My name's Bruce Forbes, but everybody except my closest friends call me Duke. I woke up pretty much the same way as I normally do, the sunlight shining through the slits in the blinds. I don't know why I even have the damn things, sometimes I think I should just paint the whole damn window black. Grumbling I rolled over pushing my muzzle into the mattress while pressing the pillow over my head. This seemed effective, there was no more light getting in. I lay there for a minute trying to get to sleep, This wasn't working, Damn! Then I heard it, the sound of doom, the sound I had been dreading. It was the harsh electronic BZZZ BZZZ BZZZ, as my alarm screamed at me.
I rolled onto my back again and threw the pillow at the window, “All right, All right, I'm up.” I cursed the alarm. Suffices to say I am by no means a morning skunk. I flicked the switch into the off position, finally silencing the shrieking device, and rolled my legs onto the floor. Standing up, I stretched my arms upward, while bending my back to work the kinks out.
Grabbing the housecoat off of it's place over the computer monitor I threw it on and tied it closed. Racheal hates it when I forget my housecoat and come walking out into the living room in just my boxer shorts. I trudged over to the door and pulled it open, Racheal was already at the table, munching down a bowl of some generic sugar frosted cereal.
“It lives.” She joked through a muzzle full of breakfast.
“Coffee.” I mumbled, doing my best zombie imitation. “Need Coffee.”
“Sorry,” Racheal responded. “I went to make you some but we're all out, will 'Homework Helper' do?”
“Yeah, whatever.” I dragged a chair away from the table and crashed into it, while Racheal made a trip to the fridge. While she was up I realized why my butt was so uncomfortable, When I had sat down my tail had drifted down between my legs and I was now sitting on it. I stood up to liberate my rear appendage and then sat down again, I hate mornings.
Racheal returned plunking a can of Jolt (tm) brand cola down in front of me, or as she called it Homework Helper. Mostly because it was practically considered a religious item among people studying for exams. I cracked the seal on the soda and drained half the can in a single slug, before letting it rest back on the table. I pried my eyes fully open and looked across the table at Racheal, she was already dressed. She was wearing a tight pair of denim cutoffs, and a T-shirt of some human musician, Allanis Morisette I think. I always felt she bought her shirts too small, they were so tight it was practically indecent. Sometimes I think she wears those tight clothes and short skirts just to annoy me. I hate it when guys start staring at her. And believe me, a gorgeous 19 year old skunk like her, dressed provocatively, and flirting with damn near anything with fur, they did stare. Of course she would say it's none of my business, but I don't give a damn. Next person who even looks at my little sister wrong it gonna get his muzzle rearranged. I call her my little sister because she is, even if I am only a year older.
I picked up the can of pop and gulped down another mouthful, “Wednesday, right?”
Racheal looked up again from her bowl, which she had just raised and drank the last of the milk from. “Yeah.”
“Okay, That means I have Lit in an hour.” Both me and Racheal attend the University of Vancouver, a fairly new university set up when the genius' at the ministry of education finally heard what people had been saying for years, that UBC was getting way too crowded. So they set up this place on the site of the old Douglas College on 140th in Surrey. I am an English major with a minor in Classic Literature, and in all modesty one of the up and comings in the fencing club. Racheal is studying to be a teacher. Officially she'll teach history, but what she really wants to teach is dance classes. Those're the other things she's taking, music and modern dance. Gulping down the last of the soda I vaulted the can towards the recycling bin with my best attempt at a basketball shot. It hit the wall and bounced back clattering to the floor about a foot from the bin and bouncing back to collide against the table leg next to my feet.
Racheal could barely control her giggle. “I see why you're a fencer, not a basketball player.”
“I'll leave basketball to the giraffes and foxes thanks.” I mumbled picking up the can and walking back to my room, dropping the empty into the bin as I walked by.
You see the genetic average for skunks is 5'9” tall and almost 200 lbs, not exactly built for jumping, but we make great wrestlers. Whereas the average for giraffes is almost 8 feet, and foxes, and weasels are over 6'4” usually.
Once back in my room I dropped the housecoat. I grabbed a pair of strategically torn jeans and put them on, and threading my tail through the slot. I grabbed one of my clean shirts off the pile, not really looking at which one. It had a picture of a male fox cowering in a gunsight with the words “ I hear you've been talking to my sister!” Not a bad choice, my friends had it specially made for my last birthday, Alvin drew the picture himself. Sliding it over my head I grabbed the last items I needed, my keys and a pair of John Lennon style sunglasses off the night stand. Sweeping out into the living room again I gave my sister a hug. “See you later Ray.”
