Our September 2023 Flash Contest was based on Prompt #269 (provided by Stone Soup contributor Molly Torinus), which asked that participants write a story from the perspective of a pet. Our submitters wrote about their furry friends' crazy and (often hilarious) adventures. There were plenty of escapes, an ant left behind, a search for tuna, and trips into alternate dimensions. As always, thank you to all who participated, and please keep submitting next month!
In particular, we congratulate our Honorable Mentions, listed below, and our Winners, whose work you can appreciate below.
“From ForeverPet to Forever Home" by Nikita Fishman, 12
"Mian Mian's Untimely Adventure" by Courtney Fong, 12
“I'll Keep Waiting" by Abigail Lee, 12
“The Life of a Guinea Pig" by Nova Macknik-Conde, 11
“Sticky and the Power of Friendship in Warfare" by Aleena Shaik, 13
“Forgotten" by Kyle Chinchio, 10
“The Ocean's Presents" by Olivia Hsu, 11
"The (Mis)adventures of Butters the Cat" by Dylan Suggs, 11
“The Dogs Who Hated Their Owners" by Helena Xue, 10
“Visit to the Vet" by Eric Yang, 13
From ForeverPet to Forever Home
NIKITA FISHMAN, 12
Monday, May 25 was a special date; I knew from the minute I woke up. Sunlight beamed through the windows, casting a gentle glow that danced on the gleaming, polished floors. Nestled snugly within my sleeping chamber, I found myself sound asleep, oblivious to the world around me. A silly smile adorned my face as I drooled. Suddenly, a jarring phone ring erupted from the reception desk, dragging me from my sweet Neverland. It had been like this for months.
Ever since the pandemic, my temporary home at ForeverPet Southfield had been transformed into a tranquil haven. Instead of the persistent echoing footsteps, I was interrupted only by the sudden “Ring!” that would inexplicably shatter the calm. I preferred footsteps over phone rings; they offered a more gradual, and thus, more predictable rhythm. With the soothing elevator music in the background, you could almost imagine the person approaching—whether tall or short, slender or plump, young or old.
On the other hand, phone rings were sudden and sporadic. I yearned for the old days when the small pets’ aisle basked in peace, while the true hustle and bustle unfolded in the cats and dogs’ sections or within the pet salon. Watching dogs in their overgrown coats being reluctantly dragged into the salon never failed to bring an uproarious comedy spectacle. But, back to my story, the day that changed my life forever. . .
Upon awakening, I opened my eyes to find my favorite person, John, one of the store managers, approaching the small pet aisle. I don’t see him often since he’s typically occupied helping out chatty dog owners. However, on the rare occasions I do get to spend time with him, he never fails to greet me with a handful of treats and his signature belly rub. Hamsters are never given much attention. The only other interactions I had with the other store clerks were scheduled cage cleanings, during which my soiled bedding was removed and my food replenished. John was an exception.
Donned in a pink polo shirt with the ForeverPet logo, he held a phone to his ear with his right hand, while his other hand opened the Roborovski dwarf hamster enclosure on my left. After a brief moment of inspecting the cage, he said, “Yes, we have quite a few dwarf hamsters available. We are open until eight o’clock this evening. My name is John by the way. Feel free to ask for me when you come in.”
He finally hung up.
“Over here, John! I’m awake!” I cried out, running a few laps around my enclosure in hopes of gaining his attention.
“Hi, little one,” John tapped on my cage. He whispered, “Maybe today will be the day. A girl and her mom are on their way in search of a dwarf hamster!”
At that very moment, the world came to a halt for me. A shockwave surged through my spine, as if an imaginary colony of ants were crawling up my neck. Did this mean I would never see John ever again? I immediately started squeaking in protest.
“Are you excited, little one?” John asked, adding a chuckle.
What? No! Was he out of his mind? I watched in disbelief as he walked away with a smile plastered on his face. He even forgot my treats! My heart thumped against my rib cage like a hungry beast trying to escape its cage. How could you, John? I sank down against the side of my enclosure, drowning in my own defeat. It was at that very moment that I came up with a plan, my last hope—playing dead.
