It started with Fred, his first pet, a ferret. Fred wasn’t very friendly, in fact distant, an independent sort of animal, always eating, drinking, and hopping around, yet never reciprocating with any affection at all. This annoyed Fred’s companion and owner, Kyle, who was 5 at the time.

Kyle grew weary of the daily ritual in which he tried to teach Fred etiquette.

“Bad posture, Fred,” he’d yell, then swing him by the tail into the wall. Finally, Kyle realized he’d never learn. “Seems you’re a waste of life,” he said, and threw Fred out the window, watching him plummet fifteen floors and become a tiny red dot on the street. Afterward, Kyle has a pleasant dinner with his parents consisting of Swedish meatballs and a tossed salad.

“Fred’s gone, Dad,” said Kyle, as they prepared for dessert.

“‘Fred IS gone,’ Kyle. We will avoid using such contractions in the future, is that clear?”

“Yes, Dad. Fred is gone.”

“Animals teach humanity, Kyle. After dinner, we will discuss your next choice of a pet.”

He named his bullfrog Ain’t.

“Ain’t?” said his father with a twitch.

“You told me I could name him anything I wanted.”

“Yes, as long as it was not a vulgarity.”

His father tolerated Kyle’s tendency to call Aint’s name loudly in his presence, but refused to refer to the bullfrog as anything other than ‘it.’

“Get it out of here immediately,” he would implore Kyle after a few minutes of being in the same room with his son and the loudly croaking frog.

Kyle bored easily of the repetitious hopping and croaking. One evening he inserted a large firecracker into Ain’t’s mouth. “You must really learn to enunciate,” he said as he lit the explosive and hurled the bullfrog from his window. Ain’t exploded roughly fifty feet from street level, showering a taxicab with frog bits.

“Ain’t has left us, Dad,” said Kyle just before dessert.

“What have you learned from your bullfrog, Kyle,” asked his mother.

“He is learning humanity, gentility, and responsibility, Mildred, now please have our dessert ready immediately,” said Kyle’s father. “I think you should have a tortoise, Kyle.”

He named his tortoise Cecil. Cecil lived for three weeks, but Kyle became impatient. “You’re just too… damned.. SLOW!” He brought the hammer down in three broad strokes upon Cecil’s shell. “AAARGHHH!” screamed Kyle. The turtle was silent, motionless, dead. He was disposed of in the usual place, the pavement far below.

“You’re maturing into quite a fine, well-mannered young man, Kyle,” said his father that evening before dinner.

“‘You ARE maturing,’ Dad. We must avoid contractions.”

Kyle felt the coldness of the steak knife in his hand.

“They’ll just never learn,” he thought to himself.

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