Why?

There’s this weird thing where people think all vegetarians are twenty-year-old hipsters who go to Starbucks every day and wear beanies. Or that we’re hippies from the sixties named “Rain” who live in a self-preserving wood shack. So when I tell people I’m vegetarian, most of them look at me, an average-sized fourteen-year-old girl, and go, “really?”

Yes. Really.

The second question they ask is why.

I don’t have a concrete answer for it. I could make up some sob story about this tragic event I endured when I was six years old that made me turn away from meat forever. Honestly, I didn’t think too much about it. My dad and sister were turning vegetarian at the time, and I’d just eaten three hot dogs in one meal and thrown up, so I was like, “hey, mom- the whole hot dog thing? Kinda wearing thin. I think I’m just not gonna eat meat for the rest of my life, kay?” She was like, “okay”, and that’s how I became a vegetarian. Nobody forced it on me, and once I made the commitment, nobody said I had to follow through with it.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t just give up. It sounds stupid, but after going to dozens of “child-friendly” events and birthday parties where they served pepperoni pizza, you get tired of staring at something you can’t eat and having all the adults around you groaning about picky kids. And that’s another thing- most people don’t expect little kids to be vegetarian. Of their own choice. And it’s not like I’m saying I can’t eat something because I’m being rude- I’m really just trying to save you the hassle of cutting another slice of pizza.

And traveling anywhere- let’s just say I get very familiar with spaghetti and french fries. Fast-food restaurants use meat in everything, and high-end restaurants use meat in everything- the first time I went to a completely vegan restaurant, I was shocked that I actually had the option to order anything on the menu. There was no debate about how reliable it was, whether I’d forgotten to say “minus the bacon bits”, whether my mom would have to taste-test everything- imagine, actually getting edible food! It was a true christmas miracle.

And the best part? All the kids in your class will think you’re an idiot! I’m not entirely sure where this correlation between not eating meat and not having a brain comes from, but for some reason my classmates used to think that if they told me what I was eating was part of an animal I would throw a hissy-fit or something. Like, I’d be sitting there, innocently eating my cheese pizza, and some kid would come over and say, “what’re you doing?!?!? Cheese is meat!!!!” I’d ignore them, of course. Or they’d put meat on my retainer. Because apparently that’s funny.

When you think about all of that, being a vegetarian sucks. So then why am I still one?

When you’re driving down the highway, and you see a truck transporting chickens. When you’re watching TV, and a ad comes on about how meat brings us together. When you’re sitting in class, and the teacher says, “…like a chicken with its head cut off”, and all the girls sigh and go, “awww don’t say that!!!!“- even though the thing on their plate that night suffered the same treatment.

It’s all of these things that remind me why being hungry a few times in my life saves hundreds of lives.

And to the people that say animals feel no pain- well, clearly you have the same problem.

My Beautiful, Cherished Memory

The challenge for this week is to write a post about a heart-warming, cherished memory with your family. The ones that will “stay with you forever”.

And I’m going to write about the time I nearly died.

I do feel slightly guilty about that. I mean, it’s not like my parents do that a lot. Or… ever, actually. They’re not like, hey, Mackenzie- I bet you can’t wait to go freeze to death this weekend! And I don’t roll my eyes and groan, moooooooom, do we really have to? I just got over the food poisoning. 

This was out of the ordinary. You know. Thought they’d spice things up.

For some reason, my dad thought it would be a fun bonding experience to go on a canoe trip in Algonquin park. It was a nice thought. Really. And… okay, I’m going to be honest here: I might’ve been the tiniest bit cocky when we were planning our route. But our longest portage that day was only 3,000 meters- a walk in the park (literally). I wasn’t worried.

We hadn’t even gotten into Algonquin yet when we realized we’d left our water bottles at home.

And it was the hottest day of the summer.

Still, I wasn’t worried. My dad and I bought new ones.

We kept going. And I think somewhere around the first portage, after I attempted to carry the pack on my back and our miniature food barrel on my front, that I started to get a bit nervous. At the camp that I go to, we always have as many canoes/packs as people. There was never any need to do the portages twice. I’d thought that since our food barrel was the size of a regular backpack and not a German Shepherd, I might be able to wear it on my front.

Then I actually put the two packs on, still feeling pretty confident, and walked all of ten swaying feet before promptly collapsing.

