liza Jan 2015

There are some places that can't be touched and there are some places that can't be kissed and there are some places that need to be kissed and some of those places haven't been discovered. I'm a handbook. Sex is like drivers ed. Am I crying, or shaking from pleasure? Dirty. Sometimes hands are there that aren't really. Sometimes fare fine linen fingers feel like brown bony paws that don't listen to "let go".
Fuck me. Even when my eyes get glossy and you're wondering if I'm still there. I'm there. Grab me. Sex isn't always this way.

Sometimes I'm in charge, but it isn't freaky. Don't call me a freak, call me lovely. I can fuck fuck fuck, but don't whisper that it's dirty; it isn't "dirty". Sweating and running make-up. Heavy breathing. Wheres my body, wheres my mind? Don't call it nasty. It's not "nasty". Grabbing, groping, grinding; it isn't lewd. Don't call me a slut.
Touch me and remind me that I'm pleasing. Touch me and remind me that there's only me. Touch me and enjoy it. Enjoy me.
I want the lights on. I want the lights off. I want you you you.

Sex isn't always this way; sometimes I'm in charge.

Toni Seychelle Feb 2013

The ground beneath the stiff leaves is frozen. The cold, brisk air invades my lungs, I exhale, my breath visible. I step over fallen branches and tugged by thorny vines. A red tail hawk screeches overhead, this is a sign of good luck. There is no path, no trail to mark our way, just an old, flat railroad bed surrounded by walls of shale, blown up for the path of the train so long ago. The only ties to remind of the rail are the rotting, moss covered ties that once were a part of a bridge that would have carried the train over a small creek between two steep hills. I see a fox burrow, and it's escape hatch is one of the hollowed railroad ties. I want to be a fox... The trek down this hill is not easy, thorny blackberry bushes and fallen trees impede progress. At the bottom, the small, bubbly creek is frozen at the edges, traveling under rocks and continuing its ancient path. I look up the hill that I just descended, and wonder how the return will go. Keep moving. The next hill will be easier, there are no thorny tangles, just treacherous leaf litter that will give under my feet if I don't find the right footing. The trick is to dig my boots into the ground as if I'm on steps. These hills are steep. Finally at the top, I look back at this little spring valley, I'm not that high up, but what view. Here, there is a dilapidated tree stand, falling apart from years of neglect and weather. Surrounded by deep leaf litter, there is a patch of rich dark earth, a buck has marked his spot, his round pellets are nearby. The saplings catch my hair as I walk by, and at these moments I am thankful for this cold snap that took care of the ticks. A creepy feeling takes over me, so thankful for this snap. A few feet further, as I watch where I am walking, another tussled bit of earth and I notice some interesting scat. It's furry and light grey; I poke it with my stick and find a small skull when I turn a piece over. Owl. I continue my walk, I didn't come here to play with poo. The last time I took this hike was three years ago, on a similar frigid day. It was a lot easier to make it through the shale valleys. Last summer, a wind storm felled trees and took out power for two weeks. The evidence of that derecho is clear here in this untouched forest. I remembered a tree, which now is a fallen giant, that had lost it's bark. The bark had separated and laid around this tree like a woman's skirt around her ankles. Now the tree lies with it's bark. I pass another tree I recognize whose branch extends out but zig zags up and down, as if it had three elbows. The tree signifies my next move, to descend from the flat railroad bed, down to a creek that flows through the tunnel that would have carried the train. The creek is considerably larger than the last creek I could step across. Descending towards the creek leads me over moss covered rocks and limbs, still bearing snow. Outside the tunnel, the hill walls are large stones, covered in a thick layer of moss, some of which has started to fall off due to heaviness. There's a sort of ice shelf in the creek, it's three layers thick and can support my one hundred and twenty pounds. Laying across the creek is another derecho-felled tree. Some sort of critter has crawled on this, using it to avoid the water below and as a short cut up the hill. His claw marks are covering the the limb, a few are more clear, it looks as if the creature almost slipped off. His claw marks show a desperate cling. I walk through the tunnel, in the mud and water; the creek echoes inside. I look above. There are drainage holes lining the ceiling, one is clogged by a giant icicle. I imagine the train that used to ride over this tunnel, I pretend to hear it and feel the rumbling. The last time we were here, we found cow skeletons. We placed a few heads on branches and one over the tunnel. We stuck a jaw, complete with herbivore teeth, into the mossy wall and a hip bone on a sapling. The hip bone reminded us of Predator's mask in the movie. All these bones are turning green. When I was here before, there was a bone half submerged in the creek; I had taken a picture of it but today, it isn't here. I'm sure it was washed away. After our exploration of the previous visit, we turned back. We are cold again, can't stay in one place too long. I climb through the deep leaf litter and over the rocks back to the railroad bed. Passing all the things I've already seen and spotting things I missed. I find two more fox burrows. They utilized the shale rock and burrowed underneath the jutting formations. Hidden coming from the south, the gaping openings seem welcoming from the north. My friends, the spelunkers and climber, want to descend into the darkness but I remind them, it is an hour to sundown, our trek is hard enough with overcast daylight. Wisdom prevails. We pass a tree, we didn't notice before, that was struck by lightening. The cedar tree was split in two and fell down the shale wall. I see the evidence of the burn and a smoldered residue at the base. Nature has a cruel way of recycling. The downed tree still has snow on it and the path of a raccoon is visible, I like the paws of coons. Though the way is flat, the walls of shale tower above us, limiting routes. At one point I can't see through the fallen trees I have to pass through. I have to crab walk under, crawl over, duck again and find my way around the thorny collections of bare black berry bushes. Finally into a clearing, still surrounded by sharp shale, there is another wall covered in inches of thick, healthy moss. I place my hand, taking time to stroke the furry wall. My hand leaves an imprint. I wonder how long that will last.. Back down the steep hill up and up the thorny tangle. I know I'm on the right path up, I see the fox's hole through the railroad tie, and his entrance burrow up the hill. Going down was definitely easier. The summit is literally overgrown with thorns, there is no clear path through. It is, again, impossible to see through the tangle of limbs and saplings and more thorns. Somehow we make it through. We are close to breaking off this path. We know this by the remains of a cow skeleton that more than likely fell from the top of the shale cliff. Femurs and ribs and jaws abound. On the last trip, we placed a hip bone in the "Y" of a sapling. The young tree has claimed it, growing around it. We add a piece of jaw to the tree's ornamentation and move on. We climb down from the railroad bed to our car - parked on the side of the road with a white towel in the window so that no one suspects a group of people walking through private property, past faded NO TRESPASSING signs.

When I undress for bed later, there are many small scratches up and down my legs from those damned thorny vines. I'm okay with that, it's better than searching for ticks in my head.

I couldn't write a 'poem' about this hike. It was too full of nature.
howard brace Sep 2012

     He'd been conceived in Flamborough, so his little sister assured him some eleven summers ago, which was a tad hard for Rocky to swallow, she was a whole eighteen months his junior and then some... and at that age, well... what did she know, she was only a kid, "on this very rock" River insisted, kicking her heels in delight, "next to this very rock pool" they were both sitting beside, "one sunny afternoon eleven years ago..." and that was how he came by the name of Rocky... she taunted as the rest of the colourful story unfolded... and that she had it all on the best possible authority... although the more she thought about it, had she meant concealed... she wasn't quite sure now, it was all so very confusing at her tender age but thought it sounded close enough not to matter too much and that she would just wait and see which way the wind blew.
     It was conceivably an ill wind that blew no one any good that day, especially if you were a boy and just happened to be sat by a rock pool next to your little sister...  Having just taken a well earned drink from a neighbouring rock pool, Sockeye the floppiest Springer Spaniel this side of the Pecos decided that he was going to dig a hole and that he would be digging it deep, then changed his mind mid-dig and decided to have a more down to earth back scratching wriggle instead... then promptly flopped over and slid into the hole... life was sweet.  Now covered from nose to tail with every species of deceased shore life usually found frequenting the high water mark Sockeye, in a blinding flash of canine inspiration judged it would be in everyone's best interest were he to have a really good shakedown which always appeared to go down well on these occasions... and give everyone a good peppering, just so they could see exactly what they'd been missing all their lives.  

     "A rock of all places, for goodness sakes..." and what's more, it was this rock, "Yuk..." he jumped up and wiped his palms on the back of his jeans in disgust, then onto his tee-shirt, then sat back down again and began exploring his left nostril in quiet contemplation before finally jambing his hands back into his pockets... what in Heaven's name had his parents been thinking of..? what on earth was his little sister talking about..? and more to the point, what in fact did conceived mean..?  these were the questions that were uppermost in Rocky's mind as he poked an exploratory stick into the rock pool...  a baby crab marooned by the tide scampered sideways beneath a large pebble and stuck one beady eye out at him... Rocky's sister, seemingly in a world of her own, much like the baby crab sat on the edge of the noteworthy rock kicking her heels, an innocent smile curled the corners of her mouth as she quietly hummed a little song of tuneful bliss to herself and considered what further mischief she could possibly pass her brother's way.

     Rocky tossed a piece of driftwood over his sisters shoulder at a nearby flock of seagulls, squabbling over what appeared to be a discarded bag of fish and chips... Sockeye, simply knowing that his little master wanted to play a game of fetch gambolled after the stick, his ears flying courageously in the still Summer air and burst, amid a melee of feathers into their midst, only to romp back moments later, the stick all but forgotten in the excitement but now proudly sporting the derelict bag of leftovers and the odd splash of guano, his tail lolloping magnificently from side to side... and for the moment at least, leaving the fratching seagulls wheeling noisily overhead and to go about their daily business without further interruption... as for Sockeye, it had been a no contest situation.

