How You Look At It
The leaves skip along the cracking pavement with a dry rustle, urged by the light breeze. The same breeze blows a young starry Aisha’s nut-brown curls. They swing wildly around her face and catch at her warm jacket, making the Aisha laugh. She swings her armful of books around, breathing in deep breaths of crisp autumn air. It blows the scent of freshly baked bread and roasting nuts. The Aisha speeds up, in a hurry to get home and to dinner. She races the last stretch of the way, so that she arrives breathless at a door with peeling blue paint. The whole house is covered in peeling blue paint to match the door, and looks badly in need of repair. Half of it slopes at an odd angle, as if someone has knocked it just hard enough for it to collapse slightly. The overgrown lawn tugs at the corners of the house, as though trying to swallow the whole tumbling structure. A silver Bori is playing in the piles of leaves that have collected on the grass, but he abandons them to run toward the Aisha.
“Violet,” he cries. “You’re home!”
The Aisha laughs as the Bori enfolds her in a tight hug. She hugs her little brother back, her books digging into his arms.
“Traver, Keloryn will be looking for you,” Violet admonishes, slowly letting go. Treva grins, revealing two missing teeth.
“So?” he says cheekily. Violet cuffs him gently on the arm and knocks on the blue door. It opens immediately on a girl with skin the color of chocolate milk and eyes that shine with warmth and happiness. It is the siblings’ owner, Mica.
“Get in here, both of you,” she chides, but without a trace of crossness. Her long, smooth black hair hangs in a plait down her back, tied with a red ribbon. “The dinner is getting cold, and Kel is getting upset.”
“Keloryn is always upset,” Treva says. Mica laughs, revealing her perfectly even teeth. Violet ignores her little brother and goes into the house. The inside of the house looks a lot like the outside. All of the furniture is slightly wrong: it is bent, or missing a leg, or very scratched. That is how Mica is; she loves everything and anything, no matter what it looks like. She believes in taking in what no one else wants: the imperfect things. ‘It depends on how you look at it,’ she says. She has never minded that Violet’s name is 888Violet_87, or that Treva was just plain blue until a week ago.
Violet goes into her bedroom to put away her books and coat. The bed is salvaged from the Money Tree. Its frame is bent oddly, so that when Violet lies down, her head is higher than her feet. She has never minded, though. She is like Mica that way. The bookcase is missing a shelf, and someone long ago cut a hunk out of the side. Violet likes that large dent-in; it is almost like a tiny shelf. She has put a small picture of herself with Treva, Mica, and Keloryn, her older sister who is a pink Bori, on it.
Violet puts away her books neatly and hangs her coat in the closet. Then she goes to the kitchen, where she can smell tomato soup.
The rest of her family is already sitting around the table. Keloryn is ladling soup into bowls. She smiles when she sees Violet.
“Our family is now complete,” the pink Bori announces. That makes Treva giggle. Violet pokes him as she sits down. He pokes her back, and Mica sees and frowns at both of them.
As they start to eat, Mica, who has not touched her soup, even though it is made from the tomatoes that Keloryn grows in the garden, clears her throat.
“I have something to say,” she says hesitantly. Everyone looks up immediately. Violet wonders what her owner wants to tell them.
“I’ve been thinking that we’re pretty comfortable with the money now,” Mica continues. Treva pricks his ears. Violet sees this and knows that he is thinking how he was finally painted just seven days ago. “I have decided that it’s time to get another pet,” Mica finishes. She looks around the table to see how everyone is taking this. Violet slowly sets down her spoon.
“I think another sister or brother would be nice,” she says slowly. “There are many pets in the pound that no one wants. We have room and money for another one.”
Mica smiles. She looks happy, and Violet knows that she said the right thing when Treva pipes up:
“Oh, let’s get a brother for me to play with! I’m tired of all girls.”
The next morning is Saturday. When Violet wakes up, her window is frosted over. She blows on it and peeks out. The grass is no longer green; it’s white with snow. She lets out a squeal of joy. She loves snow. She puts on her warmest clothes as fast as she can and runs from her room. Treva is woken by her yelling and tumbles sleepily from his room. When he sees the snow, his whole face lights up. He dashes back into his room and comes out dressed in a parka and snow pants and pulling on the hat that Mica knitted him for Christmas. Violet races him to the door and they both jam on their boots and fling the door wide open. Violet jumps straight into the snow, but Treva grabs the shovel that’s leaning against the side of the house and starts to pile the thick snow into a mountain. Violet sees what he’s doing and comes to help him. Together, they make a hill of snow. Then, they slide down it on the trash bin lids. They are yelling themselves hoarse, frozen all over, when Mica sticks her head out of the door and yells that breakfast is ready and it's pancakes.
Violet and Treva scramble for the door almost as fast as they ran out of it an hour ago. The table is set and platters of pancakes stand thirty high. Keloryn grins at them, already eating. All three of them sit down at the table and help themselves to pancakes. That‘s when Mica reminds them.
“Today, we’re going to look for the perfect pet,” she says brightly.
“The perfect pet?” Keloryn looks worried. “I thought you said we were going to find one that wouldn’t be adopted so easily.”
