Prose poem by Jessie Zhang
Contents Foreword by Jessie Zhang
Pet Phycology Adan & Emily
Jeff & Mr. Yahoo
Alice & Lulu
Bob, Lucy & Lora
Brian & Julia
Justin & Pigwig
Jane & Sophia
Fred & King
FOREWORD I never had my own pet until I moved to Canada. I remember a movie in China years ago. There was a scene of a counselor who advised a young man with fear of having a family that he should consider raising a dog first. I thought that was a funny suggestion. Later I understood the responsibility and the connection between owners and pets. As my personal experience of raising a dog and a cat grows, I have observed my families, friends and neighbors connections with their pets in Canada. This collection of prose poems is inspired by some of these real people and pets. The prose is about a dog, a cat, two hermit crabs, a chicken, a guanine pig, a golden fish, a parrot, an iguana and connections with their owners.
â€œIt's funny how dogs and cats know the inside of folks better than other folks do, isn't it?â€? --- Eleanor H. Porter (1868 - 1920), Pollyanna, 1912
Adan & Emily He calls her Emily; an eight-year-old Siamese cat. Adan, an IT engineer, lives in a 500 square foot apartment. Every morning, he feeds Emily a can of Natural Choice and fills a bowl with dry food before he goes to work. During the day, he knows that Emily will have fun with her Tiger Tough Deluxe Cat Tree: three scratching posts, a cat cave, a bungee ball and a play box made of pine wood covered with creamcoloured carpet. Emily can amuse herself, and sometimes Adan can watch. At lunchtime, Adan checks his iPad, and Emily’s live video pops up. Sometimes she’s in the scene; other times she’s not. Today she’s there. When Adan bites into his sandwich while looking at the screen, he smiles. Every evening, he feeds Emily before he makes his own dinner. Adan is a quiet man at any occasion, but he talks to his Emily non-stop when no one is around. The times he enjoys the most are when Emily purrs on his chest. “Family time,” he says. Does Emily feel what Adan feels? Adan thinks so. Adan gets a promotion and he can’t wait to tell Emily. “You know I’m a manager now.” Emily rolls on her back and shows her tummy. Her response seems to say “so what?” Another time, when Adan has to travel for his job, he asks a neighbour to look after Emily. The cat meows, turns around and disappears. “My girl, you hate me, do you? You’ll be lonely, I know. You don’t like being by yourself.” When he returns, he brings a gift. “Look, Emily, I bought your favourite treat - Temptations Classic, salmon flavour, “he says. At a birthday party, a friend whispers to Adan, “If you had treated your wife like you treat that cat, she probably wouldn’t have left.” Adan sips his wine and says, “well, my cat never liked her.”
Jeff & Mr. Yahoo He calls him Mr. Yahoo, a five-year-old brown terrier. Jeff found himself tiring easily from shopping or cooking after his wife passed away. He lies in his king-size bed with eyes wide open. “Amanda and I had a good life,” he murmurs, “She always supported my decisions, my sweetie! We moved from place to place. I changed jobs and she raised our kids and pets. If I knew she wouldn't be around, I would have retired earlier.” Mr. Yahoo jumps on the bed, plops down facing Jeff and sighs. “Yeah, we had three dogs and four cats before you.” Jeff pats Mr. Yahoo’s head and remembers, “Our last dog, Shawn, a border collie cross, lived for twelve years. He could run miles and miles. He was a smart dog.” Every day, Jeff lies in his bed as his mind recalls. Sometimes he laughs; other times, tears slip from the corners of his eyes. Most times he sighs, a deep breath in and release from his chest. Does Mr. Yahoo feel what Jeff feels? Jeff thinks so. The dog licks his face in the moments Jeff needs comfort. “Okay, okay, that’s enough kisses,” Jeff says. He gives Mr. Yahoo a bear hug and throws a ball for him to the other room. Every time Jeff leaves the house, Mr. Yahoo follows him. When Jeff sits on his couch facing the Pacific Ocean, Mr. Yahoo jumps right up beside him and looks out the window, too. ”You want to catch the fish, do you?” Jeff asks. Mr. Yahoo wags his tail, starts whining. “You know when the tide is out. Okay, let’s go.” “Does he ever catch any?” a stranger asks. “No, never, but he thinks he can.” Jeff smiles as he stands into the shallow water, “Mr. Yahoo thinks he has a mission, and he never gives up.” A school of fish swims around, Mr. Yahoo follows the school and Jeff follows him. To Jeff, the shells and rocks on the sandy bottom with a gentle wave under the sunshine are the best possible scenery. “Shall we go home now?” Jeff asks, “I know what I want to cook tonight.” Jeff puts a leash on Mr. Yahoo. Together, they walk towards the shore. From a distance, they can see the sunset reflecting on their windows, and their house seems to glow. He kneels in front of the dog, getting his attention. “Fish sticks,” he says.