I guess it didn’t seem like such a big deal at first. That portage was around 200 meters, so between the first trip, going back to the start, and then doing it all over again, I only walked about 600 meters. No biggie.

So we loaded up our canoe again. And paddled. By the time we reached our last and longest portage of the day, the 3,000 meter one to Welcome Lake, my dad and I were already soaked in sweat. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, to actually be dripping with the stuff, but it’s very uncomfortable.

It was already four in the afternoon. And the lake we were coming from was all murky and grungy and gross- even with Aqua Tabs, I wouldn’t want to drink it. But our water bottles were almost empty. And it was the hottest day of the summer.

None of that really mattered, though. There was still a three-thousand meter portage between us and the lake we were camping on, and any misfortunate that lead us to that situation was not so willing to apologize.

It’s hard to explain what portaging feels like. Maybe it feels different for everyone, and you’re reading this and thinking, you’re glazing over the whole thing. There’s nothing motivating about walking in a forest with a fifty-pound pack on your back. It just hurts. A lot. And you get eaten alive by mosquitos. Literally, you feel like maybe you’re going to drop dead from exhaustion- but no one would know what happened to you, because your body would have shriveled up like a raisin from all the blood they stole from you.  

Well, all of that’s true. And I don’t want to seem like I’m glazing over it. Portaging is literally walking for long periods of time over uneven ground carrying something half your weight, and while I was trudging along that path, hot and sweaty and parched, I was definitely reconsidering a more “relaxed” vacation. A cruise to Hawaii was sounding fairly tempting. And I think that only makes my next point seem even more insane, but that’s why I love canoe tripping. It’s real. That might be because you feel like tiny flying vampires are eating your flesh- that might be because you start feeling like the inside of a lava cake might be cooler- but either way, it’s real.

You can’t almost die of heat stroke and say, “well, it was all right”. Take it from me.

Algonquin Park

Don’t Be a Jerk, And You’ll Be Fine

Commenting is easy.

Really.

There’s only three steps, and they’re all pretty simple.

Number 1: Don’t do this- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thE-d0B0loA. Just- please, for the sake of whoever’s blog you’re commenting on, don’t be rude. Even if you think you’re ten billion times better than that person, even if you think they’re a complete idiot and they’ll never get anywhere, that’s not an excuse to say so. Every good writer sucked when they started, and every decent human being wasn’t born that way. My first story was about a crime-fighting rainbow camel that was quite skilled in sword fighting. Every other word was spelled wrong. And don’t even get me started on the plot- between the tomb-robbers, legitimately psychopathic police man, and hundreds of ninjas that dropped from the “seeling”, it made absolutely no sense. But if anyone (anyone.) had told me the truth- that it was absolutely awful- I would have thought, okay, well this clearly isn’t working. And moved onto something else. So, please. Don’t be the Jerk of The Week.

Number 2: You can give the person criticism, just be nice about it. Say what you liked first. And if you absolutely hated it, try to find something you can conversationally say about their post. Like, if they had a reference to a book you loved- this is the time to bring that up. If they brought up a point that you really agreed with- now’s when you tell them that. Or even if they didn’t, you can still say “I love ____________ too, but I also like _________ a lot”. And then, when they’re feeling good, you strike them with the claws of criticism-! Just kidding. Then you politely make a suggestion for next time, and if you’re feeling jazzy, you can end it with a question. Or if you don’t know how the person will deal with your comments, putting a question is a good buffer at the end.

And finally, number 3: Don’t have spelling mistakes, or correcting someone else’s is going to seem really bad. It’s just that simple.

This is an example of a comment I left on Maya’s blog (http://maya161.edublogs.org), specifically on her “About Me” page:

Hi Maya,

I’m from the Student Blogging Challenge too. I really liked this post, and my only suggestion for next time would be to write more! Seriously. You’re starting from a really nice base, and sometimes what you think is unnecessary rambling can turn a good post into a great post.

I’m also a book nerd, and I love anime. And Harry Potter; that’s a given. What other randoms are you into? And what’s your favourite book?

Mackenzie (http://mackenziec206.edublogs.org)

(And, yes. I did say “randoms” instead of “fandoms”. At least she understood what I meant.)

Who’re you, again?

In real life, I’m pretty boring.

