|To Know Another ...
© Wanderer -- all rights reserved
The old man smelled strongly of medicines and disinfectant as he rubbed my ears and neck. He couldn't talk ... but then, he really didn't need to. The smile on his face was enough to let me know how he felt about having a soft, furry animal to pet.
Ever since I'd gotten involved in the Pets for People program, I'd been pushing for shifters to be allowed in as participants. After all, we live a lot longer than the 'real' animals., we can be told not to bite, and we don't fight flea dips. It was a sign of how well I'd argued that they were letting me try it out. First, of course. After all, it was my idea ...
After a few more minutes, he fell back, exhausted, with a small smile on his face. I laid my head on the edge of the bed and looked up at him until he went to sleep. Then I [added out to the hall, my claws clicking on the tile, and headed for the nurses' station. Once there, I looked up at the desk and waited. Finally, a nurse showed up. "Ah, Mister Calvert. I assume Mister Cunard is asleep?" I nodded slowly. She picked up a clipboard and read down, crossing through one item. "I do believe you're done for today. I'd like to thank you again for your assistance. They're so much more cooperative when they have an animal to ... " Her words stumbled to a halt as she realized what she'd just said. "I ... I mean, when they have a ..." I finally defused the tension by laughing, my mouth open and my tongue lolling out the side. Reluctantly, she smiled. "I am sorry about that. I really didn't mean any offense." She turned away, then handed a folded cloth bundle down to me. "Here are your clothes. You can use the restroom at the end of the hall to change ... Oh, you!", she said as I started laughing again. "You know what I meant. Just be sure to let the plumber in if he gets there before you're done." I nodded, then took my bundle of clothes (no cape today, of course) and padded off down the hall. Fortunately, someone had left the door open, or the residents would've been treated to the sight of a wolf pawing at the doorknob. I don't have any real hangups about being naked, mind you, not with this fur ... but it is embarassing to be on two legs without clothes on. Once I'd set my bundle on the toilet lid, I took the doorknob in my jaws and pulled the door shut.
Finally, and with a great sigh of relief, I shifted back to my morphic form. I shook my head a few times to dispel the scent of institutional soap a little, then started getting dressed.
Ever since I changed, getting dressed isn't as easy as it used to be. I remembered that as I finally got my tail through the hole on the fourth try and pulled the inside drawstring to a comfortable position. As I buttoned my shirt collar, there was a knock at the door. "Just a minute!", I called, frantically putting the buttons through and pulling my handfur from the holes. Another knock came. "I'm almost done!" Just as I fastened my belt, another knock. I finally slipped into my accent and declaimed, "My good man, I am speeding forward as quickly as might be! Please be patient!" Then, in high dudgeon, I yanked open the door.
And stared straight at ... what was his name? He couldn't really remember well. But it was the plumber Donnie'd had in for the toilets. The one who'd been so insulting about their collective attitude.
"Ah, great. It's youse again."
I smiled. "The one and only. Your attitude remains unchanged, I see."
"I ain't da one wit' an attitude problem. Lissen, I'm just here ta fix da pipes 'neat' da sink. Ya mind?"
"Not at all. Mind if I watch? My ride's not due for a while."
For a few minutes, I watched him unscrew pipes. I guess he saves his tentacles for when he needs them. Then I decided to broach the subject I'd been thinking about since I last saw him.
"You weren't entirely fair, you know."
"Back at the bar."
"Lissen, I just toldja, you wanna get on wit' yer lives, do it. Ya wanna sit 'n' cry, fine. But'cha do one 'ting 'n' say anudder ... not too smart."
I nodded. "Agreed. If we were just depressed about our condition, we'd be pretty dumb."
He looked out from under the sink. "Sure. Ya gotta work wit' what'cha got."
"Oh, we do. I mean, our conditions are inconvenient, sure ... but who wants an easy life?"
"But when you told us we were crying over nothing ... "
"Hey, your business."
"Ohhh, no. You made the point, now let's follow it up."
He went back to work on the sink, but I decided he could hear me anyway. I continued. "See, you said we were just bellyaching. Now, if we were just upset over our conditions, our appearance, stuff like that, sure, that'd be dumb. But we aren't."
"Really", I said. "Most of us have gotten used to ourselves. No, we're mainly upset because we're getting killed and maimed."
He peeped out from beneath the sink. "It's dat bad out dere?"
I grimaced. "One of the barmaids got shot a while back because she was a SCAB. Mind you, she could've avoided it."
"Oh, she could've just let me die."
That stopped him cold. "You was gonna die?"
"Pretty likely. I was busy keeping another guy from caving in my skull."
"Not to mention the guy who got a faceful of pepper spray waiting at the crosswalk and nearly put his eyes out with his own claws, the Firsters who tried to stiff a company on the grounds they were SCABS, the ... "
"Hey, I get da point, already! Ya wanna turn on da water?"
I did. "Then, of course, there's Barnes."
"Ahh, there's lotsa politicians."
"True. But the movement that almost got him elected wants to declare all SCABS below a vertain percentage of human form to be animals."
"Nope. Donnie'd likely be put in a barn. Colleen in a kennel. And some of the others ... " I shook my head. "Some of 'em wouldn't make it to morning."
"C'mon. He couldn' do dat. Turn off da water now."
I did. "Not in so many words ... but remember his campaign speech. All SCABS who had lost the ability to communicate due to the disease would be declared animals. That takes out every full 'morph in the city. Not to mention Donnie, Colleen, maybe even Buck ... all of 'em, just ... well ... officially dead."
The plumber shook his head sadly. "Jee-zusschristonnacrutch."
I smirked sadly. "Not my words, but I share the sentiment."
"So why'd'ja light inta me before?"
I chuckled. "Simple. The last five people who said someone around me was getting worked up over nothing were Human First'ers. They started off with "Ah, there's nothing to complain about", and wound up with "Because you're lucky to be alive, you sorry piles of garbage". They weren't that nice, of course ... "
"Yeah. I get da pitcher."
I smiled sadly. "Listen. You had a lot of good points. But next time, get more info before telling someone what they should and shouldn't get upset over, huh?"
He smiled and waved a wrench at me. "Hey. No promises."
"Gotcha. Well, I'd best be going. My play starts in a few hours."
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