Alice & Lulu She calls her Lulu, a silky white chicken. Lulu has fluffy plumage, black skin, a gray beak and five toes on each foot. Alice, a timid fiveyear-old girl, takes it seriously when she is told that Lulu will be her little sister. Alice reports every detail about Lulu. “I think Lulu needs a nap, so I brought Lulu inside.” Sometimes, Alice tells her stories to Lulu. Other time, she asks her mom questions. “Mom, what’s in the grass in our backyard? Lulu seems to be looking for something,” Alice says. Often, Alice holds Lulu against her chest. “Mom, look, her hair is so soft. I’ve taught her to stand on my swing,” Alice smiles. Lulu is still whenever Alice carries her around. Every morning, when Alice wakes up, she asks if Lulu is up yet. Every night, when Alice goes to bed, she asks if Lulu has gone to bed, too. One day, Alice asks, “where does Lulu come from?” Her mom explains, “oh, Lulu comes from an egg. A hen lays a lot of eggs first, and then she sits on them to keep them warm. The baby chicken grows inside the shell. When the shell breaks, a chicken comes out.” “Are those like the eggs we boiled for breakfast?” Alice asks anxiously. “No, they’re different. Our chicken’s eggs are organic. They are expensive to buy. We will get fresh eggs soon. Oh, they taste good, the store eggs can’t compare,” Alice’s mom says. Alice walks toward Lulu, she holds her up and kisses her. A month later, Lulu has her first egg. Alice’s mom puts the egg in a glass bowl, displayed on the counter. The next morning, Alice sobs when she sees a boiled egg on her plate, “No, no, you boiled Lulu’s baby, I will never eat eggs again.”
Bob, Lucy & Lora She calls them Bob and Lucy, a three-year-old male and a two-year-old female. They are hermit crabs. Lora is a graduate from the University of Alberta. She works as a communications officer for a business in town. Often, when the company hires new people, Lora runs a welcome workshop. When introducing the company's policies, Lora introduces herself first. “Welcome to our workshop. I’m Lora, and I have two hermit crabs as pets.” Every time she mentions Bob and Lucy, she is delighted by the reaction on people’s faces. It’s a good icebreaker. To Lora, her hermit crabs say something about herself. “Hermit crabs are absolutely unique and exotic pets. They can’t live alone, and they need a lot of friends, because they love social interaction. They thrive in the company of others,” she says. “That’s why you need to have at least two of them. Lucy is a shy girl; she usually hides, and does not come out of her shell easily. Bob is the opposite.” Lora often gives advice to people considering a crab as a pet. “Each crab has its own personality,” she explains. “When I take Lucy out of the tank and let her rest on my palm, she slowly peeks out and then ducks back into her shell.” Lora continues, “Bob comes out much faster.” Lora also explains that each hermit crab needs at least three extra shells, because they like to move. “The hermit crabs are very active at night. They enjoy exploring and rearranging things. So don’t put the tank in your bedroom, because you can hear them clacking away with their claws. Unless you don’t mind noise in the wee hours,” Lora finishes by sharing advice on suitable temperatures and humidity as well as accessories. “I love my Bob and Lucy. They are such sensitive and complex creatures. The most impressive characteristic is that they’re always looking for a better, bigger place to call home,” she says. A week later, Lora’s parents get a call from her. “I think I’m going to quit my job,” she says. “I’ve found a bigger, better place to live.”
