Frodo the hamster dies just before the triplets turn eleven.
"You have to buy us a dog now," Adam says.
"We have a dog," Dee says, pointing to Pow. Pow raises his head tiredly.
"Like, a real dog," Jordan says. "Not a second-hand one."
"Oh," Dee says, kneeling down by Pow's head. "Poor Pow-Wow. Are you listening to this?"
The triplets give up on their mother and go to find their father.
"Absolutely not," John says. "This place is already a zoo. We don't need another dog."
"Another pet, though," Byron reasons. "We're one down. The family is smaller."
"Mallory's coming back over the summer," John says. "You can make do with her."
"We can't train her," Jordan dismisses. "We've tried."
The first week of summer brings the Stoneybrook Summer Festival. A staggered miniature city of tents and pens is set up across Brenner Field. The air smells of straw, manure and popcorn.
The triplets have turned their desire for a new pet into a running joke, which involves their parents buying them ridiculous animals like elephants and lions.
"Dad!" Byron shouts, pointing. "That camel. I want it."
"Yeah, me too," Jordan says.
"Camels stink," John says. "No way."
"It can't smell any worse than Nicky," Adam mutters.
"Hey!" Nicky cries. He looks wounded, until Dee distracts him by offering him the rest of her corndog.
Claire spots them first. A wide, grassy pen full of miniature pigs and piglets. "Piggies!" she shrieks. "Dad, Dad! Piggies!"
She hauls on John's hand, dragging him across the grass.
"Ohh," Dee croons. "They're so cute!"
She misses the mixed look of warning and horror John gives her. It's too late, anyway. The triplets have latched onto her enthusiasm.
"Sweet," Adam says. "Mom's buying us a pig."
"No she's not," John warns.
"Let's get this one." Jordan leans over the fence and gently strokes a sleeping piglet. It grunts, but doesn't move.
"No, we want one that looks alive," Byron says. "We've already got a pet that sleeps all the time."
"Let's get that one," Claire says, pointing to a fat pink piglet running around. "And let's call it James Bond."
"James Bond!" The triplets chorus the name and then fall about laughing.
"Emily," Vanessa says wistfully.
"Emily's not a pig's name," Jordan says scornfully.
Adam sniggers. "Dick, for short."
"I like Pickles," Dee says, looking down at the miniature pigs fondly.
John's eyes bulge. "We're not getting a pig!"
"Buy all the mini pigs!" Claire shrieks.
"We should call it Sausage!" Nicky crows. "Get it? Get it, Jordan?"
"Good one," Jordan says.
Dee leans her head against John's arm. "They're so cute."
"So am I," John says. "But none of you fall about cooing over me anymore."
"Pigs stink," Margo says disdainfully.
"No worse than –"
"Those camels," Dee says, interrupting Adam with a stern look.
"What do they eat?" Mallory asks.
"They eat everything," Jordan says. "They're like little vacuum cleaners."
"You lot are already eating us out of house and home," John says, exasperated.
"Dad, seriously, we want a pig," Adam says, turning to him eagerly. "Can we get one? Really can we get one?"
"Please?" Claire chimes in, not taking her eyes off the pigs. She stands between her parents and grips John's right hand and Dee's left, tightly.
"Where are we going to put a pig?" John asks. "And it was hard enough getting you guys to clean Frodo's cage – are you really going to want to clean up after a pig?"
"Pigs can be trained to go outside, like a dog," Vanessa says. She holds up a leaflet.
"Where'd you get that?" Dee takes it and runs her eyes over it. "Oh!" she says. She points to a figure at the bottom of the page. "No thanks."
"Sorry guys," John says. "These are some expensive little piggies."
"But they'll offer a lifetime of love!" Byron says. "Those numbers are just guidelines, anyway. You gotta haggle, Dad."
"This isn't the middle ages," John says. "The breeder wants a certain price for his stock. I'd have to sell one of you off before we could afford one."
"Nicky," Adam says.
"Enough," Dee says warningly.
"So..." Jordan hesitates for a moment. "Does that mean we go back to negotiating a deal on the camels?"