I have been told I have “hair like Hozier”, which I thought was pretty cool until I actually searched up what he looked like. Then I wondered if that person meant it as a compliment or not. I have monkey ears and enjoy clacking my retainer around my mouth to annoy people. My eyebrows are as thick as a Sharpie and almost meet in the middle. And when I raise them, they form perfect twin triangles. It’s kind of great.

(So, no. I don’t look like my avatar. Sorry to disappoint.)

Most of the time when a stranger talks to me, my natural reaction is to ask myself, “how would Daria respond?” and do it. You know, from the show Daria. You’re Standing on My Neck? That’s the one. And, if you have the pleasure of seeing me in super-duper-my-head’s-about-to-spontaneously-combust-with-nerves mode, I will hysterically laugh. And you’ll be standing next to me, trying to look all casual and everything, but I’m totally ruining your moment because I’ll be sinking to the floor with tears in my eyes. When you’ve said. Nothing. Funny.

I also get flustered when I’m talking about writing. Partly because I think maybe that should be illegal- crackling the air with something so muted and subtle is just wrong. There’s no pretty way to put it. It’s just wrong. Which means that when teachers try to say nice things about my writing, it has the opposite affect it’s supposed to have- I turn bright red and say, “uuuuhhhhhh well uh that’s actually the most mortifying thing I’ve ever heard, so, like, excuse me while I go die in a hole over there”.

The internet gives people who don’t normally say things a chance to say things. I know, dear privileged extroverts, it may seem simple- but don’t be fooled: getting people who talk nonstop to listen to people who almost never talk is actually really hard. And not to degrade the artists, the musicians, the actors and actresses… but a lot of what introverts siphon their ideas into is writing.

A lot of people think that writing is becoming somebody else. I agree, partly. I love to write fiction, which is… um… fiction. Not real. Through writing, I’ve been guys and girls; humans, two different species of aliens, and a dog… I’ve cried a lot over dead comrades, and I’m seeking revenge almost every day of the week. I’ve died myself, as a matter of fact. I’ve travelled through space more times than I can count… and I’ve done all this without ever leaving the comfortable groove I’ve worn in my dining room chair.

A lot of people think that writing is becoming somebody else. But when I’m alone, and the sweet silence of a Word document is the only other thing, I have to wonder who this is really creating.

It’s a Nerd World, After All

I sort of have a problem.

With my leg.

It’s a benign tumor on my lower right tibia, and it has a grand old time being a total pain in the… uh… leg.

Anyways.

I picture it kind of like an egg that’s squished between my tibia and my fibula, rubbing and scratching and throwing a little hissy-fit because it does not like being confined by unnecessary things like bones. Like, I’m pretty sure if this tumor-thing was a sim, its five personality traits would be Loner, Over Emotional, Couch Potato, Schmoozer, and Neurotic. And if they ever make an “inconvenient timing” trait, it’d be that too.

I know there’s not really ever a good time for something like this to happen. It’s not like I can look down at my leg in frustration and go, “um. Dude. It’s not your weekend”, and it’ll squeak out a little sorry and retreat peacefully. And that’s another thing about this tumor- it doesn’t care if I’ve been binge-watching anime for (several) hours, or if I’ve shuffled around IKEA for (several) hours; it’s just generally unhappy. Obviously it hurts more when I do physical activity… but I really can’t do much to prevent any pain. It’s not like I have some secret storage tank that I can fill up with all those days I turn on Heroes of Cosplay and style my wig for (several) hours.

But when a doctor from Sick Kids tells you about this thing that’s growing like a tribe of Tribbles on your leg less than three weeks away from Fan Expo… that’s, ah, yeah.

Pretty bad timing.

If you’ve never been to Fan Expo, or any other con… it’s sorta hard to describe. Like, picture a bat-ton of people, put them in a warehouse, fill it with celebrities and awesome merchandise, and add in a few thousand people dressed up as fictional characters. It’s crowded (you can’t point in a direction without stabbing some cosplayer’s third eye), it’s stressful (I learned the hard way last year to let your face paint dry before you hit the con floor), and sometimes you feel like maybe the world is caving in on itself (i.e. when all you want to do is get to this super-important panel but suddenly this huge mass of stormtroopers are literally clogging the entire hallway). It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

As stressful as cons are, I’ve also had some of the best weekends of my life there. Everybody in line for Maile Flanagan’s autograph? They sobbed when Jiraiya died, too. The person sitting next to you in that Learn to Speak Klingon seminar? You can bet they’ve watched All Good Things more than you have (maybe). Everybody is a geek.