I headed for the door and put on my shoes, then grabbing my pack I was gone.
As Lit ended there was the inevitable rush as everyone tried to grab their stuff and get out, some things never change. I was always one of the last people to leave because I chose not to rush out with everybody else, I'll wait the extra minute or so to leave. As I left Professor Cadin, a ill looking gazelle, with a nasty cough from years of chain smoking, was still gathering up his pile of books. Now there was a man who loved literature, He carried a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare in his bag at all times, and he could quote everyone from Shakespeare, to Dickens, to Hesse. I tried reading Hesse once, The Steppenwolf, I didn't like it, it reminded me too much of Kendin's poetry.
As I left the room I decided to go see what everyone else was up to, I had an free block before next class, time to check who's at the Cafeteria. I made my way across campus to the cafeteria, that's where most of the students hang out when they have time between classes and nowhere to go. It isn't uncommon to see somebody munching down a sandwich and writing an essay at the same time there. As I approached the building I could see through the main window, the place was packed as usual. I remember one time the place was so full there were no more chairs left, so somebody suggested that ' to save space Racheal should sit on somebodies lap'. So Racheal got up, strutted around to where he was sitting, and plunked herself right down in Carrie's lap, throwing her arms around Carries neck for effect. I'll never get over the look on Carrie's face, I swear her spots went white!
I pulled open the doors to the cafeteria and walked up to get in line. While I was waiting I looked around. A lot of humans but over against the one wall there were several tables of furries, including on where Racheal and some of the gang were sitting. I finally got up to the counter, and picked up a roast beef sandwich, an apple and a plastic cup of lemon pudding. I proceeded to the coffee machine near the till where I grabbed a cup. I grabbed four packs of sugar and poured them in, stirring it well. I stepped over to the till and dug through my pockets looking for my wallet. Then I got an image of it laying on the corner of the kitchen table, I'd forgotten to grab it this morning!
I dug through my pockets, desperately hoping that I would stumble upon a bill which hadn't quite made it to my wallet, but it wasn't looking good. The human woman at the till cleared her throat harshly and started tapping her fingers on the counter impatiently. As I rummaged through my pockets a hand full of cash dropped onto the counter by the till. Surprised, and very relieved I looked up to see my rescuer, it was Stewart, one of the guys I know from fencing.
“You owe me one, Duke.” He offered.
I smiled, “Thanks man,” I almost gave him a pat on the shoulder, but stopped at the last minute. That could be very painful when one is dealing with a porcupine. He was one of those weird guys who dress up those medieval clothes, and have their old style fairs. Apparently he was favored to win the kingdom rapier tournament this year.
Making a mental note to find a way to pay him back, as well as paying him back monetarily of coarse, I started walking over towards where Racheal and the others were sitting. As I made my way through the crowds I was bumped hard from the side by somebody, causing me to drop my sandwich and apple. “Sorry.” I apologized, not even really looking at the person I had bumped and bent over to retrieve my food, this sort of thing happened all the time.
“Why don't you watch where you're going, you walking throw rug?!” The man standing behind me yelled.
Standing up quickly I turned around to face him now. He was about 4 inches taller than me, but about the same weight, a human. “Sorry about that, I didn't see you there. You know how hard it can be trying to move around in here sometimes.” I was hoping to get out of this confrontation without a fight, but with a human I didn't think it likely. They love to fight and bully, especially furries. One of the psychology professors said it stems from an inferiority complex that they seem to have as a species. It had something to do with the fact that they had been around for longer.
“That how it is?!” the human spat, “You're a big tough furry, so you don't have to pay attention to us humans, we'll just get out of your way? We're not even worth noticing? Is that what you think?”
I was really starting to get annoyed at this whole racist crap,
“Listen, I said I was sorry, nothing got spilled, nobody got hurt. Lets just forget it and go our separate ways.”
“What's the matter furball? Scared? Looks like that stripe up your back should be yellow, not white.”
I knew I couldn't just turn and walk away from this situation, as much as I might want to. If I did him and his three buddies standing beside him would nail me from behind, I had to bluff my way out of this. “Listen man, I don't want to fight, but If you really want to. . . “
“Ohhh, “ he mocked, shaking in a bad imitation of fear. “Stop it you're scaring me.” Then he stopped taunting me and went back to macho posturing, “You sayin' you wanna fight?”
“Just get yourself a sword and we can settle this in a civilized manor.”‚
One of his buddies piped up, “Hey, you're in the fencing club, aren't you? Yeah, I hear you're supposed to be pretty hot shit.”
“What say we find out how tough he is?” The one who seemed to be the leader of this clique was talking again.
