It's all a misunderstanding, she tells him. The kids were bored at the eyeglass store, so she sent them over to the pet shop. It was just to look, she says.
Wrong. It was love at first ferret.
Teen-age girls and horses -- he's heard of that. Dogs. Cats. Even bunnies. Teen-age girls and ferrets -- this is new to him. Anyone and ferrets is new to him. He used to hear the folks on ''MASH'' call nasty old Frank Burns ''Ferret Face''; this was not a compliment.
Times have changed. Ferrets are hot, and the girl wants one. At this particular minute, the girl wants a ferret more than she wants anything else in the world.
At this particular minute, this is the worst idea he's heard all day. He keeps this thought to himself. Instead, he checks out the pet shop.
There they are, skittering across the wood chips and one another. She can't have fallen for one particular ferret, can she? They all look exactly the same: weasels on Weight Watchers.
But there's so much more than just ferrets and ferret cages and ferret food. There's the Ferret Hammock. ''Maximize your ferret's leisure time,'' the package says. (Maximize? All they've got is leisure time!) ''Your ferret will enjoy countless hours of rest and play with its new hammock.'' In brown or blue or red -- $12.99.
Then there's the Ferretube, for when the ferret needs a break from the Ferret Hammock. ''Ferrets love Ferretube,'' the package says. ''They crawl in it, play in it, chase each other through it and even sleep in it.'' In pink or lavender -- $17.49.
Harmless enough, except for the warning attached to both packages: ''If your ferret should start to eat this or any other material, discourage your pet not to.'' He considers the proper response. ''No, ferret! Bad ferret! Naughty ferret!'' He's not sure this will work.
He keeps looking. Here are the High Potency Multivitamins for Ferrets -- ''essential for the proper growth and maintenance of your ferret.'' Of course: You have a ferret, you want it properly maintained -- $4.49. And Ferretone Skin and Coat Food Supplement for Ferrets -- ''necessary for healthy skin and coat.'' Naturally -- $6.49.
And -- another $6.49 -- Ferret Glow Ferret Shampoo and Deodorizer -- Used by Professional Ferret Breeders.'' (Professional ferret breeders?)
That grabs his attention. He's had pets around before; the litter box has never been his favorite piece of furniture. If there's some way to rid the house of that awful smell . . . But no -- there's something else for ferret litter odor; this bottle goes right to the source itself. And not just this bottle. In fact, he finds a whole shelf of bottles designed for nothing but ferret odor. Are they trying to tell him something?
Here's another one now. Ferret Odor Eliminator -- ''Eliminates Problem Ferret Odor.'' He reads on:
''Specially formulated for use on ferrets.
''Eliminates unpleasant organic odors.
''Effective on common ferret odors including glandular secretions, anal gland odor and vomit.''
Say what? ''Common ferret odors''? This isn't what happens if the ferret, once in a blue moon, say, gets sick? This is normal, everyday stuff for ferrets? They sit in the hammock, they eat the hammock, they secrete, they throw up?
She wants this in the house?!
You've got such a busy schedule, her mother gently reminds her -- when will you find time to clean up after it? She'll do it, she vows. And you're getting busier all the time, her mother continues -- when will you find time to play with it? She will, she vows; she's sure she'll have a few spare minutes a day.
And he considers it all, considers the prospect of this slithery piece of untamed animalkind sitting there in its cage, all appetite and glands and vomit, and with every bit of sincerity his face and voice can muster, he hears himself saying, ''But is it fair to the ferret?''
She still wants it. Love is love.
0 It's only a crush, he keeps telling himself.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist.