Pet Shop Boy: Part 3

By Michael Gutgsells9u8wl9d7v-preview

Life was for sale at the pet store, and it went to whoever was willing to pay. The cost of a purebred dog was in the thousands, and even with all the problems from so much inbreeding, people still wanted them. Each breed had a specific set of prices you were able to use when making a sale. I made a single sale, to a gay man buying a Yorkshire Terrier. Instead of getting used to it, I became more uncomfortable with the practice. We loved the dogs that lived in our little cages, and yet we sold them to whoever was willing to pay, without screening them.

There was a Pomeranian I called Barnaby. He was gentle, quiet, and sweet, his coat white, brown, and tan. I took him out whenever possible to pet and play with him. All the feelings I didn’t feel for Carlos, all the loneliness and disgust were eased when I was with little Barnaby. I was just present. The price was insurmountable, but I started thinking about taking him home. I would get him lion cuts so he’d always look this cute, and we would be best friends and experience everything together. I could even take him to England and back to college. I started looking into it and talking to my parents, who were by no means dismissive of the idea. They wanted me to think it through, though, since it was a huge decision. I agreed. It wasn’t practical, but I loved the tiny dog.  Continue reading


Pet Shop Boy: Part 2

By Michael Gutgsell6

The work was numbing. I pulled products to the front of the shelves, turning them label-forward. When it was really slow, I would open a book about dog breeds and try to study. The Owner/Wife would waddle out of the back and tell me to do something productive, so I would take a feather duster and shift grime around. I hated how boring it was, and I hated that I was denied the opportunity to actually learn anything. A job like that dulls you, it blunts the edge of your mind. The summer slipped by, blank and uninspiring.

The store was usually dead, and the employees shuffled about, attempting to look busy – Barbara by the birds, Mike, the owners’ son, in reptiles and fish, the squinty-eyed manager Dave near the puppies, and me in accessories. The shelves were just tall enough that I could only see the tops of everyone’s heads. Barbara’s dyed hair was always piled high on her head in the same way, with a couple inches of gray getting longer every day. Barbara had a smoker’s wrinkled-paper-bag face and long fingers with brightly painted nails. She once told me, in a deadpan, defeated voice, that she “couldn’t afford to work here, but she couldn’t afford not to work.”   Continue reading

Pet Shop Boy: Part 1

By Michael Gutgsell

When I came home to Cleveland, where my parents had recently moved, the cafe where I had worked the previous summer had shut down. That was the first of a number of businesses that closed shortly after I left. A few years later I fancied myself the black widow of small, locally-owned businesses. With Cafe Limbo’s closing, I had no job to go back to, though I needed the money: I was looking forward to studying abroad in England for my junior year.

Though I knew I needed a job, it was difficult to actually find one. As the days turned into weeks, my mom got increasingly pushy. At one point she dropped me off on a road riddled with potholes and lined with boarded-up warehouses and told me to apply at every single fast food joint along the stretch.

“Look at this place! Do you want me to die in a Rally’s parking lot?” I practically yelled.  Continue reading