     After fourteen years of valiant endeavour his father... Red, so named for his vivid shock of wiry hair, was still engaged in man's eternal struggle to win his significant other half's approbation with the manful art of deck-chair assembly, beach barbeque and other significant gentlemanly pursuits, all while strutting his manly stuff, sporting top of the range beach wear in accordance with the social etiquette of the previous decade... his masculine paunch slumping gallantly atop his waistband...  

     After the same fourteen terms of domestic servitude and the same thirteen identically overlooked anniversary cards a certain someone had no intention of allowing another certain someone to forget so much as one of them... his better half, so she insisted would ride rough shod, administering her own brand of justice at every given opportunity, in much the same way you'd brandish a royal-flush on poker night... or better still, a loaded revolver... and that she personally carried the burden of every ill-fated card that Lady Luck had dealt strung about her neck like Adam's original sin on Judgement Day.  

     Red much preferred the shorter, more condensed name of Rock for his son, rather than the longer more protracted Rocky, as he struggled with the wood and canvas lounger badly trapping the mound of his thumb in the process, "Aaargh...!!!" plunging his throbbing hand deep into the cold, soothing rock-pool "aaah...!!!"   Still marooned by the tide, the baby crab stood poised and ready for action as it considered giving this latest intrusion a good offensive nip, then hang on spitefully as it gave Red the final withering once over with the same baleful eye it had successfully used earlier.

     Acknowledging her husbands misfortune with a perfunctory grunt as she rummaged in her beach-bag for the thermos, she refused to be drawn in where thumbs were concerned right now, after all with his DNA sequencing she was convinced he could probably grow a new one within the month... whilst Tina, well... she was just plain worn-out... but still rejoiced in telling anyone who cared to lend a sympathetic ear in her direction... and who in turn was more than happy to listen to the woes of others and went somewhere along the lines of... 'and had she heard any more of poor Mrs Dorey's lingering martyrdom recently..? you know, the downtrodden lady who lives in the next street but one... and how they would all miss her when she was gone... and how she couldn't wait...' and as rumour had it, neither could her husband...

      Feigning to be otherwise engaged, Tina... as her husband, now blowing frantically on his mangled thumb, stumbled backwards over the half erected lounger and with a spine jarring "Ooomph...!!!" landed squarely in Sockeye's subsiding earthworks... professed total disassociation with the entire fiasco as she plunged her nose even deeper into the overdue library book she'd purposely brought on holiday for just such an occasion, making it perfectly clear that she was a tourist and furthermore, planned to stick with the same itinerary once they returned home... and that while she was here, she did not under any circumstances wish to be disturbed, the notice was clearly displayed hanging from the door handle... but if anyone should, then whoever it was did so at their own peril... and she was keeping score... although a mangled thumb she luxuriated, with the same roguish smile curling the corners of her mouth as the one normally found playing around her daughter's... was equally as heart warming.

      All Tina wanted was one week of uninterrupted peace and quiet in Flamborough, preferably with a certain someone out from under her feet then spend what might pass for several undisturbed hours sitting quietly by the rock pool comparing notes on eye makeup and the feminine merits of pedicure with the little crab who, still marooned by the tide was now sat busily knitting four pairs of matching leg warmers in the cool, still water but that was only if that certain someone... a shrill  "AAaargh...!!!" somewhat more desperate than the first, thrust itself upon the as yet unaggressive afternoon as it gyrated across the warm Jurrasic rock and recoiled out to sea... "now where was I", twisting her book uppermost "oh yes..! someone was going to pay..." only now it was going to be sooner rather than later, but only if that certain someone didn't finish the seating arrangements before the Sun disappeared and drift into some backstreet tea-room before all the lemon cheesecake sold out, or was that she reflected, simply too much to ask.

     It was his Surname that Rock found so objectionable, or it had been right up until his little sister's enlightening disclosure, now it was both names Rocky disliked, it would have been far kinder had Rock Salmon been sandwiched between sliced bread and given to Sockeye... who's solemn duty, from the first mouthful to the very last, was to gaze up beseechingly from beneath the kitchen table  and devour anything that passed his way, even the postman had to be quick about his business or have his arm follow the mail through the letter box... then Sockeye would just smack his lips and help himself to seconds.  

     All Rocky's mum had thought about for the last fourteen years was seconds... every last solitary one of them since she'd suffered with an infection of matrimonial neurosis which had deprived her of common sense and her maiden name, from Chovey to that of Salmon and how with hindsight she should have taken an Aspirin instead, wedlock she asserted was everything the name claimed to be and was without doubt the worst move she'd ever made... and what's more was seen as a bad move in whoever's wedding album you just happened to be paying your condolences to.

     Rocky would never be so fortunate on that score, unlike his sister he was stuck with Salmon for good, his grandma-Ann by all accounts had been dead set against the union from word Go and saw his father as someone who would always be out of his depth in whatever rock pool he found himself in, swimming against the tide as it were, rather than going with the flow... and it appeared that Rocky, almost eleven years into a life sentence, was about to flounder in the same murky undertow as the rest of the Salmon family... only he couldn't swim.

     "There"! her husband exclaimed "all finished... better late than never eh', who fancies trying it"? his wife luxuriated over the words 'better late' and wondered whether her new earrings, her latest acquisition would complement formal mourning attire.  Red dusted off the palms of his hands with the certain knowledge of a job well done and cautiously took one step back, looking with justifiable pride at the outcome of his manly exertions of the last two hours, this was what holidays were all about he declared, one man pitted against insurmountable odds...  His wife meanwhile was getting to grips with more odds of her own than you could safely expect to shake a stick at... her husband being one of them.  

     Having gathered her offspring with the promise of verbal earache if they didn't... and finished packing the beach-bag, Tina finally located Sockeye peering out from the shade of an adjacent rock, wisps of feathers poked tellingly from the corners of his mouth, his tail beating mischievously on the shingle decided in one further blaze of canine brainstorming, as Tina attempted to slip his collar on that a game of tag would just about round the day off nicely... Tina then devoted the next ten minutes chasing him amid unrestrained salvo's of cheering from the rest of the family... then bid goodbye to the little crab who, still marooned by the tide waved a friendly pincer in return... and trusted that she wouldn't have too long to wait for the next rising tide back home, then she slid off the rock with a corrosive... "the deck-chair attendant would have shown you" she snapped "and don't forget the deposit when you take them back" then double checking that she landed squarely on his foot she marched past, her floral sun hat jammed resolutely on her head at what she considered a jaunty angle with her equally jaunty, angular children scrambling in hot pursuit, back in the direction of their lodgings.  

     "Woof "..? said a bewildered Sockeye, bringing everyone to an abrupt halt... and with paws the size of place-mats, he wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to... he hunkered down with a look of hurtful accusation on his face, "oh yes you are my lad"! said his mistress "I've met your sort before" and knew exactly where to place the toe of her dainty size-5 as Sockeye, digging his heals in even further created swathes of canine furrows up the beach, leaving her husband the unwitting holder and in sole possession of the overlooked guest-house keys... and somewhat resigned to clean up his own masculinity and dismantle the recently assembled, now redundant deck-chairs by himself... as for Tina, well... she'd had quite enough excitement for one day thank you very much.

     Morning register was always the worst he thought, as they trooped back along the shingle beach, Rocky making surprisingly good furrows of his own... but the rest of the class loved it and saw it as the highlight of each day... Rocky's form teacher, despite showing a brave face was always hard pressed to avoid bursting into hysterics every time she worked her way down the register to the letter 'S' and would attempt to bypass it altogether, jumping from 'R' to 'T' and just prayed that no one else had noticed, but it hadn't taken the class very long to point out her oversight and... "please Miss" they'd all chant "we haven't had Salmon all week" and while the rest of the class were having convulsive fits, Rocky would elbow the lad sat at the next desk in the ribs... and promptly get one hundred lines for his trouble... thank goodness it was school holidays.  Why couldn't they have been given respectable names like Seymour Legge, Rock wondered, who sat over by the window or perhaps the teachers pet, Anna Prentice or even, Robyn Banks at a pinch, but definitely not what they'd been given and certainly not Salmon, they were the most hilarious names he could imagine and if someone was looking down on them right now he thought... then they had a very unique sense of humour indeed and Rock said so... "why" his little sister asked sweetly, "what's wrong with River Salmon".

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a work in progress                                                        ­                                                              240­6

Mitchell Duran Dec 2013

In the Fall, when the temperature of the Bay would drop and the wind blew ice, frost would gather on the lawn near Henry Oldez's room. It was not a heavy frost that spread across the paralyzed lawn, but one that just covered each blade of grass with a fine, white, almost dusty coat. Most mornings, he would stumble out of the garage where he slept and tip toe past the ice speckled patch of brown and green spotted grass, so to make his way inside to relieve himself. If he was in no hurry, he would stand on the four stepped stoop and look back at the dried, dead leaves hanging from the wiry branches of three trees lined up against the neighbors fence. The picture reminded him of what the old gallows must have looked like. Henry Oldez had been living in this routine for twenty some years.

He had moved to California with his mother, father, and three brothers 35 years ago. Henry's father, born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, had traveled across the Meixcan border on a bent, full jalopy with his wife, Betria Gonzalez and their three kids. They were all mostly babies then and none of the brothers claimed to remember anything of the ride, except one, Leo, recalled there was "A lotta dust in the car." Santiago Oldez, San for short, had fought in World War II and died of cancer ten years later. San drank most nights and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. Henry had never heard his father talk about the fighting or the war. If he was lucky to hear anything, it would have been when San was dead drunk, talking to himself mostly, not paying very much attention to anyone except his memories and his music.

"San loved two things in this world," Henry would say, "Booze, Betria, and Johnny Cash."