No one would want a dead rodent, right?
All my life I wanted to be wanted, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I dashed towards a shadowy corner of my cage and began excavating a deep hole, ready to put my plan into action. I’ll bury myself and maybe they won’t even notice me. The more I said it, the more I believed it.
Tick-tock, the hours raced past. Between pacing back and forth in my cage and casting anxious glances at the door, it was nearing five o’clock before I knew it. There was zero sign of the girl and her mom. Optimistic thoughts began to surface in my mind. Could it be that they got lost on their way? Maybe, better yet, had a change of heart and opted to go with a cat or dog instead? Holding onto these hopeful thoughts, I dozed off. Maybe, just maybe, everything would be okay after all.
The next thing I knew, I was awakened by someone peering down into the cage and enthusiastically bouncing up and down. Huh? What’s going on? Puzzled, I poked my head out, sniffing the air and examining my surroundings. A few feet away from me, I spotted a small ponytail bobbing up and down repeatedly. Up and down, up and down, up and down—it was making me dizzy! Wait! Is that the girl John was talking about? I quickly retreated into my burrow. Phew, good thing she didn’t notice me. She bounced over to the opposite side of the aisle.
“I want to see the Roborovski dwarf hamsters because they’re just the cutest things ever!” she exclaimed.
“Honey, Roborovskis are indeed cute, but look at how fast they are! You’ll never be able to interact with them,” her mother said.
The girl gave a disappointed pout, fidgeting with her fingers in dismay.
“I recommend Winter White dwarf hamsters!” John piped up. “Let me show you.”
Oh no! Why couldn’t you just stay out of this, John? As they approached my cage, my paws grew sweaty, and I started to shiver with anxiety. Today was the day I was about to lose everything. Play dead, I whispered to myself before shutting my eyes tightly. I could hear the sound of the door clicking open and his hands searching for me. I sensed his warm fingers securely cupping me around my waist, his gentle touch lifting me from my enclosure with a slow, deliberate motion.
“Take a look at how adorable this Winter White is,” John continued, punctuating his remark with a gentle tap on my nose. “Go on, pet him gently with two fingers.”
“Oh, hi! You are so cute. . .” the girl whispered in the sweetest tone before adding, “How are you? Do you have a name? Are you a boy or girl?”
“All hamsters in our locations are males as different sexes can’t be caged together,” John explained.
To my astonishment, the girl’s hand felt as soft and delicate as a rose petal. The sensation of her back rub felt even better than John’s, sending cascading waves of comfort through me and causing my ears to lower in contentment.
“Mom, can we talk in private?” the girl asked. As the two stepped away to bicker, I tried to stay in character—a dead hamster. However, as their voices grew slightly louder, I couldn’t resist the urge to lift my head and eavesdrop just a bit. To my success, I managed to catch a few words.
“Winter Whites aren’t as cute though,” the girl remarked.
Wait. Did she just call me ugly? Unbelievable!
I completely abandoned any and all thoughts of playing dead and began furiously grooming myself. I wondered if my disheveled fur was giving her the illusion that I was dirty. There! I must look better now! I didn't have time to search for a mirror as the two of them returned from their brief conversation.
“Hmm, I think we’ll go with the Winter White dwarf hamster,” the girl declared at last.
The world I once knew came crashing down on me. My heart sank as her choice became final, and the weight of her decision pressed upon me like a heavy boulder. The seconds seemed to stretch out in slow motion as John carefully reached for a cardboard box, gently placing me inside along with a few handfuls of bedding and some farewell snacks.
“Do you need a cage or any other materials?” John asked.
"No thanks! I have a cage this big for him!" the girl announced, extending her arms wide to emphasize the enormous size she had in mind. Holy cheese and crackers! That was big!
“Great, then you’re all set! Fill out this form and take it to the cashier,” John said.
My emotions swirled like a tempest within me, oscillating between bliss and sadness. I felt great anticipation for the new adventure ahead of me, but, at the same time, a lingering uncertainty because I’d never see John again. I rambled on endlessly as the girl’s mom filled out the form. The sound of the automatic sliding doors opening made me second-guess my new family. No! I couldn’t just abandon John like this!