Which means that cons and cosplay go together perfectly. It’s guaranteed your outfit is seen by tons of fans (whether they totally blow up your fangirl-scale and ask for a picture or not), (voice) actors/writers/directors of the show, and sometimes even professional cosplayers.

There are people out there who will try to tell you what you can and cannot cosplay.

Those people are what I call idiots (I’m kidding. Sort of).

Anybody can cosplay as anything.

Ever.

That’s what cosplay is. Waking up in the morning, putting on a costume you’ve slaved over, and trying on somebody’s skin for a few hours. Going to a convention and saying, “I love this character and it doesn’t matter right now that I’m a different gender, or race, or body type- because I’m a nerd and I’m not afraid to say it.” Last year I cosplayed as Rin from Naruto, and it didn’t bother me one bit that I’m not an eighty-seven-pound, four-foot-six Japanese girl with giant eyes and a nose that could fit under my thumb. Because you know what? Not many people are.

I’ve known that pretty much all along, but when the question arose that I might need a wheelchair for Fan Expo…

It’s not that I was trying to be some macho-man or anything. I agreed with my parents completely- nine hours of walking on concrete floors would be painful enough, minus the extra pressure of this tumor. It’s just that… well, my character, Tobi from Naruto… he isn’t in a wheelchair. After everything I’d done to make my cosplay as accurate to the anime as possible, here I was about to bring everything down with a stupid hunk of metal and padding. That I mostly didn’t need. Well, kind of didn’t need… and people are always talking about equity and equality and all that stuff, right? They wouldn’t be doing that if other people actually treated them like normal people… would they?

It’s needless to say that I expected to have maybe one or two people comment on my outfit. Pictures were out of the question- what were they going to do, kneel on the floor and rest an awkward arm around my blocky wheelchair? Just thinking about trying to pose with somebody was cringe-worthy…

Yet there I was. Nine o’clock Saturday morning, decked out in full Tobi cosplay, my dad wheeling me downtown Toronto. At first, it was sort of how I expected it to be- people gave me weird looks, but nothing more than that. We were walking (rolling? Wheeling? What do I call it??) down the sidewalk when a bunch of construction workers stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of me.

“Wow…” the guy in front breathed, his eyes wide, “Cool costume, dude!”

Which naturally caused a ripple of laughter through the group. I gave a little nervous laugh myself, shocked that random strangers (who probably weren’t even in the fandom!) had complimented my outfit.

I was even more shocked when it happened again. And again. And again. And then somebody asked for my picture. And it wasn’t awkward in the slightest. It was like, “can I take a picture with/of you?” and I’d say yes and they’d bend down like they’d done it a thousand times. I swear, they were more comfortable with the wheelchair thing than I was. Then there was this little kid who said he told me my cosplay was “really amazing”. It was like the wheelchair didn’t even exist. And Riddle, one of the main people on Heroes of Cosplay (aka my favourite non-anime TV show), even said we should hang out next time I cosplay!!! Like, somebody pass me a paper bag; this girl’s about to hyperventilate.

Rolling out of Fan Expo at the end of the day, my lap filled with autographs and posters and one very adorable Naruto: Sage Mode plushie, I have to admit that I way underestimated the Fan Expo community. The voice actors, the writers, the cosplayers, the fans, and all the wonderful people I shared an elevator with- I want to apologize. You are so much more awesome than I could ever think.

Thank you for proving me wrong.

IMG_0093

The Prey

I’m going to be honest here.

I didn’t expect this book to be great. I know, I know- don’t judge a book by its cover and all that. But it was one of those books you pick up at the last second, push to the side amidst long-awaited sequels, and eventually muddle your way through while simultaneously watching your favourite reality TV show. You might take a liking to one of the characters; you might even search up the author’s website in a moment of boredom.

The Prey by Tom Isbell is nothing like that.

Based in the radiation-torn Republic of True America, this book starts off with Book, a sixteen-yar-old boy who was born with one leg shorter than the other. Since he could remember, he’s been living in Camp Liberty, a facility where boys live until they pass through the “Rite” at the age of seventeen. Book can’t wait until he passes through the Rite and finally becomes one of the Brown Shirts… until a mysterious boy shows up at the boundaries of camp to tell him otherwise. The boy, nicknamed Cat, shows Book what really happens when you go through the Rite: the campers are hunted down for the same mental and physical differences they were sent to Camp Liberty in the first place for.

