On the magnificent East Coast of the motherland, there was a quiet coastal city called Binhai City. It was beautiful, with a large economy and a slow pace of life. Binhai had an absence of large industrial enterprises, making it a suitable place to live a peaceful life. In this quiet city, there was a small, unknown pet shop.
This particular morning, a taxi parked in front of the pet shop. Zhang Zian got off, removed his suitcase from the trunk, and thanked the driver. As the taxi disappeared around the corner, Zhang Zian breathed in the salty air and looked up to see the pet shop sign: Amazing Fate Pet Shop. The shop doors were closed, and a small, plain paper sign had two words on it: temporarily closed.
He did not hesitate to tear down the notice, kneading it into a ball and putting it in his pocket, because this sign was one that he had posted. If one looked carefully at Zhang Zian’s face, it would be easy to find that he had dark circles surrounding bloodshot eyes. Clearly, he hadn’t slept very well for several days and had been depressed for a while.
He pulled out the key, unlocked the shutter door, and then pulled it up, exposing a glass door. He then unlocked the glass door and pushed the two glass doors open. Because the shop hadn’t been open for days, the indoor air quality was not pleasant. Holding his suitcase, he walked further into the shop.
"Welcome home," he murmured to himself.
The Amazing Fate Pet Shop was as quiet as a graveyard—no cats meowing, no dogs barking, and no birds chirping. There were only some empty cages and display cases. Cat litter and bird droppings that hadn’t been cleaned left an unpleasant odor. It seemed like the shop owners and the animals had left in a hurry.
At this moment, Zhang Zian remembered that the pet shop had been very busy and lively, a variety of pet calls mixing into the ambient noise of the city. He shook his head, trying to put those memories behind him. He dragged his suitcase and walked up to the second floor.
Entering his old room, he opened the windows and took the black and white portrait of his parents out of his suitcase. After placing the portrait on the desk, Zhang Zian put his hands together in prayer.
Shortly after Zhang Zian graduated from college, he found a decent job in another city. One night, he received the bad news that his parents had been involved in a car accident. He was devastated and rushed back to Binhai City. His father died on the site of the accident, while his mother was seriously injured. She had to stay in the ICU for a few days but, unfortunately, still passed away.
This pet shop was the only legacy left by his parents. After Zhang Zian returned, he got a chance to see his mother one last time. The mother gazed into his eyes with urgency and said with a weak voice, "Zian… the pets in the shop…"
He immediately understood his mother’s words. The pet store had been left unattended for days, leaving all the animals starving and dehydrated. He hurried back to the pet store, only to find all the pets dying, just like his mother.
In order to be with his mother as much as he could, Zhang Zian had to get rid of these pets. He had to either sell them at a low price, give them away, or set them free.
After returning to the hospital, he told his mother, "Don’t worry, Mother! The pets are all right." She then held his hands and passed away with a satisfied smile.
Then there was the funeral which made him physically and emotionally exhausted. Zhang Zian was not sure at all what he was supposed to do to arrange the funeral. Luckily, his parents’ friends, neighbors, and out-of-town relatives had all been very helpful. After a few busy days, his parents ashes were sent to the cemetery.
Finally, Zhang Zian returned to the pet shop after staying in the small hotel next to the hospital for several days.
The Amazing Fate Pet Shop had two floors. The pet shop was downstairs, and the living space was upstairs. The area was not too large, but it was his parents’ legacy after many years of hard work.
At this point, Zhang Zian had two choices. He could either sell the shop or rent it out, and still keep his hard-to-get job, or he could stay in Binhai City and continue to run the pet shop.
Although his parents owned the pet shop, Zhang Zian knew next to nothing about running a pet business; his parents didn’t to distract him from his school work.
Logically, Zhang Zian knew that he should have chosen the first choice.
After days of not having a good meal, he decided to go eat first, leaving the decision for later. He had asked for one month of leave from his job. There were still a few days left, so he had no need to rush a decision. After all, one’s decisions would often be irrational when one was hungry.
Down the last step of the stairs, he saw a small silhouette flash by the glass door.
"Was there a thief? What could a thief steal in this empty pet shop? It would be very nice if the thief could steal the cat litter and bird droppings. That would save a lot of cleaning time," Zhang Zian thought with a bitter smile.
"Who is it?" He asked in a higher pitch.
A little girl with braids stuck her head through the door frame and timidly asked, "Is… the shop open yet…?"
She was wearing a small yellow hat, carrying a pink backpack, and looked to be about seven or eight years old. Her eyes were wide open and her knees bent; she looked like a small rabbit who had just run into a wolf, ready to run away at any time.
Zhang Zian didn’t expect any customers to come this early. Giving it a little thought, he said, "Yes, it’s open. Please come in!"
The girl hesitated to go in, looking confused. "Are Uncle and Auntie there? The shop hasn’t been opened for a few days… Did the owner change?"
Zhang Zian pondered for a moment and said, "Oh, there is no change. It is my parents’ pet shop."
"Oh." The girl was put at ease.
Zhang Zian didn’t turn on the lights when he walked in, and the morning sunshine had not shone into the shop yet, making it look dark and gloomy.
The little girl walked in and looked at the empty cages and display cases in astonishment. "Where are all the animals? Where did they go?"
"Didn’t you know? We had a large sale for all the animals a while ago." Zhang Zian said. "That day the shop was full of customers. The prices were so cheap. Some were even lower than the cost prices and some were just given away for free."
The little girl shook her head. "I didn’t know that. I was not allowed to have pets in my house. I only could come here to check on the animals before and after school every day. The uncle and auntie here were so nice to me even though I never bought any."
"Ah, was that so?" Zhang Zian suddenly felt that he did not fully understand his parents. Why were they so in love with these pets?
"There won’t be any more pets here, right?" The little girl looked up sadly at Zhang Zian.
He thought for a while, then said with a grin. "Of course there will, we’ll have more very soon. Come back and check in a few days."
"Really? That’s awesome!" The little girl jumped up in happiness and eagerness. "Well, I have to go to school now. See you, Mr. Manager!"
"Mr. Manager…" Zhang Zian sighed to himself. Irrational choices really did come with hunger.