Brian & Julia He calls her Julia, a twelve-year-old Scarlet Macaw, 28 inches long, with a creamy white face and a scarlet head. The red, yellow and blue feathers and long, tapering tail make Julia a stunning parrot. Brian has worked as a carpenter for 30 years, and he recently semi-retired. He hates shutters made of plastic. “A piece of plastic or a metal sheet will never be the same as a wooden board,” Brian says. The smell of cedar in his cabin makes him happy. Sometimes, Brian just organizes his tools; other times, he makes projects. Brian has made a tall stand for Julia, so she can perch close to the ceiling. Two things Brian has to do on a daily basis: Walk Julia and make wood projects. Brian walks Julia six blocks each day. When he whistles, she whistles back. Some neighbors tell him that Julia’s squawks are really loud. Brian doesn’t agree. He thinks her sounds are more pleasing than the sound of a lawnmower next door. Two things Brian’s wife does on a daily basis: Cooks for Brian and yells at him. Most times, Brian pretends that he hears nothing when his wife starts yelling. “Brian! Brian!” She will shout, sometimes in anger when she needs a hand in the kitchen. If Brian doesn’t show up immediately, she’ll scream, “You’re ... a son of bitch!” One day, Brian’s old friend, Jim, who was his buddy in the trade school, comes to visit. Brian’s wife isn’t home. Brian pours some wine and the two start chatting. They talk about the dormitory and student life and are interrupted by shouting. “Brian! Brian!” Jim looks around and laughs at Julia’s imitation. A moment later, Julia talks again and this time she persistently yells, “You’re...a son of bitch! You’re...a son of bitch! You’re...a son of bitch.” It’s loud and it’s clear. And it sounds exactly like Brian’s wife. Brian feels so embarrassed. He gets up, and locks Julia in the shed. When Brian returns, Jim says “let me guess. You married the “Tweety” who was in the hairdressing program next to our class?” Brian nods glumly. “Oh boy!” Jim says, “after we all told you that marrying her would be a mistake.” “I remember that,” Brian says. “But when you called me ‘bird brain,’ I thought it was a compliment.
Justin & Pigwig Her name is Pigwig, a two-year-old guinea pig, 10 inches long, black and white. Pigwig belongs to Justin’s seven-year-old daughter. Justin broke up with his wife five months ago, and now his daughter, Tina, is sent to different places on the weekends. Sometimes, she stays with her grandparents, other times, she stays at her auntie's house. Most weekends, she is picked up by her mother. Justin has to look after Pigwig. It’s 12 am, Justin types a few lines on the internet: “A twoyear-old guinea pig is looking for a home”, and then hits delete. He can hear Pigwig rumbling in the hall. “Do I give it away or not?” Justin ponders. He recalls when Pigwig arrived. “Dad, can I have a guinea pig? Mom says it’s okay. ” Tina was begging, “My friend Jojo has one, black and white. she’s so cute with her puffy hair!” Justin didn’t really want a pet but Lisa had already agreed. When Pigwig arrived, the three of them had a celebration. A cage, a few toys and some food, that was it. Justin went to the book room while Pigwig was exploring the living room. During the next few months, Tina often asked Justin to listen to Pigwig’s sounds. In Tina’s eyes, Justin knew everything. Justin was a high school math teacher while doing an online course for a master's degree. One night, he made a presentation to Tina on her little white board. “A typical guinea pig usually has seven sounds: Wheeking, purring, chutting, growling, rumbling, shrieking, and chattering. Each sound has a different meaning,” Justin explained. “When they make a wheeking sound, that means they are excited, and they are happy. When their teeth chatter, that means they are unhappy. For example,..” Tina was so quiet with her eyes wide open. She was hooked. Afterwards, she gave Justin a hug and kissed him goodnight. At that moment, Justin felt like a hero.“It’s 2 am. Justin walks towards the cage and murmurs. “What was I thinking?” Justin moves the cage against the wall near the kitchen, a place of honour where Pigwig can have a private space but easy access to every room. Justin imagines Tina’s response, he smiles. He picks up Pigwig and cuddles her, and she purrs.
