“Ferret racing?” Mia asked, a skeptical frown on her face.
“Oh, don’t give me that look!” I shot back, giving her a playful shove. Mia laughed and stumbled off of the sidewalk into the fresh spring grass.
“But Jaymie,” Mia said through her laughter, “of all the things a guy could do at the fair, you would choose ferret racing?”
I scowled. Women. They just didn’t get it. Ferret racing isn’t just some game to me. Ferret racing is an art. Ferret racing is something my ferret, Tiffany, and I have trained for for years. Despite her lack of back legs. Plus, if Tiffany won first prize, the money would be enough to buy her a better wheelchair.
“Yes,” I replied, tugging on the straps of my backpack self-consciously, “it is. This is Tiffany’s big chance, Mia.”
Mia snorted. I scowled again.
“At least my hobby isn’t stalking boys on the internet,” I mumble under my breath, just loud enough for her to hear.
“Three more days Tiffany!” I crowed as I burst through my bedroom door. “Three more days, and then we’ll show ‘em how it’s done!”
Tiffany glanced up at me from her small terrarium on my desk, clearly unimpressed. Her small black nose twitched furiously as she pushed herself down her slide. She slowly slinked towards the front of the terrarium, dragging her limp bottom half behind her. I grabbed the small wheelchair off of my desk and gently lifted Tiffany out of her cage, wrapping my fingers around her shoulders and lower half. Tiffany let out a stream of contented chatter as I set her on my desktop and began to strap the wheelchair to the lower half of her body.
“I can feel it,” I whispered, leaning into her small, striped face. “We’re going to win!”
Tiffany let out a burst of high-pitched chatter and began to race around the desktop, her wheelchair wheels squeaking in protest as she dragged it along at full speed. I crouched down on the floor of my bedroom and straightened out the clear plastic pipe, making sure the edges lined up with each other evenly.
“You ready, Tiff?” I asked her, gently setting her on the ground in front of the tube. “Go!”
“What’d you say your name was again, boy?” the large man stared down his lumpy nose at me, a skeptical look on his face.
“Jaymie Elliot and I’m here for the ferret race,” I replied, enunciating the last words so the man wouldn’t miss them again.
“But,” the man drawled, looking down at his clipboard, a frown on his face, “you’re only 12. Aren’t you a little young to be out here all by yourself?”
I sighed, dragging a hand through my messy brown hair. Why do we have to go through this every year?
“My parents are already inside. Now, will you please let me go?” I say, trying my best to keep the exasperation out of my voice. The man frowned at me again and nodded. I let out a huff and picked up Tiffany’s cage, walking out of the administration booth and into the fairgrounds. All around me, the smell of cotton candy, frying chicken, and animal manure filled the air. Booths advertising fried cookie dough, fortune-telling, and so much more were set up around the main road. But I only had eyes for one booth.
“Hi,” I said, trying to be polite even though my nerves were already on edge.
The young woman who was manning the booth looked up at me and smiled. “Yes?”
“I’m Jaymie and I’m here to register my ferret, Tiffany, for the ferret race.” The woman nodded and wrote something down on a clipboard.
“Does your ferret have any allergies?”
“Any behavioral issues?”
“Not unless you get in between her and her food.”
“Any physical or mental disabilities?’
“Yeah, she has no back legs.”
The woman looked up at me. “Sorry?”
“She has no back legs. She uses a wheelchair.”
“Oh,” the woman said, marking the clipboard. “We’ll give her a five-second head start then.”
“No,” I said quickly.
“No?” the woman said, quirking an eyebrow.
“No,” I said again with a shake of my head.
“Well okay then. Go ahead.” The woman gestured into the large grassy area behind the booth where the ferret racing tubes had been set up. I glanced around at the competition. A woman dressed in a long sundress stood at the red tube, cooing to a pure white ferret who was struggling to get away. At the green tube, a man in a suit stood solemnly next to a small boy who was gingerly holding a wriggling ferret, narrowly avoiding its snapping teeth. At the blue tube, a girl who couldn’t have been older than five jumped up and down excitedly, poking pudgy fingers through the cage of her ferret. I swallowed hard and knelt next to the final yellow tube, unlatching the door to Tiffany’s cage. Tiffany chattered excitedly as I pulled her out and began strapping the wheelchair to her bottom half.
“What’s wrong with her legs?” I looked up to see the little girl standing over me, staring at Tiffany’s back half.
