On the early morning train, nobody talks much. A few people read books, some apply makeup or sip coffee from paper cups. Most of us just play with our rodents.

The lady in her suit preens the luxurious fur of her pure-bred chinchilla, caressing it gently with one immaculately manicured finger. Next to her, a teenager holds a rat that’s seen better days. It’s missing one eye and a piece of its tail, but no-one passes judgement because who hasn’t accidentally dropped theirs at least once? Even if you keep it in one of those little rubber outfits, you still might drop it down the loo. Anyway, it’s clear from the way he whispers at the rat that it’s well looked after. He murmurs sweet nothings and tickles the rat’s frayed ears with such love that it feels invasive to watch them.

The guy standing at the end of the carriage has a brand new ferret, so big that he has to hold it with both hands. He ostentatiously flicks its nipples with his thumbs, causing the ferret to emit shrieks of terrible delight. Nobody complains, because nobody ever complains and we all just pretend we can’t hear them. It’s funny how things go. A few years ago, everyone wanted to go smaller – dormice and pygmy hamsters were all the rage – but now things are swinging back the other way. The ferret seems a step too far to me, though. You might as well carry a badger around with you.

I’m checking them all out because I’m due for an upgrade next month. As much as my little gerbil’s done me well, I’m keen to move on to something new. Of course, there’s always the issue of what to do with him when the shiny new critter arrives. I suppose I’ll pass him on to Mum. She says she doesn’t want one, but she’ll come around. Everyone does eventually.

I do worry that she’ll neglect him, though. I don’t want to end up finding the gerbil in a drawer one day, dusty and motionless. That makes me wonder – do I really need to upgrade? I mean, the gerb’s served me well and he looks like he’s got a few more years in him yet. I could save a bit of cash on my monthly bill.

There’s a distinct change in timbre from the cacophony at the end of the carriage. Everyone turns and looks and we see that the guy has dropped the ferret down his trousers. He stifles painful whimpers as the creature nips at his skin, making his clothes ruffle and pulsate as if they have a life of their own.

All logic and loyalty goes out the window.

I want one.


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