You’re an employee at the local pet shop. It’s almost closing time. You work in the fluffy section, which takes up half the store, and it’s your job to make sure everything gets taken care of; you’re not a supervisor, but you will be soon if you show the boss you can handle all the responsibility he gives you.
First, you check the pen the weaned foals are in. There’s only four left, out of more than a dozen; all the rest were sold today. Three are dull colors, various shades of brown or grey, and the fourth is a monochrome fuschia that hurts to look at; it’s the fluffiest fluffy pony you’ve ever seen, and though it runs around like the other foals, it looks like a little puffball. You can barely see its legs, and its head looks like a bright fuschia cotton ball glued on top of a bigger cotton ball. It looks ridiculous. Someone will probably buy it soon, just because of how ridiculous it looks. You top off their kibble and water, make sure they’re all happy and in good health, and make a note to see how many more foals have been weaned and are ready to go in the pen with them. Probably four or five at least.
Next, you check the adult fluffies. There’s a customer, a little old lady, examining a dappled brown and white fluffy with dark chocolate mane and tail, cooing over what an adorable doggy it is. The fluffy is as confused as the old lady, but eager to make her happy. The other fluffies in the pen with it are well-behaved; no shouts of “pick fwuffy” or “nyu mummah” from this bunch. Your store sells a lot fluffies precisely because the ones you sell are so well-behaved and not obnoxious like most shelter fluffies. The new kid walks up to you, nods at the senile old woman, and tells she’s been looking at the “doggy” for over an hour and has just about talked herself into a sale. You let him take care of the transaction and wander into the back of the fluffy section.
Behind the glass partition separating them from the customers are individual pens, stacked beside and atop one another, holding expecting dams. This late in the day, many are asleep, contented smiles on their faces, but some are still up and happily singing about what good mommies they’re going to be and how they can’t wait for their babies to arrive. Some of the dams will up for sale once they’ve had their foals, but most are permanent residents in the store; the owner would rather breed his own, high quality fluffies and raise them from birth so they’re all litter box trained and well-behaved before they go up for sale, than purchase unknown quantities or snatch ferals off the street like many stores do. The improved quality of your merchandise is solid testament to the wisdom of his policy. All the expecting mothers are in good shape, they have plenty of food and water, and the litter pans under their cages have all been freshly scooped. They’re good.
“Hey Ronnie! I’m selling the dappled brown-and-white fluffy!”
“Okay,” you reply, glad he made the sale. “Be sure to note it on inventory!”
He gives you a thumbs up and carries the fluffy to the register rather than burdening the old lady with him. The fluffy is pleased nearly to the point of crapping himself that he has a new ‘mommy’ and a forever home.
You turn your attention to the other glass partition, with the mommies who’ve had their foals. Becca, the cute, petite redheaded girl you’ve had a crush on since you started working here, is in there with them, checking on all the babies individually and asking their mommas about their status. You notice her expression change as she quietly talks to a distressed looking fluffy mummah, and after a glance at the two customers looking at the moms and their foals, she removes a motionless foal from the cage and takes it out of sight in the back. The mummah curls up in a fluff ball around her remaining two foals and sobs quietly. You check the name on the cage and feel a twinge of sympathy; looks like the little guy didn’t get over his cold. Oh well, you know fluffies; she’ll get over her heart break in a day or two, though she’ll still miss the baby for a while before slowly forgetting all about it.
One of the customers is filming a cage with his phone, laughing. You look to see which one it is and can’t help but smile; it’s the most popular resident in the store.
Metallica, the black mare with hot pink mane and tail, is loudly singing to herself and headbanging. Her litter of foals is squirming uncomfortably in a little fluff pile next to her and Becca comes over.
“Metallica? Metallica, sweetie?”
“Da eyes dat nevaw cwose- huh?”
“Shhh! You’re disturbing your babies! Don’t sing so loudly!”
“Oh! Sowwy! Metawwica be mowe quiet!” the fluffy mommah mock whispers.
“You can listen to your music, but you have to be quiet so your babies can nap, ok sweetie?”