I began desperately digging and gnawing at the cardboard box, trying to break free. I’ll dig myself free, and scurry back to John and hide in his pocket. Within minutes, I had created a little peephole just large enough to see I was already in the car. I extended my head out like a turtle, and I could feel my whiskers brushing against her fingers. It must have tickled her because she started to giggle.
Ten minutes later, the car suddenly stopped in front of a stout brick house. The girl opened the small cardboard box, revealing my new home. She carried me through the cedar door and into the basement before she finally sat me on a countertop. Extending her hand into the box, she gently placed me inside my new cage. It was indeed as spacious as she had said, featuring two distinct levels and an array of hiding spots. A mansion, to say the very least, and all mine to explore.
Suddenly, a gentle warmth enveloped me as I felt a familiar hand reach down to lift me from my cozy nest. A contented smile graced my tiny face as her fingers began to caress my plump belly. My sensitive whiskers quivered with pleasure, reacting to the affectionate gesture. My eyelids quickly grew heavy, and, within seconds, surrendered to the comforting embrace of sleep. As darkness closed in, I embarked on a journey to hamster dreamland, a world where joy and contentment reigned supreme, and I eagerly embraced them all with open paws.
Mian Mian's Untimely Adventure
COURTNEY FONG, 12
Mian Mian rolled over on the marble floor. The day had been going so smoothly. First Mama had woken up and fed her. The kibble was fresh, accompanied by a bit of caviar. Then Mama had sat on the couch, watching Tom Cruise doing impossible things. At least it looked like it. One of the Seven Wonders of the Humans was why Tom Cruise never died. Eventually, Mian Mian fell asleep on the couch. But when she woke up, Mama was gone. No! Had Tom Cruise abducted Mama? Yes, Mian Mian thought. It was Tom Cruise who had taken Mama because Mama had been watching him, and now she was gone.
"'Mama!" Mian Mian barked. She even howled. It was no use. Mama was never coming back.
Play! Can we play? These thoughts covered Beamer's mind. Being only a puppy, his world wasn't really beyond food and play.
"Not now, Beamer." Henry said. Beamer was jumping up and down, his tug-of-war rope in his mouth.
Henry closed the door, leaving for his workplace. Beamer, feeling depressed, sat down with his chin on his paws. He thought for a minute. Who could he play with? He then sat up excitedly. That's it! He would go to Mian! Mian would want to play!
"Mian Mian! Play!"
Mian Mian looked up from her spot on the floor. Beamer barked happily, pawing at the glass door separating them. Mian Mian just sighed. Couldn't she mourn in peace? She slowly walked over, step by step.
Beamer put his snout through the narrow gap in the patio door.
"Come! Play! Mian!"
Mian Mian thought it wouldn't hurt to entertain Beamer just this afternoon, so she squeezed through the gap in the door to New-found-land and Lab-Adore.
Beamer, not seeing Mian Mian's owner, asked.
"Did your Human go to work? My Human went to work too."
Mian Mian felt a pang in her chest, wishing that it was work, but knowing that her Human had been abducted by Tom Cruise.
They walked a bit further, until they happened upon a city. This city, might I say, wasn't a city at all. In fact, Mian Mian and Beamer had traveled upon the Great Army of Crickets.
Beamer had never heard of Crickets before, so he was dumbfounded. He just sat there with his tongue sticking out. Mian Mian told him to put his tongue back in his mouth, when one of the Crickets then stepped forward.
"We are the Great Cricket Army! We order you to step away from our path. This is an order from our king!" One tiny cricket soldier yelled.
Beamer immediately bowed and said, "Sorry! We didn't know!"
Mian Mian on the other hand, didn't bow but lowered herself. She didn't really like the idea of Crickets ordering her around.
"Really, you order us to move? Oh, now I've heard everything!" Mian Mian rolled on the floor, laughing. The Crickets wouldn't hear any of it. So, they brought out their king.
The king was furious. "Hey, you little punk! Ya think you can blow me off? I'II show ya!" The Cricket King then jumped up and landed on Mian Mian's nose. He proceeded to punch her.
