He was not – any of his-coworkers, his family, his contacts, or his very few friends would agree – generally what one would consider a pet person. Pets were inherently messy, disorderly, and noisy. A woman at a previous job had once suggested he might have a very pure-bred sort of cat, like a Siamese, or perhaps a greyhound (“Long and sleek, like you,”) but he had never seriously considered it.
The cat had come first. Torte (“Tortuga”) had been stuck in a newspaper box on the side of the road on Winter’s commute. The cat – then barely more than a kitten – had been clearly miserable, terrified, and starving. Winter had paid for a paper, used a little bit of Strand-smoothing to get the box to actually open, and taken the kitten and the rather soiled paper out.
The kitten had come with him to work; the paper had gone in the nearest recyling bin. When none of his co-workers expressed interest in a kitten, Winter had to admit he was a little relieved (if only to himself, and possibly to Autumn, when she called). He’d already grown fond of the little thing, feeding it on little containers of half-and-half and packets of tuna.
The ferret had been even more of an accident. A neighbor downstairs had moved out but somehow lost their ferret in the move. When Winter found the ferret several days later – Torte found the ferret; Winter just convinced the cat that it wasn’t just a strange mouse – Winter had fed it, bathed it, put it in a ferret-safe (Strand Working had its uses) box, and tried to reach the former owner.
Who, inexplicably, did not want their ferret back. No, they’d moved on, they had a new place, they didn’t need a stinky fur-snake anymore, thanks. Winter was welcome to the thing.
He renamed the stinky fur-snake Myrrh (it didn’t seem to mind) and took the time to make sure Myrrh and Torte could get along. He also called his sister Summer and suggested a few things she might do with her ability to curse people and places she might aim those curses.
He called their mother about some Strand-spells for the smell (which wasn’t all that bad, as long as Myrrh was taken care of) and for the fur (which was always going to be an issue, called a vet he’d done a favor for about what he should be feeding them, and learned how to keep his suits immaculate and his animals healthy and happy.
When the parrot showed up on his doorstep (more or less literally), however, he found someone else who was looking for a pet.
Two was enough, he told himself.
Until another little kitten appeared in his path, shivering in the snow.
Three was enough, he told himself, wrapping the creature up in a handkerchief and tucking it in his jacket pocket. Three, and no more.