Becca picks up a set of sound isolation headphones hooked up to an old iPod (in a battered, water resistant case for obvious reasons) and you hear the opening notes of Live in Baghdad by Yoko Kanno. She lowers the headphones onto Metallica’s ears and the fluffy closes her eyes, says, “yeeeeeaaaaah”, still stage whispering, and resumes headbanging. You look at her litter.
One foal is black with hot pink mane and tail like her mother. Another is royal blue with electric blue mane and tail, like his father. Another colt is grey with a blue mane and, oddly, a pink tail. Usually the mane and tail match. He also has heterochromia, which is very unusual in fluffies. Another little filly is a very soft pink, with lavender mane and tail. They’re all huddled in a fluff pile and sleeping soundly, now that their mother isn’t singing at the top of her fluffy lungs. The last foal is another little colt, black with metallic silver mane and tail, sitting up and blinking sleepily at the human filming his mother. He yawns and snuggles up against his mother, who draws him up against her with one hoof and raises the other in the air; she keeps doing that, raising one hoof in the air. You’re not sure, but you’re pretty certain she’s trying to throw up devil horns.
The guy filming the cage is laughing, ecstatic. He looks over at you, stops recording, and points at Metallica.
“Dude, that fluffy is awesome! She’d be a great mascot for our band! How much you want for that one?”
“Sorry, she’s not for sale. But once her foals are weaned, they’ll be available for adoption.”
“Nah, man, I want the one that headbangs and chills out to metal!”
You grin conspiratorially and reply, “Yeah, and nearly all her foals learn to headbang and sing Metallica songs from her. Except the one that sang Blue Oyster Cult. That was weird. But yeah, most of her foals adopt the same behavior from her, so come back in another two weeks and you should see the little guys rocking out. Once they’re old enough to not need their mommah any more, then you can buy one of the foals.”
He looks at the little foals admiringly and shakes his head in disbelief, grinning.
“Man, that’s wicked! I had no idea you could teach fluffies to do that! I’m totally gonna buy one. Hey! If I put a deposit down, can I go ahead and reserve one now?”
“I don’t see why not. You’ll just have to wait until they’re weaned, and then you can take home whichever one you reserve.”
“Cool! I want the two black ones! They’d be great to have around the house, and totally awesome band mascots!”
“Glad you like them. Just tell Corey at the register, he’s the manager, not the skinny high school kid, and he’ll help you fill out the paperwork.”
Does anyone actually say that anymore? You shrug.
“WHOOOO! METAWWICA WUWES!”
“Right on, little fluffy!”
“Shhh, not so loud! You’ll wake your babies!”
You wink at Becca, inform her that two of the foals already have a prospective home, and head up front to help out with the paperwork. The guy puts down a deposit on the fluffies, shakes your hand, and you follow him to the door to lock up. He gets into a 1983 GMC Vandura mural van; one side is painted with Frank Frazzetta’s artwork of a barbarian deflecting a lightning bolt with his sword, and as the van leaves the parking lot, you see that the other side is a classic mural of Odin walking down a road; considering his appearance, you’re sure most people mistake the painting of Odin for one of Gandalf.
Three more employees come back from the non-fluffy section and report that all is well there. The two groomers in the back already closed up their part of the store an hour ago and went home.
“Ok boss, everything looks good. I’ll get the new guy and one of the other employees to sweep up, Jeff said he’d take care of the aquariums, and Becca and I are finishing up with the fluffies. We’ll have 'em all bedded for the night in no time.”
“Good job, Ronnie. Way to take initiative. I’ll be in the back finishing up the paperwork. Once Susan’s done counting the register, have her help Jeff out so we can all go home on time.”
You give a mock salute and head back to the fluffy section, making sure all the fluffies in the pens are bedded down in their fluff piles for the night, and the dams and mommies are safely and comfortably arranged within their beddies.
Most people would quit this job before long, but you’re a true animal lover and you’re moving up soon, you can feel it. You’ve bounced around from place to place, working fast food, a car wash, retail, but this is the place you’ve stayed at the longest.
You love your job.