Betria Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana, Mexico as well. She was a stout, short woman, wide but with pretty eyes and a mess of orange golden hair. Betria could talk to anyone about anything. Her nick names were the conversationalist or the old crow because she never found a reason to stop talking. Santiago had met her through a friend of a friend. After a couple of dates, they were married. There is some talk of a dispute among the two families, that they didn't agree to the marriage and that they were too young, which they probably were. Santiago being Santiago, didn't listen to anybody, only to his heart. They were married in a small church outside of town overlooking the Pacific. Betria told the kids that the waves thundered and crashed against the rocks that day and the sea looked endless. There were no pictures taken and only three people were at the ceremony: Betria, San, and the priest.

Of course, the four boys went to elementary and high school, and, of course, none of them went to college. One brother moved down to LA and eventually started working for a law firm doing their books. Another got married at 18 years old and was in and out of the house until getting under the wing of the union, doing construction and electrical work for the city. The third brother followed suit. Henry Oldez, after high school, stayed put. Nothing in school interested him. Henry only liked what he could get into after school. The people of the streets were his muse, leaving him with the tramps, the dealers, the struggling restaurateurs, the laundry mat hookers, the crooked cops and the addicts, the gang bangers, the bible humpers, the window washers, the jesus freaks, the EMT's, the old ladies pushing salvation by every bus stop, the guy on the corner and the guy in the alley, and the DOA's. Henry didn't have much time for anyone else after all of them.

Henry looked at himself in the mirror. The light was off and the room was dim. Sunlight streaked in through the dusty blinds from outside, reflecting into the mirror and onto Henry's face. He was short, 5' 2'' or 5' 3'' at most with stubby, skinny legs, and a wide, barrel shaped chest. He examined his face, which was a ravine of wrinkles and deep crows feet. His eyes were sunken and small in his head. Somehow, his pants were always one or two inches below his waistline, so the crack of his ass would constantly be peeking out. Henry's deep, chocolate colored hair was  that of an ancient Native American, long and nearly touched the tip of his belt if he stood up straight. No one knew how long he had been growing it out for. No one knew him any other way. He would comb his hair incessantly: before and after a shower, walking around the house, watching television with Betria on the couch, talking to friends when they came by, and when he drove to work, when he had it.

Normal work, nine to five work, did not work for Henry. "I need to be my own boss," he'd say. With that fact stubbornly put in place, Henry turned to being a handy man, a roofer, and a pioneer of construction. No one knew where he would get the jobs that he would get, he would just have them one day. And whenever he 'd finish a job, he'd complain about how much they'd shorted him, soon to move on to the next one. Henry never had to listen to anyone and, most of the time, he got free lunches out of it. It was a very strange routine, but it worked for him and Betria had no complaints as long as he was bringing some money in and keeping busy. After Santiago died, she became the head of the house, but really let her boys do whatever they wanted.

Henry took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, something he never did unless he was in a hurry. He had a job in the east bay at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. At the table, still in his pajamas, he ate three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and two over easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. He got up as he combed his damp hair, tugging and straining to get each individual knot out. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.

"Good morning," said Henry to Betria.

Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, "You eat already?"

"Yep," he announced, "Got to go to work." He tugged on a knot.

"That's good. Dondé?" Betria looked back down at her spanish TV guide booklet.

"Berkley somewhere," Henry said, bringing the comb smoothly down through his hair.

"That's good, that's good."

"OK!" Henry sighed loudly, shutting the door behind him. He walked back to the dinner table and finished his meal. Then, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn't hear.

"What?" yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn't hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, dirty dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.

"Take the dogs out to pee," Betria told him, "Out the back, not the front."

"Yeah," Henry said and shut the door.

"Come on you dogs," Henry mumbled, dropping his dish in the sink. Betria always did everyones dishes. She called it "her exercise."

Henry let the two dogs out on the lawn. The sun was curling up into the sky and its heat had melted all of the frost on the lawn. Now, the grass was bright green and Henry barely noticed the dark brown dead spots. He watched as the fat beige one squatted to pee. It was too fat to lifts its own leg up. The thing was built like a tank or a sea turtle. Henry laughed to himself as it looked up at him, both of its eyes going in opposite directions, its tongue jutted out one corner of his mouth. Boy boy was on the far end of the lawn, searching for something in the bushes. After a minute, he pulled out another one of his toys and brought it to Henry. Henry picked up the neon green chew toy shaped like a bone and threw it back to where Boy boy had dug it out from. Boy boy shot after it and the fat one just watched, waddling a few feet away from it had peed and laid down. Henry threw the toy a couple more times for Boy boy, but soon he realized it was time to go.

"Alright!" said Henry, "Get inside. Gotta' go to work." He picked up the fat one and threw it inside the laundry room hallway that led to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Boy boy bounded up the stairs into the kitchen. He didn't need anyone lifting him up anywhere. Henry shut the door behind them and went to back to his room to get into his work clothes.

Henry's girlfriend was still asleep and he made sure to be quiet while he got dressed. Tia, Henry's girlfriend, didn't work, but occasionally would put up garage sales of various junk she found around town. She was strangely obsessed with beanie babies, those tiny plush toys usually made up in different costumes. Henry's favorite was the hunter. It was dressed up in camouflage and wore an eye patch. You could take off its brown, polyester hat too, if you wanted. Henry made no complaint about Tia not having a job because she usually brought some money home somehow, along with groceries and cleaning the house and their room. Betria, again, made no complain and only wanted to know if she was going to eat there or not for the day.

A boat sized bright blue GMC sat in the street. This was Henry's car. The stick shift was so mangled and bent that only Henry and his older brother could drive it. He had traded a new car stereo for it, or something like that. He believed it got ten miles to the gallon, but it really only got six or seven. The stereo was the cleanest piece of equipment inside the thing. It played CD's, had a shoddy cassette player, and a decent radio that picked up all the local stations. Henry reached under the seat and attached the radio to the front panel. He never left the radio just sitting there in plain sight. Someone walking by could just as soon as put their elbow into the window, pluck the thing out, and make a clean 200 bucks or so. Henry wasn't that stupid. He'd been living there his whole life and sure enough, done the same thing to other cars when he was low on money. He knew the tricks of every trade when it came to how to make money on the street.

On the road, Henry passed La Rosa, the Mexican food mart around the corner from the house. Two short, tanned men stood in front of a stand of CD's, talking. He usually bought pirated music or movies there. One of the guys names was Bertie, but he didn't know the other guy. He figured either a customer or a friend. There were a lot of friends in this neighborhood. Everyone knew each other somehow. From the bars, from the grocery, from the laundromat, from the taco stands or from just walking around the streets at night when you were too bored to stay inside and watch TV. It wasn't usually safe for non-locals to walk the streets at night, but if you were from around there and could prove it to someone that was going to jump you, one could usually get away from losing a wallet or an eyeball if you had the proof. Henry, to people on the street, also went as Monk. Whenever he would drive through the neighborhood, the window open with his arm hanging out the side, he would usually hear a distant yell of "Hey Monk!" or "What's up Monk!". Henry would always wave back, unsure who's voice it was or in what direction to wave, but knowing it was a friend from somewhere.

There was heavy traffic on the way to Berkley and as he waited in line, cursing his luck, he looked over at the wet swamp, sitting there beside highway like a dead frog. A few scattered egrets waded through the brown water, their long legs keeping their clean white bodies safe from the muddy water. Beyond the swamp laid the pacific and the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco sat there too: still, majestic, and silver. Next to the city, was the Bay Bridge stretched out over the water like long gray yard stick. Henry compared the Golden Gate's beauty with the Bay Bridge. Both were beautiful in there own way, but the Bay Bridge's color was that of a gravestone, while the Golden Gate's color was a heavy red, that made it seem alive. Why they had never decided to pain the Bay Bridge, Henry had no idea. He thought it would look very nice with a nice coat of burgundy to match the Golden gate, but knew they would never spend the money. They never do.

After reeling through the downtown streets of Berkley, dodging college kids crossing the street on their cell phones and bicyclists, he finally reached the large, A-frame house. The house was lifted, four or five feet off the ground and you had to walk up five or seven stairs to get to the front door. Surrounded by tall, dark green bushes, Henry knew these kids had money coming from somewhere. In the windows hung spinning colored glass and in front of the house was an old-timey dinner bell in the shape of triangle. Potted plants lined the red brick walkway that led to the stairs. Young tomatoes and small peas hung from the tender arms of the stems leaf stalks. The lawn was manicured and clean. "Must be studying agriculture or something," Henry thought, "Or they got a really good gardener."

He parked right in front of the house and looked the building up and down, estimating how long it would take to get the old shingles off and the new one's on. Someone was up on the deck of the house, rocking back and forth in an old wooden chair. He listened to the creaking wood of the chair and the deck, judging it would take him two days for the job. Henry knew there was no scheduled rain, but with the Bay weather, one could never be sure. He had worked in rain before - even hail - and it never really bothered him. The thing was, he never strapped himself in and when it would rain and he was working roofs, he was afraid to slip and fall. He turned his truck off, got out, and locked both of the doors. He stepped heavily up the walkway and up the stairs. The someone who was rocking back and forth was a skinny beauty with loose jean shorts on and a thick looking, black and red plaid shirt. She had long, chunky dread locks and was smoking a joint, blowing the smoke out over the tips of the bushes and onto the street. Henry was no stranger to the smell. He smoked himself. This was California.

"Who're you?" the dreaded girl asked.

"I'm the roofer," Henry told her.

The girl looked puzzled and disinterested. Henry leaned back on his heels and wondered if the whole thing was lemon. She looked beyond him, down on the street, awkwardly annoying Henry's gaze. The tools in Henry's hands began to grow heavy, so he put them down on the deck with a thud. The noise seemed to startle the girl out of whatever haze her brain was in and she looked back at Henry. Her eyes were dark brown and her skin was smooth and clear like lake water. She couldn't have been more then 20 or 21 years old. Henry realized that he was staring and looked away at the various potted plants near the rocking chair. He liked them all.

"Do you know who called you?" She took a drag from her joint.

"Brett, " Henry told her, "But they didn't leave a last name."

