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The Messenger
by Richard Reid
Richard Reid -- all rights reserved
 

Odd, I think as I look at the instructions for my last delivery of the day. An address and time - after normal business hours, but this feline morph is glad to make a little extra money - and a name. Doug Linger. Someone sending a surprise birthday gift.

I figure the best route to the address in question; then let out a soft purr of surprise. It isn't far from the office where I'm standing.

No sense hanging around. I slip out the back door of the delivery service office. As usual I feel a few eyes following as I jog leisurely up the street. I don't really blame those who stare. Eight foot five feline morphs are pretty rare; and much of my height is in powerful legs and spring loaded digitigrade feet. I project a relaxed look with this stride even when I'm keeping up with traffic and outrunning just about every being on two feet or four.

I guess I'm lucky. My SCAB form makes me nearly the perfect big city messenger; so I make a decent living.

The instructions with the package are clear that I must not arrive early; so I have to kill a little time on the way. No bending the speed limit on this run.

I look at the instructions again as I approach the address. I confirm that it is indeed the bar in front of me - The Blind Pig Gin Mill by name - and step though the door precisely on time.

I take a moment to look around, noting instantly that a majority of those in the place are SCABs. A bull morph behind the bar, and my scan of the room reveals all manner of morph forms among the customers.

I look away from the full morph rabbit quickly, sensing that my gaze is making him nervous. My eyes take in more of the customers as I search for the source of the music. I find it quickly, behind several other patrons. A piano, with a mule morph playing a cheerful tune.

Then a subtle movement draws my attention to a cluster of wolf forms. One of them is wearing a cape, seemingly trying very hard not to stare at me. Could this be the 'Wanderer' who signed the instructions with the package?

There's only one way to find out. "Delivery for Doug Linger," I announce when the pianist pauses. Suddenly it seems all eyes in the place are on me. The reactions I see suggest it is a name many here know but rarely hear used. Mixtures of recognition and surprise. Then many of the eyes leave me and scan around the bar ...

I've heard of this place, I realize as a full morph coyote separates from the group of wolf forms. A popular SCAB hangout; supposedly known for practical jokes. "I am Doug Linger," the coyote announces while I'm still trying to decide what to do.

As the coyote - Doug - approaches he glances around the room. He circles me once, then sniffs at the gift wrapped package.

"Please put it on the floor," he says; padding to a small open space.

He knows this place better than me, I decide. I set the package down in front of Doug.

He sniffs it again as I take a seat at the bar. I am as certain as I can be that the gift isn't dangerous. I use my own feline nose on every package I carry and all I smelled from this one was ordinary paper, plastic, and tape.

Doug is in no hurry to open his present. While he is still sniffing at - and listening to - the package I order a beer. I'm already a part of this; be it an innocent present or cunning practical joke. I might as well find out which it is.

The bull morph bartender stares at me for an instant. Perhaps suspecting I have more part in this than mere messenger, but more likely sensing how unfamiliar I am with bars. In fact this is only the second bar I've been in in my life and the first since SCABS turned me into Katra.

As I slowly drink my beer, I notice that a few eyes have drifted back to me; including the full morph rabbit. He seems surprisingly at ease for a lapine - even one as large as him - among so many predator species. I take that to mean he and most of the others are regulars here.

It looks like one of the regulars is about to introduce himself. I watch through the corner of my eye as the otter measures my lap and prepares to leap. Whether meant as a joke or a greeting I can't let him land where he's aiming. I may look all female in my uniform; but the otter appears to have unknowingly targeted my male parts as a landing pad.

A faint ripping sound draws my attention back to Doug. The coyote is carefully splitting the gift wrap with a claw. I turn to watch, incidentally putting my male half out of the otter's line of fire.

As the coyote peels wrapping paper someone yells "Happy birthday; Wiley!" I look up to see which of the wolf morphs spoke ...

BEEP!

The sound is followed by a startled yelp; then a crash. I look back to Doug; finding him entangled with a chair and a man with mostly racoon facial features. Funny I didn't notice him before ...

I look down to the package to see just what has a growing number of the bar patrons laughing wildly. Then I have to suppress my own amusement.

A jack-in-the-box; it's road runner head still bouncing at the end of a long spring.

I focus back on Doug; the instruction sheet crumpled in one hand as he extricates himself from chair and raccoon morph. He stares at the jack-in-the-box for a few seconds - then rolls onto his back wagging his tail and laughing.

Seeing the 'victim' laughing pulls the plug on my own amusement; and my laugh joins the roar.

As the laughter begins to subside, I feel something moving behind me. I grab instinctively with my tail - a move that some liken to the strike of a furry boa constrictor.

A startled "Yipe!" from behind me is followed by more laughter. I curl my tail around to my front; finding it full of squirming otter.

"You shouldn't sneak up on people," I purr, depositing the otter on my lap. "It looked like you wanted to introduce yourself a moment ago. I'm Katra."

"Welcome to the Blind Pig; Katra." My ears twitch at the otter's voice. I guess I expected him to speak through a voder or not at all.

"My name is Oren," he continues as he makes himself comfortable on my lap. Then he looks up with an expression that seems half puzzled and half embarrassed. "Please excuse me if this is too personal ... but what kind of cat are you?"

"The hermaphrodite kind." I laugh softly as he shifts a bit towards my knees. "You probably saw I've got a fair bit of cougar in me."

"It's a very nice fur color."

"I seem to have a fair amount of human left in me too. And the rest is kinda hard to pin down."

"Definitely a bit of monkey in the mix." Oren chuckles.

"That there is." I drape my tail across him and look towards the door. "I wasn't going to stay long. Don't have much use for bars, usually."

"Might you be interested in hearing a story?"

My ears flick forward. "What kind of story?"

"Mine, perhaps?"

This could be interesting. "All right; you may begin when ready."

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