As much as they proved in some ways to be the worst years of my life, 4 years in a pet shop has made for some entertaining stories. Disappointing for some (and delightful for others) these stories rarely involve skipping through a meadow with bunnies or dressing chinchillas in comically undersized top hats.
I'm totally pandering for a wider audience here
Instead they entail drowned hamsters, wayward testicles, and that time I fingered a rabbit. Well, the time has come to focus on some human inhabitants of the pet shop, namely the cleaners. While I hardly expected never-say-die professionalism or to meet a wife, I was shocked by how the cleaners repeatedly revealed themselves as the dregs of humanity.
There was Stu, who sported the unfortunate facial combination of perpetually startled eyes underscored by drooping bags that folded over themselves like foreskins; imagine an aging Tom Hanks after a botched facelift.
Or just imagine Tom Hanks
Over the number of months he worked with us he developed an obsession with my assistant manager, an 18 year old girl. He’d frequently corner her against the dog food to tell her how pretty she was, how much he admired her, how she reminded him of his own daughter. When he was fired, he waited outside the shop for 4 hours to give her chocolates. She had to be accompanied to work every day until he disappeared, hopefully into prison.
So followed Derek, an octogenarian with such severe smoker’s cough that we could have paved roads with his lungs’ dark ejaculate. By and large he was harmless, and his corpulent wheezing became a part of our morning soundtrack. That was until he regaled us one morning with the news that his son once tugged his scrotum so doggedly that it stretched, and nearby equipment had become misshapen. He was still undergoing surgery.
This picture is not at all relevant
Lastly arrived Crack Whore and her boyfriend. She was so dubbed due to her emaciated frame, ghostly pallor, rotten teeth, and the fact that she blatantly did crack. This early judgement caused us to overlook her boyfriend. He seemed innocuous enough, with clothes befitting the job and a bald head polished to a cheerful gleam. We even shared jokes as he encouraged me to romantically pursue my female colleagues. It was all in wholesome fun, until he took me aside one morning and coached me more specifically in how to attract women.
“Stuff them full of cocaine,” he told me. “Get enough in them and they’ll do anything you want.”
It’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by rabbits and frightened for your life at six in the morning.
Later I came across himself and Crack Whore admiring the dwarf hamsters in their freshly cleaned cages.
“These the ones we had, in’t they love?”
Crack Whore nodded. “Yeah.”
“Four of the buggers!” he said, turning to me. “They bite, din’t they?’
I confirmed that, indeed, such concentrated balls of furry evil did indeed have a tendency to bite.
“The thing is, mate, I’ve got a bit of a temper,” he said, beginning to smile. “When one of ours bit me I chucked it off the balcony.”
He mimed the action, pitching hamsters over-arm.
“Then she started having a go at me so I threw the rest off, one-by-one! Din’t I, love?”
“Yeah,” nodded Crack Whore. “Tenth floor.”
Let's just tell ourselves they all landed in this cute position and were ok.
Here were my options: I could run for the door before I became a cocaine-addled corpse hidden in the mop cupboard; I could tackle him to the ground and insert a gerbil into his anus; or I could stand bemusedly and stare.
“Yeah,” he grinned. “We’re thinking about getting guinea pigs next.”