For a moment, the girl looked like she had been struck across the chin with a brick, but then her face relaxed and she smiled.

"Oh shit," she laughed, "That's me. I called you. I'm Brett."

Henry smiled uneasily and picked up his tools, "Ok."

"Nice to meet you," she said, putting out her hand.

Henry awkwardly put out his left hand, "Nice to meet you too."

She took another drag and exhaled, the smoke rolling over her lips, "Want to see the roof?"

The two of them stood underneath a five foot by five foot hole. Henry was a little uneasy by the fact they had cleaned up none of the shattered wood and the birds pecking at the bird seed sitting in a bowl on the coffee table facing the TV. The arms of the couch were covered in bird shit and someone had draped a large, zebra printed blanket across the middle of it. Henry figured the blanket wasn't for decoration, but to hide the rest of the bird droppings. Next to the couch sat a large, antique lamp with its lamp shade missing. Underneath the dim light, was a nice portrait of the entire house. Henry looked away from the hole, leaving Brett with her head cocked back, the joint still pinched between her lips, to get a closer look. There looked to be four in total: Brett, a very large man, a woman with longer, thick dread locks than Brett, and a extremely short man with a very large, brown beard. Henry went back to looking at the hole, wondering if the extremely short man was a midget or just really short.

"What's the damage?" Brett asked, rocking her head back onto her shoulders.

Henry laughed nervously, pressing on his thin mustache," How did this even happen?"

Brett squinted at him suspiciously, unsure why he would ask such a thing, "Do you need to know?"

"I guess I don't," Henry shrugged, "It would just give me something to think about while I work."

"If you really want to know, I can tell you, but it'll have to wait till my roommate gets home?"

Henry already knew how many people Brett lived with, but he asked anyways.

"Four," she answered, "Including me."

"Four people in this house," Henry said, "Must get pretty crowded."

"Not as bad as you would think." She went to the couch and sat down on the zebra couch. Henry moved back to the center of the hole so the light from outside covered him. He looked up and squinted his eyes, trying to imagine what could have made the hole. The edges of the broken wood wasn't burnt, so it couldn't have been a meteor. There didn't seem to be dried blood anywhere on the floor or near the hole either. The hole wasn't perfectly round, like a beach or cannon ball, but it was damn well near it. Henry stood back out of the light and looked at Brett on the couch.

"What's the best way to get up on the roof?" Henry asked, "I'd like to how many shingles I'd need and what kind I'll have to get."

"Shingles? What are those?"

"They are square sheets of tar and rock that keep the rain and other shit out."

"Are they expensive?" Brett's face had suddenly grown very worried.

"They can be," Henry said, looking at a few broken one's on the floor, "But by the look of this stuff here, it shouldn't be too bad. Between the four of you it wouldn't be too much."

"Good point," Brett muttered, punching the joint out in an ashtray on the coffee table.

"When do you think your roommates will be home?" Henry asked.


"I'd like to know what caused that almost perfect hole. I've never seen anything like it."

"I'll just tell you," Brett laughed as she got up, picking up the group picture, "See that guy there? The little one with the beard? I know he's kind of hard to see..."

"Yep," Henry said, putting his finger on the man's face.

"That is Jerry and he is a midget. Whoops," she smiled, correcting herself, "A little person. Wait. It might be dwarf. Shit, I really have no idea."

"Same thing to me," Henry laughed.

"Good. Well," Brett started again, "Jerry is a midget and he was up on the roof getting a frisbee or something. He might have been smoking and staring at the stars, which he's been known to do from time to time. It's fine. I do it all the time. It's fun. You'd probably like it."

Henry nodded, thinking he would probably do that when he got home.

"Jerry's up there and the rest of us, myself, Bobby, and Louise, are all on the couch watching a movie. I forget which one. So we're sitting there, watching a movie or a show or something, when suddenly a loud CRASH and a slight WHISTLING sound and then an even bigger BOOM happens right near us. We have no idea what just happened or what came through the roof, but we knew it was something because there was ash and dust and wood and that...what was that stuff called?"

"Shingles," Henry said.

"Shingle stuff fucking everywhere and we're frozen stiff from fear. We. Don't. Move. Of course, we've been smoking and we're all a little paranoid and freaked out. I remember reaching for the remote and muting whatever was on and asked, "Hello?", where no one or nothing answered me back. That's when we all got a little worried and I looked over at Louise and Louise looked over at Bobby who's face was frozen and I guess so was mine."

Henry had taken the picture from Brett's erratic, gesturing hands and pointed to Jerry, the midget and said, "So...I'm guessing what came through the roof was Jerry?"

"Yes. Jerry came through the roof like a fucking comet. Landed straight on his back. After that pause I was telling you about, there was a moan and then a pitiful like squeaky "help..." which could only have been Jerry's. He has such a precious, little voice."

"Was he alright?" Henry asked. He handed Brett back the framed picture and she put it back under the lamp.

"Oh yeah," she grunted, "He was complaining about splinters and that the gravel from that...," she paused.


"Shingles stuff," she kept on, "But, after Louise helped Jerry up and dusted him off and Bobby got him a beer, he was back to normal. I think he had a bruise or something the next day on his lower back, maybe a little bit of a limp, but he was fine. He doesn't weigh that much."

"That's good to hear."

"Yep," she shook her head up and down.

"I'd love to get up there to see what I should buy for tomorrow."

"Oh," she said, startled, "I completely forgot. Let me show you to the back."

"Great. Thanks."

"I hope you don't fall in!" Brett laughed when she showed Henry the ladder.

Driving back, Henry figured he would only need 10 pounds of shingles, a small tin of tar, and a few four by four pieces of plywood to secure the hole. The job wasn't very big. The job wasn't very difficult. The only thing the job was was interesting. Henry hadn't been on one of those interesting jobs in a long time. The last job had been through his Chinese friend Chan. He usually had him put up walls in dilapidated, run down buildings in Oakland. These places were bought up by Chan from someone that had nothing and needed something to survive. Henry thought he was a dirty business man and always underpaid him, but whenever Chan and his wife would come over to where he was working with those large plastic bags in both hands, he couldn't resist. They were filled with kung pao chicken, steaming white rice, tough mongolian beef, silk watercress, a variety of piping hot soups, crisp pot stickers, and whatever else they wanted to take from their restaurant. Henry couldn't help himself. He silently forgave them and went on working for less.

As Henry pulled into the driveway of his home, he noticed a large, white, shabby looking dog peak his head over the neighbor's fence. He had never seen this dog before and since he knew all of the dogs of the neighborhood, he wondered where this one had come from. After parking and grabbing his tools from the bed of the truck and a few samples of the roof, he walked nearer to the neighbors fence. It was late. Almost ten o'clock at night. It was cold too. Henry had his sweatshirt on under his thick, worker's jacket and he was still shivering, so he couldn't imagine how the dog was feeling. Henry peered over the gate and couldn't see the white dog anywhere. Where had he gone? There was nowhere to hide in the barren yard. The only thing in the lawn was a large, obnoxious lemon tree that cast a black shadow over the dead grass. Henry looked closer, hoping to see the dog in the shadows near the back of the fence.

"Come out boy," Henry called to the dog, "I'm not gonna' hurt you."

The dog's head shot up right in front of Henry. It had been hiding at the base of the fence. Henry backed away quickly, unsure whether the dog was going to bite him or not. He paused, watching the dog as he put both of his paws up on top of the wooden fence. The dogs eyes were soft and helpless, darting back and forth in his head. The dog was acting like he had never seen another person before in his life. It looked so excited Henry wondered if it had rabies. Henry moved closer, reaching out his hand so the dog could sniff it. The dog jammed his nose into his palm and slobbering all over it. Henry pulled his hand back and the dog whined and yelped.

"It's ok, boy," said Henry, trying to comfort him, "I just don't want your slobber all over my hands." He wiped his hand on his jeans and put his hand out again for the dog could sniff it. The dog bent his head and urged Henry to scratch behind its ears. He did. The dog whined and Henry could hear him kicking his hind leg in the dirt. "Why are you outside?" he asked the dog, "Why don't they bring him in? It's freezing." The dog, of course, did not answer and only looked up at Henry plaintively, wishing he would take him inside his room. Henry could see he wanted to go with him, but knew if he picked this dog up and brought him in the back room, Tia would curse and scream at him and the neighbors in the morning would wonder where the hell their new dog went.

Henry patted the dog on the head and backed away," Tomorrow, buddy. I'll talk to whoever owns you tomorrow and see why your outside in this cold."

Henry walked inside. As he made himself a bowl of cereal, he winced listening to the echoing whine and yelps of the dog behind the wooden fence. He put out his hand and felt the glass. It was freezing. It was very cold outside. Henry wondered if the dog had any water or food or even a place to sleep in. He finished his cereal and put the dirty bowl in the sink for Betria in the morning.

"Before I go back to work on that roof tomorrow," Henry told himself, "I'll talk to the neighbors about the dog." It was a promise or an oath of sorts. He smiled and soon fell asleep.

In the morning, Henry fried an egg and toasted two pieces of bread. He brewed his coffee strong and made a cup for Betria. She complained that the coffee was too bitter and that it tasted like pencil lead, dirt, and water boiled by the fires of Hell. Henry added heavy cream and a table spoon of sugar to quiet her down. She was always complaining about the small things after one of her sons took her driver's license away for being to short to see over the steering wheel. He ate quickly and sat alone. Betria usually had her coffee and breakfast in bed, reading through the TV guide or the bible, marking anything that seemed of interest to her with a dark blue pen. As he ate, Henry stared out the living room window toward the white picket fence where he had met the white dog last night. He whistled and the dog popped up, his two dirty paws hanging over the fence.

"It's like magic," thought Henry.

