'Pet Boy'

STORY TIME

April 11, 2001|By Keith Graves

Editor's note: An intergalactic experience teaches a bored pet owner to be considerate of his charges.

Stanley collected pets.

He purchased them in singles and matching colored sets. Big or small, dry or wet, he loved to buy new pets.

He studied each one carefully And played with it awhile, Then he locked it in a cage And stacked it in a pile.

"Come play with us!" his lonely pets chirped and barked and purred. "Feed us! Pet us! Take us out!" Stanley didn't hear a word.

He wanted something unique That could swim and fly and hop. So he looked around and finally found an undiscovered shop.

Everywhere Stanley looked The weirdest creatures met his gaze. Snakes with wings and seven eyes And singing manta rays.

"What do we have here?" asked a man with turquoise ears. "I'm sorry if I startled you. Please put aside your fears."

"I-I'd like to buy a pet," said Stanley, "One with many skills. My old pets bore me with their tricks. I'm looking for some thrills."

"I like a thrill as well," said the man, glancing from shelf to shelf. "I trade in quirky oddities ... rather like yourself."

A blazing yellow laser zapped Stanley between the eyes. His legs wouldn't run, His body was stunned, He was completely immobilized.

The man threw Stanley in a cage On his galactic rocket ship. They blasted off with a sonic boom And into space they zipped.

Over spiral nebulae, Through cold uncharted wastes. With a bump they finally landed In a most outlandish place.

The room was filled with squawking, Gawking, squealing things galore. All for sale, including him. An alien pet store!

Freaky customers shook his cage When Stanley tried to hide. A three-eyed buyer said, "I'll take this one!" Stanley was horrified.

"My name is Jopnar," he drooled and grinned. "I'll call you Zoo-Zoo-Zar! And just to keep you safe and sound, I'll put you in this jar."

Stanley banged and kicked the jar. He yelled, "Hey, let me go!" My name is Stanley! I'm not your pet! I'm just a kid, you know!"

Jopnar said, "Now do some tricks. Fetch the orb! Bring it here! Catch the flying saucer as I fling it Through the atmosphere!"

"I'll never do those stupid tricks, no matter what you say!" Everything that Jopnar asked, Stanley disobeyed.

Jopnar wondered, "What have I done To make my pet so mad? I'll give him lots of tasty food And a comfy sleeping pad."

"This food is yucky!" Stanley said. "I'm not a parakeet. I think I'll run away from here When Jopnar falls asleep."

Stanley opened the jar and tiptoed out And scampered off with glee. "I don't know where I'll go," he thought, "but at least I'm finally free."

Then something swooped and snatched him up. A giant iron moth.

The moth brought Stanley to the pound And dropped him in the clink, Where strays not claimed by end of day Are soon to be extinct.

As the sun began to sink, Stanley's hopes were running out. The inmates wailed. Their final meal Was rocks and sauerkraut.

The door burst open. Jopnar yelled, "Hey Zoo-Zoo-Zar, it's me! Just in time to save you all! Now let's go home, you're free!"

"Thanks," said Stanley. "You saved my life. Friends like you are few. But I'm not happy in this jar, Or living here with you.

"My home is in a galaxy we call the Milky Way. I must get back. My pets have not Been fed since Saturday.

Jopnar said, "I shall return you To your native habitat!" So they rented out a space ship At the local astromat.

They took a shortcut to the Earth, A 20-minute flight. Stanley yelled, "Hooray! I'm home!" His house was now in sight.

Stanley waved good-bye and ran to see His long-neglected friends. "They must be starving, worried sick, wondering where I've been."

Stanley opened every cage And said, "I'll offer you a deal. You're free to go, but if you stay, You'll never miss a meal."

He treated them like royalty. He made them lemonade. He thanked his lucky stars For all the friends he'd made.

And Stanley's pets all stayed.

From PET BOY by Keith Graves c copyright 2001. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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