in the Afterglow
© Wanderer -- all rights reserved
I huddled in my chair in the emergency room, waiting for some sign from the doctors. All of the magazines had been brain fodder already, and I was chasing my *metaphorical* tail in smaller and tighter circles every minute. My real tail, on the other hand, was lashing back and forth behind me as I silently anticipated the worst.
After the riot, I know, most of the folks from The Blind Pig went back into the bar. But I had to get my friend to the hospital.
Thinking back to the riot, I could pinpoint the moment when it had happened. The broken rib, I mean. It must've been after the first rush was over, when the HF'ers were beginning to get their bearings. I'd seen him jump into the front of the line, seen him coming back a few moments later with a yelp while I was still pushing back that nit who was trying to break through the line.
I should've known.
I should've KNOWN!
I could feel the burning at the back of my throat, but I refused to let anything out until I knew one way or the other. After all, a hospital waiting room is no place to ... to carry ... on ...
I cleared my throat and wiped my eyes, sitting as straight in the chair as I could without mangling my tail. My knuckles hurt where they'd been gripping the aluminum frame of the chair. I suppose, if I could've seen my knuckles under the fur, they would've been white.
If only I'd figured it out then, if only I'd gotten him here sooner, maybe this wouldn't have been taking so long.
I tried to tell myself that a broken rib was a broken rib, that just because I'd had to find him lying on the ground in pain, his voder hissing in ... static ... didn't ... mean ...
I cleared my throat again, gave my eyes another wipe, and straightened in my seat again, forcing myself to release the deathgrip I had on my hands. Finally, I decided to do something to occupy my time. I went over to the nurses' station.
"Excuse ... " But she was busy. I waited until there was a lull in the activity, then tried again. "Excuse me."
"Yes?" I had to give her credit, she may have sounded worn to a frazzle .. which she probably was ... but she managed to sound civil.
"I was wondering if you could tell me ... "
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't have any more information on your friend than I did five minutes ago."
I ducked my head a little. "Actually, ma'am, I was wondering where I could find a vending machine."
"Oh." She cleared her throat, apparently slightly embarassed. "The vending area is through those doors, turn right, keep straight until you reach the lobby. I'ts just off the lobby on the side you enter from."
"Thank you, ma'am."
I must've made quite a sight, my nails ticking on the tile, my cape fluttering behind me ... I wouldn't be surprised if a few people checked the side effects of their medication.
Finally, I reached the vending area and found it deserted. Thank goodness. Actor though I am, I was in no mood to try and keep my facade up for much longer. Gratefully, I relaxed my face, letting the pleasant, canine grin vanish.
After a few moments of indecision, I decided on a Mr. Pibb. As I put my coins into the slot, I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflecting surface of a nearby vending machine, a tired face with old eyes.
It looked about right. After tonight, I was about to fall over anyway.
I held the button, and my bottle of drink came out with a rumble and a thud. Collecting my change from the square box, I walked over to a table and sat down.
I'd sent the other Lupines back into the bar, telling them there wasn't anything to worry about, that a broken rib really isn't all that serious, that I'd just be going along to see him safely in.
I wish I believed myself.
After I pried the cap from its protective plastic ring, (blasted perforations), I tilted my head back and let the icy liquid pour into my mouth. The fizz bubbled and popped along the surface of my tongue, the weak acid almost burning as the cold numbed. For a moment I savored the taste, washing the sugary caustic around with my tongue before I finally
Then I sighed. I felt the old burning in the back of my throat again, but I pushed it back down. While I knew it had to come out eventually, I was determined to spare Joshua the sight of me crying my eyes out and howling like a lost soul. Still, my eyes burned, and I knew I had to hear something before too long, or I'd go nuts.
Several swallows later, I tick-tick-ticked my way back to the emergency room. The doctor met me.
"Mister ... Wanderer?"
"That is the name I go by", I rasped. "Is there a problem?"
"No, no, it's just ... well, Mr. ... Joshua ... wanted me to let you know that he's resting comfortably. It's fortunate you brought him in when you did, you know."
"I know", I replied. "A broken rib is one thing, but a perforated lung ..."
As he scanned the charts, I decided to ask the important question. "May I see him?"
"Hm? Oh. He should be checked in in a few hours. After that, visiting hours are as posted. Will there be anything else?"
"No. No, thank you."
As I turned to the door, it flew open, and my Lady almost flew through it. Without her face shifted, and minus the blonde wig, she was a rather unassuming brunette.
She was also just the person I needed to see right then.
"Wanderer? They told me you'd be down here .. "
"Y ... Yes." I clear my throat to ease the tightness I can feel coming. "Yes, one of the Boys was hurt in the fighting. I came down ... <hrm> ... came ... down to ... <hrm> to make sure he was ... all right."
"I know", came her soft reply. "I know."
Side by side, we walked from the room out to the parking lot, and from there to the sidewalk.
"May ... may I ... "
She nodded, her eyes glistening in the crescent moon's light. "Yes. Go ahead."
With that, I took her in my arms, gathered her close to me, and buried my snout in her shoulder, as I cried in fear and pain and relief and joy and worry and exhaustion. And then, when my tears were spent, I shifted to wolf and howled to the moon, knowing that the sounds of the hospital would keep Joshua from hearing me. And when my howling was done, my Lady gathered up my clothes and we started off to my apartment.
"You know", she said, "when most guys take off their clothes with a girl, it isn't for that."
My chortle turned into a giggle, which grew into a panting guffaw, a wheeze through the hollow of my muzzle as I tried to keep from falling over from the spasms of hilarity that shook my sides. Finally, when I'd quieted, I decided to risk it ... and shifted to my morphic form.
"Thanks ... I needed that."
And I held her close, and I kissed her. And then I held her close a few more moments.
"You know", I said, "We'd better get going, or we'll be brought in for indecent exposure."
"Oh, all right", she said with a small laugh. So I shifted again, and we went to my place.
Thankfully, times like those are easier to handle ... when you have someone to share it with.
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org