Chias Aren't Food
Yellow_Cheese_Burger slumped along the side of the pound wall, doing his best to remain small and inconspicuous.
It didn't work.
"Hey, Burger!" a Blue Lupe called out once he was spotted. "Come here!"
Burger didn't budge; if anything, the Yellow Chia tried to blend in with the stone around him.
"I said, come here!"
Slowly, Burger stumbled to his feet and shuffled over to the Lupe, knowing it would be useless at this point to ignore him; a pack of other angry pound pets, most of them Lupes but a couple Skeiths and Grarrls, jeered around him, but the Blue Lupe was definitely the ring-leader.
"I'm getting pretty hungry, Burger," the Lupe sneered. "It looks like I've found myself a tasty Lupe treat. What flavor are you, huh? Meaty? Gingerbread?"
"I'm not food, I'm a pet," Burger mumbled.
"What was that?" the Lupe asked, bending his ear closer even though Burger was sure he had heard him correctly.
"I said, 'I'm not food. I'm a pet!'" Burger repeated. The outburst caused a nasty chorus of laughter.
"Oh really?" the Lupe asked. "Then how come Lupe treats look like Chias?"
"It's just the way they're made," Burger said, a little desperately.
"You're right," the Lupe agreed. "It's because they're made from Chias."
"They're not!" Burger argued.
"Oh, they are." The Lupe grinned nastily. "Why else would Chias come in so many delicious flavors? Why would they come in Grape, or Pineapple, or Lemon, if they weren't meant to be eaten?"
"Those are colors, not flavors!"
"And finally..." The Lupe leaned even closer, his teeth sparkling menacingly. "Why would someone name you Yellow_Cheese_Burger if you were not meant to be food?"
"Come on! Break it up!" a voice called. The circle parted for Rosie, the Adoption Uni. "Come on, everybody. Back to your cages. Free time's over."
The bully-pets slinked away, and Rosie sighed when she saw Burger still standing there, the center of the unwanted attention.
"Come on, Burger, I'll walk you back to your cage."
The Chia slowly shuffled after her, tears leaking out of his eyes. Rosie sighed again. "You need to learn how to stand up for yourself, Burger. Don't let those other pets get to you."
"Chias aren't meant to be food, right?" he asked, desperate for reassurance.
"Of course not," Rosie said kindly.
"Then why did someone name me after food? Why?"
"For the same reason that I'm named after a flower," Rosie answered. "It doesn't matter what your name is, Burger. What matters is how you live up to your name."
Burger wasn't particularly pleased with this answer, but he knew that Rosie had other work she needed to attend to. He laid down on his bed and stared at the ceiling, still crying.
He hated the pound. He hated the bullies. He hated being treated like an object, like food.
The door at the end of the hallway clanged open, and Burger sat up and dried his tears. He didn't want to be seen crying in front of all these strangers. He knew that the fastest way out of the pound was to be adopted, and that people didn't like adopting crying pets.
"Aw, what a cute Chia!" someone exclaimed; he looked at the front of a cage to see a young boy. "Too bad there isn't a Hamburger color – that'd be perfect for you!"
And then the boy continued on his way. Burger knew his chances of being adopted were slim. Nobody seemed to like just plain old Chias. Everyone wanted Food Chias.
He watched the stream of pets and people walking by for a while, but nobody else even glanced at him. He was just another pound pet.
"Come on, free time, everybody," Rosie called the next day. Burger groaned and didn't get up from his mattress.
"Do I have to go?"
Rosie looked at him, her beautiful pink eyes filled with sadness. "I can't leave you in this hallway unattended."
Burger sighed and got up, following the rest of the pets to the recreation room. In reality, it was nothing more than an empty room in the middle of the pound. Every once in a while there was a toy, but it wasn't long before somebody always broke it.
As soon as Rosie closed the door, the Blue Lupe called him.
"Hey Burger, guess what?"
Burger ignored him and kept on walking, but the Lupe ran after him.
"I thought I was hungry yesterday, but I'm even hungrier now."
Burger didn't respond and sat down in his usual spot.
"I said I'm hungry!" And the Lupe bit down on his arm. Burger yelped and automatically tried to yank his hand away.
The Lupe let go. "You better be careful, Burger. Don't ignore me. Next time it won't be just a bite." He licked his lips and sauntered away, cheered on by a couple other pets.
Burger looked at his arm; there was a distinctive bruise, but other than that, it didn't look too bad. He touched it gingerly and winced.
He nearly sprinted out of the door when Rosie opened it again, eager to get back to his cage before the Lupe could change his mind and attack him again. He put his face in his pillow and cried, not caring when strangers started walking through the hallway to look at him and the other pets.
Burger sniffed and turned his head to see a girl with brown eyes and brown hair. A Speckled Aisha was with her, and she grinned at him.
"Can I come in?"
"Okay." He quickly rubbed his hand across his eyes and the girl and Aisha walked into his cage.
"My name is Lina," she said. "And this is my pet, Cream."
"Can we call you Yellow?" Lina asked.
Yellow_Cheese_Burger blinked, surprise sending the sadness away. "Why?"
"Well, I think Yellow's a pretty cool nickname. Or would you rather be called something else?"
After a moment, Yellow grinned. "Actually, I really like Yellow."
Lina smiled too. "Good!"
"Your name's a lot like mine," Cream, the Aisha, said. "My name is Creamy_Lemon_Pie. Lina named me that because she likes Lemon Pie, and she likes me!"
Lina laughed. "Of course I like you!"
Yellow was stunned; the name was a lot like his. Perhaps whoever had named him hadn't meant for him to be food. Perhaps they had actually liked him!
Lina turned back towards Yellow. "So, Yellow, would it be okay if I adopted you?"
Yellow's heart leapt! He had to bite his lip to contain his glee. "Yes! Yes, of course that'd be okay!"
"Good!" Lina said. "Let's get you cleaned up a bit first."
She reached into her bag and pulled out a healing potion for him to drink; he did so, and the bite mark and bruises went away. Next she pulled out a sandwich.
"Here." She offered it to him. "I'm sure you must be hungry. You can eat that while I fill out the adoption papers."
"Thanks!" Yellow said, taking a bite. He was hungry, and it was absolutely delicious. He followed the girl and the Aisha out of the cage, and he realized that it would be the last time he ever saw it. Lina and Cream walked up to Rosie's desk and started filling out the necessary paperwork; Yellow looked around the pound, and saw the Blue Lupe in one of the cages.
Very distinctly, Yellow took a bite of the sandwich. "Yum! Lupe Meat, my favorite!"
The Lupe gulped and turned a little green.
Yellow laughed. "I'm only kidding. Here."
He held the sandwich out, and after a moment, the Lupe took it. He coughed, but Yellow heard a "thank you" in there.
He smiled and rushed ahead to be with Lina and Cream, his new family.