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Life is Just a walking Shadow...No Shadows Without Light
by Jack deMule
Jack deMule -- all rights reserved

Scabs come from every corner of the city to hang out at The Blind Pig, but it still feels like a neighborhood bar. Once the novelty of downing a beer with a giant cockroach, and being served by a waitress who looks more like a collie dog than Lassie, wears off, you sink into a feeling of comfortable familiarity. In short...it's boring. I was enjoying just such a boring evening when Donny, the minotaur bar tender (and owner), slipped me a note.

"What the hay Donnie! I paid my bar tab just a month ago, this is extortion! Ahh...come on, you're not still angry about the door? You should have made sure it was open, before tossing me out! I ain't gonna pay! No matter how...huh?"

Donnie held up a huge hairy hand, and shook his head. Grunting, he pointed at the paper that I was about to crumple.

I held the scrap of paper at arms length, trying bring it into the focus of an equine eye. "Donnie, you should have been a doctor! Wanderer, Wanderer...what?" Donnie's bovine muzzle twisted, and his lips curled, "Hrrnnnh!" He grunted in frustration, as he gestured wildly at the note.

Colleen grabbed the note from my hand. "Let me see that you stubborn ass! Didn't Dr. Coe tell you to wear your glasses? Ahem... Wanderer called from Mercy Hospital, and..." I was already half way to the parking lot.

I gunned the engine as the antique Oldsmobile lurched into the street. A hub cap went flying as I clipped the curb, and I watched it roll straight through the intersection as I turned right. The Olds practically flew the couple of blocks to the hospital. The rush of acceleration as the huge 425ci V8 began to get on it's power curve had just begun, when I had to stand on the brakes. The sound of squealing tires announced my arrival.

I found Wanderer slumped over the admissions counter in the emergency room. "Wanderer? You OK?" The wolf morph raised his head. "I'm Ok.... I'm just tirrrred," he growled.

Now I've heard Wanderer howl, and I've heard him sing, but he never growled at me before. His normally trim, 'Big Bad,' appearance was beginning to change. As he followed me down the corridor the change quickened. His legs bowed, becoming more canine shaped with every step.

We were almost to the car when he lost it. Wanderer, the actor, was now Wanderer, the wolf. I gathered up his clothes, and wallet, then I opened the passenger door. I was worried. I didn't think I could force him into the car, and if he took off I'd never be able to catch him.

Slowly, painfully, he climbed onto the back seat. With a sigh of relief I shut the door and slid behind the wheel. "Hay Wanderer, I would have been here sooner, but I decided to take the car... You sure you're OK?"

A soft whine was his reply.

I began to drive back to the bar. Then I thought of looking in his wallet for his address, I was planning to take him home, but I ended up in the park. It was late, and the park looked lonely, abandoned, and dark. It was the kind of place a SCAB might go to hide, to steal a few hours of freedom under the stars, before returning to their self-imposed prison before daybreak. When I opened the door Wanderer stepped out, sniffed the air, and looked around. Then tilting his head in a quizzical canine manner, he looked at me for an explanation.

"Go ahead," I whispered, "have a good, long, howl."

Wanderer padded off into the darkness of the woods, while I sat on a bench and waited for his return. As I waited the disturbance our arrival had created slowly faded, crickets resumed their singing, a katydid joined in too, and in the distance I heard a mournful sound.

Over an hour had passed when Wanderer returned. I got his clothes from the car. "You ready to go home now?" He nodded, then quickly reverted to his more dapper wolfish form. After smoothing out his cape he sat next to me on the bench.

"Tonight my friend Paul tried to commit suicide. Paul's a scab now, a women scab to be precise." He handed me a crumpled note.

"My glasses are back at the bar," I grumbled, "what's this say? So Paul is a women...a women with squid tentacles growing out of his...er, her neck?"

Wanderer shook his head.

"A woman with the head of a newt, or the legs of a millipede?"

He shook his head once more.

"Ok...hmm, a woman with...."

"Enough you ninny mule! Paul is a woman, a gorgeous, knock down beautiful, perfectly normal, woman. Nothing more."

I scratched my ear. "I don't get it. So he's a woman, what's the problem?"

Wanderer sighed, it was the sigh you reserve for a child when they ask a question so basic, so naive, that you're not sure where to begin the answer. "She thinks she's no longer Paul, that all that she was is lost, and that she's alone. Can you imagine anything worse?"

"Yes, I can."

Wanderer rolled his eyes and sighed again. "And what would that be, oh mulish one?"

"I can imagine Paul without you there when he...damn this is confusing, without you there when she needed you, in the dark, and truly alone."

We sat for a while without speaking. In the distance the wail of an ambulance siren made the night feel chilly. "Hay Wanderer?"

"Yes, Jack?"

"How about letting me take you home now? Ready to go?"

Wanderer stood, and with a flourish wrapped his cape around his shoulders. "To the Pig I think...the show must go on!"

"Huh? What show?"

Wanderer smiled, rows of sharp teeth, and a lolling tongue. "The big show. Hurried and worried until we're buried, and there's no curtain call. Life's a very funny proposition, after all. You know, the part we were born to play, Jack!"

The ride back to the Blind Pig was a quiet one. The change in Wanderer's attitude puzzled me. He seemed to await our arrival at the bar with more than a little anticipation.

Once inside We took our customary places, Wanderer at his table with the lupine boys, and me at the piano. I heard an undercurrent of conversation punctuated by laughter. He's telling jokes, I thought, slipping from one persona into the next. I wondered if any of us knew the real Wanderer at all.

"Hi ya Jack! Remember me?" There was a coyote sitting next to my piano.

"Hay Wiley! How's the job working out?

The coyote's fur bristled. "The job's working out just fine, and my name's not Wiley!"

Wanderer tapped me on the shoulder. "Say Jack, if you wouldn't mind playing a request...." Wanderer redirected his attention when he noticed the slightly offended coyote. "Hello, I don't believe we've been introduced? Ahh..Jack?"

"Oh yeah, yeah sure, where are my manners? Doug...Wanderer, Wanderer...Doug. Now if you don't mind, I have a job to do. All gab, and no music, makes Jack a very dry mule." I was going to ask Wanderer about his request, but he and Doug had already become involved in conversation about the thrill of the hunt, and running through the woods at night, as they made their way to the Lupine boy's table.

"Out, out brief candle! Life is but a walking shadow." I heard Wanderer cry above the din. "Oh geez...not Shakespeare again!" I moaned, barely audible above the applause. Then I began to play, softly, so I'd not disturb the show... and I say to myself, what a wonderful world.

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