Then from behind them, “If you want to fight somebody, why don't you try me, and leave my friend alone?”
The leader smirked at me as he took a step back, then he suddenly whirled and tried to nail the challenger with a double hand shot to the side of the head. He connected, and then recoiled in pain, staring in shock at the quills now sticking out of the sides of his hands.
“That was a stupid thing to do wasn't it?” Stewart laughed. The human and his friends quickly left, presumably to go get the quills removed from his hands.
“Thanks, Stewart,” I chuckled. “That's another one I owe you, I'll figure out someway of paying you back.”
“How about letting me go out with your sister?” He joked, at least I think he was joking.
“That'll take more that two favors.” I laughed.
“Just let me know when I start getting close, okay.” he called as he moved into the crowd, which obviously parted to let him pass.
As I reached the table I took stock of who was here, Racheal, Alvin, and Sydney.
I pulled up a seat next to my sister. “Hey guys, “ I greeted. Sydney, the stereotypical blonde, not dumb, just a real airheaded. I'm sure she could be really smart if she just payed as much attention to what she was doing as the she did the guy walking by. She grew up in San Fransisco, and came here to go to school, she was in the classical animation program, specializing in the Japanese style. She was passing, but not by a large margin. Everytime she started to get ahead, she'd forget some detail and have to go back and do about an hour's work over again.
Ever notice how in most groups there is one person who everyone in the group likes, and they all go out of their way to hang around with them. That would be Alvin, art major, with a major interest in physical fitness. The ladies were practically throwing themselves at him, except for the one's in the gang of course. They all felt they were too good friends with him to date, but of course that didn't stop them, especially Racheal, from flirting. I don't know what it is about him, Maybe it's 'cause he's so outgoing, and friendly, maybe it's just something about foxes that make members of the opposite sex go nuts. As much as I hate the fact that no girls even give me a second glance when he's around, you just can't dislike the guy. Hell who am I kidding the girls don't give me a second glance any of the time.
“Hey B-man!” a familiar voice shouted from a short distance behind me. It was Leeroy, my best friend, and a fellow skunk. I turned to him, just looking at him he was Heavy Metal to the core. From the half dozen earrings and the leather jacket, right down to the ' Righteous Vixens' T-shirt, and red dyed stripe through his headfur. I swung my paw, grasping his and he clashed foreheads, in what was our traditional greeting.
“What's up Leeroy?” I asked.
“Not a fuckin' thing man. Hey Racheal, Syd.” He nodded his head in the ladies' direction. “Shit man, if I was you I would've just decked that fuckin' pinkie.” He punched the palm of his other paw, as he growled.
“Yeah, but if I did then he and his buddies would've just pounced me, and what good would that've done me.”
“Well, you know what I always say?” Sydney interrupted, as usual talking like an otter on speed. “Youknow, I always say that, like, violence doesn't really solve anything, youknow. I mean in LA, youknow, they got all those gangs and things. And like they're always, like killing each other and stuff, and youknow, it just goes on and on, and nobody ever really, like, notices that nobody really remembers why their fighting anymore. . . Youknow?”
“Bruce, “ Alvin interrupted, thankfully noticing this conversation was going nowhere. “
“You up for a game Friday night?”
“Sure, what about the others?”
“Haven't asked them yet, haven't seen them.”
“Well here's your chance, “ Racheal pointed out. “Here comes Mr. sunshine.”
I looked the way she was facing and sure enough, here came Kendin, and he looked as miserable as usual. Kendin is a bat, he's a nice guy, but prone to intense bouts of depression. He's also an outcast from his own kind. When he was still young his parents abandoned him when the doctors found that he suffered from Osteosclerosis. What that is is when the bones are harder and heavier than they should be, in most people this isn't a big problem, but in the case of a bat or other flighted animal, in renders them flightless. Their bones are so heavy they can not get airborne, and because of this he is an outcast from his own species. His is a sorry lot, he feels his wings make it hard for him to fit in among other furries, and because his wings don't work, he can't fit in among his own kind.
“Hey Kendin, “ Alvin greeted as he sat down at our table and began munching on an egg sandwich. “What's the good word man.”
“Good word, you're only fooling yourself my friend, in this world there is nothing remains that is not tarnished with corruption, specisism and hatred. We're spiraling into an endless pit of our own self destruction, and we all seem to be fighting over who gets the best view as we go.” The melancholy bat returned.
Leeroy shook his head, “Hey, Life's a bitch, either try to do something about it, or shut your fuckin' muzzle.” He snorted in disgust. Leeroy and Kendin didn't get along because Leeroy can't stand Kendin's whining, as he put it. I always stayed neutral in their arguments because both were my friends, and I didn't want to take a stand against my friend unless I had to.
