Listen Up

When Shelby Richmond was called into her supervisor’s office, she assumed she was being fired. Frankly, if she’d been in charge, she would have fired herself. She’d been at the pet store for three months, time enough, she was sure, for people to see she was a fake and a phony and a black hole and a malcontent. She smoked weed in the ladies’ room. She wore her smock inside out, seams showing, as a small act of rebellion. If she thought someone was shady, she wouldn’t sell him a parakeet, let alone a puppy. She gave herself a 50 percent discount when she bought kibble for the two dogs she’d liberated from a homeless person’s scam. If you were downscaling, Shelby would be the perfect person to get rid of. Instead, she was made the manager. One more mark on the checklist of how unfair life was.

“I don’t deserve it,” Shelby said.

She may have been a black hole, but she was honest. Shelby had been shaving her head for eight years and couldn’t even remember how she had looked with hair. She knew she scared some people; she had big eyes, the better to see right through a person. She had sharp little teeth. Ever since she’d moved to New York with Ben Mink, she’d had a recurring dream about werewolves climbing up the fire escape. They were not bad dreams; in fact, Shelby looked forward to them. She was always somewhat disappointed when she woke up and saw her two little white dogs, Blinkie and General Gao, on their doggy bed, another item she’d marked down for herself at the Pet Shop.

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