The Pet on the Net
By Dale Connelly
August 27, 1999
Mother went out. She went out for the day.
She said . . . "I'll be shopping and you two can play.
Don't you kids mess things up.
Don't you kids knock things down.
And whatever you do, don't you kids sit around."
And then she was gone and we stood there alone.
Me and my sister. I'm Robert. She's Joan.
We weren't messing up and we weren't knocking down
We were constantly moving so not to sit 'round.
Joan was exhausted. She said "I don't care."
And she stopped and sank into an overstuffed chair
and she said "I'm not moving. I'll sit like a sack
of potatoes and rot until mother comes back."
I said "You'll be sorry." But downward she slid.
And then (I'm ashamed to report what she did)
She stuck out her arm and a hand that was free
and grabbed the remote for our PC/TV.
The tube came to life and the light hit her eyes
as she watched without seeing and sat mesmerized.
Eyewitness news with commercials galore.
Plus Internet access. A virtual store.
All of it moving and begging attention.
Sales pitches dripping with slick condescension
Promising happiness, peace, freedom, health
honor, love, faithfulness, leisure, and wealth.
In the midst of these products, as if to pop out,
protruded a muzzle. An animal's snout.
A furry old snout with a little wet nose
And two eyes one shade shy of the color of rose.
It had teeth that were tidy and sparkling and square
With a yellow bow tie and some wavy brown hair,
A strange kind of face for a TV to get.
It smiled as we watched. It had said nothing yet.
"What's that thing?" I asked Joan, "Is it fake? Is it real?"
"Is it taped? Is it live? Or some Internet deal?"
The face on the screen peered back out of the set
and it quietly said "I'm the Pet on the Net."
I jumped, for it seemed it had answered direct.
Then I laughed. For I knew that could not be correct.
The screen entertains. It's obnoxious. It's fun.
But to answer direct? That, it never has done.
"I can see that you're lacking for something to do."
Now I really WAS scared. "Yes, I'm talking to you,"
said the Pet on the Net, as he widened his eyes.
"I have some good news! A pleasant surprise!"
"Did you know that children, if left home alone,
can easily dial up the world through the phone?"
"But we can't touch the phone," I explained to the thing.
"Except in a crisis, or if it should ring.
And then mother said to take messages only,
and never reveal we're alone or we're lonely."
"But now," said the Pet, "You've a medical crisis.
It's 'Nothing-to-do-ness,' and 'Stuck-inside-ite-is!'
You each have got both. These are serious cases,
that come from confinement in 'don't-do-that' places.
The treatment is simple. No pills. Not a drug.
It's a phone and a cord and a jack and a plug.
An Internet service, a modem, a mouse
a screen name of course, an address for the house
plus a credit card number, any will do . . .
gets you services, catalogs, purchases too!"
"We can't," I explained to the Pet on the Net.
"Virtual space is a horrible threat."
Dangerous! Lawless! Prohibited ground!
We cannot go there when our mom's not around."
The Pet shook his head. "There is nothing to fear.
You won't leave the house, and besides, I am near.
All that you'll need is a password or two,
and I've already lifted some good ones for you.
I hacked into banks where there's credit a plenty!
To borrow some numbers and fake your identity!"
Then he gave us our access with new names for each.
I was Robertthedoubter, and Joan was Thepeach.
"Of course," said the Pet, "You are both free to go,
but I'd like to show off some fun sites that I know."
The cursor on screen took a mind of its own
and it pointed and clicked us a long way from home.
The Pet on the Net gave a sly little wink.
"If our mother were here," I thought, "what would she think?"
"My mother would NOT like us taking this chance."
Declared Joan, throwing off her TV-induced trance.
"We shouldn't be surfing the net. Not with you."
"And NO BUYING," I added. But what could we do?
He paid us no mind as he pointed and pressed.
In seconds he'd purchased a turkey, all dressed.
A gallon of face cream to overcome time.
A kayak. A band saw. A bushel of limes.
An iron that presses your clothes with a mist.
Fresh trout and a jewel studded watch for your wrist.
Five cases of fruit juice that bubbles and fizzes.
Roosevelt's sculpture and two of his Mrs.
