Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
TITLE: The Art of Persuasion
By Glynis Becker
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The opportunity to change the subject did not go unnoticed by Simon, the youngest, and decidedly most precocious of the Lindstrom family. He cleared his little throat loudly and said, “Mother. Papa. I believe that it might be in the best interests of our family to acquire a pet.”
Simon’s mother looked at him, confused, but continued eating her supper. She had become accustomed to Simon’s abruptly changing the subject to whatever he was ruminating about at that particular moment so she played along affectionately. “What exactly is a ‘pet’, dear?”
“Well, I’ve been reading in my books, and it appears that humans sometimes acquire an animal, a pet, to live with them and become a member of their family.”
His mother stopped eating and raised an eyebrow quizzically. Everyone else just stared. Had the Lindstrom family been familiar with the use of silverware, it is a guarantee that one would have heard forks and knives clatter to the floor with that last revelation. Whoever heard of animals and humans living together? From their own anecdotal experience, it appeared that very few encounters with humans had ended with any benefit to the animal. Supposedly, there was that one time that Old Mrs. Chalmers’ son had accepted a piece or two of some corn-based confection from the hands of a human and had actually lived to tell about it, but that sort of story was certainly not the norm.
Papa decided it was his job to ask the questions. “I’m not going to act like I understand humans—heaven knows I’ve tried over the years—but just because a human wants to do something so strange, why do you think we should get a—‘pet’, did you call it?”
Simon knew he had everyone’s attention, and he was going to use that to his fullest benefit. He picked up the book that no one had noticed he’d been sitting on and flipped through it. When he found the page, he began to read. “ ’Recent scientific studies show that people who own pets have lower blood pressure,” Simon looked at his father, “have lower stress levels,” he looked at his mother, “and are generally happier than their non-pet-owning counterparts.’ And of course, there is benefit to the animals as well. ‘Animals no longer need to forage for food, they enjoy companionship and they live longer when they are part of a human family.’”
His father half-smiled in a thoughtful way. “So, son, have you given any thought as to what sort of pet a common prairie dog family like ours should acquire? Which animals do humans choose as pets?”
Simon, of course, had thought through every aspect of the topic and had anticipated this very question. “The most common pets for human families are dogs and cats, which of course would be impractical for our situation, considering the size of our house. We would quite obviously need something smaller. Common small pets include, but are not limited to: mice--"
“Eww. Dirty,” his sister interrupted.
“Incompatible,” his father said.
Simon’s voice lowered to a whisper. “Ferrets.” They all shuddered. That was simply too awful to think about.
“Aren’t they just stupid?” his brother asked.
“That’s enough of that, Nigel. Continue with the list, dear,” his mother said.
“Too familial, I think. There’s just something not right about that,” said his father.
“I think we’re getting closer.”
“How about a cricket? Some humans consider them good luck. We could give him a home and he could sing us to sleep.”
“Well, Simon, I think you might have hit the rock on the top with that one! You may just have convinced this family that we should get a pet.”
Smiling, pleased with the outcome, Simon turned back to his meal. Gee, he’d always known that reading was good for him, but hadn’t realized how profitable a book like How to Win Any Argument in Five Easy Steps could really be.
He was getting excited now. Building a Rocket Ship in Your Own Backyard was just waiting for him on his nightstand.
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