Short Story #1: Best of the bunch

Winner:  The Mulga Bill Writing Award. Presented by the Eaglehawk Dahlia and Arts festival. March 2019 https://mulgabillwritingaward.wordpress.com/read-the-winning-entries/ 

Judges comments: A witty take on a serious subject, the result is a story that is both unique and thought-provoking. A dehumanising look at an obsession with perfection and how a being’s worth is based on their appearance and intrinsic value. The narrator emphasises the symbiotic relationship, however, it’s hard to see how this relationship benefits the human toddler. Maybe that’s how Kim justifies her actions. I’ll be thinking about this one for some time.

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My name is Kim and I show human toddlers in the Milky Way Toddler Association Competition.

People understand earth dog shows, but they can’t wrap their heads around a toddler show. Well, what’s the difference? It’s not like we put the toddlers on a leash. Really.

I’m also an English Human breeder. Most of us who compete will also breed one of the five breeds worth showing. We do it because we love the breed. There’s no money in breeding humans unless you’re an abusive kiddy farm. We can tell those types straightway. We have standards.

Twelve years ago, I picked up a little English from his breeder and I made up my mind that every human should have the chance to be a champion. My current toddlers, Maxi and Marmalade are champions. Maxi has 3 trophies because he’s been going to the shows since he was a baby. He’s about to retire soon. While Marmalade has 2 trophies and more to come. They call Marmalade a very good example of his breed. Every show a judge will say, ‘Beautiful profile’ or “nice hair set’. He has a presence about him. A very regal example of the English Royal Toddler. He thinks he’s king and he is.

I show Marmalade in the Altered class where the pedigreed toddlers have been spayed or neutered. That is the most competitive class in the Universe. The judges are looking to compare your toddler against perfection. They look at their head type, their physical integrity and their colour condition. The toddlers come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s their development at 12-15 earth months that typically have notable winning qualities. The judges are looking for superior nose-picking, scribbling, repeating babble, impatience, full-body tantrums (wonderful), finicky eating and, of course, overreaction to everyday situations. They get points for all of these qualities. We meet in rounds across the galaxy during the season for the chance to win the elusive Best of the Bunch (BoB) Medal. The BoB can mean a lot of coin and privileges across the universe. It’s very competitive.

Look at Marmalade’s body. It’s large but not flabby. He has a nice head and well-muscled. Always on show. He widens those beautiful eye holes and he gets what he wants. I fall for it every time. Magnificent. We get very attached to these little ones. You don’t move across the universe with a toddler that you don’t care for. They’re your ward in human format. I bath my humans once a week. Being a Guardian has serious responsibilities.

Beginning of the year, Marmalade was earning Best in Show every time. He had all the points. He was ahead of them all. Then Carol showed up. Everyone was like, ‘Have you seen Carol and Sasha?’

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Carol says she picked up her Cream Point Australasian toddler at a recent galactic rally as an impulse buy. But, we all know that Carol just wasn’t ready to stay home and let others shine.

It’s so like her to bring an incredible toddler and take Best in Show away from me. The grooming is impeccable. There’s no hair out of place. This kind of toddler changes the competition for everyone. I’m sure we do want to throttle each other. Everyone wants to win. It hurts to say congratulations to the winner for a particular round but we hide it well.

Carol has been showing and breeding toddlers since I said to her at book club, ‘You should get a hobby, maybe get a toddler or two.’ She’s been dropping coin on toddlers ever since. She’s always telling others about her points, the gaps, the race to beat Marmalade’s lead. Look, I’d never break a toddler’s knee to win the margin. I’m not like that. But, I would never own a pet like Sasha. My champions can dress themselves. I mean, Sasha can’t even brush her own hair.

Me and Carol, we don’t dislike each other. But I’ve never liked her toddlers. I heard that she lets them eat at the table with her. Enough said. Sasha might be Best in Show in the next round and she might not. You never know. I’m not worried. I believe in Marmalade. To win, Sasha needs to miss a round before the end of the season and look that could happen. I mean, we’re working with humans here. They get sick, break their limbs, or blow their trueskin and get bald patches. I had nothing to do with Carol’s delayed registration to the last round, by the way.

Sasha was second in show in today’s round. She spontaneously vomited over the evaluation table and the splash back hit the guest judge from the Jupiter Toddler Fancier’s Association. To be honest, I was surprised such a small thing could hold so much. In ways, they’re much the same as us but with skin. They didn’t stay for the final point tally and missed the judge’s remarks about Marmalade, ‘Wow. Just wow. What a scream. What a tantrum. Marmalade is today’s Best in Show.’

If you’re not number one, you’re the first loser. No one remembers number two, three, four. Sasha is still first by 20 points. That’s what the race means. And I’ve dealt with it. If you asked me at the start of the season what the plan was, Marmalade was going to be number one. But, a winning streak must end.

This always happens at the last show of the season. This year, I’m saying goodbye to an awful lot of youngsters who no longer qualify to compete. I mean, you do the final round and you’re thinking, ‘Okay, this is the last time I’m ever going to see this little one before they’re put down.’ Saying goodbye to your favourites is tough. I left Marmalade and Maxi in the benching area and when I got to the end of season celebration I find out Marmalade did great. He’s the BoB winner! Best of the Bunch! No, we’re not retiring yet. We love this craziness too much. During the off-season we’ll travel around the galaxy petting zoos so I can show off my champions.

It was very, very, hard for me to hear of Sasha’s sudden disqualification for being too old. I hope they publicly thank the anonymous caller. The truth always wins, Carol.

I did it for love. I do it all for love. Me and my champions spend entire light years travelling together for shows during the season. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Each human toddler has its own hairy little personality. They just sort of weave themselves into your heart and your head. I don’t blame Carol for what she did. Most of the little tackers are balls of love so if you can get that from something, I say, grab it. Just leave the winning to me.

©AnOriginalAlex

Location Lismore NSW E-mail alex@anoriginalalex.com Hours I will return your email as soon as possible.
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