, he had spent over an hour looking at all the wonderful pets. He couldn’t just walk out. So he hung around a little longer pretending to check out the tree frogs and the tadpoles, but he kept looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching him, and he wasn’t enjoying it any more.

Eventually, he plucked up the courage to try and leave the shop. He hoped no-one would notice him but just to be on the safe side he made a great show of casually sauntering in the general direction of the doorway leading to the street, still sucking slowly on his sundae, pretending to examine the animals on his way. But as he reached out his hand to push open the door a one of the puppies gave a sudden loud yip which startled him so much that he dropped his half-full sundae on to the Pet Shop floor where it made a nasty splashy mess all over his shoes and socks and all over the floor and some went onto the window as well.

The Pet Shop Owner, a large sweaty man with a big fat belly and a big red face and an unlit cigar dangling from his fat red lips, looked up from his newspaper and burst out laughing, and all the animals joined in, as if they were all laughing at him, Jimmy.

The puppy dogs yelped hysterically, the parrots squawked their ugly heads off, the ducks quacked derisively, the guinea pigs squeaked and whistled in cruel delight. Even the tarantula tapped its legs mockingly against the glass cabinet. All laughing at him, all happy he was sad.

Jimmy rushed out of the Shop, leaving his mess behind for the Owner to clean up. Then, with tiny little tears prickling at the corners of his eyes, he started the long walk home. On the way, he spent all the money he had saved. He bought a happy meal from Maccas, some comic books, a bag of chocolates and some toys. When he had spent all his money, he felt better in some ways, and worse in others.

When he got home, his mom and dad weren’t there so he went up to his room and lay down on his bed feeling very sorry for himself. When he eventually saw them, he didn’t tell them about what had happened and they didn’t ask either.

* * *

Thirty years later, Jimmy was a wealthy industrialist with factories and mines and warehouses and bank accounts all over the world. By then his parents were living in a seaside retirement home they had bought with the aid of a large mortgage from the Bank. By then Jimmy was known as Sir James because he was such a rich and important man, and knew all the rich and powerful people.

All over the world, the poisons from Jimmy’s factories and his friends’ factories went into the rivers and oceans. The forests were cut down and turned into newspaper and wrapping paper and toilet paper. Gigantic wounds were cut into the flesh of the earth so that metals and minerals could be extracted and manufactured into a wide range of useful products such as remote control devices, self-heating blankets, hydroxilising moisturisers and nourishing conditioners (not to mention all manner of fly sprays, hair sprays, fresheners, deodorants, pacifiers, neutralisers, enhancers and cleansers).

Eventually most of the animals and birds and fish and insects died, until you could walk for miles and miles and not come across a single living creature on the face of the Earth---not a duck, or a mouse, or a guinea pig, or a budgerigar or a snake or a ferret or a sea horse or a turtle or a stick insect. Or even a tarantula.

(Well actually there were still plenty of rats and cockroaches but they had all mutated into evil murderous beasts intent on the destruction of humankind. There were also lots of feral dogs and cats roaming the suburbs---and cities too---but most of them had rabies or pollution sickness. And anyway, kids weren’t allowed to have pets anymore because their fleas carried deadly organisms that were immune to all the latest antibiotics and other wonders of modern medicine.)

By then, all over the world pet shop owners and pet industry workers of all kinds---such as horse whisperers, lion tamers, snake charmers, milkmaids, veterinarians, fishermen, shepherds, matadors, jockeys and whale riders---all lost their businesses or jobs and incomes and couldn’t or wouldn’t feed their loved ones any more.

But Jimmy didn’t care about the pet industry workers or about the animals. He was making lots of money, he had fifty five motor cars, and twelve large castles, and seven ocean-going yachts and three private islands. He still had no friends, but there were always lots of people at his parties, rich and famous and powerful people, and no-one was laughing at him any more.

But it was not enough. He still didn’t feel… content, safe, happy. He continued building his empire but somehow it was less and less satisfying. He felt bored and unstimulated, so he decided to enter politics. He made a few calls and few large donations and joined a political party. He was very popular because he had lots of money and he could afford lots of advertising, and he knew a lot of people in high places who owed him big favours. Very quickly he became one of the most powerful politicians in the land, feared and loved and hated and admired by millions, including his aged but still spry parents.

One day his parents asked him to loan them some money for the monthly mortgage payment on their seaside retirement home. They told him they had already been late once or twice with payments that year because of unforeseen medical expenses, and they were very concerned that if they were late for a third time, that the Bank would force them to sell their home and they would lose everything.

Jimmy said to his dad: “I wish you’d try and be a man and not a snivelling old fart. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way.”

And to his mom he said: “Isn’t that right darling?”

The next day, Jimmy was making a speech to thousands of people at a pre-election rally when a large sweaty man with a big red face and an unlit cigar dangling from his fat red lips and a bomb strapped to his big fat belly came up to the stage and killed everyone, himself included.

And that was the end.

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

wicked and sick (refresh/home)