WEP Oct 2019 – Horrible Harvest

This story about Dinara and her pet shop, Rendezvous Pets, on the Rendezvous Space Station is my entry for the Oct 2019 WEP Challenge. Dinara’s shop is a trusted location for every pet owner on the station, human and alien alike. She guarantees the best care and absolute safety for your pets.
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Dinara looked up, as her cousin Manie entered Rendezvous Pets. “Look, Manie, I’ve got a harvest.” Dinara nodded proudly at her new potted plant in the corner. Only yesterday, it had been covered with small, off-white flowers. Now, the tiny shriveled petals littered the floor around the pot. In their places, the oval iridescent berries swayed on thin branches. The tiny fruits sparkled merrily. Her new boarder, a small gray cat, named incongruously Ginger, sat beside the pot, swatting at the berries with deep concentration.

Manie chuckled. “Are they edible?”

“No, purely ornamental. They smell nice.” Dinara sniffed appreciatively. “Ginger likes them too.”

“Someone had a wicked sense of humor naming that cat Ginger.”

“Yep. A Vergacian embassy clerk brought her in yesterday.”

“I didn’t know Vergacians kept pets. I mean, a human cat?”

“They don’t. I’m not sure Ginger is happy with her current master. She hissed at it.” Dinara picked up the cat and deposited her into the playpen at the back of the shop. “You stay here, kitty,” she said fondly and locked the pen’s fence. “Drink your milk and play, while I have lunch with Manie.”

Ginger stalked to the saucer of milk and began lapping. With the shop door locked as well, the cat wasn’t going anywhere. The animal was so well-behaved, Dinara let it roam the shop at will.

“Explain to me why a Vergacian would own an Earth cat?” Manie demanded.

“The owner said it wanted to understand humans better, so it got a human pet.”

“A cat?” Manie muttered something uncomplimentary, while Dinara contemplated the Vergacians. After several years of bloody war, the human Federation and the Vergacians had finally signed a peace treaty a year ago. Soon after, the Vergacians opened their embassy on the Rendezvous Space Station.

According to the scientists, Vergacians couldn’t see colors—their eyes were not equipped—so everything about them was gray: their skin, their clothing, their buildings. They were unisexual, propagated by budding, and preferred the pronoun ‘it.’ If a Vergacian decided to have a cat, gray would be the most appropriate color, but the name Ginger was definitely a joke.

An hour later, when they returned to the shop, she couldn’t see Ginger. Nor could she see her plant with its shining berries.

“Hey, where is my beautiful plant? Where is Ginger?” She rounded the desk, glanced down, and felt cold all over.

The pot lay on its side behind the desk, soil spilling out of it. The stem of the plant was broken, and the berries were all gone. Ginger’s inert body slumped beside the ruined plant, a leaf protruding from her mouth.

“No!” Dinara crouched to the cat, but Ginger wasn’t breathing.

“She got out of the playpen, ate the poisoned berries, and died,” Manie said softly.

“What am I going to tell the Vergacian?” Dinara wailed. “Horrible berries! Rendezvous Pets guarantees the safety of every pet, and I let Ginger die. I should’ve kept her locked up while I was gone.”

“I’m sorry, Dinara.”

“Yeah.” Dinara winced. “I need to get a new cat. The Vergacian comes back in a week. If I don’t get a replacement by then, I might lose my license. Or worse, they might start another war.”

“Won’t it notice, if you return a different cat?” Manie asked.

“I hope not. If they don’t see colors… Gosh, Manie. A living creature died on my watch, because of my carelessness.” She put her hands over her face. She wanted to cry. “Ginger was such a nice kitty,” she mumbled into her palms.

She scoured the station net for days, placed an ad in the Rendezvous news sheet, but nothing bit, until one day before the Vergacian was due back.

“You need a cat, lady?” The scruffy old man on the com-link screen wore stained brown coveralls. “I have one for sale.” He cackled and named the price that had Dinara’s head spinning. But she didn’t have a choice. She agreed to meet him at the bottom of the station, where transient workers lived.

He waited for her alone in his dorm, his breath reeking of alcohol and drugs. The cat, a large carroty tom, was weaving his way around the mattresses of the dorm, ignoring the humans.

“I’m leaving for a new work contract in a few days, so you can have the cat,” the man said, “but you pay up first.” He sounded menacing.

“Of course. What is your cat’s name?” Dinara fingered a tranq gun in her pocket. If this man threatened her in any way, she would shoot a tranquillizer dart at him.

