A man walks into a pet shop. The bell above the door tinkles noisily, disturbing the store’s many caged creatures. They snarl and spit and hiss at the customer. A moment later the shopkeeper appears. Well, strictly speaking not all the shopkeeper appears; he’s missing a few fingers. And an ear.
“They don’t like that bell one jot,” the shopkeeper says, “not when they’re having their bye-byes. Funny, it doesn’t bother me so much,” he says, raising a finger stump to his missing ear by way of explanation. “Now, sir, how may I assist you?”
“I was thinking of getting a pet, for a bit of company.”
The shopkeeper throws open his arms, “Be my guest, sir. Feel free to browse. Just don’t get too close to Polly, she hasn’t had her breakfast yet, sir.”
“Polly?” enquires the customer.
“Polly the croc, sir.”
Inside a nearby cage a fully-grown crocodile snaps its muscular jaws hungrily. The customer takes a step back, disturbing the occupant of the cage behind him. Screeeow! A panther throws itself at the mesh, all gnashing teeth and murderous claws. The customer cautiously turns to confront the big cat, getting a blast of its hot, rancid breath full in the face.
“Frisky little thing, isn’t she, sir?”
“I was looking for something more…manageable, perhaps.”
“Personally I find fish most agreeable.”
“I suppose fish might be alright,” the customer says, his mood brightening.
Ushering the customer through to another, slightly darkened room the shopkeeper proudly says, “Take a look at these beauties.”
Zigging and zagging inside a murky tank are a dozen or so, quite plain looking fish. Looking at his watch the shopkeeper announces, “Snack time, me thinks. Would you be so kind as to pass me a rat from that bag there behind you?” Seeing the queasy look on the customer’s face, the shopkeeper bustles past him and digs a mangy, dead rodent out of the sack. In one singular movement he tosses the rat into the fish tank. As quick as flicking the switch on a blender the water bubbles into a raspberry froth and a ratty tooth sinks to the sandy bottom. “Are they?” asks the customer.
“Indeed they are, indeed they are.” replies the shopkeeper jovially.
“I’ve only got a one bedroom flat, have you got anything smaller? What about rabbits?”
“Oh, we’ve got lots of rabbits, sir. But I’m afraid they’re not for sale, we use the rabbits as feed for the rest of our stock, see.”
“I don’t want piranhas or pythons or panthers…don’t you have any normal pets? All yours seem a bit, well, dangerous.”
The shopkeeper folds his arms across his chest and rocks back on the heels of his green wellies. “Well this is the Dangerous Pet Shop, sir. We are very much, without a shadow of a doubt in the dangerous pet business.”
“Is there much call for dangerous pets, then?”
“People are snapping them up.”
“And vice versa, probably.” mutters the customer under his breath.
Raising an eyebrow the shopkeeper responds, “Our customers find dangerous is more exciting, sir. It adds a certain unpredictability you just don’t get with a tortoise.”
Running his fingers through his hair and taking a long hard look at the animals surrounding him, the customer breaks out with a big, broad smile. “Oh, go on, then. I’ll chance my arm with one of your crocs.”
“Very good, sir,” says the shopkeeper, “Would you like me to wrap it for you?”
Having UC is a bit like keeping a dangerous pet. Everything may be okay and normal and fine, but at the back of your mind you’re always thinking something could go wrong at any minute. That’s how it feels sometimes.