The Story of our Dead Pets
This flash fiction piece is based on true events. Yes, really.
We started with rabbits. To be precise, we start with one rabbit. She was black and cost my dad ten pounds. The ‘fairer’ rabbits at the pet store were more expensive, so I decided then that the owner was a racist and loved her more for it. She was an oppressed minority just like us, and I guess, being an oppressed minority makes you really sensitive about cages. We named her Leila, meaning night in Arabic, and only during the night would we take away her freedom to lock her in a cage.
During the day, on the other hand, she’d dig holes in our garden beds and scatter her droppings across our living room’s Persian carpet. We’d pick them up in tissues-soft moist ones and dry little nuggets- without a flinch. It wasn’t gross because she was ours. She was our baby and mothers don’t overreact over their children’s poos. One day it rained and we weren’t able to catch her before dark, so we left her outside. My little sister Reem, who was six at the time, was the first to find her remains in the morning. Either the fox was too full to finish her off or he meant to send us a sinister message. Her death gave us a terrible shock and we all grieved her, parents included.
I sobbed that whole night and on the next day, with puffy eyes, my dad and I left to buy a new rebound rabbit. This one didn’t die tragically but we definitely wanted it to. We hated him so much we called him Jasim. Why? My siblings and I simply agreed it was a fittingly horrible name. Jasim nibbled on every wire he could sink his bunny teeth into. Then, when we bought a second fluffy baby rabbit, he had no scruple mounting the poor thing. My mother told us that they were just ‘playing’. But it was obvious that White (yes that was his uninspired name) was not enjoying the game. They were both males too, so it’s not like we could even look forward to a new set of cute baby rabbits. And we knew this, not because the pet store told us their genders, but because my older brother Hassan mistook White’s balls for gum once and tried to pull them off. White disappeared soon after and Mr detective Hassan was sure he ran all the way to the park only to get slaughtered there by a gang of foxes. He said he found a bloody patch of grass but I think it was probably just some spilled Ribena. Then Jasim ruined our xbox and that was the last straw. Hassan threw him out of the house and five minutes later, one of our neighbours knocked on our door. At first, we were sure they were going to complain and call the RSPCA but they asked to take him instead. We shook on it there and then.
By then it was clear that we had no luck with rabbits so we moved onto birds, thinking that they were easier to maintain. But this turned out to be the dumbest assumption ever. Our first set of love birds loved each other too loudly. We couldn’t sleep, so my dad gave them away. Then we got a pair of brown finches that always managed to squeeze out of their cage. The first got its legs caught in our net curtains and when we tried to catch it, its tail came off. Yes, it completely fell off. Then the second finch flew into the toilet and perched itself on the handle of the skylight window inside. It seemed like a bad omen to leave it outside its cage for the night, but we had no other choice. In the morning, Reem found the dead finch in the toilet bowl. It was very hard on her so we swore against buying birds again.
But we did get a few goldfish. They tore at each other’s tails and had long lines of poo sticking out of their behinds from overfeeding them. Other than that, they were quite pretty to look at and most importantly, they survived us. Then one day, just like all our other pets, they died. We couldn’t understand why, until my mum smelled nail varnish in the fish tank. Reem had poured my Clair’s polish in there and poisoned them all. I think it was on purpose too, although she denied it. Seeing those dead animals messed with her head. We realized then that as much as we weren’t good for our pets, they weren’t doing us any good either. So we flushed the fish down the toilet like they do in cartoons and closed a long chapter on domestic animals.