Fortunately Racheal didn't have a problem speaking up, when she felt a friend was out of line, “Why don't you cut the guy a break, Flower?”
Leeroy stood up pushing his seat back and leaned across the table towards Racheal. “I told you, DON'T call me that!” He was snarling, and digging his claws into the table. As soon as his butt left his chair though I was up and in his face, He may be my best friend, but family is family, and it's my responsibility as her older brother to protect Racheal.
“Sit down, man, let's not make something of this.” I sternly warned, everyone who knows me knows that if you get involved in any way with Racheal expect me to be right there, and fortunately none of them hold it against me. Leeroy sat down again, but he was clearly still angry.
“What was that all about?” Alvin asked taking a sip of his chocolate milk, I swear he must buy that stuff by the gallon.
“We were walking in the mall then other day, the three of us, and we walked by the video store, you know the one in Gilford, next to the BMV.”
“Oh Yeah,” Sydney interrupted again, “I like was there the other day, The HMV I mean, not the Video store. I would never go there, they have, like that ugly Ben Taylor, working there. I mean, ohmygod, that guys face is like a magnet for like zits and stuff. I mean, most humans are like ugly, but I mean he is like so groddy.”
“Anyway, “ Racheal continued, you can tell no one ever really takes notice when Sydney is talking, “As we were walking by there there was this human lady with her kid going in. The kid must have been about about 3 or 4, it's hard to tell with humans. They were returning a copy of Bambi right? And then this kid just turns to Leeroy, points at him and says to her mom, ' Look mama, It's Flower.' “
“That was not funny.” Leeroy mumbled.
“I don't get it.” Sydney puzzled.
Kendin sighed, “My sister the imbecile.” You see, Sydney's family had taken in Kendin when he was about a year old, he grew up with them.
“Hey, “ Sydney objected, “What did you just call me?”
“Feel free to look it up sometime. “ He commented nonchalantly.
“Don't think I won't.” Sydney pouted.
“Hey, Kendin. We were thinking of getting a game together Friday, is that good for you?” I asked.
“Anything which can take my mind off the pathetic reality of my life, and provide the illusion that I am not who I am, and I am not alone, is good for me.”
There were times when I almost agreed with Leeroy, Kendin should get some serious psychiatric help.
“Anyone seen Carrie around?” I asked, she was the fourth member of our role playing game group. He got together whenever we could and played a game called ' Fur Off Lands', where we each take the role of characters, anthropomorphic in nature, set in a distant world where magic was real, and there war was waged with bows, and horsemen, not with guns and missiles. The original version of the game was created by a group of humans who knew nothing of real furries, and was rather cliche' but all in all not bad.
“I haven't seen her yet, but she's in my modern dance class, this afternoon. “ Racheal replied, in answer to my question about Carrie.
“Okay, can you tell her we want to get together for a game Friday?”
“Sure, “ She answered. “Although I don't understand what you guys see in that dumb game.”
“It's simple, “ Alvin offered, “You get to act out a role, and do things you either wouldn't or couldn't in real life. It's also great problem solving.”
Kendin cut in with his opinion, “Also It's nice to get away from your real life by taking on the role of someone else, someone with far more desperate problems than yours. I mean being thrown into the prison of the Lord of Tarentia Swamp, to be eaten, makes little things like being an outcast seem like nothing.”
“Which reminds me.” I remembered, “Carrie still owes me 15 gold zirgs, for having to replace my lock picks after I lost them in the swamp getting out of there.”
“Why does Carrie, owe you for that?” Alvin questioned.
“'Cause it was her fault we got thrown in there.” I went into a bad imitation of the stereotypical feamle's voice, “Let's go through this forest it's quicker.” I returned to my normal voice, “I still think I should have been able to tell that it was a swamp not a forest from our map.”
“Did you make your map reading check?” Kendin cut in.
“That's not the point, I don't think a roll should be required for that.”
“I told you, “ Alvin explained, “The map was badly smudged because of being stored in that damp cave. It was barely legible, any reading of the map required a roll, sometimes with certain bonuses, I can't help it you rolled a one.”
I grumbled to myself, I knew he was right, but I was still going to try to get my zirgs out of Carrie. That is once our characters found some money. “Hey Bruce?” Alvin called.
“You working tonight?”
“Yeah, 5:00 to midnight. Why?”
“I was wondering if you could record something for me.” He grinned like a child trying to get a new toy out of it's mother.