Henry was half finished with his egg and toast when he decided to go outside and give the the rest to the dog. The day was bright and hot, with a light breeze passing through the leaves of the lemon tree. The neighbor across the street - an old black man confined to a wheelchair and a respirator - yelled over at Henry, seeing what the hell he was doing.

"Hey Monk!" screamed the old man, "What you doing over there with that plate?"

Henry was never startled by the old man's screams. Actually, he was used to it. "Just gonna' feed this new dog some of my half-eaten food. Don't think its eaten all morning."

"What you feeding him?" the old man asked. His voice sounded ragged and dusty.

"Leftover eggs and a piece of toast!"

"Better than I eat in the morning," he screamed, laughing.

Henry laughed, nodding. He walked toward the fence. The dog was still leaning there, his dark brown eyes fixed on Henry. The sight of food triggered a frenzy in the dog. Henry put out his hand and the dog yelped and yipped, shaking and licking his fingers covered in egg yolk and toast crumbs. Henry looked into the yard and didn't see a food or water bowl. What had this dog been eating since it'd gotten here? He forked over the egg and toast and the dog immediately pounced on it like it was going to run off. Henry grinned and watched the dog devour the food. Satisfaction tingled in his fingers and in his toes. He felt a welling of tears in the corners of his eyes and he wondered when was the last time that had happened? "There is something very beautiful and simple in feeding another living thing that cannot do it for itself," Henry thought. A car roared by with a thumping bass and a thunder-like engine, shaking Henry out of his stillness.

"How's he like it?" the old man hollered from across the street.

"Loves it!" Henry yelled back.

"If you got anything else," the old man chuckled, "Lemme' know. I'm always hungry!"

"I will," said Henry, going back into the house, "I will."

Henry walked up the stoop and pushed open the front door to go inside, but a voice from the sidewalk stopped him. Henry swiveled around and saw his neighbor, the one who apparently owned the white dog and the lemon tree. His name was Pablo and stood about the same size as Henry. His hair was cut short due to balding and a beer gut the size of a beach ball hung over his baggy, oil streaked jeans. Where his chin sagged was a month old moss of stubble and light scratching with signs of blood like a dog with fleas would have. Henry thought he looked like a rejected animal of the jungle, just making his life possible as a human. He had only come across Pablo once or twice, and they were always, unfortunately, memorable.

"What you doing with my dog?" Pablo's voice was gravely, faint, and stupid.

"Thought I'd feed the thing since I saw it last night without a food or water bowl," said Henry. Henry stayed up on the stoop with the door open. Pablo had been known to fight at random.

"Why you looking into my yard?"

"I ain't that short. I can see over the fence without trying."

"There ain't nothing to see there. Why you care what's in my yard?"

"I don't," said Henry, "I got home from work yesterday around 9 o'clock and saw the dog up against the fence. He was looking at me and it was shivering. It's cold out around then."

"It's a dog," stated Pablo innocent and ignorant, "It's got fur. It's not cold."

"Looked cold to me."

"Looked cold to you?" Pablo asked.

"Yeah," said Henry, "It did."

"Why you feed it whatever you feed it?" Pablo walked to the fence and looked over it. "What you feed my dog?"

"Egg and a piece of toast. It won't hurt it."

"Well," Pablo hissed, "If it does, you're fucking paying for it."

"Fine by me," Henry said, starting to go inside, "But you need to be feeding that thing or it's going to die on you. Shit, you don't even have a dog house for it! It just lays in the grass!"

"What's wrong with that?" Pablo stepped forward when Henry started to raise his voice.

"Gonna' freeze to death, man!" Henry was trying to keep himself from getting upset, but that feeling of satisfaction he had got when helping the dog was fleeting and he didn't want to lose it because of Pablo. "Just take care of the the dog or I'll report you."

Pablo suddenly looked confused, unsure what Henry meant. "Report me to who?" Pablo asked.

"Animal control or the police, tú cabrón!" screamed Henry. He knew he had slipped, but he didn't give a damn anymore. Being late for work was worth it. Brett would understand. But Pablo said nothing. He only looked him up and down, his eyes still, frozen, and unblinking. It looked like the mention of animal control and the police had struck a chord with him. Pablo spit into the yard and stared at the white dog who had retreated underneath the lemon tree.

"Hell you give a shit about my dog for?" Pablo asked, quiet and simple.

Henry paused, looked at Pablo, and said, "I like dogs."

"Yeah?" Pablo smiled, his cracked, yellow teeth showing, "Where's your dog then, cabrón?"

"Died a long time ago," said Henry, " And if you need some food and a couple bowls, let me know. If it's not out tonight, I'll put it out for you. I got to go to work."

"You go to work," said Pablo, looking into the yard, "Come here dog." Pablo snapped his fingers, but the white dog stayed underneath the lemon tree.

Henry stopped, turned towards Pablo, amused by something, "What's the dog's name?" he asked.

"No name yet," Pablo shrugged.

"Figures," Henry scoffed, turned, and went inside.

Henry went to the kitchen table and picked up his empty coffee cup. Pablo saw Henry through the window and screamed, "You want to name him, cabrón?"

"Yeah," Henry screamed back, "I'll think of something!"

He left his dishes in the sink for Betria and went in the back to get dressed and ready for work.

Betria asked Henry what all the screaming was about before he left, but he had ignored her. There wasn't enough time. He hated being late for any kind of job and sometimes it wasn't worth telling her about all of his troubles; they would only cause more. But, as he drove to Brett's house, a terrible feeling of regret washed over him, clouding his eyes, making him grip the wheel tighter and surer as he drove. He regretted how he treated her somedays - most days, if he was being honest with himself - but then he noticed the sun was out and the sky was a light blue halo around him, so he soon forgot what he had done and only thought about the road in front of him.

Brett wasn't home. Her three roommates weren't there either. Henry tried the front door to get in to use the bathroom, but it was locked. Henry went around to the back of the house, peering over into the windows of the neighbors houses to make sure they weren't calling the cops on him. It had happened to him before. Trying the backdoor, he found that it was locked too. He cursed and looked around the quaint, tiny yard. He texted Brett that he was going to use her back lawn to pee. Putting his tools down near the ladder up to the roof, he dashed to the far corner of the yard, behind a small, dead-looking apple tree. As Henry peed, he stared through the dilapidated, brown fence, seeing it was rich with life: there was a bubbling birds fountain; a small pond with what Henry thought could be koi fish inside; bright green bushes popping along the edges of the house; the house which stood as a large A-frame, its wood stained a dark brown chocolate color; multi-colored flowers of pink, orange, burgundy, and sapphire lined the railing of the deck in their beige, pots; a lush, healthy lawn looking as if it had just been pruned. Henry inhaled, taken aback to see something so beautiful behind a house so obvious its opposite. He strained to see if anyone was in the house or outside on the lawn, but no one was there. Henry sighed, zipped up his pants, and walked over to the ladder to start his work.

He pulled the half-broken shingles off the roof and threw them down onto the yard. They were useless now and there was no need to put new ones on top of the old. There would be cracks and with cracks come leaks and with leaks come complaints. Henry never liked to get calls after the job was done. It meant he had more work to do and for free, so he made sure to do everything the way he had taught himself or how he had been taught over the years. Who had taught him, he barely knew anymore, he just knew he had been taught the right way. How he knew that way was the right way was because it worked. San had always said in his hard tone, "If it's broken, fix it and do the fixing well. If it doesn't need fixing, doesn't need fixing!" Henry agreed with this wholeheartedly, so in turn Henry's methods were tedious, his ways were demanding, and his order looked like chaos to the average person's eye, but in the end, he got the job done and with little or no complaint.

After an hour of working, Henry climbed down from the roof and went inside to get a glass of water. He was covered with streaks of black tar and his clothes were hot from the sun. Another couple hours of work and he would have to be done. Henry didn't think he could take anymore of the heat. The last thing he wanted was to pass out and roll off the roof to his death. This reminded him of a time he was climbing down a ladder, much like the one he was using now, but the ladder was not tied down to anything. Henry had leaned back, causing the ladder to tip, and fell ten or so feet straight onto his back. Knocked out cold like an icicle to concrete. He was out for a couple hours until the client came home and woke him up with a cup of water to the face. That injury had taken him out for a month and he'd never been so close to bankrupt. Another time a chandelier had fallen on his head. There was the time he'd electrocuted himself trying to jump start his car battery haphazardly because he was late for a job. He described the feeling as "being slapped by the backhand of God." But, to Henry's luck, he had never broken anything, not even a bone. He had been very lucky in that regard.

"Hello?" a voice asked behind Henry.

Henry swiveled around, startled. He looked where he thought the voice had come from, but saw no one. "Hello?" Henry asked, his eyes wide.

"Who are you?" The voice was quieter now and hidden. It sounded like a child's voice, but one that had been smoking since birth. The room was tense and a strange smell had leaked in. The smell reminded Henry of the white dog behind the fence and hot asphalt. Maybe the asphalt was him, but the white dog smell was definitely not. "Who are you?" the voice repeated, louder.

"I'm Henry, the..." Henry tried to explain, but the voice cut him off.

"Henry who!" the voice shouted.

Henry stepped forward, sure the voice was coming from behind the couch. "Brett knows me. I'm the roofer," he tried to explain calmly, "There's a hole up in your roof."

A small hand reached up and over the back of the couch. Then, a small patch of hair on top of a fairly large head. Another hand reached up, pulling up farther the head and then a pair of eyes. Two ears followed, a nose, and finally purse, pink pair of lips. It was the small person, the midget, no, the dwarf that had made the hole in the roof. Henry and the dwarf stood there, sizing each other up. The dwarf's head was barely making it over the back of the couch and Henry could tell he was up on his tip toes to see him better. Henry took a few steps back, seeing in the dwarfs eyes that he wasn't trusted yet. His eyes were the color of lily pads and his thick beard was so tangled and messy that Henry could barely see the skin of the dwarfs cheeks. Henry put down the glass of water he had been drinking in the sink and put up both of his hands to show he meant no harm.

