Benny wants a pet—a dog or a cat. You know, the kind of pet everyone else has. But other kids don’t have his mom. She likes to do things differently.
So Benny doesn’t know what to expect when he first opens the pet carrier. Certainly not that his neighbors will want to kick is family out of town—he just got here! And he was just about to make the baseball team, too.
Will he fight for his pet or back down?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I owned a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Smartest pet you could have. But you would not believe how many myths about them aren’t true.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I tried to remember friendships I had at around the main character’s age (13), and loosely based characters on them.
Also, who isn’t embarrassed by their parents at that age? I tried to convey this awkwardness around a mom and dad in NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANYMORE.
“Bengt?” His mother kept her eyes on the road and her hands on the steering wheel. He ignored her. “Benny, okay? God, you are such a pain. I give you this unique name and you, you…”
“Make it normal?”
“Commonplace was the word I was looking for, young man. It’s not like I named you Quasimodo or Jehoshaphat, or…”
There she goes again.
“Mordechai, or Nicodemus, or…”
Benny rested his head on his hand. This could go on for a while.
“Of course your father was very helpful in naming you. His only suggestion was to name you First. That way, everybody would know who was the oldest.”
Benny had heard this story a gazillion times. It didn’t help that he was an only child—no brother or sister to distract her.
They passed a moving van along the way; men in sweatshirts were wrestling a couch through a front door.
“Mom, are we going to move again?” Benny asked. He knew he asked this question every month. But he liked to hear the answer, anyway.
“No, we’re not. This time we’ve settled down for good. Bought a house, in a nice town. We’re staying.” She turned onto their street. “Speaking of home,” she sang the rest of the words. “We have a lit-tle sur-prise for you.”
“Yes,” she continued cheerily. “While we were out, your father was getting your birthday present. That’s right. I called the house and he and your father are home, waiting for us.”
He! That meant they did get him a pet! And not smelly old fish, either—nobody said ‘he’ about fish. And no new notebooks or any boring stuff like that. His new pet was a he! But what kind of he? Suddenly, Benny felt left out. Not a part of the decision. He watched the budding trees go by that lined their street. Hmm. Surprises could be like winning a raffle, or like a slush ball to the face. What if they chose wrong?
“That’s why I didn’t want you to get your hopes up, back there,” his mother said. “But I needed to keep you busy for the afternoon. Then your father got lost trying to finding the right terminal at the airport…”
Airport? Benny thought. What kind of pet needs to be picked up at the airport? What have they done?
“What did you get me?” Benny asked.
“What? And spoil the surprise?”
The house looked the same. The same vinyl siding, slime green. The same pockmarked front. He had missed Major’s glove a lot that day. And did Benny ever get a talking to about using the house as a backstop. Hoo, boy. No, there wasn’t anything different about the house. But what did he expect? A big hole for his new pet-elephant to get in? He was being silly to even think such thoughts. The local pet store was probably out of whatever breed of dog or cat they wanted and had to ship it by plane. Yeah, that’s why. It had to be here by his birthday, after all. Benny exhaled. That made sense. What a relief.
When they pulled into the driveway, he could see that the garage door was open and his father was wheeling the mower out. The grass wasn’t even green yet. A number of boxes and a ladder had been moved outside, too.
Benny hopped out of the car even before his mother had turned the engine off. Before getting to the garage, he was stopped by his father with a gentle hand on his chest.
“Be careful,” his dad said. “He frightens easy.”
Benny walked into the empty-seeming garage, his eyes needing to adjust to the dim light. There was the smell of wet grass. He could see a wooden fence, like the scissor gates that had once kept him from falling down the stairs when he was little. Beyond that was a patch of hay.
At the far corner of the tiny fenced-in area was a gray crate the size of a large book bag with a red metal cage door. The side panel read: Pet Limo. He could hear rustling inside.
Benny looked back at his father. “Is he dangerous?”
“More afraid of you, I expect. Go slow.”
Benny stepped over the fence, and towards the cage, wondering what could be inside. He got on his knees and could hear the animal scramble away at the sight of him. His fingers pinched open the cage door. Benny didn’t dare stick his head inside, so instead he moved back again and lay down on the crackling hay. He could just make out the nose of the animal, about the size of a quarter—and just as round and flat—with two nostrils as smooth as if they had been drilled.
Then the pig grunted.
PV Lundqvist is a writer and father living in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He loves his kids, pet pigs and baseball—in that order.
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