“You mean you still haven't taken your VCR in to get the recording heads fixed?” I teased, I knew that it was a rare occurrence when Alvin wanted to record anything, hardly worth putting out scarce money to get his fixed.
“Tell you what, when I win the lottery that's the first thing I'll do, deal.” He offered his paw.
I chuckled, “What's on and when?”
“Thanks man, “ he sighed, “Space: the Sci-Fi channel is showing Attack of the 50 foot woman, the original staring Allison Hayes, it's on at 8:00.”
“No problem Alvin, I'll set it to record before I go to work.”
“Why do you like those movies, “ Kendin asked, “They are some the the worst pieces of crap I've ever seen.”
“Well really that's part of their charm, they're so bad they're good.”
“Hey brother, “ Racheal interrupted. “Don't look now but there goes your girlfriend.” She said sarcastically, I looked where she was looking, my eyes settled on Maggie Tareck. She was one of the most beautiful girls in the college, with her long rabbit ears and her soft black fur. I had been attracted to her ever since I saw her in my english class. She was heading towards a recently vacated table in the corner, carrying a tray with a small salad and a tin of apple juice. She looked as though she were about to cry. I don't know why but I had to go and talk to her, I couldn't stand to see her looking so miserable. She looked like she needed someone to talk to. I grabbed my food and excused from my friends. As I made my way over I planned, trying to think of some way to spend some time alone with her, then maybe I could find out what was bothering her. Then It came to me, I had no classes tomorrow, if she didn't then we could maybe . . . maybe . . . maybe what? Hmmmm. I think she likes hiking, that could work, being an avid hiker myself I knew almost all of the hiking trails in the area. Yeah, that would do just fine. I was almost at her table now, I took a deep breath and stepped up.
“You mind if I sit down?” I ventured, just being this close to her my heart was going nuts.
She sighed and gave an unenthusiastic ' sure'. As I sat down I noticed, streaks of damp fur down her cheeks, she had been crying recently.
“You okay? “ I asked a little unsure of whether this was a good idea. Well It wasn't too late too abandon the plan but for some reason I couldn't.
“I'd rather not talk about it.” She dismissed, not even looking at me, as she prodded her salad with her fork.
“Okay.” I paused should I really do this, I mean what business is it of mine? No I had to do this, I don't know why, maybe it was the fact that looking at her so obviously distraught was like taking a punch in the gut from a bear. “Umm, the reason I came over here was that I was going to go for a hike tomorrow out in Kitsilano, and I hate hiking alone, the beauty of nature is better when it's shared with someone.” She sighed, I'm not sure whether she thought this was just another furrie's pathetic attempt to hit on her or what. I imagine she must get a lot of that. “Anyways, “ I continued, “The guy I was going hiking with canceled out, and I remembered seeing you on the trails a couple times, so I was wondering if you wanted to go with me . . . That is if you're not busy.” I stammered.
She sat for a moment stabbing some more at her salad. She seemed to be thinking deeply, hey that was a good sign, at least she had to think about it. She stabbed a piece of radish which journeyed to her mouth, accompanied by a piece of lettuce which had been unintentionally taken along for the ride. She thought some more. I was just about to apologize for bothering her and leave when she looked up from her tray for the first time since I had sat down. She sighed,”Sure, sounds like fun.” The sound in her voice indicated to me she may have simply been humoring a probably obviously love struck fur, but either way.
“If you'll excuse me, I'm not really hungry, “ she got up and grabbed her juice. She walked away from the table leaving her barely touched salad and headed for the door.
I sat at work that night thinking, had it really been a good idea to go interfering in Maggie's business. I wish I knew, but I guess that it was too late now, if I'd wanted to abandon the plan I should have done it earlier before I invited her. I turned to the little TV the boss kept in the behind the counter area so if things got slow we could watch, one of the things about working in an adult video store, it can get pretty slow sometimes. I flicked the channel to channel 2, the electronic listings. I waited about 2 minutes and the 7:30 listings came up. Nothing, Nothing, Seinfeld reruns, More nothing. Ain't that always the way, 60+ channels and nothing on. Oh well might as well check the news. One of the top stories was about a riot in Hong Kong, As if all the confusion from going back to the Chinese wasn’t enough. They went to a CBC correspondent on the scene.
