Home Tails of the Blind Pig
Wanderer's Story
by Wanderer
Wanderer -- all rights reserved

 

It was the worst time of the night for me. That time when the Blind Pig goes quiet, no more noise than just the clink of glasses and a soft buzz of conversation ... or is that Bryan again? Never mind. It's times like this that I can just be myself. Heh. As much as I can be anymore. Even the Lupine Boys are quiet tonight.

And I'm the most quiet of all.

It's over.

It's finally over.

I still remember the day my case of the virus kicked in. (Doesn't everyone?) I was working late at my concession job ... yeah, I worked concessions in a movie theater, it was as close as I could get to Hollywood .. when I started feeling weird.

Now, you have to understand something about me, the way I was then. I was the very picture of a gay man. Slender, not much body hair, and a tendency to the flamboyant. Which wouldn't be so bad if I weren't straight. I wanted to act, and I could sing fit for a record label, but with my wallflower looks, I didn't have too much of a chance. Back then, my life was made up of netsurfing and work. And if you tried to keep me from either one, I'd most likely give you my standard line. "I don't have much of a life. Leave me what I've got." So when I asked the manager if I could leave early because I didn't feel well, he didn't argue.

Of course, the fact that my face was beginning to look like something out of The Howling Part (n) just might have had something to do with it. I wouldn't know. I was curled up on the floor trying to keep from going into shock from the pain.

Once I could think again, I remember looking up at all those people's faces ... and seeing them cringe, flinch, and in one case, cross themselves. You see, I'm what they call a semi-voluntary. If I really want to, I can turn myself into a pretty standard-looking wolf. Most of the time, though, I just look like a wolfman. Fur, fangs, a short muzzle ... and a tongue that gets me more than a few rude suggestions. Could be worse, I guess ... at least I can talk. (No offense, Donnie.)

As you might've guessed, my job was toast. Health regs. Anyone with a chronic disease, which SCABS is, can't work in the food business. Nowadays, I get by on disability and an occasional audition as a time-killer. Acting. What a profession for me, huh?

Oh, I got noticed, all right. Finally, I had a face you could remember! Biiiig deal ... No other actors will work with me unless they already have the stuff. I mean, if they ever make a SCABS-only show, I might have a shot. But somehow I don't think Equity'd go for it.

It was only about a year ago I found out about this place. A friend of mine from the disability office mentioned it as a good place to go if you liked jokes and didn't want to get stared at. I figured it had to be if he was recommending it to me. All I ever order in a bar is cola. So what else could I do? I decided to check out their sense of humor. I dug out my dark suit and my satin cape, walked in the door and announced, in fine Shakesperean tones, "I am ... the Wanderer."

For about ten seconds, I got a silence you'd have to hear to believe. Then ..

"Well, son, wander over to that there bar and buy me a beer."

For about half a second, I just stood there. Then, I cracked up. Finally, someplace where they'll laugh at a joke and use a perfectly good straight line! (And let's face it, I handed them a real prize of a straight line with that entrance.) I save the cape for special occasions now.

Like tonight.

For her.

The Lupine Boys weren't just my idea. There were a lot of wolf-types here before I ever showed up. The problem was, they just tended to drift along, trying to ignore each other. When I showed up, that all changed. I mean, when you're spending all of your time dodging attention, and then you meet a guy who looks like you and wants attention ... well, you start paying attention. After a few nights of holding court, I got the other guys talking about their first times ... no, not those first times. (You have a filthy mind, you do.) Their first changes, when they contracted the virus. It wasn't long before we found out that sharing our problems made us feel a little better about them. And about ourselves. When a producer calls me "a reject from the pound", when the guys on line at disability crack the usual jokes about taking my money and renting a room at a kennel ... when the guys at the telemarketing job tease Ringwolf about his chosen name or claim they're allergic to his dander ... whenever people cross the street to avoid us or refuse us service at a restaurant, we can talk about these things with other people who look like us, who sound like us, and who have the same problems as us.

Besides, the shared meat bill is a great incentive.

Tonight, though, I have to admit ... I haven't been sharing. It's like ... well ... It's like I feel this is too big for just us. Finally, I decide.

"You want to know why I'm down, huh? Okay. I'll tell you. But there's something I have to do."