Mian Mian continued to mock the King.
"What are you? A millimeter tall? I bet I could crush you with a step of my paw!"
Beamer, not wanting a fight, pulled Mian Mian away. It was time to go.
The two then journeyed west, still in search of their Humans, when they saw a French Lop Rabbit. Beamer jumped around Mian Mian, suddenly excited.
"Friend-Friend! Play! Friend-Friend! Play!"
"No. Not Friend-Friend," Mian Mian said. "You have to learn Pup. Rabbits aren't your Friend. They are your Enemy."
Beamer, wanting to prove Mian Mian wrong, ran towards the Rabbit. The Rabbit, startled, hopped back into a rather large hole, and Beamer followed. Mian Mian, worried, jumped in too, and was swallowed by the darkness.
Mian Mian tumbled through the hole. She hadn't thought that the hole might not be just a hole. Instead, it was the entry to a bustling city. Rabbits of every kind were traded, walked, and talked everywhere.
Mian Mian pushed her way through, trying to find that French Lop Rabbit and Beamer.
"Well excuse you!" A male black Rabbit narrowed his eyes at Mian Mian. He didn't quite like it when foreigners pushed him in his own homeland.
*I'm sorry, but I saw this big Rabbit. She, um...lured one of my own kind here." Mian Mian said.
The black Rabbit just laughed. "You mean our French Lop Rabbit? Yes, she is a big one, no? She's the largest of all the Rabbits in here, so she shouldn't be hard to find. Anyways, she's one of the queen's messengers. I'lI show you the way; follow me!" Mian Mian agreed to go with the black Rabbit.
It wasn't long before they arrived at the Queen's gates, when the guards denied them access. The black Rabbit then explained their presence, saying it could violate the Animal's Treaty. He was obviously bluffing. The guards, scared to get in trouble, let them in, Mian Mian, being too big to fit in the castle, had to take the elevator. The Queen had thought of a room for her larger guests, if she had any.
When they got off the elevator, Mian Mian saw the French Lop Rabbit, which was in front of them, talking to the Queen. After the Rabbit had left, Mian Mian asked where Beamer was. The Queen, happy to oblige, gave back Beamer.
Mian Mian's owner then came back home to find Mian
Mian...talking to a bunny? In the backyard? Mama thought she had filled all the holes. Beamer's owner, Henry, stood next to Mama. He had found Beamer gone and had thought to ask around. Both dogs were then picked up.
"They're just Adorable! Guess they wanted to find new land to play on." Henry and Mama mused.
I'll Keep Waiting
ABIGAIL LEE, 12
I wake up in the morning
To kindly awaken my owner,
By tapping their faces
As a gentle reminder.
But when I go to awaken them,
Each one is up.
But something was different.
They were all in black.
They must be celebrating me!
And my amazing feats.
Dressing like me,
There must be a surprise
I run downstairs,
Prepared for this gift.
Waiting besides my food bowl,
As the others walk down.
But they don’t stop,
Not even to glance.
Not to fill my bowl,
Not to give me a pat.
I jump down,
To remind each of them.
A soft nuzzle should do the trick,
And it does.
She pours the food down,
But everything is silent.
There’s no chatter,
No surprise either.
Except there was three,
He wasn’t there.
He wasn’t anywhere.
And so the days went on,
But he wasn’t here.
But the nights went on,
And the mornings continued.
I’ll keep waiting.
But he wasn’t here.
But life went on.
Although life went on,
Something felt wrong.
Something was missing,
He was still gone.
Even months later,
I sat on his bed.
Waiting for him to walk in,
With his calming demeanor.
Waiting for his cuddles,
And he never did.
But I’ll keep waiting.
The Life of a Guinea Pig
NOVA MACKNIK-CONDE, 11
This fiction story is inspired by real events from the lives of my two guinea pigs, Oreo and Snickerdoodle, who were rescued from Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, in late 2021.
