E.B. Bartels

Nonfiction mafia.

Category: Dead Pets

Mortified Podcast!


As you may know, I’ve become a bit of a regular reader at the Mortified show at Oberon, thanks to the best-ever Mortified producer, Sara Faith Alterman. But now I’m super excited to share that you don’t have to be in the Cambridge area to hear me read my most embarrassing childhood journal entries!

Check out the most recent episode of the Mortified Podcast (89: An Ode to Childhood Pets), to hear about my past pet tortoise Aristotle and my current book project. I’m honored to be featured with such hilarious individuals––and it’s comforting to know I wasn’t the only kid who felt closer to animals than people, or who tried to incorporate pets into every possible school project. Thanks to Neil Katcher for interviewing me and including me in the podcast.

Listen here or download on iTunes.



Chuckie the Hamster: Dead Pet Chronicles

For the full essay, see it on The Toast.
Originally published on December 3, 2014.


In fourth grade, I was the new student in school. While I liked many of my classmates, I felt shy when it came to having people over to my house or accepting birthday party invitations. Only by the very end of the year had I begun to feel like I made a couple friends, including a sweet, quiet, freckly girl named Meredith, whom everyone called Meri. Meri and I became friends after a hypothetical question about our dream pets posed to the class by our teacher: we both said we would like to have a ferret. We bonded further when we realized we both drool a lot in our sleep. While neither Meri nor I ever got a ferret, at the end of fourth grade, Meri adopted an orange and white hamster named Chuckie from another classmate of ours. Chuckie was already a couple years old, which is well past middle age for a hamster, plus he had a hard life before he arrived in Meri’s warm, caring arms. Our classmate’s older brother liked to jump over the squirmy, scrawny fistful of fur with his skateboard. When our classmate decided that perhaps Chuckie would be happier living in a household without such traumas – a rodent heart attack couldn’t be far off if the skate tricks kept up – Meri took him in. Already strongly maternal at nine, Meri showered Chuckie with affection, and in no time at all, he had fattened up and calmed down: a fuzzy sphere with tiny, white hand-claws, shiny black eyes, thin brown ears. His favorite activity was rolling around on the floor inside a transparent blue ball.

A Fish Formerly Called Wanda: Dead Pet Chronicles

For the full essay, see it on The Toast.
Originally published on September 24, 2014.


“Are fish supposed to look like this?”

My two roommates appeared by my side, our faces almost touching as we peered into the tank, so close our breath fogged the plastic. The three of us peered into the one-gallon tank on my dresser, full of neon pink rocks, a fake plant, a gray plastic castle, and a purple-maroon Betta, our beloved Wanda, the mascot of Claflin Hall, room 107, who was not doing well.

“She looks… swollen,” Anna said.

“Kind of puffy,” said Leigh.

“Why are her scales sticking out like that?”

Wanda floated in her tank, barely bothering to swish her fins, ignoring the flakes of food I sprinkled on the surface above her enlarged head. Her scales – normally a bright, shiny metallic purple – were muted and protruding, no longer lying flat against her skin.

Leigh, on the premed track, turned to her computer. After a few minutes of research, she had the diagnosis:

“Dropsy. It’s definitely dropsy.”


Aristotle the Turtle: Dead Pet Chronicles

For the full essay, see it on The Toast.
Originally published on August 19, 2014.

Aristotle Alone

I used to be a regular at the pet store on the second floor of my local mall, down by Sears. Whenever I had to go with my mom to run errands, at the end of our quest, I would drag her to the pet shop. I gaped at the squirmy puppies – all cartilage – and kittens no more than eyes and fluff, along with the usual sickly goldfish and colorful, preachy birds. What got me though was that they had tortoises. In a hexagon plexiglass-walled pen in the middle of the store, filled with sawdust chips and a miniature wooden house, a dozen desert tortoises casually plodded, frequently pushing into each other, like bumper cars toward the end of the ride when the mechanisms wind down. Their earthy brown-and-gold shells made them seem like boulders that had come to life, rolling about at their own will. I admired the methodical and slow yet determined pace that they kept, much like senior citizens who walked laps between Lord & Taylor and the food court.


Together hiking the Appalachian Trail from April to October, 2015!

E.B. Bartels

Nonfiction mafia.

Mara Wilson Writes Stuff

Just another WordPress.com site

The Ugly Volvo

Attempts at Adulthood


Nonfiction mafia.

T is for

Nonfiction mafia.

Pedals to Petals

Nonfiction mafia.

Wellesley Underground

Nonfiction mafia.


Nonfiction mafia.

Soundtracks for Books

Nonfiction mafia.

Arrested Misérables

Nonfiction mafia.

i don't like fun

a collection of sorts