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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write something in the YOUNG ADULT or TEEN genre (06/07/07)

TITLE: Pet Shop Perceptions
By Betty Castleberry


“Hey baby, what’s up?”

Sharla smiled at the beautiful parrot. “Not much Alfie. I’m just coming to work.”

Alfie let out a wolf whistle. Sharla laughed as she made the rounds, checking the puppy’s food and water dishes.

Mary popped her head out from her office. “Hi Sharla. Would you clean out the snake tanks today, please?”

Sharla loved her job at Mary’s Menagerie, but the snakes were not her favorite animals. Truthfully, she was afraid of them, although she did her best to care for them.

Sharla was arranging the bags of cat and dog food on the shelves, building up her courage to tend to the snakes when she saw a figure coming down the street. It looked like Tyler, a new boy in school who was in her history class. As he got closer, Sharla saw that it definitely was Tyler. She felt nervous and hoped he wouldn’t come in. Her own feelings surprised her, because he seemed really nice, and she even thought he was cute.

He stopped in front of the store and leaned into the window, hands framing his eyes, and peered inside. After a quick look around, he came in.

Alfie whistled at him, then added a “Wow.”

Sharla blushed.

Tyler grinned, but Sharla noticed he kept his distance from the large bird. He spotted Sharla. “Oh, hi. I didn’t know you worked here.”

“Yeah.” Sharla felt her cheeks flushing. She wanted to crawl under the counter. Instead, she tried to behave professionally. “Can I help you find something?”

Tyler shuffled nervously. “Umm, no. I just want to look, if it’s okay.”

“Yeah. Go ahead.”

They stood awkwardly facing each other. Tyler gestured in the direction of the snake tanks. “I’ll just look over here.”

Alfie screeched, and bounced on his perch. Tyler flinched and hurried over to the snakes.

He seemed to be afraid of Alfie, but Sharla loved the parrot. She watched Tyler as he leaned over the snake tanks. He looked quite comfortable around the reptiles.

She decided there was no point in putting off her duties any longer, so she gathered her supplies and went to clean the snake tanks. She stood by the first tank for a moment and spoke softly, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

Tyler looked at her curiously. “Are you afraid of the snakes?”

She looked down at her feet. “I try not to be, but I am.”

He reached into one of tanks and stroked the back of one of the snakes. “This is just a ghost corn snake. He won’t hurt you. Look at the pale coloring on him. He’s beautiful, don’t you think?”

“I admit he’s pretty. I’m trying to get over my fear of them, especially since I work here now.”

Tyler smiled slightly. “Were you quoting scripture?”

“Yes. It helps me.”

“Cool. It helps me, too.”

Alfie chose that moment to come flying over to them. He landed on Tyler’s shoulder.

Tyler jumped and ducked his head out of Alfie’s way.

Sharla plucked Alfie from his shoulder. “Alfie, behave. You know better than to land on people uninvited.”

Alfie leaned toward Tyler and made kissing sounds. “Hello,” he called.

Sharla laughed. “He really likes you. He doesn’t fly to just anyone.”

Tyler backed away a few steps. Sharla pondered whether to say what she was thinking or not, but then decided she would. “Are you afraid of Alfie?”

Tyler chuckled slightly. “Well, yeah, I guess you could say that. Those big beaks scare me. I’ve never been around big birds before. Don’t they bite? ”

“Some might, but with the proper training, they can make great pets. They’re very smart. Alfie is a blue and gold macaw. We have one at home, and we also have an African Grey, like the one back there in the cage.” Sharla pointed toward the back of the store. Parrots really like people, and when they are treated right, they become one of the family, just like a cat or dog.”

“I didn’t know that. He is a gorgeous bird, I will say that.”

Alfie stretched toward Tyler, trying to reach him.

Sharla scratched his head. “You can only go to Tyler if he invites you.

I better get back to the snakes.”

“Wait.” Tyler took a step towards Alfie. “You’re a pretty boy.

Hey Sharla, let’s quote that scripture together.”

Scripture taken from Isaiah 41:10, NIV

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sara Harricharan 06/14/07
There is definitely a message here. I only noticed missing quotation marks. At first, I wasn't sure if Sharla was a teen, until Tyler came down the street and she thought-stream remembering him from History. I liked the opposite conflict with him being comfortable around her fear and vice versa. That was an interesting twist, especially when Sharla is reciting scripture and he asks her about it. I think that was a little predictable there, but normal just the same to ask her what she was saying. Apart from all of that, I think it was fun. I could be expanded, I think. I would like to see how they both overcome their fears. ^_^
Dee Yoder 06/15/07
I'd prefer Alfie over the snakes any day! It's a good story with an important message for teens.
Joanne Sher 06/16/07
I enjoyed the interaction between the bird and the teens. The end seemed a little pat, but this was a great one otherwise.
Teri Wilson06/18/07
Of course I liked this because of the animal characters. I love the parrot's personality. I did not expect the boy to be afraid of the bird. Sweet story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/19/07
I loved your parrot. It added just the right touch of humor to the story.
Rita Garcia06/21/07
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/21/07
Congratulations on a well deserved recognition!
Sara Harricharan 06/21/07
I am not going to comment on this...lol. ***Congrats!*** ^_^