He shrugged and leered. “Cat.”

Dinara sighed, put her cat carrier on the floor, and opened it. She had come prepared. A strong aroma of fish and herbs wafted out from the fish cubes in the carrier feeder.

“Ginger, come here,” she called.

The tom turned, regarded her disdainfully, but came anyway. He stalked into the carrier as if he was doing her a favor. Dinara locked the carrier door and gave the man his credit chip. “The exact price,” she said coldly, picked up the carrier, and left. She hoped she exhibited as much dignity as the new Ginger, but probably not. The new cat was awfully heavy. The man’s guffaw followed her to the lifts. The cat mewed contentedly inside the carrier as he gobbled his fish.

Two days later, after the Vergacian had come and gone with its new cat, Dinara met Manie for lunch again and told her the entire story.

“But this Ginger is male and big,” Manie exclaimed. And ginger. And not nearly as nice as the other Ginger was. Didn’t the owner see the difference?”

“Obviously not.” Dinara smiled. “I was quaking inside, but it just commented on the size. It didn’t notice the color, of course, nor the gender discrepancy. I guess, all alien cats look the same to a Vergacian. I explained that the cat liked the food in my shop so much, it grew bigger. It was satisfied. It even asked me what brand of cat food I used.”

“Did this Ginger like his new owner?”

“No,” Dinara said. “He hissed, but so did the old one.”

This entry was posted in Olga Godim, science fiction, WEP and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to WEP Oct 2019 – Horrible Harvest

  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    I love visiting the Rendezvous Pet Shop! At least the new Ginger passed muster at pick-up time!! Great story 🙂

  2. Ouch.
    This tugs at my cat loving heart strings – and so many plants are indeed toxic to them.
    A great take on the prompt.

  3. Nilanjana Bose says:

    ‘…so did the old one’ haha. Cats choose their humans not the other way round. Glad Dinara’s licence is safe and sound. Fun flash as usual Olga, loved reading.

  4. patgarcia says:

    Hi,
    Too funny. He hissed just like the old one. I like these stories from the Rendezvous Pet Shop. This one is funny but has bits of truth about hpw we humans take in our surroundings and the people we meet.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  5. Haha, looks like cats do not seem to like Vergacians.
    Also, does the H in human have to be capital in this sentence (as in Human Federation): “After several years of bloody war, the human Federation and the Vergacians had finally signed a peace treaty a year ago.”

  6. Denise Covey says:

    Oh boy Olga. My comment ended up on another of your posts. Phew. Anyway you know I’m a great fan of Dinara and her Rendevous Pets. Love the hissy cat story for the prompt.

  7. Toi Thomas says:

    Poor Ginger One. At least Dinara was able to prevent a major political conflict. Like it or not, Ginger Two is probably better off with the Vergacian. His former human seemed shady.
    Can’t wait to visit Rendevous Pets the next time around.

  8. Kalpana says:

    Rendezvous Pets is one of my favourite places on the internet. I wish the first Ginger hadn’t eaten the berries. Curious to know what happens next.

  9. Cara Hartley says:

    Tricky! I’m sad for the first Ginger but glad the second one pulled off the ruse.
    ~Cie~

  10. lgkeltner says:

    I love your Rendevous Pets stories! Cats will indeed get into things when they shouldn’t. Poor (original) Ginger. I’m glad it all worked out for Dinara, though. You’re so good at creating new alien species and conflicts. Great job!

  11. rolandclarke says:

    Another fun visit to Rendezvous Pets – and clever take on the prompt. [One minor typo – ad not add?]. And my grey striped cats approve.

  12. Sally says:

    A great story – loved catching up with Dinara, such a shame the first cat was poisoned. Glad war was averted.

  13. Pat Hatt says:

    Poor kitty should have stuck to the real food and not the plant. Sadly many sure do eat any plant going. I guess cats just don’t like Vergacians. Maybe they think hissing is a sign of like from a cat.

  14. This story left a smile on my lips. So good! You had me nervous though as I wondered how would Dinara find a way of this situation intact!

  15. Ooh, so cute. I love Gingers. Vegacians, I would love a picture/drawing, Enjoyed the structure and twist of this flash. A very homely feeling emanated from your descriptions and dialogue, making the spacecraft and aliens settings seem perfectly normal and hence vividly realistic.
    Thank you Olga.

  16. hilarymb says:

    Hi Olga – loved it … could definitely see it … and nothing jarred with me … the Rendevouz Pet Shop is fun – cheers Hilary

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