“Just so,” Mica tells her. She puts another pancake on Treva's plate. “There is one pet out there that is just longing to become part of our family.”
Violet has planned to spend all day playing in the snow with her best friends, Amelia and Sekimmiah, but the idea of looking for a new sibling excites her. She eats her breakfast faster.
After breakfast, the family bundles into coats and scarves, hats and mittens and muffles. Then they start the long, icy trek to the Pound. It is a long walk, but Violet is so excited that she doesn’t mind it. She waves to everyone who passes her. Some people wave back, some look at her like she’s crazy. Violet waves to them all. Pets, petpets, humans. They are all worthy, in her eyes, to receive a wave.
“Here we are,” Mica says at last. Violet, who has been busy waving to a small group of petpetpets holding up a sign that says: ‘Give us our Petpetpet rights!’ in big crooked green letters, looks up. They are standing in front of a large building made of bricks. Violet thinks they are pink, but Treva says:
“The bricks are red,” at the same time that Keloryn says:
“I didn’t know the pound was made of brown bricks!”
And so she wonders if she is wrong. But by the time that Mica has held open the door and they have all filed in, she has decided that everyone sees things differently.
“Over there,” Mica says, pointing to a large desk. It is hard to miss, because it is exactly in front of the doors, but she points anyway. Violet, Treva and Keloryn troop after her as she marches up the left side, where a pink Uni sits under a sign that says: ‘Adopt.’ Or she could be sitting on the right side; it depends on how you look at it.
“Come to adopt?” the Uni says brightly. When Mica nods, she turns and heads for a door in back of the desk. Mica follows, and so Treva and Violet and Keloryn walk after her. The door leads to a hallway lined with more doors.
“Shall we start alphabetically, or do you have a particular sort of pet in mind?” the Uni asks. Violet is beginning to get annoyed at her very bright, cheery voice. The hallway is dim and gray and smells like paint gone bad. Not somewhere to be cheery in.
“Do you have a list of pets that have been here the longest?” Mica asks. The Uni shakes her head.
“I’m sorry, we don’t keep that in the records,” she says. Mica nods.
“I guess we’ll start with A-” Mica begins, but Violet suddenly interrupts her.
“Let’s start with Z,” she says. When Mica looks at her, she says: “Most people probably start with A, and don’t get all the way to Z.”
Mica’s face brightens. “Good idea, Vi,” she says. The Uni walks to the end of the hallway and opens a door. They all follow her in. they are in a large room lined with cages. All the cages are full. The pets in them look so awful that Violet immediately wants to rush to them and comfort them. It’s not their main appearance; they are all well-fed and groomed. It’s their eyes: they are large and hopeless and very, very sad. They make Violet sad as well. Mica chews her bottom lip, looking nervously around. Then Violet spots a green Gelert staring at them. His eyes are huge and black. They look almost hungry. Violet walks quickly to his cage. A small sign tacked to the top reads: ‘876332_2321’. Violet blinks, wondering if this is how they label the cages.
“What’s your name?” she asks the Gelert. The Gelert stares at her.
“Can’t you see?” he says finally. His voice is dull and toneless. Violet blinks. Then she suddenly knows.
“Your name is all numbers?” she whispers. The Gelert nods miserably. Violet is shocked. Who would name a pet with numbers?
“Would you like to come home with us?” It’s out of Violet’s mouth before she can think. The Gelert stares at her disbelief.
“My name is all numbers, I’m a Gelert, I’m green,” he says at last. “Why would you want me?”
“Because you’re special,” Violet says. As she says it, she knows it is true. Some people would say that there was nothing at all worth looking at in a plain green Gelert, but it just depends on how you look at it. Then Mica and Treva come up behind Violet, just as the Gelert says:
“I would,” in barely a whisper. Violet lets out a small scream of joy, and Mica smiles, and Treva yells:
“A brother! Finally!”
As the Uni unlocks the Gelert's cage, Violet leans over and whispers:
“You know, you’re very, very lucky.”
“I know. Pets like me never get adopted,” the Gelert says, looking rapturous as he climbs out of the cage. Violet is shocked.
“That’s not what I mean,” she says. “I mean your name.”
“My name?” the Gelert looks confused. The Uni is already leading them back into the hallway.
“Yes, because since it’s all just numbers, you can pick whatever you want to be called.” Violet is practically bouncing off of the Pound’s dim grey walls as Mica fills out forms at the front desk. Treva cranes his neck over her shoulder, making suggestions and being generally annoying.
Slowly, the Gelert’s face lights up.
“I can?” he says. Violet nods.
“Then, I want to be called Jules,” he says, glowing. “I’ve always wished that were my name.”
“Okay, then, Jules, I’m Violet, that’s Treva, that’s Keloryn and that’s our owner, Mica. Welcome to the family,” Violet says, slipping her paw into her new brother’s. And as they walk home, she thinks of one word: perfect.
And really what does it matter that the man on the other side of the pavement is grinning and thinking that exact same word about his Maraquan Lupe called Xiie? Because after all, it just depends on how you look at it.