Originally Penned March 2nd, 2020
I thumbed through the speech therapy book, taking notes as I went. “Negative reinforcement can cause psychological devastation to the subject,” I wrote, scratching it down on the yellow notepad nearby. With a quick glance to my watch, I realized that I had been reading and taking notes for over an hour. I had long since put in my earbuds to drown out the noise of Peppermint’s crying. All signs pointed to her being a pampered brat back home. Her fancy little collar, well-kept mane, and pearly white teeth left me with no doubts. I paused my music with a heavy heart, knowing that it would only cause the rodent to whine about “bad words.” Some people just don’t appreciate rock music.
I climbed to my feet, shaking my sleeping legs. I straightened the lab coat Chandler had thrown off as he left, grabbing the key to Peppermint’s sorry box from my desk. I walked over and knelt, knocking on the lid. Her cries returned in full force. Fucking outstanding. I opened the box to see her fluff stained all manners of brown and yellow. I sighed, cursing the rancid stench. Peppermint squealed, desperately attempting to hop over the walls of the box. I picked it up, carrying her over to the sink on the far side of the room. “I’m gonna give you a bath, you smell like sh- I mean, you don’t smell good.” Trembling, she nodded. I grabbed a set of latex gloves and scooped Peppermint into my hands.
“Hold still, you little rat,” I grumbled to her firmly. “I don’t want any of your poopies on me.” She nodded, sputtering a “Yebth middoo.” I gripped her midsection tightly, perhaps a bit too tightly. She squirmed and struggled, complaining about something that I couldn’t even hope to understand. “Cawfuw wib pwee fwubb!” she demanded indignantly. I shook her frustratedly in one hand, reaching for the faucet controls with the other. “Shut your mouth or you’re gonna drown, you idiot!” Her eyes widened as she screamed about “duh bab waas” or some shit like that. The faucet creaked, spraying a torrent of water upon the creature. It continued to wiggle, emitting muffled screams. I shook her again, this time harder. “SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH!” She fearfully closed her trap, folding her limbs inwards as she curled into a fetal position. I turned the faucet off and Peppermint began hacking up spouts of water. I turned her upside down and gently shook her up and down, pushing her stomach in with my thumb. She vomited a mixture of kibble and water all across the sink. What a disgusting little thing she was. Peppermint began gasping violently for air as I righted her. Terrified as she may be, her fluff glistened like snow. I smiled for my job well done.
I placed Peppermint on my desk, reaching for a roll of scotch tape. One by one, I taped her legs to the surface. She squirmed defiantly, struggling to earn her freedom. “Ah ah ah!” I hummed, flicking her in the snout. “You’re gonna learn to talk the right way, and you’re gonna like it.” She recoiled as I hit her, resuming her sobbing. “Repeat after me, okay?” She whimpered. “Wuh nuh moof?” I thwacked her shout again, this time harder. “Shaddup, you dirty rat,” I commanded, grabbing a sticky note filled with key fluffy phrases. Peppermint obliged, hanging her head resignedly.
“I said, repeat after me: wan nummies.” She smiled, her tail perking up slightly. “Nubbs fo Pebbamen?” she exclaimed, waggling herself as well as someone in such a restraining situation could. Jesus fucking Christ. I grabbed her by the tail and pulled as I held her body. “SCREEEEEEE! NUH NUH! NUH TAWE PWEETH!” she yelped helplessly. I grinned sadistically as I pulled harder. The little vermin began to squirt shit upon my hand as I pulled. I instantly released my grip, shouting obscenities as I ran to the sink. “Thowwee poopie fo meaneh!” Peppermint called you me, her voice triumphant. Oh, little did she know what I had in store for her. Once my hands were clean, I ran to the desk and began viciously flicking her in the back of the skull over and over again. Her screams of pain and terror fueled me to hit her harder and harder. “Pweeth! Pbbt! Nuh! Jush bebbuh!” she pleaded, wailing like the crybaby she was. “Oh, now you’re sorry? Now you’re sorry, you little fucking retard?” She nodded vigorously, smiling. “Bigguss sowwee!” she promised me. I didn’t believe her. I tore the bitch from the table and slammed her in the now-clean sorry box. I gave the box a vicious shake, but her screams only got more strained. I can only assume her little vocal cords were already weak from whatever damage Chandler had done.