A car and a boat and some Hollywood posters.
Kitchen utensils. Computerized toasters.
Municipal bonds. Two Roth IRA's.
Porcelain tea sets on ivory trays.
PJ's and beachwear and sandals from Spain.
A sample (they claimed) of Tom Edison's brain.
A box of hard candy. A bucket of bait.
And dinosaur eggs in a polished oak crate.
"Stop it!" I yelled at the furry old snout.
"Too late" he replied. "Now there's no backing out.
The orders are in. There are trucks on the road.
So let's dig for cool data that we can download.
And out came the info, flooding our home.
Fish recipes from the igloos of Nome.
How to play blackjack. How beer is brewed.
Starlets and actresses totally nude."
Patterns for building a house out of cheese,
Astronauts, movie plots, catfish and bees
A twenty step process for blowing your nose.
Singers and waitresses, minus their clothes.
History, basketball, wrestling, science
model trains, paper planes, laws and compliance.
Lover's descriptions in detail of passion.
Top fashion models not wearing a fashion.
News from all manner of papers and sources.
Dungarees, recipes, Yo-yos and horses
Pictures of teenagers dancing at prom.
Tips on behavior from BeBad-dot-com.
Lots of opinion. Political stuff.
Pundits and Senators caught in the buff
All of it came in a sickening flood
Ton upon ton of despicable crud.
Out of the screen and into our home
Where my sister and I, were, in theory, alone.
Next came the trucks in a steady parade.
Everything ordered. Everything paid.
Wheeled to the house and placed inside the door.
And pushed down the hall to make room for some more.
And then came a twittering. What did I hear?
Mom on the cell phone! Sounding quite near.
"Robert?" she said. "Is our other line down?
And are you and your sister just sitting around?
"Up," I said, "Mom, we are up and we're moving.
We're thinking, we're doing, we're learning, improving.
You needn't be worried. We're safely inside.
Not the slightest thing here would concern you." I lied.
"Good," said my mother, My shopping's complete."
I'll be home in mere moments. I'm just down the street."
"Great!" was my answer, but not my reaction.
I slammed down the phone and I went into action.
I said to the Pet,"all this stuff has to go."
"My mother is coming! She's going to say NO!"
"She won't understand. She'll be angry, deluxe!"
"So go to those web sites. Call back those trucks!"
"I'm sorry times ten that you hate me this way."
I wanted to help you fill up a drab day.
I'll fix what I can," said the Pet on the Net.
"I know many good tricks. I am not finished yet."
The surfing that followed was fast beyond measure.
He accessed each site and de-ordered each treasure.
He clicked on "undo." As we waited and quivered,
the trucks reappeared and the stuff undelivered.
It happened so quickly our heads fairly spun.
"And now I will do something equally fun."
Said the Pet on the Net, and as soon as he said it
the credit cards (all of them) got extra credit.
Secretly entered in every account
to cover each purchase - the perfect amount.
He smiled and he winked, then shut himself down
as the lock and the doorknob began to turn 'round.
And in came our mother as there we both stood.
"I see you're not sitting," she said, "that's good."
"What else have you done while I followed my bliss?
Or have you been standing all day, just like this?"
I ransacked my mind and found nothing to say.
I looked at my feet for a clue, then away.
"Not that much happened today, mom." I fibbed.
"He doesn't mean that," my young sister ad-libbed.
"He means nothing came of it once it was done."
"That's right!" I said softly. My lie had been spun.
"We met this strange creature. Inside the TV."
"He helped us buy oodles of stuff, all for free."
As Joan kept on talking, the story came out.
The turkey. The kayak. The limes. The trout.
The trucks and the goods. The fun and the scary.
She spilled out her guts like a gangland canary.
"And then when he finished he made it all go.
And that's why we stand here with nothing to show."
Said my sister, who smiled, to our mother who frowned,
and said "You and your daydreams when I'm not around!"
We left it at that. There was so much unspoken.
Our mother believes to this day we were jokin'.
But when she goes out and we stay home alone.
We unplug the TV, the PC and the phone.
We don't mess things up. We don't knock things down.
We don't watch. We don't surf. And we don't sit around.