Author: Ruby Zehnder

“We can’t afford a flex pet,” she replied sharply.
Ben said nothing. He knew she was right, but it didn’t matter. This wasn’t about money.
“I’d love for Addie to have an emotional support pet, but–” she stopped speaking and wept. Ben took his young wife in his arms and comforted her. When she finished crying, she gave in. He was right. This wasn’t about money. This was about their dying child.
Ben retrieved the crate from his car and set the box on the floor. He carried Addie into the room and laid her next to it. She curled up in a fetal position, oblivious to the box.
The flex pet made a scratching noise.
“Look, Addie,” Ben gently coaxed. She slowly opened her eyes, and they gleamed with happiness at the sight of her father. Ben opened the box. A clump of fur rolled across the floor and snuggled up to Addie.
The child smiled. She clutched a handful of its soft pink fur, sucked her thumb, and fell asleep.
The flex pet chattered as it skimmed across the water’s surface on its tail. Then, it dived underwater and re-emerged, spouting water like a whale. The girls howled with delight when it got them wet.
Their mother sat silently, watching the two.
“Okay, girls, it’s bedtime–,” she announced firmly.
“No, mommy. We want to play,” the two begged.
Their pet fish came to the water’s surface. It blinked its big blue eyes, protected by goggles that looked like magnifying glasses.
“C’mon, girls. Bath time is over,” their mother insisted.
The girls hugged each other, refusing to leave their fun.
Then the fish let out a big fart that bubbled to the water’s surface.
“Eeeew,” the girls complained as they jumped out of the tub into their mother’s towel.
Addie threw the flex pet at her father and hit him squarely. She shrieked with delight when he fell over. The flex pet had transformed itself into a stuffed blue elephant, which Addie could swing by its trunk like a club. When he didn’t move, Addie approached him carefully to see if he was hurt. Immediately, he grabbed her and growled loudly while tickling her.
Her older sister joined in the fun and jumped on her dad. Addie’s mother watched the trio quietly, wondering how they could be having fun. Addie was dying. She was only three years old and —
“Happy Birthday to you–” the group sang out of tune. There were four candles on the cake, and the sickly child just recovering from another chemo treatment looked on listlessly.
Addie stroked the bright yellow fur of her flex pet’s head. Its’ tail swished back and forth, keeping time to the music like a metronome.
Addie named her flex pet, Snowdrop. She hoped that she would flex into Snowdrop one day because flex pets could change their form and never get sick.

Addie’s mother sat quietly in the dark, unable to process the death of her child. Snowdrop settled on her lap and began purring.
“Addie was taken unfairly,” she complained while stroking the cat’s head.
“Jennifer, Addie may be gone, but we will never forget her,” the pet replied and continued its soothing purring.
Jennifer was shocked when Snowdrop spoke. She had always assumed that Snowdrop was designed to provide emotional support for Addie. It had never occurred to her until that moment– that Snowdrop was her flex pet too.