YWP: How to choose a pet in 5 minutes or less

Age 12, East Thetford
Monday, February 18, 2019

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with authentic audiences in newspapers, before live audiences and online. YWP also publishes an annual anthology and The Voice, a digital magazine comprising YWP’s best writing, images and features. More info: youngwritersproject.org or contact YWP at sreid@youngwritersproject.org or 802-324-9538.

This week, we present responses to the following challenge: Decide. The pet store is closing in five minutes and you have to make a choice — which pet to take home and which to leave behind. What do you do?

All the pets

By Madeleine Thaxton

Age 12, East Thetford

My dad let me go to the pet store today.

He said to pick any pet that I wanted.

I wanted a little hamster I’d name Jerry —

but when I got there, I couldn’t decide.

Did I really want Jerry, or did I want a spider named Milly?

Or a bunny named Hun? What about Jake the snake?

I wanted all of them. I wanted Pink the goldfish, Lilly the frog, Bob the pig.

I needed Leo the green parakeet, Grace the water dragon, Cody the veiled chameleon,

and Luna, Leah, and Lucy, the fancy hermit crab sisters.

My dad asked me if I really wanted all those pets.

“Are there any pets you don’t like?” he asked me, teasingly.

“Some,” I said, “but those weird ones still need homes, too.”

Aidan the rat needed a home, and so did Claire and Theo, the veiltail betta couple,

and Gabby the cherry shrimp, and even Seth the ferret.

Dad told me that he wanted a small rodent himself.

“Which one?” I asked. “There are so many.”

There was Baby the dwarf hamster, Cora the mouse, and Marco the chinchilla.

Then, the voice from the loudspeaker rang out across the store.

“Five minutes until closing time, shoppers.”

Oh no! Five minutes left until I had to leave,

and I still hadn’t picked out a pet!

I ran around the store, looking at all the pets.

There were so many! I didn’t want to leave any behind.

Finally I decided, and my dad brought me to the checkout desk.

“Which pet do you want?” the clerk asked me.

“All of them!” I said.

The pet clerk and my dad exchanged looks.

My dad said no. I argued with him, but he still said “no,”

so I went home with no pet.

I guess I’ll just have to come back with my mom …

she’ll let me get all of them.

10 o’clock

By Hannah Vogel

Age 14, Piermont

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

The seconds fall away from the clock, dripping off the hands

like the sweat slowly dripping down my forehead, down my nose, off my face.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

As the end draws near, my heart speeds up,

racing, racing, racing like a horse stung by the hot bite of a whip.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

“Sir? Sir, we need you to make up your mind now.”

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

The weight of this decision weighs down upon my chest, suffocating and crushing.

I have to make the single defining choice to end a lifetime of loneliness. Or begin one.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

“Sir, are you quite alright?”

“Yes … yes, sorry. I’m just feeling a tad faint. Long day at work and all.”

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Eyes stare up at me — hopeful, loving, trusting.

They are everywhere, staring at me from behind their bars.

Which one do I save? Which cage do I open, and which do I close?

To choose between so many lives seems unfair. Impossible. Cruel.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Clang, clang, clang, clang.

“Sir we’re closing now. We have to put them away—”

“How much?”

Clang, clang, clang.

“Excuse me?”

Clang, clang.

“How much does it cost?”

“I’m not quite sure I understand. How much does which one cost?”

“How much does it cost to buy the pet store?”


Last five minutes

By Lauren Wright

Age 17, Bradford, Vt.


Dog: a domesticated, carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, non-retractable claws, and a barking, howling, or whining voice. ​

I've wanted a dog all my life. A lifetime best friend, with a limited presence.


Dog: four legs running to the mailbox after hearing the sound of tires rolling over the gravel, and you, climbing into the car in your best clothes and seeing hair stuck to the side of your calf.


Dog: rambunctious barking while you tiptoe around the house in the quiet of the night.


I am standing face-to-face with my childhood dreams, nothing but a centimeter of glass separating the air between us. “8:59” stands in bold white letters on my phone screen. As I turn and start to walk away, light taps mixed with scratches ring through my ears. I turn around to see glossy brown eyes looking at me through little caramel and black hairs, with small paws stuck to the window on both sides of the foggy glass.


Which pet?

By Lana Wood

Age 16, Newbury, Vt.

Which pet will best suit my needs?

I see puppers and doggos galore,

but what I want is so, so much more.

Still, dogs are great, and not many exceed...

The pet store closes in five.

I need a pet who’ll fascinate,

who’ll make my guests say, “WOW!”

I need to make my decision now,

there’s no time left to waste.

The pet store closes in four.

I look at every bunny,

and I also look at the birds.

Across the street, I see llama herds.

Mom says, “It’s time to go, honey.”

The pet store closes in three.

Maybe an iguana?

Nah, iguanas don’t seem right.

Oh, wow, is that lizard white?

How ‘bout a fluffy cat, to feel bourgeois?

The pet store closes in two.

My time is running out,

and I need an animal quick!

I don't know which one I'm going to pick —

should I choose a beak or a snout?

The pet store closes in one.

And then I see him across the room —

it's true love at first sight.

He will not shed, or bark, or bite,

and has no fluffy, feathery plume.

There's no more time left to discuss!

I guess I'll name him Fred,

and oh, I'll let him sleep right on my bed.

My mother need not make a fuss…

it's only just a platypus!