I get up and walk over to the piano. Jack's fiddling with a slow number. He's a little confused at first, since I've never sung here before ... heck, I've never sung since the virus hit me ... not in public ... but when I explain, he nods and gives me the go-ahead.

Now for the hard part. I turn and face the aud ... I mean the guys ... oh, forget it, they're an audience now anyway. I turn and face the audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen ... and you guys, too." Well, that got their attention. Broke the ice, too. "Some of you may have noticed that I'm ... a bit depressed this evening. And a few of you have been wondering why."

"Back before the virus hit, way before, I had a girlfriend named Laura. She eventually left me for someone she felt 'needed her more'. My lovely Lorelei, who sang with me, wrote with me, and danced with me ... and kissed with me ... only kissed, folks, I'm saving myself for marriage ... left me. But I've always held out hope that she'd come back to me. You know the feeling, that little spot of hope that just refuses to die no matter how often you tell it it should. Well, tonight I got some news."

I clear my throat. My mask is slipping, you could say. But I force myself to go through with this. "Authorities have ... confirmed ... that on ... an unspecified date during ... the ... early days of the epidemic ... ... my lovely Laura Lorelei ... died ... from ... Mar ... tian ... Flu."

They're feeling sorry for me. And I don't care if they do. I've got to do this. My eyes are tearing, my throat closing ... but I have to do this. I force my emotions aside and continue. "The ... funeral was a ... family affair. Private. No site announced for the burial."

Just for a moment, I lose control and whine. But I wrench myself back to the part. "She was ... found abandoned ... in a small house in Missouri."

"Tonight ... I'd like to take a moment to ... remember her ... the only way I've ever known." Jack begins the intro. I take a last sip from my cola and compose myself.

"Lady ... Are ya crying?

Do the tears belong to me?

Did you think ... our time together ... was all done?

Lady,

You've been dreamin'.

I'm as close as I can be ... and I swear to you, our time ... has just

begun."

I lean into the song, pouring all the hurt and anger and pain and fear and sorrow itno it ... and letting it pour out of me.

"Close ... your eyes ... and rest your ... weary mind.

I promise ... I will stay ... right here beside you.

Today ... our lives were joined ... became entwined ...

I wish ... you could know ... how much I looooove you."

I open my eyes from the bridge and stare into eternity, letting myself howl away the pain for a while. Feeling my heart break and break again as I remember her long, black hair ... her beautiful blue eyes ... her laugh ... her kiss ... the scent of her skin and the joy of her wit ... and the beautiful contralto she had when she sang.

"Lady,

Are ya happy?

Do ya feel ... the way ... I do?

Are there meanings ... that you've never ... seen ... before?

Lady,

My sweet lady,

I just can't believe it's true.

And it feels as though I've never ... loved before."

Going into the second bridge, I open myself up, putting everything I have into forcing the notes louder and purer and sadder, trying to use up the hurt, trying desperately not to feel. But my teary eyes give me away as the water streams down my fur and onto my chest.

"Close ... your eyes ... and rest your ... weary mind.

I promise ... I will stay ... right here beside you.

Today ... our lives were joined ... became entwined.

I wish,

You could know,

How much I looooooooo-ove yoooooou."

Finally, I surrender to sadness, letting my voice ease itself into the final verse.

"Lady,

Are ya crying?

Do the tears ... belong ... to me?

Did you think,

Our time together,

Was all done?

Lady,

My, sweet lady.

I'm as close as I can be.

And I swear to you, our time ...

Has just begun ..."

As the piano trails off into silence, I bow my head ... and send a quick prayer to God. Asking him to take good care of her.

She deserves it.

As I walk back to the LB table, I can see I've caused a bit of a stir. I was a little surprised myself. As far as I could tell, my singing voice wasn't affected by the virus at all.

Donnie sends over another cola, and everyone pats me on the back and tells me how sorry they are ... except one.

Jack.

He comes over and says:

"She must've been something."

"She was wonderful", I manage through a tear-flooded throat.

And then ...

He ...

And the LB's ...

Hold me close.

And let my tears ...

... fall.

Tomorrow, I know, or the next day at the latest, I'll be back to normal. Back to smiling and joking, delivering quotes and trivia, speaking an occasional bit of Shakesperean dialect. My temper's too mercurial for anything long-term.

But right now ...

... it sure feels like forever.

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