“She was born without legs,” I said, tightening the straps and letting Tiffany down into the grass.
“How’s she gonna race without legs?” the little girl asked, cocking her head to the side.
“Wheelchair,” I said, turning away. I picked up Tiffany as the little girl skipped away. “Listen,” I said, lowering my voice so that only Tiffany could hear, “you may not be as strong, or as sleek, or as fast as any of these other ferrets, but you’ve got brains, Tiff. You’ve got brains. Brains beat brawn every time, remember that.” Tiffany looked up at me, her small black eyes sparkling with an intensity I didn't even know she was capable of. “You ready for this?” I asked her. As if in response. She lowered her head and let out a menacing string of chatter. “That’s my girl!” I crowed, scratching her behind her ears. She poked her head up a touched her nose to mine, putting her small paws around it. "You can do this," I whispered, pressing the bridge of my nose to her forehead. She let out a soft mewling noise and nuzzled me.
“Attention! Attention please!” I heard a megaphone amplified voice call out. “All contestants, please line up your ferrets in front of the mouth of the tubes!” I gently set Tiffany down at the front of our yellow tube, holding on to her sleek body before she could shoot off down the narrow opening. “On three! One!” Tiffany cocked her head and seemed to square her tiny shoulders. “Two!” She began to push forward and backward, gaining momentum, her muscles squeezing into tight coils. “Three!” Tiffany went off like a shot down the tube, brown fur flashing in the afternoon light. Right off the bat, the little girl's ferret backed out of the tube and streaked off through the grass.
“Go, Tiff! Go!” I shouted, pumping my arms. I watched as she reached the first cage in the tube. There were four cages on each track connected throughout the tube. The first cage had a small ridged curve, representing a bridge. The second had a seesaw that was tilted so that the competitor had to reach the other end to make it past. The third cage had a small blue divet with three plastic balls, representing a pool. The last was just a regular cage where the ferret had to turn around and go back down the tube.
I watched as Tiffany easily glided over the bridge, not pausing for a second. The other two ferrets were ahead, but not by much. Tiffany streaked down the tube, reaching the seesaw. The other ferrets paused, confused by the contraption. But Tiffany knew what to do. She reached the other end of the seesaw and dove off in one graceful leap.
“Go, Tiffany!” I screamed, the cheers of the small crowd that had begun to gather joining mine. I watched anxiously as she reached the third cage. She paused for just a moment, unsure of it, but then she dodged it and continued down the tube. The woman in the sundress’s ferret had stopped altogether, batting around the brightly colored balls with its tiny paws. The man in the suit’s ferret was just behind Tiffany.
Tiffany reached the last cage and swung herself around, just as the other ferret did. They both dove towards the tubes. Tiffany froze. Her wheelchair had flipped over. She was thrashing and chattering angrily as she struggled to get up.
“Come on Tiffany!” I cried, disappointment flooding my veins as I watched the other ferret streak past the cage with the balls. “You can do this!”
Finally, with a snap of her teeth and a growl, she bent her body back and flipped the wheelchair upright. The crowd roared in appreciation and I clapped my hands. “Go!”
Tiffany scrambled past the cage with the balls and raced after the other ferret, gaining on him by the second. She jumped onto the seesaw and down the tube. She raced over the bridge and down the final stretch, the other ferret barely ahead of her. I could see that her teeth were bared in concentration, her small eyes focused on the end of the tunnel.
“Come on Tiffany!” I screamed, my voice feeling ragged. With a powerful leap, Tiffany shot out of the entrance of the tube, just moments before the other ferret. “Yes!” I screamed pumping my fists in the air and picking up Tiffany. I could feel her tiny lungs heaving in and out. She was chattering so enthusiastically that she sounded like a wind-up toy. I held her up in the air for the now large crowd to see. “Tiffany!” The crowd roared with cheers for Tiffany.
I lowered her down, close to my lips. As the woman from the desk began walking over to me with the small trophy and the cash prize, I pressed my nose to Tiffany's and whispered in her ear, “I knew you could do it.”
This story is dedicated to Luke (aka Litlover) for being such a great friend and a wonderful person! He is so kind and loves to spread positivity! You can check out his stories at: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/litlover/
Also, if anyone wants to check out this ferret racing video (SOOOO CUTE) that I got my inspiration from, here's the link! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hevu7xKxc7Y