© Wanderer -- all rights reserved
I can't help but grimace as I drag my trusty blue suitcase across the floor of the floor of the bus terminal and toward the cool night air beyond the plate glass doors. As I pass the dollar-a-show DVD machines, a few of the road weary souls resting in the chairs take a slightly-surprised notice of my tired form (Of course, it may also be that they don't see many six-foot-minus-an-inch humanoid wolves traveling Trailways).
After two days of my "brilliant" plan to save money by taking the bus home from the last town in our "Sunday in the Park with George" tour, I'm about to keel over and crash like the Hindenburg. My tail aches where I wound up sitting on it (Trailways never did cater much to individual comfort), and my head feels as though it's about to drop off my shoulders just to get some rest. If I weren't in a noisy bus terminal, I'd curl up right here and take a nap.
Suddenly, off in the distance, I spot the long-eared form of Jack. (Thank goodness the 'Boys weren't able to talk him into bringing them along ... I'm too pooped to perform.) When he finally sees my bedraggled form slogging its way through the human traffic around me, he finally comes forward and helps me with my bag.
"You all right?"
"Next time", I grumble wearily, "I leave the driving to an airline pilot".
He chuckles softly, and I force a smile to go with the joke. (Okay, I'm too tired to perform well ... )
"Take me home ... "
He pats me on the back once and starts for the doors as I drag along behind him. Fortunately, he has a close parking space, and I sink gratefully into the relative comfort of his car's bucket seats (or "feedbag" seats, as Jack's been known to call them). Before I even hear the trunk lid close, I can already feel my body dwindling down into a more compact shape as I curl up on the seat.
A moment later (or at least it seems like it), I feel Jack shake me awake.
I yawn widely and nod.
"They're making spot checks on seatbelts tonight. And ... you know ... "
I nod curtly and force myself back into a more human shape ... seat belts really aren't made for wolves. I startle once as my ears brush the roof of the car, then settle down to a grim concentration on keeping both feet ... well ... both feet.
"You all right?"
"Tired ... as ... Hades", I manage to half-growl through a muzzle that feels as though it weighs a ton.
"I gotcha. Home it is."
We don't talk as he takes me home. I'm exhausted, and he knows it far too well to pester me (as, apparently, do the Lupine Boys, since they're not here ... I told them when I was due). About the only sound is a soft thud as I almost falla asleep and rebound into the headrest.
After what seems like an age, the car finally slows and stops, and I drowsily look around. Yep, it's home. I paw for the latch, find it, and grumpily push the door open. As I step out onto the cool grass, I can't help singing a little song ... badly.
"Through temples and palaces forever we may roam, But be it ever so humble ... there's no ... place ... like ... "
I trail off into a coarse growl with a bit of a groan in it. It's too late at night for my daylight habits, and I've been up far too long to act nocturnal.
Jack sees me inside quietly, and puts the suitcase down in the foyer (not far from my old grand piano, badly tuned though it is). He whistles shortly.
"I said it before, bud. Your mom left you a whole lotta house."
I grunt once ... and muster enough strength to hug him briefly, a hug he returns.
"Good to have you back."
"Good to be back."
With that, he turns the keys over to me and departs. I wave to him as he passes the yucca by the driveway and vanishes from sight, then drop the blind back into place and turn around.
I take a moment to look myself over in the foyer mirror before I pass on. The blue jeans I'm wearing are disintegrating at the cuffs, my faded blue t-shirt has seen better decades. Throw in a full-body fur coat having a bad hair day, a tail that's drooping like a furry rope, and a pair of blue eyes that look like the only reason they're open is because they're too tired to close. I grimace as I realise I look like a lupine version of Garfield ... on a Monday morning. (I miss that strip ... )
Leaving the suitcase where Jack dropped it, I walk toward my room, pausing only to shuck my shirt and throw it on the couch. With a grunt of discomfort, I change shape, leaving my pants and (after a small tangle) my underwear on the floor. With a grunt, I leap to the top of the bed. I curl up ...
... and blessed sleep claims me.
I awaken the next after noon ... not unusual for me, especially after such a trial as I have just put myself through. As I stretch myself back into a more human shape (despite the protests of my aching muscles), I notice ... an envelope on my bedside table. With my name on it. Still clumsy with sleep, I manage to pry the flap open (thankfully it wasn't glued ... that would've been a bit too much to handle just now) and read the card inside:
Welcome back (it says on the outside)! We're glad you're here again. and everything's just as you left it ...
I open the card to read ...
You did want me to have the TV, right?
I chuckle softly as I read it ... and smile when I see all the signatures that cover both sides of the card's inner surface (including a few X's, from the ones that can't write, labeled by what seems to be Doctor Bob's handwriting).
(Of course, I check the TV ... I put nothing past these people.)
Then, lodged among the signatures, I spot a message:
Whenever you're ready to come back, we're ready to have you ... but we insist that you tell us all about your trip.
The handwriting in question doesn't ring a bell, and I decide not to take the time to try and compare it to the signatures ... I'm no handwriting expert. With a brief look at the clock, I hoist myself to my feet and begin getting dressed for the day.
Later, suitably attired, I enter the Pig, my satin cape flapping noisily behind me in a gust of wind that sprang up as I left my car (in this heat, nothing with fur should walk for long periods). Taking my still-makeshift cane in my right hand, I lift it aloft and declaim (in a British accent, of course), "I AM RETURNED!"
Silence. I finally look around. Nothing. Not even a sign of Donnie behind the bar, or a glint of a hoof from beneath the piano. Nothing.
Something smells, I think to myself, and begin to grin in anticipation as I move farther into the bar.
"Hello?", I call out, to keep things realistic. "Anybody to home?"
Still nothing. I stop and scratch my head. The door was open, so they're not closed. Their scents are all here ... everyone's. So where ...
The sound of the door slamming open makes me jump straight up with a yelp!
As I spin around (and almost fall down ... you can't spin on heels that don't touch the floor), I see everyone come rushing in, like a clown car in reverse. Before I can even quip, I'm surrounded by people shaking my hand, slapping me on the back, climbing my leg (I'll have to talk with Wiley about that), and generally making me welcome.
Hey, it may ruin a dramatic entrance, but ...
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