“I am here outside the area that police have barricaded. Right now only law enforcement agents and medical personnel are being allowed in.” Behind the human woman the camera picked up the flashing lights from the police vehicles, and a number of ambulances taking people away. As she spoke a helicopter flew overhead. “The official word is that a Furry Rights march met with a group of human supremacy extremists. The situation quickly escalated into violence which resulted in one of the supremacists throwing a molatov cocktail into the crowd of furries. Unconfirmed reports currently indicate approximately two dozen furries killed and as many as four times that number injured. There were also believed to be 13 human casualties and as many as 20 injured. The furries were marching in protest to the reversion to Chinese law, claiming that their rights were being trampled under the new laws. By Chinese law furries are not entitled to any minimum wage, and are ineligible for any kind of government assistance. As well many businesses refuse to serve furries, claiming that they upset the human customers. The identities of the casualties have not been released yet, more on this as it develops. For CBC news, this is Sasha Petrovich in Hong Kong.”
It was situations like that that made me damn proud to be a Canadian. When furries first started appearing back in the sixties, a result of some bio-mutagentic virus, cooked up for the cold war escaped through the insect food chain and mutated on them, Canada immediately became a haven for our kind. The Canadian government considered furries to be exactly like everyone else, under the fur. It wasn’t until the mid eighties that Furries achieved equal rights in places like the States and Britain. Many other countries still saw them as second class citizen’s or worse. The problem was being made worse by the fact that there are more of us every year. The virus as it exists doesn’t affect people directly, it lies dormant in their system and affects their children, leading to what we term first generation furries. Furry kids with human parents. In china that problem was doubly bad, because of their one child laws. An estimated 150 furry children were killed in China every year at birth, because the parents would rather go childless than raise what they saw as a monster. And men and women who were not “infected” with the so-called fur virus very often refused to marry those who were not likewise “genetically pure” rather than chance having a furry child.
At this point someone walked into the store, I flicked the mute button on the remote as he walked up holding a couple videos for return. When he saw me he paused for a moment, looking unsure, he set the videos on the counter and quickly turned away to look at some of the new arrivals, as though he were embarrassed at what he had rented. I had seen the reaction before, but typically when Nancy was working, nice girl for a human. I looked at the videos he had dropped off, Red Hot Vixens III, and a Susan P. Wolfe film. I chuckled inwardly at his embarrassment, he was a yiff! That explained his reaction, yiff has two meanings, the one generally used by humans is when two furries have sex, the other, used almost exclusively by us furries, was a human who derived sexual pleasure from watching furries. That was one area where furries were still discriminated against, interspecies relationships between us and them were almost unheard of and were seen as immoral, and just as many furries felt that way as humans. In some areas of the United States, sex between a human and a furry fell under the heading of bestiality and was illegal. I don't understand that , I mean we are intelligent and reasoning, we can decide for ourselves whether or not to have sex, unlike mundane animals. The guy picked out a couple of more conservative films (yeah right, conservative porn) and brought them up to the counter.
“Your phone number?” I asked. He told me it and I keyed it into the computer, bringing up his account, “Did you know that we have a special deal. If you rent when you return you get three movies for he price of two?” I asked. I didn't smile because most humans can't really tell the difference between one expression and another when dealing with a furry.
He went back over too the new release shelf and started looking. After a moment he returned with another movie, and I typed their numbers into the computer. I collected the money and he was on his way, like a thief in the night. Personally I think he was just trying to get away from me, convinced I thought he was some sort of sicko for renting furry porn. Hey I've seen human porn, Personally it doesn't do anything for me, all that naked skin, but to each his own I guess. As he was on his way out another customer came in, oh no. Neil Towner, what can I say, It's guys like him who give wolves a bad reputation. He dated Racheal for a while, until she caught him locking muzzles with some vixen, I warned him then that if he ever came near her again I'd deal with him on a permanent type basis. Apparently he had a tendency of doing that, keeping at least two girls on the go at once. He walked over to the magazine rack and started scanning through. After that he went over to the furry movie shelf where I was putting back the cases of the ones that the guy before had returned. I moved back to the counter as he looked over the shelf. After a minute Neil approached the counter with a movie and a couple of magazines, one was 'Pet', a furry division of Penthouse, and the other an adult furry fiction magazine called Furry Pleasures, named for an internet story archive. The movie was the same Susan Wolfe movie that I'd just replaced, not uncommon, her movies tended to fly out of the store as soon as they came back. As I rang up the purchase he decided to make small talk, I think he just wanted to bother me.
“Hey Bruce, “ he greeted like we were the best of friends.
Right then I wanted to just deck him out, but he was a customer, I couldn't even talk to him the way I would like, “Please, “ I said with an obviously forced politeness, “call me Duke.” Everybody who knew me knew that only my closest friends called me by my given name, hell most people didn't even know my real first name.
“Why Bruce, I'm wounded, “ He feigned insult. “You'd think that by now we know each other well enough for me to call you by your first name.”
