Pet Shop Boys by Tim Craig

Dayne’s on-off-off-on stepdad, Kel, says stay away from that new pet shop.

He says, what’s a Pakistani want with opening a pet shop in this town anyway? There’s something not right about that, I’m telling you.

He’s not Pakistani, we say; he’s Afghan.

What’s that got to do with the price of custard creams? Kel says, pulling the ring on another Stella.

But you might as well tell a nail to stay away from a magnet as tell the three of us to stay away from a pet shop, especially when the only other places still open on the high street are two hairdressers, the Sue Ryder and a vape shop, and we’re banned from all of them. 

So we go into the pet shop after school every day and we try to teach the African Grey parrot to say fuck off and we tap on the glass of the snake’s tank, the one with the sign that says Do Not Tap on Glass.

And we learn that he is called Shahmeer — the owner not the snake — and he tells us that in his language this means ‘very handsome’, and he laughs when he says it and we see his black tooth, which is minging.

And sometimes he lets us hold the hamsters and the gerbils if we’re careful, and other times he brings out this little tray of sweet, colored cakes and we stuff our face with them, just like the hamsters, and they’re the best thing ever but we say, no wonder your teeth are fucking black Shahmeer, and we ask if we can give a bit of cake to the big black rabbit but he says no, so we do it anyway.

And one day after school we head down the High Street as usual and we see the big front window of the shop is boarded up and there’s broken glass inside and someone has sprayed the word PAEDO on the door in red and we stand there in the drizzle and share a damp ciggie and say, yeah – what did he want with opening a pet shop in this town anyway?

Tim Craig lives in London. A winner of the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction, his short-short stories have appeared three times in the Best Microfiction anthology and placed four times in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. His collection, Now You See Him, was longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize 2023.

person standing out front of a 1940s pet store
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