Feature Karyn Samuelson

Free at Last by Karyn Samuelson 0

There’s not a lot that’s more disgusting than cleaning up after a bunch of small animals. Ask anyone who sells them for a living – while you’ve got ’em, you have to keep the cages clean and keep ’em fed and healthy and looking cute enough to sell. That’s bad enough by itself, and then you add in the grubby children who swarm your cart as soon as it comes into town and try to stick their fingers into the cages and want to pick up the critters and pet them and their hands are all sticky with god-knows-what and…

‘Course, that doesn’t even count the part where the little dragons don’t like being poked and try to bite off the offending fingers – and those cages you have to clean with tough leather gloves on your hands and it’s pure hell trying to dispose of the waste – and the phoenixes burst into flames whenever they get too excited, and of course you can’t sell them until they’ve matured a bit again, which means more time and money poured into them before you can make a profit. (Hah, no, you’re lucky if you break even.)

The griffins are the worst. Tricky little buggers, griffins. Rub up against the bars and you think, ‘hey, aww, he likes me’ and then you stick your fingers in the cage and bam, it’s got a new chew toy. Or they’ll be cheeping and chirping at all hours of the night, and you’re just trying to get some sleep before you have to get up again and feed them all…

Plus there’s the trouble feeding them. You can’t feed them chopped up horsemeat or leftover bits from making sausages like you can a cat or a dog. No, these little blighters – especially the dragons, think they’re high and mighty, they do, and you have to put a few gold coins in their cages and hang them where they can’t see each other – they expect you to give them pheasant and venison and all manner of things. Sometimes you can get away with mice, but mostly, those things eat better’n you will.

That’s why I’m done. I’m through, I’m throwing in the towel. Here, kid, you can have all the keys, the cart’s outside – if it hasn’t been burnt to cinders while I was in here drinking. No, don’t give me that starry-eyed look, haven’t you been listening? It’s hell, and you listen here, you can’t trust any of the little beasts. You always put on the gloves, and you don’t let any children get their fingers in, neither.

Don’t thank me. Buy me another drink, but don’t you thank me. You’ll see what I mean. Six months down the road, maybe less, you’ll be looking for some poor sap with wonder in his eyes who thinks a life of travel and fantastic beasts is the life for him, forget the farm and the nice settled life, and you’ll be dumping all this shite in his lap.

Now, you get going, and whatever you do, don’t ever try to stock fairies.