Oreo sniffled. His human family had taken him and his brother, Snickerdoodle, here to die. Oreo didn’t really know where ‘here’ was, but it was probably something like the wilderness. It was late fall, and soon he and Snickerdoodle would freeze to death, in a cold, lonely place, with no food, no water, no shelter, no nothing. The last thing Oreo saw before his family took him away was a small brown puppy, yapping at them. Oreo could only speculate, but he suspected that the puppy was to be their replacement. It was a terrible day to be a small, fragile, soon to be preyed upon, guinea pig.
Because Snickerdoodle was brown, he could camouflage a bit better with the forest around them, but noooo, he just had to have their only hiding place, which wasn’t even really a hiding place, just a tiny twig that didn’t even cover a square inch of either of their bodies. Oreo was black and white, the exact opposite of their surroundings, so if a hawk or another predator came, he would be eaten immediately. Oreo started to cry. But then, a mysterious guinea pig appeared out of nowhere. It looked almost exactly like Oreo.
“Don’t be scared!” The new guinea pig oinked.
“Ahhhhh!” Oreo screamed.
“Oh, come on, I just told you—you know what, never mind. Don’t be sad that your humans abandoned you here, because I’m you from the future! Everything will be okay! You’ll get rescued by a kind human, who will take you to your forever family!” Future-Oreo oinked happily, jumping for joy.
“But what about Snickerdoodle?” Oreo asked.
“Yeah, what about me?” Snickerdoodle whimpered.
“Oh, don’t worry! They’ll take Snickerdoodle too!” Future-Oreo said. “Bye! Don’t forget what I said!” He oinked as he faded away.
Right then, a human walked up to them, gasping when she saw the two guinea pigs huddling together in fear. Oreo almost bolted but he remembered Future-Oreo’s words, and he stayed put. The human walked away, but she returned just a few minutes later, and made a trail of treats on the ground leading to a bag. Oreo and Snickerdoodle were very hungry, so they ate the treats, and the human zipped the bag behind them. Oreo started to panic. He hated small spaces with all his might, but under his fear, he felt a sense of relief. Future-Oreo had not been lying. He and Snickerdoodle were being rescued.
Many months later, Oreo snuffled around in the hay. He was now in a warm guinea pig habitat with lots and lots of yummy food, two water bottles, and even fresh fruit treats! It was a good day to be a guinea pig. He heard Snickerdoodle behind him, but he didn’t look. Oreo felt something poke his butt, and he swiveled around. Again? Oreo thought. Snickerdoodle was the one that had poked him to get his attention, and now he was rumbling and slowly shaking his big, furry butt around the habitat. Oreo climbed on top of Snickerdoodle’s head in a show of dominance, the guinea pig version of a chokehold, but he let his brother go after a few seconds. It was all in fun, and Snickerdoodle jumped for joy that he was free.
“Why are you popcorning, you silly?” Oreo oinked at him.
“Just because,” Snickerdoodle oinked back.
Just then, a human opened the door to the room. It was their adoptive mommy, the one that took care of them and refilled their water bottles every morning. Oreo and Snickerdoodle stood up on the side of their cage and begged for treats. Oreo started to teeth chatter at the human out of excitement, but he stopped as soon as the human began to sprinkle apple bits around the cage. The human left, closing the door behind them, and Oreo and Snickerdoodle foraged for the treats. Just then a new piggy appeared out of thin air. It was… Oreo, but… older?
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Oreo oinked. It was Future-Oreo.
“Hey, guys! So I just want to tell you about when-” Future-Oreo began.
“No! Not again!” said Snickerdoodle and Oreo, but they both sat down to listen.
Sticky and the Power of Friendship in Warfare
ALEENA SHAIK, 13
“A long held question of humanity is ‘is there other sentient life out there?’ Most look to the stars, thinking the answer lies light years away on a distant planet. Most don’t think to look around them, at the examples of life surrounding them. And so-”
“Y’know Ace, when most people ask for a story, they don’t mean a history lesson.” A very annoyed Border Collie narrowed his eyes at the Chihuahua across from him. “Shut it Sticky.”
“What? Y’know my owner comes back from school and complains. I know stuff.”
“Like what, how to open doors?”
“WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE DOORS. Besides, these people can open doors and not go running after sticks. They’re smarter than you.”
“False, I saw a small human do just that only two hours ago.”
