A Business in Pets
Main character: Jan Blair
Career: Pet-shop owner, Monterey, CA
Gael's grade: B-, for lame main character and not enough pet-shoppiness
Trauma #1: No one will shop at her store because the previous owner sold spoiled horse meat (!), and people's dogs died! Apparently no one thought to sue back in those less-litigious days. Also, no one thought to feed their dogs non-equine-based meals, either.
Trauma #2: She must pay back the gigantic loan she owes her devoted parents when she bought the store. How much did it cost to buy a pet store in a tourist town back in those days? A whopping $2500, which these days would barely buy you a doghouse.
Trauma #3: Jan lives with her parents in a beach cottage 10 miles away, and they freak out about her driving the whopping 10 miles home. Their worries are proven right when Jan is robbed on the way home from a festival. She's robbed of the ton of cash she made selling live turtles with the town's logo stenciled on their shells. Because why pick up a postcard or a T-shirt when you can turn a poor live animal into your souvenir. No wonder PETA needed to be formed.
Prince Charming: Peter Hall, a wannabe doctor who comes to Jan's shop daily to buy horse meat (!!) for the coyotes and minks in the university lab where he works.
What's standing in their way? His 1956 male ego, which believes he doesn't make enough money to support her, even though she runs her own business.
How does he come to his senses? He sees another man kissing her (against her will) and finally informs her she's going to marry him, hardships be damned. She's going to sweep out his dust-blown shack in the middle of nowhere, and reheat his dinner at 4 a.m., and wait years for a new dress. When he puts it that way, how can she possibly refuse? And to top it off, with no money for an engagement ring, he gives her his cheap, clumsy high-school class ring. "You will learn to be a doctor's wife -- my wife," he orders. And she gratefully replies "I will love it, all of it."
Signs o' the times:
1) Jan changes her shop name from Uptown Pet Shop to Pup N Puss. Umm...
2) Peter is an Okie, and believes people care. "I grew up with the stigma of 'Okie' and it hurt, and the scars haven't healed too well even though the feeling against my kind of people is dying out," he explains. He can't wait to move back and help out "his people."
3) An Italian family befriends Jan, and the dad says things like "Why for me not touch the leetle pup?" and "I tell him you go to Frisco for the gay time." Yeah, even in 1956, Frisco was the place to go for the gay time.
4) Jan's expressions include "Golly!" and, my favorite, "Galloping giraffes!"
5) Pretty much everything about the pet shop. Horse meat. Turtles with logos. Jan breeds a stray Persian cat so she can put its kittens in the window to attract customers. She sells things like Blum's Mange Soap. The horse meat problem is solved when she makes it clear that her horse meat is Grade A government-inspected horse meat. Hold up there, Seabiscuit.
Quote that says it all:
"She wasn't conceited about her looks, but maybe it did help to have pale gold hair that curled naturally, widely spaced violet eyes, a lithe, slender figure. Boys back at Berkeley said she looked like Janet Leigh, but of course they flattered like mad, and her eyes weren't like Janet's at all..."
Labels: pet shop