So your Bruce says that turtles cannot be trusted. What is the rationale behind this anti-turtle rhetoric? Does it involve the teenage mutant ninja turtles? His love of frogs?
Adia inspected an animal enclosure with narrowed eyes. “I’m going to find an animal you like if it kills me,” she declared.
“That seems excessive.” Bruce stood near the register, out of the way of the women exploring the store.
“What about chinchillas?” Yvonne suggested.
“They have people hands.”
“Is that a no?”
“People hands are for people.”
“What about a guinea pig?” suggested Cora.
“What is your pig obsession. No. People hands and people mouths. The objectively worst rodent.”
“Ferrets,” threw out Yvonne, though there were none in the store.
“Ambulatory tube socks.”
“These all seem really high-maintenance,” Adia admitted with a sigh.
“They’re living things and you can barely take care of yourself.” Bruce tilted his head to look at Rex behind the counter. “Don’t sell her anything.”
“You got it, little dude.”
“I’m taller than you.”
Rex shrugged. His ponytail, a smoky gray, was halfway down his back.
“What’s the cactus of animals?” Yvonne asked.
“Adia killed her cactus,” Bruce reminded her.
“I didn’t know you were supposed to water them!” Adia protested. “I thought that was, like. The whole point.”
“You’re not helping your case.”
“What about a turtle?” asked Cora.
“Yeah!” Adia touched the shell of a turtle in an interactive enclosure. “What about this turtle?”
“I hate it.”
“No you don’t,” Adia scoffed.
“You can’t tell me what to hate.”
“Why would you hate him?”
“Its ribcage is on the outside. It’s unnatural.”
“It’s perfectly natural for a turtle!”
“That’s what they want you to think. It’s obscene.”
“It’s a harmless shellbaby.”
“It’s a menace to society.”
Adia huffed, retreating toward Cora and Yvonne to regroup.
“Since when do you hate turtles?” Rex asked.
“Since just now.”
“You still got a real weird stubborn streak, little dude,” Rex said with a shake of his head, coming out from behind the counter. “I know what’ll cheer you up.”
“I’m already extremely cheerful.”
“Uh-huh.” Rex pulled a rosy boa gently out of her tank, 32 inches long and striped orange and white. “Guess who’s here to see you, Alice?”
“Don’t wake her up on my account.”
“You know she’ll never forgive me if I let you leave without a kiss.”
Bruce held out a hand obligingly, and Alice slid around his fingers. He held her up to his face, and she darted her tongue at his nose. “Hello, Alice.” She stretched out toward the collar of his shirt. “I see you’re as forward as ever.”
“Turtles are a menace, but snakes are fine?” Yvonne teased.
“Alice is a fine young lady. Comparisons to turtles are uncalled for.” Alice had wrapped around the back of his neck beneath his shirt. “You know,” he said to Rex, “if you really wanted to cheer me up, you’d let Monty out for a walk.”
“Bring some male models next time and I’ll think about it.”