Life was so much easier when I was a kid, before I turned nine.
Back then, there was no Bixby. Oh, I wanted Bixby. I’d begged for him.
“Joey has a dog, can’t we have a pet?” That was me, pretty much every day.
“Not a dog, honey,” said Mom, “You have school and your dad and I work. Dogs need a yard, or someone who can take them on a walk. They get lonely when they have no one to play with.” She picked up her purse. I knew what that was like, to have no one to play with.
“Pets are a lot of work, you know. Don’t stay up past 8:30. I love you,” said Mom. She took the bus downtown most nights to her job managing a restaurant that she didn’t like very much.
“I would take care of him,” I insisted. “I’d do all of the work. You wouldn’t have to do anything.”
Mom kissed my forehead. “Goodnight Sweetest.”
I doubted that Dad would agree to a dog either. “Cats don’t mind being left,” I tried. “Annabel has three cats, and her Granny lives with them, her Granny has two, so that’s five cats. Five. Can’t we have just one?” I draped myself in his lap, between him and the screen.
“Aha,” said Dad, “A cat. Hmmmm. I think I’m allergic.” He reached around me to continue typing up some kind of scientific report. My dad’s a wildlife biologist. He does research and studies that are supposed to help conserve the homes of animals. Animals. You’d think he’d love the idea of a pet.
I kept asking.
I pulled out my best pen. My birthday was coming up and in a kid’s world, there is no better currency than a birthday and some parental guilt. And I was ready to invest my whole bank account.
Dearest Mom and Dad,
I am an only child. Only equals lonely, you know. I want a pet. I need a pet. You will feel guilty later if you don’t let me have one while I’m still a kid, and let’s face it. Time is slipping away. I’m going to be nine. That’s just one more year of single-digit kid hood. Just one more year. Then TEN. Double digits. I’m going to be almost a teenager, and we all know what that means.
You simply can’t let me miss out on the joy I would get from a pet during this last year that I have left as a true, single-digit kid.
Your only, lonely son,
P.S. I saw the cutest little green lizard in a tank at the pet store. He looked very gentle and I would feed him and clean his tank and everything. PLEASE!
(I splattered a few drops of water onto the page. They looked just like tear drops.)
Well, it worked. On the kitchen table on my birthday, August 3rd, there was a glass tank with a giant red bow on top. The tank had pebbles covering the bottom, and a plant growing out of them, and on top of the cave made of rock, a bright green lizard grinned at me. He gave me a thumbs up too, I swear! I named him Bixby.
Bixby looked absolutely great in his tank, and he would curl up in a fanny pack that I draped across my chest when I rode my bike. He was the best lizard in the world. Until things got complicated.
It started when I rode over to Joey’s birthday party. His birthday is next after mine, the last weekend before school starts. Bixby came with me in the fanny pack. I took him out when the candles on the cake were lit so that he could see Joey blow them out.
And then when everyone started eating cake, Bixby stood on the table and took adorable little bites of cake by curling his tongue around a chunk and slurping it into his mouth. He had a triangle of frosting on his head that looked like a party hat. Joey laughed so hard! Annabel shoved me aside so that she could get her mom to take a picture of her and Bixby.
“He’s so cuuuute!” She squealed. “Oh Drew! I LOVE him! I have to show Sofia! Can he come to my birthday too?”
Annabel’s mom was obsessed. She snapped a bazillion pictures with her phone. Bixby stood up on his back legs and did a little dance!
“I got it! I got it!” Screamed Annabel’s mom. “I’m going to post this video!”
And then, like lightning, he got a couple hundred likes, in the first hour. By the next day, Bixby was all over YouTube and TikTok and pretty much all of the other social media stuff. The blast of fame was a huge surprise to me, but I should have guessed when I first saw that little green grin…
I shared the job as “Bixby’s manager” with Mom, because it was too much work for me with school. Annabel and her mom, and Joey and Sofia were part of the crew too. Actually, I didn’t really get to see Bixby that much anymore because he was always doing photoshoots and filming videos. Once in a while he still rode with me on my bike, but after a few minutes he would start motioning his little feet to say that he needed to get back to his “people”.
He spent a lot of time in front of a mirror, practicing jokes and impressions. He used my toys and clothes as props and costumes. He had one video where he did this “lonely only child bit” where he begged my parents for a dog. But he actually got one! For real though, and NOW we have a family dog. Bixby chose a Great Dane, and everyone thought that was hilarious, because he’s a tiny lizard. He rode around like a cowboy on the dog, Ollie, who I had to feed and take care of and pick up his poop. I did not sign up for that!
After our breakfast of waffles and cake and fruit parfaits, prepared by a chef, thanks to our own internet celeb, Bix, Mom gave us the morning update:
“Bixby is filming SNL today, and is available to practice shoulder riding this evening. We have that presidential speech that he’s going to make an appearance for on Thursday. You got this, Drew?” I gave her a Bixby-style double thumbs up.
“Hi Drew!” The crew was in my room shredding my favorite white hoodie with scissors. “We need snow for a holiday scene with Bixby as Santa Claus in a little sleigh.”
They were working on a huge cardboard set, painted with stars in the background and paper mâché trees.
“Bix’s online feed needs one or two more progress updates before we wrap this up,” said Joey.
“And let’s get more photos of the merch,” said Sofia. She measured Fuzzcat, my favorite stuffie that I used to sleep with. Fuzzcat was Bixby’s sidekick now, and the reproductions always sold out in minutes.
Back in the living room Mom was ready with Ollie, who needed to be walked. He pulled us out the door. I slipped my hand into Mom’s warm hand. She gripped Ollie’s leash with her other hand. My head bumped against her shoulder. We dug our heels in, resisting Ollie’s pulling. It was nice to be in this together with Mom, but we were moving too fast. We bumped. We jogged. We jolted.
“SLOW DOWN!” Mom commanded, but Ollie wouldn’t.
Kind of like life these days with Bixby. He would never slow down either.
While struggling to keep pace with a 150 pound loping dog, I looked up at Mom’s face. She was giving me this sort-of funny look. Like she was exhausted but annoyed but also happy all at once.
I don’t regret getting Bixby, it did make it possible for Mom to quit the job she didn’t like, after all. And I pretty much never think about being only or lonely anymore.
But I think I knew how Mom was feeling, sort of…
“Life was so much…easier…when I was just a kid.” I said.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Your story was fun to read!
I love this story!