I love reading the pet ads on Craig's List - especially the strange ones! This morning I ran across and ad with the headline "Can I Rent Your Ferret for a Day?" I thought it was funny, so I tweeted it and Hamline MFAC (the "unofficial twitter of Hamline U's low residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults") retweeted it as a "writing prompt of the day," so I decided to free-write on it and the following scene was the result. This is totally committing unpremeditated fiction, you guys - completely off the cuff. I'd love to hear what you come up with, too! If you write about ferret rental, comment or tweet me the link @LauraBRede!
"Can I rent your ferret for a day?" the young man in the top hat asked.
"Not likely," I said. "The ferret is mine - my own personal animal, see? You want a rental, you're gonna have to go with a rat. Maybe a rabbit. You can get them by the week."
"By the week? No, no. I won't be here that long." The man wrinkled his nose, as if the thought of staying in Crotsdam made him ill. "And the rats and rabbits aren't as effective, are they? I really need a ferret, and only for the day. Or, more importantly, the night. I'll give you...How much for a rabbit?"
"Ten duppins a week."
"I'll give you ten for the ferret, from now til dawn."
I paused, the soapy rag poised over the rat cage. I didn't want to let him see it, but I was tempted. An extra ten duppins for just one night? I thought of my own little stash, hidden under the woodstove. Ten duppins was a big step closer to getting out.
But I only had one ferret. Renting her out meant a night unprotected. I could bring the rabbits and the rats into my room, but the man was right, it wasn't the same thing. What good was ten duppins if a Stalker got me? I swabbed at the rat cage. Think.
"Well, now," I said slowly, "How do I know you can handle a ferret? You ever fought with one before?"
He sighed, exasperated. "Where would I have learned that? There are no Stalkers in the city!"
"Exactly! I rent you my ferret and you handle her improper and what's going to happen? You get her killed by a Stalker and I'm out one beast. Clairvoyant animals aren't cheap, you know, never mind ones trained to fight."
"Fifteen duppins, then. And I'll put down a deposit. The whole cost of the beast."
"You're desperate, aren't you?" I narrowed my eyes. "Where did you say you were staying?"
He looked away, scowling. "That's none of your concern."
"Where," I said, "Or no deal."
He took a deep breath. "
My eyebrows went up a notch. "But I heard Earl Graymore -"
"Passed away. Yes."
I almost laughed. That seemed a very gentle term for what happened to the old man. "So you're the nephew? The new owner?"
"I'm the nephew all right, but I have no interest in owning it. Not now that I've seen it. I'm only here until the train leaves tomorrow." He was wringing his gloves in his hands. The look in his eyes was so haunted, I almost felt sorry for him. Crotsdam can be tough on a city boy.
But I'd be a fool to get involved with this one. The thought of
Graymore Place made my spine go cold. He'd never make it through the night. And good riddance, part of me thought. What's another arrogant city boy, more or
But part of me felt sorry for him. What happened to the Earl shouldn't happen to anyone. And it wasn't far off from what happened to my own folks - what could happen to me, if I didn't get out of Crotsdam soon.
And that was the point, wasn't it? Me earning money to get out? "The ferret doesn't go anywhere without a handler. It's twenty for her for the night, and an extra ten for me."
I expected him to balk. Thirty duppins was a lot of cash. Instead, a look of relief washed over his face. "You'll...you'll stay with me?"
"I'll stay with the ferret."
"Yes." He blushed. "Yes, of course. I didn't mean...a gentleman staying alone with a lady..."
"Oh, I doubt we'll be alone." I scooped up my ferret in one hand and my crossbow in the other. "Not with all the Stalkers around. And if you ever call me a lady again, this ferret's gonna take you down."