The second chapter starts the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Hope. Straggling through the wilderness with her father and twin sister Faith, they’ve been living on the run ever since the Brown Shirts murdered her mother ten years prior. Just before her father dies, he tells Hope that she must separate from Faith if she wants to survive. Obviously, she’s like, “um… okay, you’re delusional, and how ’bout not?” but that doesn’t stop Faith from running off in the night. Long story short, Hope and Faith end up in a different concentration camp, called Camp Freedom, where most girls have a twin, and some don’t… anymore.

Following the adventure of Hope, Book, Cat, and all of their friends as they try to escape the Republic, this book is pure awesomeness in all four hundred and four pages. Since this book has some pretty complex themes, and has obviously taken a lot of inspiration from what happened in World War II, I would reccomend this more for grade eights and up. Personally. But, I mean, if you’re in grade four and you find this book really interesting, who am I to hold you back? It’s a great book. The Prey– in my experience, which I’m not saying is extensive by any means- is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Hands-down.

It was just enough action. Just enough inspiration. Just enough fantasy. Just enough reality. Just enough romance. Just enough tragedy. Just enough we’re-probably-going-to-die-today-and-I-couldn’t-have-asked-to-be-with-better-people.

Just enough why-haven’t-I-heard-of-this-book-before.

the prey book cover

For Good

(Click here, press play, and keep reading…)

I looked at the girl sitting across the table from me.

She sat with one elbow resting on the wooden table between us, her eyes fixed on a tiny metal rectangle in her hands. Her eyelashes, usually painted with mascara, were short and blonde and clean. I thought of my own eyelashes, which were thick and black and long without makeup. I suddenly wondered why she wanted eyelashes like mine. Sunglass-shopping would be much easier.

She scooted closer to me and pushed an earphone into my ear, filling my head with music. The first notes of For Good from Wicked fingered the air hesitantly, already closing my throat in that way beautifully sad music can.

We were both quiet for a second, remembering how we’d sung this in front of everyone at camp at Music Night together. She’d sung Glinda’s part. I was Elphaba. She was obviously the better singer, despite all of her modesty, and the applause we’d gotten at the end wasn’t due to me rushing it. I wanted to tell her that. God, I just wanted to say something good. Something about that night when we strapped glow sticks around our wrists and ate the candy we weren’t supposed to have. Something.

“We’re the exact opposite of them.” she whispered. Glinda and Elphaba. Enemies from the first time they laid eyes on each other. She was right. We were the exact opposite of them, and yet the song still fit us perfectly.

And then she started whisper-singing the lyrics:

“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn, and we are lead to those who help us most to grow if we let them… and we help them in return. Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I-” her voice broke.

I was already sobbing as she pulled me into a hug. She was shaking as the rest of Glinda’s chorus played out, the singer’s voice rising and falling with our rasping breaths.

It well may be,” my voice came out all broken and husky, “that we – we will never meet…” 

I couldn’t go on. I couldn’t say it.

“Mackenzie, please shut up.” she said softly.

We both laughed and cried harder.

 

I strolled through an aisle of Bulk Barn, one hand clutching an empty plastic bag, the other skimming the see-through lids of the candy containers. My gaze drifted lazily across the vibrant boxes of lollipops and gummy worms and-

My eyes fell on a box of triangular green-and-pink watermelon-flavoured gummies. They were the same candies my friend at summer camp and I had gorged on that one night last summer. I felt something wet gather in my throat and I pushed it down.

I filled up my bag, humming a very familiar song under my breath.

Microbeads? Mega pollution

Okay, let’s play a game. I’ll say something and you say the first thing that comes to mind.

Ready? If you answered no, too bad. I’m starting now…

Pollution.

Now, I don’t know what you thought of right there. Maybe Global Warming- sorry, Global Climate Change. Maybe a plastic water bottle. Maybe you pictured an Ocean. Maybe, if you’re like me, you pictured some sort of dead fish/mammal creation.

microbeads

The question is: did you picture that? If you didn’t- and believe me, that’s not what I pictured at first- then you should. What you see above are tiny, plastic balls called microbeads. Microbeads are used in toothpaste, body wash, and facial cleansers, stating that these plastic balls “exfoliate” the skin, making it “clean and fresh”.

