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The Visit
by Bob Stein
Bob Stein -- all rights reserved
 

Dr. Bob stumbled towards the door, silently cursing himself for oversleeping. Daylight Savings time had messed him up again. The alarm clock by the bed had read 8:28 when he opened his eyes, giving him two blissful minutes before a knock on the front door had reminded him that the rest of the world had set their clocks ahead one hour last night.

As he reached for the knob, he heard the crack of plastic, and looked down to see the remains of a splintered floppy drive adapter board under one hoof. Damn! Robby had to start cleaning up after himself - especially now that he had started a new hobby of building antique computers. Then he shook his massive head and sighed. This habit of referring to his 6 year-old alter ego as a different person was getting worse.

Brushing the coarse hairs of his forelock into some semblance of order, he opened the door. A slender donkey-morph smiled at him, impeccably groomed and nicely dressed. "Bob? Hi!"

Still not quite awake, Dr. Bob realized he couldn't respond in this form. Shifting to Robby, he managed to grab the shorts he had pulled over his Shire morph legs before they fell off his child's body. Grinning sheepishly at the startled Donkey, he gestured for him to enter. "Hiya, Eric! Come on in."

Eric Schneider had been corresponding with him on SCABS information, equine studies, and other topics for some time, but they had never actually met. So Bob was quite pleased when the donkey-morph asked about stopping by for a visit. Eric was in the same state, attending some amateur horse races, and had decided to drive here before heading home. Bob hadn't realized how far Eric was detouring until the night before, when he actually pulled out a map. The fact that the young donkey morph had arrived exactly on time only made Bob feel worse.

Stammering apology, Bob offered Eric a seat. "I'm really sorry. I forgot to set the clock ahead last night. Thought I had another hour before you got here!" A quick glance around did nothing to improve his embarrassment. Computer parts littered the floor, and the office was crammed with bits and pieces of obsolete electronics. A box of Equine Treats was open on the floor, and a few of the graham crackers his child form preferred were on the end table. Rolling his eyes, Robby sighed again. "Looks like you get the real me! No pretense or show today."

Eric shrugged good naturedly. "It all looks fine to me! You should see my place!" Considering his guest's impeccable grooming, Robby seriously doubted that Eric's living quarters were as cluttered and messed up as this place was.

After plying the visitor with a large (and clean, thankfully glass of orange juice, Robby dashed into the bathroom for a quick shower. Ten minutes later, he didn't look much better, but at least he was clean.

Fortunately, Eric's pleasant attitude quickly made the awkward start of the morning easier to forget. He had a gift for Dr. Bob, a beautifully framed photo of a draft horse he'd seen in Ireland, coincidentally named Bob. The animal's markings were even similar to those of Dr. Bob's Shire morph form. He stared wistfully at the picture, remembering the days before his run-in with Barnes, when he could actually become a full animal at will.

Breakfast had already been planned out. There was a restaurant fairly close by with an extensive breakfast bar. Being close to the SCABS sector of the city, it had a variety of grains side-by-side with the scrambled eggs and soy-bacon (as a concession to those patrons who might find real pork to be a form of cannibalism). The only problem came when Robby ordered coffee along with his orange juice. Eric grinned and nodded when the waitress gave him a questioning look. Although she clearly disapproved of preschoolers drinking Java, she must have figured it wasn't her business.

After plates were filled, the conversation took off. Topics ranged from their common interest in horses, to old cars, to computer systems both modern and antique. The waitress was a bit hesitant to refill Robby's coffee cup, an action she might have regretted later when he picked up the check.

Returning to Bob's place, they went through some of the ancient videos he had collected. Although he had transferred most of them to disc long ago, for this special occasion, he used the actual tapes on his restored VCR. It had taken some special adapters to convert the obsolete television signal to work with modern vidscreens. The resulting flat images were almost comical, especially those which had actually been made without color.

Still, they enjoyed watching the rare old programs where transformations which had become common with SCABS were considered to be fantasy or horror fiction. One really ancient show, dating back almost a century, was about Circe living in 1960. Although the transformation effects were notably lacking, they both agreed that the actress was a perfect choice. Somehow, she had managed to come across as matronly, sexy, and sinister as required.

It was amazing how quickly the day passed. Eric's company was rather restful, and despite the length of the conversation, never got tiresome. It was guilt rather than boredom that prompted Bob to point out the time late in the afternoon, as Eric had 10-hour drive to get home. They found a restaurant close by, and continued talking through dinner and the return to Bob's. It was after 5 when Eric finally bid farewell and started his long drive back.

He was truly sorry to see the donkey-morph leave. The easy company of another had been pleasant. He wondered if there was some aspect of a horse's herd mentality at play there. That probably didn't count, since he had spent most of the visit as a five year-old human. Still, the conversation had been predominated by talk of equines, and he found himself longing for the old days of four-legged romps. Eric was human enough that he had always been on the saddle, instead of wearing it. He didn't know the exhilaration of making the jump yourself, or galloping full out with scents and sounds of a herd thundering around you.

The visit had also made him realize how cut-off he had been, even from his friends at the Blind Pig. The silent Shire morph form didn't allow him to do more than sit and watch, and people seemed to feel awkward talking to a kindergarten refugee. Well, maybe it was time to do something about it. There were other SCABS out there with powers similar to Splendor. Perhaps he could find one that could make at least one of his forms easier to live with.

He felt a surge of fresh optimism as he strode back into the living room. Only to freeze as he felt something crunch under his sneakers. Damn! Squatting down, he picked up yet another broken computer board. Before he made any sweeping changes in his body, it would probably be a good idea to sweep up the mess!

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