“MROW!” Sticky spun around to the huge cat whose name he didn’t know (Laurie? Lila?) staring at them from two houses down. Sticky growled and was about to charge before Ace halted him with the dog equivalent of an eyeroll.
“When are you gonna learn to stop going against cats that happen to be more than double your size alone?”
“Just you wait, one day Francis and her stupid cats will rue the day they messed with me and stole my favorite chew toy!” Ace gave him an unimpressed stare and went back to playing with his ball.
Sticky huffed and left. Ace was nice and all, but at most he was a playmate, not a friend. With that, he set his sights on the cat. Hopefully, he’d be able to make it to the cat (Luna, maybe?) without Dave spotting him. Dave was another one of Francis’ cats, one of three. He’d been the one to steal Sticky’s favorite chew toy, thus beginning an ancient (3 weeks) and hostile feud. But he’d win it. He could play the long game and tire them out, just like he did when his humans finally let him into the bedroom after all the times he’d run into the door.
Slowly, he began to stalk towards the cat (Lisa maybe? Linda? That sounded closer). The cat seemed unappreciative of his efforts, simply continuing to stare him down until he stopped a few feet away from her. Silence fell as they both stared at each other. Sticky opened his mouth to say something, but the sound of a car door shutting sent him scampering behind a bush. He looked up to find Francis picking up the cat and opening the door. There!
Sticky darted in through the doggy door as Francis busied herself with depositing her groceries in the kitchen, and quickly dashed behind the stairwell as Francis returned to close the door. He took the time to look around. Blegh. There was cat hair everywhere, and Francis evidently had no sense of colors or patterns.
He turned back around to find the cat now right in front of him. Gah! He stumbled back and nearly emitted a loud bark. “Next time a little warning, will you?!”
“No thanks,” said a voice he knew didn’t belong to (Lydia? Still no).
“Dave,” he growled.
“What’re you doing here, short stack? Still struggling to reach the door?” Ugh. Seriously, what was it with the neighborhood pets, they were all obsessed with being tall enough to reach the door! What happened to “celebrating your differences” and all that jazz? See, this was why Sticky didn’t socialize. And besides, it wasn’t like Dave could talk anyways.
“I’m here for my chew toy, Dave,” he hissed. He looked around, hoping to find it, but found nothing. Dave and the other cat (alright, from now on he’ll just call her Lena or something) did the cat equivalent of smirking, before getting ready to pounce. Dammit.
What followed was a very embarrassing game of chase. He was about to give up and run out of what might’ve been the weirdest house he’d ever seen (he’d never unsee the sheer amount of cat food in that closet) before something barreled into Dave.
Good news: It was Ace! Bad news: It looked like he was supremely pissed. “What part of don’t go against things double your size ALONE was unclear?” He stared at Sticky with the most unimpressed expression Sticky had ever seen.
“Well, I wanted my chew toy.”
“It was in a box in the living room, which you’d know if you’d bothered to enlist the help of someone who’s more than one foot tall!”
“Well it’s not like you volunteered!”
“I would’ve if I knew you were going to try and get into Francis’ house!”
“Ahem.” The other cat (Lillian? Lily) interrupted with a dry tone. “As touching as this is, get out of our house. Please.” They added the last part with more sarcasm that Sticky had previously believed could fit in one word. He, along with Ace (who he now realized was holding his chew toy) quickly darted down the stairs and through the doggy door.
“Next time,” Ace sighed, “tell me when you’re actually going to pull off a stupid stunt like sneaking into a house of cats. Sticky stopped, but Ace looked surprisingly sincere for once. Slowly, he nodded his head. Maybe Ace cared more than he realized. “I promise I’ll call you the next time I get into trouble. Partner,” he teased.
Ace sighed. “Partners,” he agreed. Sticky stopped in surprise. Maybe he and Ace were slowly crossing the territory from playmates to friends. Maybe being partners was a stepping stone in that. And maybe Sticky would finally have an ally in his war against Dave and-
“LEONA!” Sticky cried triumphantly. Ace stopped and gave him a stare. “What.”
“That’s her name,” Sticky said with satisfaction, as he and Ace turned to walk home.