What garbage.

I mean, seriously. Who writes that stuff?

Apparently people who aren’t aware of what Microbeads do to the environment. Or at least, I hope that the people who print that in giant letters on shower gel bottles aren’t aware that Microbeads can’t be caught by water filtration plants, so they go immediately to the nearest water source. I hope those people don’t understand that what they’re saying “exfoliates” and “cleans” skin makes up 90% of pollution.

So why is it allowed? Why are we promoting the death of our planet as something that will make you look better, and ultimately be a better person?

It makes no sense. And its not like there isn’t other, less harmful ingredients that can fill its place. Ever heard of a lemon? Look in your fridge and you’ll probably find one. That’s an example of a household- and more importantly, renewable- ingredient that’s good for your skin without being bad for the environment. Maybe I’m being a little picky here, but I’d rather have something natural on my face rather than plastic.

I’m not the first one to exclaim how crazy this is. A cosmetic/body care company that I proudly support, LUSH, vows to use natural ingredients over  microbeads, and minimal packaging that’s all recycled and recyclable.  Another organization, 5 Gyres, specifically focuses on banning microbeads. If you choose to explore that website, they have a petition you can sign to ban the hazardous plastic beads.

They say a picture can tell a thousand words. So instead of ranting on about microbeads, all I ask is that you look at the picture below and think to yourself, am I seriously going to let that happen when I have the power to fix it?

bird

The Boundless

Only when I really truly hate a book do I quit reading it.

The Boundless is one of those books.

You’d think it was a good book, wouldn’t you? A solid hardcover like that wouldn’t be cheap to make. The glossy cover? It makes even a tough guy like me tear up. And, of course, with a name like Kenneth Oppel curving across the top like golden fire, it’s sure to be a winner.

So why did I stop reading it?

It’s all about this one scene. Basically, the main character, a boy named Will, is onboard the most magnificent train ever built- the Boundless. When the train stops for the first time, Will wanders from the train and sees someone being murdered. Will runs away, but the murderer now knows what Will looks like and is determined to find him before Will tells someone. The rest of the novel so far has been about Will finding his way back to first class with two people from the circus- a ringmaster named Mr. Dorian and a tightrope walker/love interest of the novel, Maren.

So keeping that in  mind, the dreaded scene starts out with the three protagonists visiting what’s called a “shooting car”. Passengers on the Boundless can go to the shooting car, pick up a rifle, and try their hand at the passing wildlife. At the time when they arrive, a herd of Buffalo is passing by, and the passengers are trying to hit them.

Even writing it now, my mouth is dry with disgust. And it wasn’t just that a shooting car existed when the novel was set, but that of the three protagonists, none openly object against this. Not one of them said, “Hey, guys, how about we don’t shoot at the innocent creatures?” If I had been there, I would’ve been tempted to try my hand at the porky little passengers.

The scene goes on. A tribe of First Nations people come out of the forest adjacent to the train, also trying to get the Buffalo.

The steward of the shooting car comes out, and tries to get everyone to come inside. The First Nations tribe need the Buffalo more than the passengers do. The passengers, however, start shooting at the First Nations people.

And immediately, the three protagonists take action. Mr. Dorian actually goes up to one man and lowers his gun, asking what he’s doing. The man says that he’s shooting at the Buffalo, and besides, what’s one less “Indian”? An arrow hits the man in the chest, shot from a First Nations person. Mr. Dorian says, “Or one less white man.”

That’s the part that gets me.

A page ago, it was socially acceptable to end the life of an animal.

Then the First Nations show up.

And the steward tells everyone to go back inside.

Am I the only one that finds that messed-up?

I mean, sure. It’s sending a great message about anti-racism- the man still shooting gets killed- but what about the Buffalo? It says that Will thinks the shooting car’s wimpy and greedy, but he doesn’t do anything. Then humans show up, and all of a sudden the passengers are nauseating, vile, loathsome, scandalous, bloodthirsty monsters.

So.

What I got from that was that it’s okay to hunt animals, not humans.