"I know Brett," Henry explained, "She hired me to fix the roof. I was here yesterday with her, but no one else was home. You are one of the roommates, right?"

The dwarf stepped out from behind the couch. He was starting to trust the situation, "Yeah, I am."

"What was your name again? Brett showed me that photo and told me yesterday." Henry pointed to the house portrait sitting on the side table.

"Oh God!" the dwarf screamed, "She showed you that one?" The dwarf bounded over to the picture and ripped it from where it sat. "I've told her a thousand times to throw this picture away of me. It makes me look SO small compared to everyone else. I've told her A THOUSAND TIMES."

The dwarf had grown from being overly cautious and feline like, to acting like a pit bull in heat. He grappled with the wooden frame that held the picture inside, nearly cracking the glass. After he had maneuvered that, he ran outside with the picture. Henry, stunned at the sudden shift of energy in the room, followed the dwarf outside. From somewhere the dwarf had acquired a small can of gasoline and was preceding to drench the photo with it. He dropped the photo on the grass after it had been throughly doused and took out red Bic lighter.

"Now I can get rid of this thing once and for all!" the dwarf screamed. He shot a glance at Henry, who was standing in the doorway, "If the flames get out of control, get a bucket of water and take care of it. I'm not good with fire." The dwarf put the flame to the photo. Instantly, the picture was engulfed into orange and yellow flame. Henry clenched his hands and wondered what any of this had to do with fixing the roof. The dwarf stood over the picture, growling faintly and sidestepping around the burning circle as if he thought it were going to try to escape or run off. After the gasoline had all been burnt off and the picture was now just a black, dank spot on the grass, the dwarf turned around and introduced himself.

"That was exciting," said the dwarf, "And I'm Jerry by the way." He put out his hand.

Henry, uneasy to come down any closer, took a few steps down from the porch and reached out his hand to take Jerry's. Henry was surprised to see Jerry's hands were slightly larger than his.

"Nice firm grip you have there...what did you say your name was again?"

"Henry," said Henry meekly. He was afraid Jerry might snap again and light him on fire.

"Don't worry," Jerry smiled, "I don't bite...hard." He laughed at this and Henry leaked out a wiry, nervous smile. "How about a beer?"

They walked back inside. Jerry made his way to the refrigerator and motioned for Henry to sit down on the couch. Henry sat down and looked up toward the large hole in the roof. He would need a couple more days, he thought.

"You said you were the roofer?" Jerry asked.

"That's right."

"How long you been roofing? Is that the correct word?" Jerry placed an opened bottle of Budweiser in front of Henry and sat down. Henry stared at the un-opened bottle, unsure whether to open it now or later. Jerry's was sitting on his right knee, not yet opened.

"Sorry?" Henry hadn't heard him. He was distracted by the hole in the ceiling. He really wished he could stop all this and go to work. He hadn't even started.

"How long you been roofing?"

"Off and on for thiry years or so, I'd say." Henry nodded, realizing that was a very long time.

"Wow!" Jerry sighed, "That is-a-while. So, you're like a professional?"

"You could see that," Henry grinned, uneasily, shifting his weight in the chair, "It's what I've always done and I really don't ever see myself doing anything else different."

Jerry nodded, "That's very endearing...very strong...but also very sad and heartbreaking."

Henry didn't know what to say.

"I don't know why I said that," Jerry laughed, looking down into his un-opened beer, "Let's open these bad boys, huh?" He quickly twisted the cap of the Budweiser and flung it to the floor. Henry did the same, but placed his bottle cap on the side-table where the photograph had been. He missed the photograph. He had liked it. Jerry put out his bottle and Henry put out his, clinking the glass together. Above, the sun had moved from behind a cloud and a shot of sunlight rocketed down through the roof.

"Look at that!" Jerry laughed, "It's like God is having a beer with us."

Henry laughed, genuinely this time, and took a sip of beer. It was warm, but he didn't mind.

"You believe in God, Henry?" Jerry looked at him straight faced, his eyes focused.

"Uhh...Umm, sure, I..." Henry stammered.

Jerry paused. An awkward stillness now floated in the air. Jerry said nothing for another moment, then slammed his beer on the table and began to cackle and wheeze, "I got you good Henry! You should have seen the look on your face!"

"What?" Henry asked, confused.

"The whole GOD question," Jerry explained, "I ask handymen, cable guys, even garbage fellas' that come over from time to time and they always get all nervous and discombobulated whenever I ask them that."

Henry chuckled lightly, taking another sip of beer. He looked at his free hand and saw that it was shaking slightly.

"Don't worry, Henry," Jerry said, "I'm no bible humper. Just playing a little prank. Let's finish these guys up and I'll hold the ladder for you so you can get back to work."

"That would be great." Henry put his beer down and stood up.

"Look at you in a hurry. Finish that and then we'll get you up there. Don't you worry."

Henry sat back down and finished his beer.

As Henry pulled into the driveway, he regretted not finishing the job. He would have to go back tomorrow. There were only a few finishing touches to do, like sand the edges of any overlaying wood and put another layer of tar down and maybe reposition the shingles so they were perfectly straight, but who would see them except for the birds and God? "That was very strange that Jerry asked me about God," Henry thought, "I don't think anyone's ever asked me that question for Betria. She assumes I do. I haven't asked myself that question in a long time. No time. Not very much time lately. Only troubles."

"Hey boy!" Henry called out to the dog behind the fence, "You there?"

The white cotton ball that was the dogs head peaked out from its dog house. At first, the dog was unsure who was even there. He hadn't been spoken to anyone all day. But, when he saw that it was Henry's face and not his owners, he shot out from his dog house and leaped up against the fence. He licked Henry's hands and tried to jump up over the fence and into his arms. Henry laughed and looked down into the lonesome dogs eyes and saw in them that he was genuinely happy to see him. He couldn't remember the last time something had looked at him like that.

"Calm down, boy, calm down," Henry said, patting him lightly on the head, "What you been doing today?" The dog responded in yelps and whines, teething Henry's hand with his soft, rounded teeth. "You want to come in with me, boy? It's cold out here and I know that dog house isn't warm enough for you. What do you think?"

Henry gripped the dogs thick, tangled fur easily in his rough, tar covered hands and hoisted him over the fence. The dog looked big, but was very light, only ten or twelve pounds. At this, he barked loudly in Henry's face, startling him. Henry hugged the dog and patted him on the back, hushing into his ear. After a moment, the barks stopped and Henry stood very still, listening to the echo bounce down the empty streets and waiting to see if the neighbors would come on. No light appeared and Henry let out a long sigh. He listened to his breathing mix with the panting of the dogs and thought of what a good name for it would be. Names had always eluded Henry. There was something very ignorant and pompous about titles he had never grown comfortable with or accepted, but he knew he must do it. "Not Jerry," Henry told himself, "That guy is too crazy. I don't want to see you everyday and think of that crazy guy. You're young, so you should have a young dog's name. And you're so damned white all over, like a sheep. Like a cloud. Like snow. That's good. Snow."

"Snow," Henry said to the dog, whose eyes reflected the star light above the two of them, "That's a good name for you, isn't it?" Snow licked Henry's face and Henry laughed as he carried him around the back of the house, over the dew bespeckled  lawn, and into his room. He dropped snow down  and slipped his jacket off. Henry placed it across a small table that sit in the middle of the room and watched as Snow ran around his room, smelling everything, and eventually making his way to Henry's bed, where he nestled himself under the covers.

"Ok yah mutt," Henry grinned, "Make some room for me."

In the morning, Henry woke early and brought Snow up out of bed and out of his room. He walked over the dew spilt grass in his bare feet and felt the wet in between his toes. Snow looked up at Henry, whining lightly as if pleading not to take him back to the yard. There was nothing Henry could do. Eventually Pablo would see the dog in his yard and call the police or some other authoritative figure and that was just too much nonsense for him. Betria was in her bedroom and heard Henry opening the back gate, which was very loud. She squinted through the screen to see better and called out.

"Who's out there?" Betria hissed.

"It's me, ma, Henry," he said, "Can't you see through the screen?"

"No," she said flatly, "What you doing up so early?"

"I brought Snow into my room last night because it was so cold."

"Snow!?" she gasped, "There's no snow out there. Why would you bring it into your room. You crazy?"

Henry put Snow down at his feet and opened the large wooden gate. Betria saw Snow and then realized what her son was talking about. She coughed, turned around, and flicked on the television.

"I don't know what you're doing with Pablo's dog," she yelled through the screen, "But he's gonna' be mad if he sees you with it."

"I know," Henry grumbled, going through the gate and pushing it back. Snow was waiting for him, sitting back on his haunches. Who cared what Pablo thought or felt? He was a monster and didn't give a damn about Snow. Henry found it difficult to have any kind of feeling but hatred and disgust with someone like Pablo. He picked Snow back up and gently placed him over the fence and dropped him. Snow landed on his feet, but immediately turned around and tried to climb up the fence. Henry ran his fingers through Snow's thick coat, trying to calm him down.

"I know, boy. I don't want to take you back either. It's just something that has to be done right now." Henry leaned over the gate and patted Snow's side, which was shaking already from the cold. He wished he could take him back in his room and leave him there in the warmth, but Pablo would be come out some time and if the dog was missing, he would be the first one to blame.

"You name my dog yet, cabrón?" Henry stood up straight as Snow backed away from the fence. Henry knew it was Pablo from just how Snow had reacted. Snow was truly afraid of him. "Did yah'," he asked again.

"None of your business," Henry told him. He turned from Pablo and started for his room.

"None of my business?" Pablo laughed, "It's my damn dog. It's my damn property."

"Oh shut up you two!" Betria screamed from her bedroom, "I'm trying to watch my novellas!"

"Aye, sorry Betria," Pablo stammered.