I dropped the sorry box and she squeaked nervously. What the fuck? Why did these little morons need to be so… so… difficult? A gentle knocking came from the door. “Shut up, just shut the fuck up!” I hissed, eliciting no response from the fluffy. I heaved a sign and crept towards the door. I turned to face the box, which was trembling slightly. “Don’t move or I swear to God I will kill you,” I breathed. The box fell perfectly silent and still. I extended a jittery hand, opening the door only to be met by Juniper’s sugary sweet smile.
“Heya, Mitchell!” she said with a wave. I returned the greeting with a sheepish grin. “Soooo, how are you adjusting to life in derpy daycare?” Before I could answer, she instantly began apologizing for Chandler walking out on me. According to her, there was a massive turnover rate for this position. “Nobody can teach these little guys, I feel so bad for them!” she sighed dejectedly. With a slight perk, her smile curled back up. “But… I’m sure you can!” She began to scan the room, searching for something. She then asked the question I had been dreading. “Where’s Peppermint?” I wiped my profusely sweating palms against my khakis. Oh god, what was I gonna tell her? “Uh, she’s uh…” I scrambled desperately for an excuse to get Juniper out of there.
“Napping!” I spat with a massive smile. I prayed she believed me. “Heh, typical Pep!” she chuckled lightly. “Always slacking off. She learned anything today?” I nodded, hoping she believed what I was telling her. “We’re trying some basic vocabulary stuff. Chandler didn’t tell me what Peppermint was already familiar with so I’m starting with basics.” She nodded, smiling. “Good stuff, my dude! Keep it up! It’s only her first week, so be extra nice!” A lump formed in my throat that would not go down no matter how hard I gulped. With a trembling nod, I explained that I’d better get back to teaching. She agreed and went on her way with a wink.
Oh fuck, it was this thing’s first week and I’d already sent it to the brink of drowning. I needed a new approach. I needed results, and I needed less risk of death. No matter how hard I racked my brain, solutions eluded me. I checked the clock. It was one in the afternoon. Peppermint’s owners would be here to collect here at four, according to her chart. My eyes widened as I remembered her chart. I bolted towards the desk, slinging the filing cabinet open and fingering through the files in search of Peppermint’s name. Odin, Oliver, Orange, Paladin, Pepper, Peppermint. There she was.
Her age at time of admission, which couldn’t have been more than a few days ago, was about two months. She was still in her formative months, so teaching her would be easier than teaching an adult. Her owners were the Moore family, a decently affluent family that owned a successful franchise in our town. No wonder she looked and acted so spoiled. None of this was what I was looking for.
“Let’s see,” I read aloud, “she likes spaghetti-” The mere mention of the word sent the fluffy into an apeshit frenzy. “SKEE! SKEE! GIH SKEE NAO!” Peppermint demanded, rumbling the sorry box around. “No,” I said simply. She began shouting even louder, prompting me to pop my earbuds back in. Her likes weren’t anything too spectacular, just usual stuff. Spaghetti, belly rubs, wine… wait, what? I double and triple checked that my eyes were correct. Yeah, these yahoos were giving their fluffy booze. Oh well, it wasn’t my job to give them dietary suggestions.
Her dislikes would be far more useful for my purposes. I read them aloud. “Loud noises, obscene language, running water, and damage to her fluff.” I cracked a smile. Boy, oh boy. I felt like a kid in a candy store at that moment. It was now 1:30. I grinned a sinister grin and cracked my knuckles, turning to the box. “Time for a new lesson,” I called mockingly. She let out a small “huu” and sputtered a bit - well, she either sputtered or shat. I had no idea at that point.
I popped the box open to see Peppermint blowing raspberries in the corner and rocking back and forth. How pathetically adorable. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you anymore,” I promised. She relaxed slightly, clambering to her hooves. I scooped her up in my hands, gently carrying her towards the sink again. She began to tremble her eyes grew wide. A fluffy’s eyes were usually sparkling little pools of innocence and love. Peppermint’s were growing dimmer by the second. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” I cooed, coddling her. “I won’t give you any bad wawas.” She nodded skeptically. “Uh-uhkee.” This wasn’t a lie. I had no intentions of using water again… yet. Treating her with kindness would normally have been a painful task for me, but knowing that it was all a lie gave me the strength to swallow my pride and soldier on. I placed Peppermint gently on the counter, petting her. “Stretch your legs for a bit. You must be itching to walk around.” She nodded enthusiastically. “Pebbamen wuh wawkee!” she exclaimed, prancing around. “Not for long,” I muttered to myself as I made the trek back to my desk to grab the tape.
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