“That comes to $12.47, and the movie is due back on Fri by 7:00.” I cut off, ending this conversation in the most obvious manner allowed as long as he was a customer and not really causing trouble.
He put a ten, a two dollar coin and two quarters on the counter and started walking out, calling over his shoulder, “Keep the tip.” and he smirked in that annoying way he did.
One of these days that guy was gonna push me too far!
I shifted the hiking pack off my shoulders and set it down gently on the ground. It sure was nice to get out on the trails and somewhat back to nature. The hiking trails out here are incredible, they're maintained in top condition but they are stuck right in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery the lower mainland of British Columbia has to offer. The only thing marring the almost completely natural setting, was every once in a while there was a rest station. Just a little bench, painted dark brown, set in a clearing barely big enough to accommodate it off the side of the trail. Maggie sat herself down on the bench, half suppressing a rather unhappy sigh, she'd been distracted all morning, and not by the scenery. Well this is why I brought her out here, I had been hoping that maybe once he got out on the trails into the wilds which called to both of us, she would have at least cheered up a little. She had that far away look in her eyes, more so than rabbits usually do, her mind was clearly somewhere else. I sat myself down next to her and pulled two juices out of my pack, I held one out to her, “Juice?”.
“Thanks, “ she mumbled, not really all here.
“Are you alright?” I ventured, kind of leaning to look her in the face.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm okay.” She replied unconvincingly.
“It's just, you've seemed distracted all morning.” I was hoping this wouldn't be pressing too hard but sometimes in order to get at the problem below the skin, it becomes necessary to break to surface layer. “And, the other day at school, I couldn't help but notice that you had been crying.” She inhaled sharply, and turned herself away from me, not seeming angry, but embarrassed. “So, If you want to talk about what's bothering you . . .” I just trailed off.
“No thank you, “ she replied rather coldly, it was clear that this was none off my business.
“Alright, “ I pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled down some things. Then I offered her the paper, “Well here's my e-mail, phone and ICQ numbers, if you ever want to talk about it and need a willing ear, I'll be there for you.” She reached her paw over and gently took the paper from me. We sat in silence for a bit and sipped our juice, before we carried on, but after that not much was said between us for the rest of the hike.
I kicked off my shoes, and pushed them towards the closet with my feet. It had been nearly a month since my hike with Maggie. It had been a long night, Friday was always nuts at the store but tonight was the busiest I'd ever seen it. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed my favorite cup from the drying rack by the sink. It was nice that I could always expect a fresh half pot of coffee when I got home, Racheal would start it about ten minutes before I was due. Pouring myself a steaming cup and adding a slightly more generous than usual helping of sugar I trudged towards the table. Racheal was pouring over the newspaper at her end, “How was it tonight?” she asked not even looking up from the paper.
“Crazy,” I replied sitting down. Racheal picked up the highlighter next to her and circled something in the paper. “Any good prospects?”
“A couple half decent, but if it wasn't for you I'd still have a job.” she cut back.
“There was no way I was going to let my sister take a job as a damn hooker!”
“Dancer thank you.” she returned.
“Whatever, I wasn't then and am not now going to let you take a job where you are flaunting your naked body around on public display.” I snarled.
She set down the paper, preferring not to be distracted while we argued this out. “First of all I wasn't nude, topless, yes, but not nude. If we were in Ontario I could walk down the street like that if I wanted.”
“Like hell you could! Not that it matters anyway with the way you dress most of the time.”
“There was nothing wrong with that job, In the two days I worked there I made almost as much in tips as you earn in a week at that store, which if you ask me is no less immoral than working at the Cozy Kitten.”
“ It's entirely different, the videos we rent aren't living, some guy can't watch a video, go around the corner and wait for the girl who starred in it. It's bad enough Carrie works at that hole, putting herself on display like a piece of meat hanging in the window of a deli. She may as well have a price tag on her, Snow Leopard sirloin $ 0.39 a pound”
“Bruce, we need the money, there's not much left of our student loan excess.”
“Check page 11, under sales, about halfway down.” I sighed pushing the paper towards her.
Racheal flipped to the page and scanned for a minute before locating what I was referring to, “For sale '71 plymoth Caravelle, fully restored, contact . . .” She stopped reading, “This is Alvin's number.”
“I didn't want to tell you, he let's me know if anyone's interested in the car.”
“You can't sell the car!” she shrieked.
“We live just a short walk from the school, and it only takes me 15 minutes to get to work.”
“I don't care, Dad bought that car when he was 16, he and mom had their first date in that car. I was born in the back seat for christ's sake!”