Henry opened the gate and looked back at Pablo, "It's Snow," he said.

"Snow?" Pablo asked, "Why'd you name it that?" Pablo looked down at Snow as Snow looked away, toward Henry.

"Why do you even have that dog?" Henry asked.

"Shit," Pablo grinned, "I don't have to explain myself to you. Why the hell you care?"

"Do you even want it?"

"Want what?"

Henry exhaled, not believing this man was this thick, "The dog. Snow. The dog you keep in your yard all day without anything."

"Yeah, I want it. What do you think?"

Henry stepped away from the fence and had taken a few steps toward Pablo. He wasn't going to fight him, he just wanted an honest answer. Pablo's face was cracked and creased like worn leather. A white film had gathered in the corners of his mouth and as he stared at Henry and he at him, Henry realized Pablo was a very unintelligent man. There was small whisper of pity that began to stir in Henry's stomach, but he immediately swept it away when he looked over at Snow, who was cowering in his dog house under the dank shadow of the lemon tree.

"Why?" Henry asked.

"Why what?"

"Why do you even want the dog?"

"Cause' it's mine," Pablo scoffed, "I already told you."

"Do you always want to keep something you have?"

Pablo stared at him, unsure what to make of what Henry said, confirming Henry's assumption that Pablo was indeed very stupid. Stupid people are usually very easy to trick and swindle. Henry wondered what someone like Pablo would want in this world. He didn't have much to give in terms of material possessions, a TV here and a bike with a broken chain there. Then, it dawned on him, that after the roofing job is done, he would be getting a cool grand. Pablo rocked back and forth on his heels, looking slightly bored from the whole exchange. His mind wandered when there weren't insults or threats being tossed around.

"How much do you want for the dog?"

"He's not for sale," said Pablo, looking over the fence, "Come over here you. Let me get a look at you." He put his hand over the fence and snapped his fingers to try and get Snow's attention, but Snow stayed put.

"I'll give you a hundred dollars by tonight," Henry stated. There was something this man wanted, but Henry was at a lost at what it was.

"One-hundred dollars for that white puff ball?" Pablo laughed, "It'll have to be a more then that, especially with all the arguing we've been doing. What about my time?"

"Now your times worth something?"

"Sure," said Pablo, "Now it is. Sure."

Henry paused and knew Pablo would only go higher and higher in price. All he would have left is a couple hundred bucks and what Brett would be giving him for the roofing job. Money was never abundant in Henry's life and yet, now, he truly needed it. There was no use going to his brothers. They would laugh in his face if he told them why he needed to borrow money this time. He was always borrowing money and tried to be good for it as best he could. Some months were harder than others for Henry. He looked over the fence and looked at Snow. He was so deep inside his dog house Henry could only see a single paw stretching out past the door.

"You make an offer then," said Henry, fed up with him.

"Oh!" Pablo laughed, "Look at you. A deal man. A businessman!"

"Just tell me, Pablo. I need to go to work. Do you work?"

"What's it to you?" Pablo asked, swaying back and forth.

"Nothing. Anything you say is nothing to me. The only thing that matters is how much you want for Snow."

"Five-hundred," Pablo said.


"You're lowballing me, Henry. Three-fifty."

"I can do two-fifty and that's it Pablo." It was true. After rent, food, insurance, car maintenance, and a few new tools, that's all he would have left till the next job and who knew when that was.

"You're gonna' halve me on my first offer, huh?" Pablo was squinting at him, trying to hold an intimidating stare in his eye, but to no effect. "That's cold, but something I would suspect. You got a reputation around here for shorting people on a lot of things."

Henry didn't know what he meant, so he kept silent. He could tell Pablo was thinking about the offer. Most likely Pablo had picked up the dog on the street or in a park and all this back and forth wasting time talk would be straight profit for him. Henry had never known him to work, so he was sure he could use the money. There were a few kids somewhere inside of the house that needed feeding. God knows he wasn't using any money on Snow. Pablo looked down at his hand and opened his palm. He studied the lines on them, letting the sun hit in between the lines, studying every crack, trying to think about anything else but the dog and the deal. Pablo didn't need the dog. He just liked having him there. Something for his kids and him to look at, but never bring into the house.

Pablo exhaled and walked toward Henry, "Alright, you got a deal. Two-fifty."

Henry put out his hand to meet Pablo's, "Two-fifty," he repeated, making sure they both heard each other clearly.

"You can take him when I get my money. When is that, by the way?" Pablo's direction was nowhere near the dog. He could care less. He wanted the money.

"I'm going to my last day on the job right now," Henry told Pablo, "I'm getting a check and I'll have the money by tonight if you're home."

"Yeah," said Pablo, "I'll be home."

Henry got ready for work and drove to Brett's house. There wasn't much else to do. He sanded the tops of the two by fours so the shingles and tar would set perfectly. In the living room, he made sure to sweep and scrub any tar that leaked from above. If the tar got into the couch, the stains would be there forever. No one was home as he worked, but a check was sitting on the side table next to the burnt photograph of Jerry. Henry was sure Jerry had stomped the thing into oblivion, but there was Jerry, smiling and hugging Brett's upper thigh. Henry laughed out loud so it echoed around the house, imagining Jerry's rage when he got home and saw the picture. For such a small man, he sure packed a lot of energy.

Henry took the check to the bank and cashed it. Nine hundreds and two fifties in his wallet. It made him very nervous as he drove back to the house. The money would be gone soon enough. Then he wouldn't have to carry the burden anymore. All that money. He never understood why people strived for it, betrayed for it, killed for it. Thin slices of comically bright green paper in between two folds of worn, cheap leather. Three pieces for a friend and the rest of it for everything else. Three pieces for a friend who before had none.


Apr 7, 2012, 6:08:21 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal

"Name: Amelia Weissmuler. Date of birth: June 6th, 1920. Test subject number 314-X. Specimen: Tiger." Amy heard all of this through a haze of sedatives that had begun to lose their already poor effect. She turned in the direction of the voice and saw a fearsome Nazi SS General standing behind a white clad scientist with a heavy accent. The general said nothing but listened and watched as Amy was strapped down to a cold metal table, completely nude with various wires, tubes and needles protruding from her flesh. She groaned painfully, the needles were extensive, and the Nazi scientists had no care of decency or respect. she was hit with another sedative and before she lost consciousness she heard the scientist, who she guessed was Dr. Heismeiller, say, "Name, Mordecai Dansker, former Major of the Third Reich. Date of birth: September 19th, 1919. Test subject 14-W. Specimen: Wolf. As you
can see, Heir General, these are both healthy specimens, as are the test subjects." Amy heard a
rattling of cages. Her vison slowly went dark but not before seeing the doctor's face, uncovered and psychotic.
* *
When Amy woke up again, she was being suspended from the floor, the tubes and wires accompanied by menacing electrodes. there was an unnatural blue and white crackling of electricity around her, illuminating the other suspended tables nearby, the bodies in various grotesque positions and levels of decay. she tried to scream but found a machine unceremoniously shoved in her mouth, stretching deep inside her. she looked and saw nothing but obscene machines and various glass tubes of colored bubbling liquids. she tried sluggishly to break free but to no avail. what little strength she had was useless against the torturous devices emplanted in and around her. "Doctor, begin the experiment."
"Yaboe!" She heard a solid click resound through the room and heard a male scream in another room. the screams echoed for a long while, then nothing. she heard a gasp of releif from
the doctor and, "General! Subject 14-W... he has... Survived!"
"Good. now start on the frauline." there was a large thud from outside the room. "Quickly! this facility is under seige!"
"Yes sir, heir general. Test subject 314-X prepped and ready. Begin phase 1." she cried out silently as the needles burned hot inside her and the tubes boiled her insides. the electrodes soon incapacitated her and she fell unconscious.
"Phase 1 complete, heir general, subject is ready, proceeding to Phase 2."
Amy felt an intense burning around the needles, and an electric fire through her veins. the machine had been taken from her mouth, but she doubted she could scream any more, as her throat was raw from the silent screams of Phase 1. She felt her body shake uncontrollably as more electric shocks were administered. she was left panting and slumped over. "Sequence complete, the bonding process was a success." there was another thud and sediment from the roof fell to the floor. "Get her down now! They will be through soon!" She was lowered to the ground and unstrapped from the table, picked up, and placed on a stretcher. she raised her hands on front her face and nearly fainted, her hands, or paws, resembled that of a tiger, and as she looked, her whole body was covered in a slick orange, black and white fur. She was put into the backseat of an armored car with a simple blanket draped around
her. Amy felt nauseated
as the car sped off. It hit a bump in the road and she moaned painfully, clutching her furry belly and retching. the nazi next to her turned away in disgust. the car ride was long and sickening, and she lost consciousness twice, and finally she tried to lay down in the cramped space. when the armored car finally stopped, she was pulled from the back seat and carried over a soldier's shoulder and into a small bunker. Once inside, amy heard a metal door open and was laid down onto a stiff bed with a single pillow and a single cover. There was a small window in the cell, a drab, grey stream of light shining in her eyes. She propped herself up on her elbow and shielded her eyes from the blinding contrast. Once her eyes adjusted, amy noticed that things had a particular sharpness to them and she had an acute awareness of things based on scent. she stood shakily, and noticed she was almost
six inches taller now, and her new tail swished back and forth along the concrete floor. she stepped
forward and grasped the iron bars and peeked out, seeing a black leather messenger bag and a black uniform lined with white. she couldn't quite reach the uniform, but was able to get a claw around the strap of the messenger bag. she pulled it closer to her and saw that her initials were monogrammed into the leather. she pulled it through the bars and opened the bag, pulling out a small, blank, leather bound journal and a pen. still nude, she sat on the bed and practiced writing, tearing out two pages of scratch paper. She began her journal with, "I am no longer the person i once was. i am something new, something... different."
• * *
The Nazi captain stepped into the bunker and saw amy, half lying, half dangling on the bed, the leather journal clutched close to her chest. he stormed into the cell and backhanded her awake, snatching up the journal as she cowered in the corner, her tail wrapped around her. the captain flipped through the pages of the journal and then closed iit with a snap. he glanced at it and dropped it on the bed. "it is yours now, Frauline. you are very special to the third reich. the fuhrer himself has asked for you to be placed in the Waffen SS and trained." amy glanced at the uniform on the table outside the cell and he nodded, "specially tailored for you, frauline. he stepped outside the cell and grabbed the uniform, setting it down on the bed. "you may Change into your new uniform and join the rest of us outside." he stepped outside and she was alone. she donned the simple uNdergarments then
slipped into the soft black trousers, after which she put on her military boots. next she put on the black and white jacket signature of the SS. the jacket was sleek and menacing, though it did little to flatten her chest, but that, she supposed, was one of her feminine charms. last was her hat and armband, both adorned with the Swastika. she gathered the leather messenger bag and stepped outside the cell, where a mirror stood, giving her a chance to see what had been done, the black uniform was a dramatic contrast to her brightly colored fur, and her new black stripes added a fierce look to her. she grinned and flashed menacing white teeth. she turned her body, looking at herself from different points of view. she slipped the nazi armband onto her right arm and turned to leave. she stopped when she encountered a high pitch noise right next to the door. for the moment she just walked past, opening the door and adjusting her vision to the outside light. the layout was grey and barren,
as it always was in wartime. the captain was waiting for her along with a small squad of SS troops. a
Few laughed and remarked at her appearance, making cat noises and wolf whistling at her. she glared at them with a bright white snarl carved into her soft face. *they will fear me...

