Short Story – The Life Coach
By Katherine Dell

So I wrote this short story…

It’s a bit of silliness really. It all came about when my friend, Chris Rothe, and I decide to start a writing group. One of the goals of this group is to produce short bits fiction that could be submitted to contests or just shared among us. Yeah –– so this is what I wrote. The idea came from one of Chris’ ‘Story Appetizers’, as he calls them.

Appy #7: A man thinks he has become telepathically connected to his pet hamster. He believes the hamster to be giving him life advice, but when the man acts on that advice, things do not go as planned.

 

Here’s what came of it! I hope you enjoy!

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The Life Coach

By Katherine Dell

 

“I’m glad I’m here, Doc. The whole thing has just been eating me up. I mean –– Real life is so hard, unpredictable and generally a pain in my perfectly laid out plans. I certainly never meant to end up being counselled in a padded room, wearing a jacket made of to many belts. But what’s one to do about it? Despair not, or do? Either way, it seems that life’s little hamster wheel just keeps on turning.

 “So … It was several weeks ago, on a Tuesday night, when I first had the inkling that, Harold, was not the stubby-tailed burrowing rodent he was made out to be. I should have known better than to procure the fluffy fur ball from the strange man in the alley behind the pet shoppe. But who knew it could have such catastrophic consequences.”

 

 

 Cha-Ching-Ching.

The sound of the bell hanging above the entrance to the pet store, announced my arrival. Hello minimum wage staffers, it’s me, Devon Winston Abney! A most tragic soul destined to live alone, who cares about no one but myself. Well, according to Margie, my now most recent ex. But what does she know. I’ll show her I can care for things. I’ll get a pet and care the shit out of it.

Bird. Cat. Turtle. None of these pet choices seem right. For some reason I feel that feathers on captive animal doesn’t feel domesticated enough. Same thing for the cat, minus the feathers. Deep down, there probably still beats the heart of its wild cousin the tiger, just waiting to spaz and test what those snatching claws can do. Nope, cats can’t be trusted. And the turtle, to –– hard. I don’t think I could bond with something with such a hard outer coating. Perhaps Margie was right this isn’t going to work.

“Hello there, are you finding what you’re looking for?” The over exuberant, eau de shavings scented employee speaks at me.

There are so many comebacks to that proverbial question, but I answer with a short and simple, “No.”

“Well, I’d be happy to help. Are you looking at getting a pet for yourself or for someone else?”

“For myself I suppose, but mostly in spite of others.” The look on her face says I just tipped past her meagre pay grade.

“Um, okaaay. Is there any type of animal you had in mind?” I turn and glacé over the open-air tanks of gerbils and mice. I swear they all look up at me, thinking to themselves ‘for the love of Peter, please don’t don’t pick me.’

“Something small, low maintenance perhaps. Something I won’t much notice at all.” She doesn’t answer right away and I stop her before she does. “You know, I don’t think there’s anything here that fits the bill. I uh –– I think I’ll be going.”

I leave the store muttering to myself. I need to get a grip. I should just do what I always do when I’m feeling a fuss: have a bath, drink a cocoa, and watch an episode of Sherlock’s Manor. Just one though, won’t want to stay up too late and not feel well rested the next day. Rounding the corner out of the shoppe I decide to take a short cut to the tube through the alleyway. It’s daytime, and to my logic, the unsavoury characters don’t come out until the sun goes down. So it should be perfectly safe to tread there.

“Excuse me, sir?” A male voice I do not recognize calls after me down the alley. I stop and turn to him. Referencing again to my thinking: well-lit places are never nefarious. “Yes, hello.” He says. I notice he is dressed in what one would consider office attire, but looks rather bedraggled. “I um –– over heard you in the shoppe back there. That you’re looking for a special kind of pet.”

“Um … Yes, but …”

“Well a have just the thing for you.” The man has come within steps of me and I now notice the small wire cage he holds in his hands. “Here, take a look at him.”

Although it’s light out this scenario still raises suspicions. Why is this man tracking me down to offer me … “It’s a hamster.” I say.

“Yes, but Harold is special. That’s his name. He practically takes care of himself.”

 

 

“To my recollection this bizarre conversation went on for several minutes, to which the man finally convinced me that, Harold, was the solution to my relationship whoas. So, Harold, in his small cage, traveled back with me to my flat. I found him a comfortable spot next to my vintage records and my plastic ficus, right by the window, and pretty much forgot he was there for the next two days.

 “Until the inexplicable happened. Harold spoke!”

 

 

“Um –– Devon? That’s your name, is it not?” The high-pitched, yet distinctly male voice was coming for the barred enclosure adjacent my fictitious ficus. “I don’t mean to be a bother, but are you going to feed me? I’m about near chewing off my own leg here for sustenance.”

My ears hear the tiny voice, but my mind refuses to believe it. Did my hamster just speak?

“I know what you’re thinking. Yes! I speak. But perhaps not for long if you don’t feed me.”

Letting my episode of Sherlock’s Mansion play on, I creep over to Harold’s cage. I see him there looking up at me; his two black eyes like shinny be-be’s of wonder.

“I’m trying very hard, Devon, to believe you when you said you could care for things other than yourself, but my hunger pains beg to differ.” Harold’s little hamster lips move as he talks. I blink hard. This can’t be happening. Perhaps the trauma of breaking up with Margie has pushed my psyche to the brink. Although, the little bugger is right. I haven’t feed him much, or at all. So I accept the surreal and answer him. “What can I get you to eat?”

 

 

“A jaunty conversation regarding the diet of hamsters and the lack of contents in a bachelor’s ice box extended. I didn’t know a little critter could be so argumentative but eventually I found a few baby-cut carrots that Margie must had left behind.”

 

 

 “Well Harold, I really must be off to bed. My show is through on the tele and I need to make sure I get enough rest.”

“Rest for what?” Harold mumbles, his cheeks bulging out to the side with multiple pieces of carrot.

 “For my work at the factory. No one codes and sorts the widgets and mabobs like I do. It’s been said that I excel at it.”

“Widgets?”

“Yes.”

“And mabobs?”

“Yes.”

“That sounds just ––– terrible. Even me, who lives a rather incarcerated life in this casa de rodent, has a better job than you. I’m very sorry for you, Devon. Good Night then.”

“Wait, you have a job?” I can’t believe I just asked that.

“Yes I do. I’m a life coach.” Harold shoves another carrot bit in his bulging cheek but doesn’t eat it.

“You can’t be a life coach. You’re a hamster.”

“Wow, Devon. That was incredibly racist. Or maybe since we aren’t really the same race, but rather difference species it’s … Hmm there must be a word for that. Any who, it’s not a good thing, and horribly rude. Perhaps I shouldn’t help you out then.”

 

 

 “I could tell Harold was getting really pissed off. He kept shifting the pieces of un-eaten carrot from cheek to cheek. And when I asked him why he wasn’t actually eating any of it, he said he wasn’t particularly comfortable with me watching him eat.”

 “Yes. Sorry, Devon, I’m trying to keep up with my notes here, but you’re going a little to fast for me. Can you back up a sketch to the part where you’re hamster said he was a life coach. I’m just want to make sure I understand things.”

 “ I know right! I’ll tell you, I had to google terms to understand things better too, Doc, but I get it now. I now fully understand the difference between a psychiatrist; what you are, and what a life coach is. Ha! to very different things!”

 “Good, Devon. That’s good. And you understand to that hamster can’t be life coach?”

 “No, I believe that’s supremacist. I had to google that too.” dreamstime_m_20154117

 

 

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