And even if I were to put in nicer words, those words would be: racism puts people on the same level as animals, which is not okay. I mean… come on, Kenneth Oppel. I really shouldn’t be reminding a grown person that humans are animals, too. Okay, we have computers. We have cell phones. We can read. We can write. We can do math. We can see the bottom of the ocean without actually going down there. We’ve been to outer space. We know that germs exist, and how to eliminate 99.9% of them. Because of those things, we think we’re better than “animals”.

But then I look at my dog. He has to sleep on the floor, and go to the bathroom outside. He only eats two meals a day, both of which he eats on the ground. Once a day, he gets a piece of cloth tied around his neck and gets led around outside. And still, day after day, he meets my gaze with a wagging tail.

That alone is more than most humans could do. We can invent all we like, and still the animal being put on the plate in front of us is- was- better. I’ll start believing “animals” are worse, or stupider, or whatever, when the Buffalo shoots back.

Or when my dog finally looks up at me without a wagging tail.

Eyes

 

I remember very clearly the first day I got my two goldfish.

I carried them in separate bags, two skinny orange things with big eyes reflecting my own. I sat in the backseat as we drove home, yelling at my mom every time we hit a bump in the road. I clutched the top of the bags like my life depended on it. I got home, and I put the goldfish in their new tank. It was tightly positioned right next to my bed, where I could examine them from every angle as they tried to hide under the plastic plants.

I loved them. I loved them more than words can ever say, more than a painting can ever depict. I would go home to my goldfish every day after school, and read them all the books I had on fish. When I ran out, I started reading them other books. I loved the way a group of fish were called a school, and I loved pretending that I was their teacher.

I looked at them, and they looked at me, their big round eyes reflecting my own.

The years went by. I stopped reading to them every day, but I never stopped loving them. They were my goldfish. My pets. My friends. I still felt the same magic watching them swim around the tank, fins billowing out behind them like the train of a snow queen’s dress.

They were beautiful, the two of them together. They were like ballet dancers, swirling and twisting and cutting through the air, calico fins propelling their gleaming copper bodies. My fish were something out of a fairytale; something out of a dream that slips through your fingers the moment your eyes open.

That dream slipped through my fingers when I got a cleaner fish.

He was ugly. Unlike my two beautiful goldfish, who had perfectly round stomachs, he was long and thin like a rod. His scales were the colour of algae, sometimes grey and sometimes green. His mouth was wide, and the rest of his face was scrunched up. I told myself that was the reason he would never quite meet my eyes.

He cleaned the tank well, but suddenly a clear view didn’t seem as important as what I was seeing. My two beautiful fish were too scared to go to eat, too scared to fan their graceful trains as they floated across the water. All because of that ugly cleaner fish.

The fish were separated, so there was one clean tank and one happy tank. That’s how things seemed at first. Happy. I even reconsidered my feelings for the cleaner fish.

Through the murky glass of my treasured tank, I noticed that one of my goldfish hadn’t fully recovered yet. The smaller goldfish appeared to be fading, his colour turning blotchy and white. He was slower than usual, more sluggish. His movements didn’t look so graceful anymore.

And the other goldfish, the bigger, stronger, more graceful fish, was harassing him. Pushing him, chasing him, poking him when all the smaller fish did was try to rest.

I kept them together, but the bigger fish kept tormenting the smaller one. I was confused why now the bigger fish would go for the smaller one. They had spent the rest of their life in what had seemed like friendship. And now, when everything had been about to be perfect, the bigger goldfish decided to take action. I knew there had to be a reason, there had to be something I was missing in their big round eyes that would explain everything.

Then one day, I noticed that every time the smaller fish rested on the bottom of the tank, the other fish would push it up. Again and again and again, the bigger one prodded the weaker one, not allowing for one moment the smaller fish to rest. I sat on my couch, staring at the soul-churning miracle going on before me.

I looked at my two goldfish, their big eyes reflecting my own.

Eventually the bigger fish stopped prodding the smaller one, and I knew.

I got two new goldfish, so now I had three. But it wasn’t the same. I can’t explain why. I try to tell myself that I’ve just grown up and lost interest in talking to a wide-eyed animal that will never respond back, that probably doesn’t understand a word I’m saying. I try to tell myself that it’s only natural. I’m a teenage girl. Shouldn’t I be busy with friends and homework and all the other things people my age do?

But I know that’s not true.

I’ve never tried reading to my new goldfish. They are not a school, just as I’m not a teacher anymore.

Their eyes no longer reflect my own.