Jane & Sophia Sophia is a Blue Oranda fish, four inches long with a lion head and a veil tail. She lives in a glass bowl facing the desk on the counter of the open Administration Office. Jane, the new administrative assistant, doesn’t know how old Sophia is. All she knows is that Sophia was a gift to the previous assistant who didn’t take the fish with her when she left. Jane liked Sophia when first she was waiting for an interview. It calmed her down to watch Sophia gracefully swim around. “The sophisticated dusty blue is just beautiful,” Jane says. Jane works from nine to five with a 30-minute lunch break, depending on how busy she is. She is frequently interrupted by a call while organizing a pile of customer profiles. She copies, prints, files, mails as a routine almost every day. “Miss Naylor, please give Mr. Robinson a call to confirm the Wednesday meeting. Miss Naylor, please print fifteen copies, each of them to include a cover in a single folder. Miss Naylor, please enter the timesheets into the system before noon. “All Jane hears is “Please... please…” All Jane answers is “Yes… yes…” And when phone rings, Jane smiles and speaks a greeting. Sometimes, Jane wonders why the previous assistant didn’t stay. When the lunch break comes, Jane sits by the fish bowl. “Zen Master!” she marvels. Sophia swims towards Jane, her mouth opens and closes in a rhythm. “Blue..Blue.. Blue, that’s what you say, right?” Jane feels that blue fish understands her. She also feels that Sophia has encouraged her because Sophia always looks happy. Jane loves oranges, and she finds Sophia loves them too. At a meeting, a janitor complained that Sophia is too much trouble because she has only an hour to finish her daily cleaning. A colleague suggests that maybe Sophia should be given away. “It’s just an unnecessary decoration for the office,” he says. Jane suddenly stands up, She hears herself say in a determined voice, “Sophia is more than a decoration.“ Jane remembers how the fish soothed her nerves in her first moments in this office, “Sophia is the best greeter the company could have. I believe her beauty and calmness add value to our work space.”
Fred and King He calls him King, a three-year-old green iguana, 42 inches long. “He looks like a baby dinosaur,” Fred says. Fred works as a cashier. At age 40, Fred has his own philosophy about life. Life should be simple and free, Fred thinks. “Simple” means not spending a lot, and free means he can decide what to believe. From the age of five, Fred would rather go to the woods and watch the birds than go to a church. He calls his mother who lives in a nearby town. ”How is your dating?” his mother asks. ”Well, there’s no hurry, Mom, I have to make sure that I know a person’s thoughts and values before dating, right? Oh, I just adopted an iguana, he is adorable”. “Fred, you need a real life with a real girlfriend. And here you are going on about an iguana.” She shakes her head. Sometimes, Fred takes King shopping, and other times he takes him to a nearby park for a walk in the sun. Fred calls him: “Come on, buddy, let’s go for a walk.” King looks at him with no response. “Well, you’re self-oriented, that’s okay. That’s your confidence!” Fred says as he puts a leash on King. One time, a friend visits, Fred says, “the iguana is a reptile, so he has his own character. It’s like us, right? People have character. Some are sweet, some are dull, and some are crazy. King is very sensitive. He is so afraid of being hurt. You know he has to be, because iguanas live in the jungles in Mexico. Some dangerous situations could happen anytime. Most people don’t feel iguanas are friendly animals because they’re not like dogs that come to you when you call. But I know when King is happy or upset because his skin colour changes. Every time I take him to the park, his skin turns light green. He is quite happy to get some sun. When he is not happy, his skin turns dark.” Fred goes on and on, and his friend finally says,” Sorry, I have to go.” The next day, Fred’s mom visits. King has to stay in the cage. King stares at her with his big eyes until Fred’s mom says, “son, I don’t feel welcome here,” as she throws a strawberry to the cage. “Have you met any girls yet?” she asks. Fred says, “Mom, all King wants is to eat his vegetables, get some sun, and come back home. That’s what I want, too. I love you Mom.”
To Jay Ruzeky, my professor, who has encouraged me to work on an idea to become a prose poem. Having his class makes me feel I have discovered my potential in poetry writing. To John Hill, my writing tutor, who has helped me when I was stuck with my thoughts of other pets Iâ€™ve never raised. Discussions with him have sparked me to continue my writing. To Jim MacQuarrie, my friend and my mentor, who has helped me with the choice of words and the message of each sequence. To Doug Naylor, my husband, who has helped me the first draft.
Thank you for all your editorial support on my prose. I know Iâ€™m on my way to be a better writer.
Jessie Zhang is a fourth-year Creative Writing student at Vancouver Island University. She has a passion of digital storytelling. She was one of the editors and writers in Incline Vancouver Island's online magazine in 2015. She was the Launch Coordinator for Portal 2016 while assisting with fundraising, advertising, events and marketing. Currently, she is working as Assistant Editor/ content marketing intern for the Digital Branding Institute in Los Angeles, California.
Published on Dec 2, 2016
Published on Dec 2, 2016
The collection of prose poems is about a dog, a cat, two hermit crabs, a chicken, a guanine pig, a golden fish, a parrot, an iguana, and con...