Working At The Pet Shop

I held a freezing can of Diet Coke in one hand and my green smock in the other hand.

“Put it on before Greg comes out of his office, or you’ll get in trouble.” That was Hailey, my “trainer”. This was going to be a long summer.

I sat my coke down by the cash register and slipped the apron on over my head tying it tightly in the back. Picking it up, I took a long drink, hoping it would help my headache go away.

“Ok, now you can work the cash register, I’m sure you know how to work one of those, and I’m going to go start cleaning the hamster and guinea pig cages.” Hailey slipped down the narrow aisle towards the rodent’s area. The small pet shop smelled like animal, but not entirely gross. I sat down on the stool watching the betta fish float around in their like jars. Out of the four jars, only one of the fish actually looked half alive.

The bell attached to the door jiggled and I looked up. A mom and her two daughter’s walked in. The two girls dashed off towards the big fish tanks in the back and the mother followed more slowly. She squeezed past the cramped displays and racks of dog clothes, acting like she was afraid to touch anything. In the back of the store, I could hear the girls squealing about the fish. I thought about going over and asking if they needed help with anything, but Hailey beat me to it. I saw Greg peek out of his office in the back, right by the fish tanks. He shut the door quickly. He wasn’t one to talk. His permanently scowling face scared most people away. He did love animals, though, especially Sassy, a sassy parrot who went every where with him.

The two girls ran up to the counter, each plopping a plastic bag with a gold fish in it in front of me. I read the prices and rang them up.

“Thank you for shopping at Greg’s Pet Place,” I said smiling at them. It was a fake smile, but they didn’t care. They were all to eager to play with their fish. I bet those little gold fish will be dead in a week.

After they left, Hailey went back to cleaning, and I went back to staring at betta fish. I gave all four of them names. The dark violet one would be Violet, of course. The aqua blue and red one would be Uncle Sam. The vibrant red one would be Pepper, and the dirty golden one would be Billy. Violet swam in a circle, surprising me with her sudden movement. But her excitement ended quickly and she went back to floating mindlessly at the bottom.

“Jessie! Can you come help me clean these, since you have nothing better to do?” Hailey called from the rodent’s area. I sighed inwardly and dragged myself back there. Hailey plopped a giant rat in my hands before I could say anything.

“Hailey…” I stuttered, a shudder running down my spine. She glanced at me smirking.

“That’s Raptor, he’s nice,” she went back to her cleaning.

Raptor curled up in my hands, falling asleep. His little pink nose twitched slightly. Despite his pink tail, he was cute. His white fur was well kept, which I thought was odd, and soft.

“I think Raptor likes you,” Hailey finished his cage and snatched him out of my hands. The warm bundle was whisked away to his cage, where he curled up in his corner away from the light and went back to sleep. I wanted to say something, but I don’t know what. My head pounded, making me feel a little nauseous. I couldn’t home on my first day, and I wasn’t start enough to bring any with me in my bag.

“Come hold the bucket,” Hailey demanded. She had already moved on to the next glass tank. She had scooped out all the mice and placed them a plastic tub. They were skittering about in all different directions. My stomach flipped a little as I took the tub gingerly in my hands. And them the worst happened. At least the puke landed in the bucket. I remember falling down afterwards, my head hit the linoleum floor, hard. Blackness oozed over my eyes, and I fell asleep, or something like that.





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