“This isn't easy for me either.” I mumbled my eyes on the table. “Uncle Sean and I rebuilt that car from the frame up, after dad died. It was my only escape, but like you said we need the money, and with what they charge furries for insurance we'll save a bundle.” I couldn't face her right now.
“Don't sell the car,” she pleaded, “I'm sure Carrie can get me the job again, just please, don't sell the car, mom and dad wouldn't want it that way.”
“They wouldn't want you taking off your clothes in front of perfect strangers for a living either!” I snapped.
“Bruce, let's not fight okay. I mean all we have left is each other.”
I sighed, “You're right. We'll see what happens, but I will not have you working in that seedy little bar.”
“How would you know it's so seedy, unless you've been there?” she teased, I don't know if she knew how close she was.
“So, what, it's good enough for other girls, and it's okay for you to go drooling over them like some kind of animal, but It's not good enough for me?” She started getting angry again as the tip of her tail thrashed like a fish on the beach.
“I didn't go there to watch.” I defended.
“Oh right, that's what they all say, why did you go there pray tell, the dignified atmosphere, the classical baroque architecture maybe?” She was rightly pissed.
“I went there because Carrie was attacked, okay.” I cut back.
“Oh god,” she paled, “I'm sorry . . . I didn't know. Carrie never said anything about it.”
“What I described actually happened to her, fortunately a car passed by and scared him off, but since then one of us guys has gone down there to see her home every night she works. That's what Leeroy was doing there that night when he saw you.”
“That jerk?” she kidded half-heartedly, “Who would've thought he had it in him to do something so decent.”
“Hey take it easy, he is my best friend you know. Underneath that gruff New Yorker exterior is a heart of gold” She kind of looked at me sceptically out of the corner of her eye. “All right, “ I conceded “So he does buy plastic figures of cutesy children's shows just to watch them melt. So what if he has a picture of Walt Disney on his dart board, which he trades off for superman. He just had a bad childhood and anything childishly cute reminds him of it, and so he projects his anger onto anything goody-goody or wholesome.”
“Alright, I'll lay off flower.” She laughed.
“If you keep calling him that, he might let it slip to the rest of the gang what he saw at that bar.” Bar wasn't really the word for it, it was like a old style english pub with a stage for the dancers, and a really bad infestation of termites. The place reeked of old beer and when you walked into the place you could practically feel your shoes sticking to the floor. It probably should have been closed down years ago but they had a tendency to know when they were getting an inspection and cleaned the place up.
We both laughed and I put my arms around her, she was my little sister and she was all I have left of my family, besides the humans, not taking anything away from Uncle Sean. I think she forgave me if maybe I held on to her a bit too tightly.
I walked into my bedroom, I don't know how long we had just stood there, holding each other and thinking of mom and dad. We finally had separated and I left Racheal to her job search. I turned on my computer and sat down with a cup of coffee while it booted, in a minute the windows '95 screen came up. I clicked on the dialer for my internet access, see if any of my friends down in the states had e-mailed me. Once connected I proceeded to hotmail. My in-box came up with three new e-mails, one from a friend in Texas, and another from Maine. The last was from an address I didn't recognize, a hotmail account under NightRabbit, intrigued I clicked on the header for this message.
The computer brought up the message, It read,
You said if I ever needed someone to talk to you were there for me, I'm hoping that still holds true, my ICQ is #31823479. Please, I need someone to talk to.
We talked for hours, by the time we were done it was already starting to get light outside, I was certainly glad it was a weekend, and I didn't have to go to school that day. She had indeed been looking for someone to open up to and get her problems off her chest, right now I was half wishing that I hadn't volunteered my ears. Because considering her problem and the nature of my feelings for her, which she gave no indication of being aware of, The discussion had left me in somewhat of a similar state. Her problem as it turned out was the same as mine, she was in love but didn't know how to tell them. Only her problem had an added twist he was dating someone, in fact, although she didn't know it, he was dating a few someones. She was in love with Neil Towner, of all people. She had talked of how much she loved him, and wanted to tell him how she felt, and also of how much it hurt to see him with someone else, unaware that I knew all to well what she was going through. Indeed hearing her sing the praises of that arrogant, womanizing, bastard was a torture more painful than anything found in a medieval dungeon. As I lay down on my bed I turned the radio on for some music as I went to sleep. They played, “Love Stinks” by the J. Geils Band, “You love her, But she loves him. And he loves somebody else, you just can't win.” he sang gently, it was like he was singing about us specifically, “And so it goes, 'till the day you die, this thing they call love, it's gonna make you cry. I've had the blues, the reds and the pinks, one thing for sure, Love Stinks.”
“Brother, “ I muttered rolling over, “You said a mouthful.”