she saluted the captain and said, "heil hitler." he returned the gesture, "heil. you are now part of the Waffen SS, frauline Amelia."
"please sir, its amy."
he noted her directness and ferocity, "very well, amy. before we assign you a task, though, you must prove yourself." he addressed the squad, "they are all corporal's and sergeants. you are merely a private. you will gain a rank for each one that you kill. however, they have been told that if they do not force you to submit, they will be killed or sent to the russian front. so you best fight your hardest, private amy."
as he finished, the squad set down their Mauser 98K's and MP-40's and stepped closer to her. her eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in ferocious determination. there were twelve of them.
• *
Amy took a fighting stance and faced her attackers. she attempted a punch at the nearest one but was kneed in the gut, she was thrown back a few feet. she fell to her knees and clutched her stomach with one hand, holding herself upright with the other. tears sprung to life in her eyes and threatened to roll down her cheeks. she fought the tears back and stood, feeling her claws extend. she swiped at a soldier's throat, catching him right in the throat. blood splattered the ground as he choked on his own fluids. the remaining eleven were taken aback slightly, allowing her to pounce another soldier, punching and tearing at his gut with lethal force. her fur was bloodstained and she waited a moment too late, watching the cavity she created fill with blood. she was barreled over, the wind knocked out of her by a sergeant. she lay on her back, gasping for air as the soldiers closed in,
landing a few punches and sending her reeling back. she staggered back, struggling for breath. she
Bumped up against something and realized it was a bunker wall, she was trapped. she thought quickly and decided for a new course of action, she waited for one of them to gather his bravado and throw a solid punch at her, which was useless, she grabbed his wrist and smashed his head against the wall, filling his helmet with blood and brains. in the same move, she had grabbed his Luger and had downed three more of the remaining ten. in their moment of confusion she kicked the closest one in the fork of his legs and followed up with a pistolwhip. the man went down quickly and died by the heel of her merciless boot. the remaining six charged at her, one falling by her last bullet and another caught a swift kick in the ribcage, shattering the bones to peices. the rest of the men were sergeants, and they began to retreat, running into the open field. she was about to chase after them when she
heard another Luger fire. she turned to see the captain shooting the deserters. each fell, one by
One by the captain's gun to her surprise he let a single man go. "you have done very well, frauline amy. you have killed eight out of twelve men, not bad at all."
she was panting, her uniform dirtied, "why.. did you let.. him go?"
the captain smiled, "someone has to spread you're reputation, heir captain."
she gaped at him. "i am... captain?"
"yaboe, heir frauline. you have proved yourself worthy to serve under the fuhrer."
she saluted him, "thank you, heir captain."
amy wrote in her journal as they were driven to one of the Stalags: "my promotion to captain has earned me my choice of weapons, ive chosen a few, two long barrel Luger's, a cavalry saber, and a sixteen foot bullwhip. i also carry an automatic Mauser in my messenger bag. other than a few knives carefully hidden on my body, that should be it. ive become the fuhrer's favorite enforcer, though i feel as if i'm forgetting something..."
amy closed the journal and placed it in her bag with a soft snap.
Amy waited for a nazi private to open the car door and let her out, tapping her foot impatiently. when he finally came, she had a luger pointed at his chest. "you're late. she got out of the car and shot him, holstering the pistol as he crumpled to the ground. the colonel in charge rushed towards her, "what is the meaning of this?!"
"your man on watch was late, and now he'll never be late again. and also, colonel, as i am a captain in the SS, i am your superior officer and you WILL adjust yourself accordingly or i will replace you with someone who will."
his expression was that of shock, "y-yes, heir captain, please follow me." he escorted her quickly to the main building. amy glanced around at the peering POWs, glaring at them with distaste as they whistled at her. "who's the kitty?" "what the hell is that?"
her hands fell to her lugers and she was ready to fire when she was beckoned inside by the colonel and she followed behind him reluctantly. "you should control your prisoners.
i find an overall lack of order in this camp. you're lucky i'm in a good mood, or i'd have you strung up for incompetence. lets hope my further evaluation of this... facility... does not make me any more inclined to do so."
the colonel stuttered again and dipped his head, "y-yes heir captain."
she stepped outside unopposed by any. she snapped her fingers and a sergeant rushed to her side and saluted. she handed him a journal logbook and he opened it to the page marked with the Stalag number. she entered the closed off areas of the stalag to inspect the barracks.
amy's fists were clenched with rag, a prisoner mocked her from within his confines. his fellow prisoners pleaded with him to stop. "she's lethal!" "she killed eight SS sergeants and corporals singelhandedly her first day!"
the prisoner ignored them and began gesturing at her. she snapped her head up and their eyes met for an instant, she growled through a gritted snarl and was over the fence in mere moments. once over,
the prisoner that mocked her was now on the ground, his throat between her fangs. he cried out once and then gurgled blood as she tore out his throat. she spat the flesh onto the dirt and stood, brushing the dusty particles from her uniform. the men around her backed away when she approached them, and watched her cautiously as she stepped back out of the fenceline. amy picked up her cap from the ground and brushed it off. one of the prisoners called for a doctor, and when one of the guards began to look for one, she merely said, "no, he wont survive. leave him be."
the soldier saluted and went back to his post. she walked up to the colonel and said, "your prisoner annoyed me, as do you, colonel. you have three days to turn this place around or you'll end up worse off then your prisoner over there."
the colonel had turned a pale white and whispered, "understood, captain."
she returned to her quarters and listened for a moment as the colonel shouted orders. "that was fun." she remarked.

Amy was asleep in one of the larger rooms in the main  building, her uniform folded neatly on the table near the bed. she kep one luger on her bedside table and the mauser under her pilllow. her other luger, her sword and her whip were next to her clothes. she was clad only in her fur, as she'd found that the most comfortable way to sleep.
she was woken up by a knock at the door. she blinked her eyes a few times. clutching the mauser handle with one hand and holding the blanket to her chest with the other, she said, "what is it?"
"the colonel wishes to speak to you, heir frauline."
she growled, "grrr... fine. tell him to make it quick." she clutched the blanket closer as he opened the door. she held the mauser aimed at him and said, "turn." he did so without hesitation. she slipped cautiously out of the bed and began to dress. "what is it you wished to speak with me about, colonel?" amy put on her undergarments and then pulled her trousers up to her waist, fastening the belt comfortably.
"there is an important telegram for you, heir captain." she pulled on the jacket over her simple shirt, tugging out any wrinkles. "oh? from who?" next came the holster belts, each hanging slightly lower than her first belt. her sword was another belt, and there was a custom clip there for her whip as well.
"Himler, he has special orders for you." her messenger bag was next to last, slung over her shoulder before she slipped into her boots. ""You can turn now. hand them here." she stepped closer to him and took the envelope with her name scrawled on the front. the colonel excused himself so she could read the orders, "captain amelia weissmuler, once you have completed your assignment at Stalag 14, please make haste to stalingrad as there has been a number of our own turning against the Reich. see to it that they cause no more problems. -heinrich himler"
she read it through three more times before folding it and placing it in her bag. she hurried outside, grabbing her hat
From the dresser.
amy went about her inspection, seeing nothing wrong today. "the condition of stalag 16 has improved, heir colonel. well done. now send my car around." the colonel grinned and motioned for the car.
the black car adorned with swastikas roared to life, coming up beside her. the driver quickly got out and opened the door for her. "farewell, colonel."
• * *
It took almost two days to drive to stalingrad, during which time amy either slept, cleaned her guns, or reviewed her intel. "about four or five instigators, each one above the rank of sergeant. investigate, interrogate and execute if necessary."
at one of their stops, she picked up a long, black, fur-lined trenchcoat. the head of the SS had had it tailored to her specifications, including adding luger holsters on the inside. she also picked up two more lugers, as now she would carry four. today was supposed to be the final leg of their journey and she watched their progress impatiently. "How much longer?" the driver was Sergeant Victor, one of her few friends. "another two hours, amy. if you want to sleep, go ahead. i'll wake you when we get close."
amy smiled slightly and lay her hat next to her. "thank you, victor." as soon as she lay her head down, she was asleep.
She wasn't woken by Victor, but by sniper-fire, a single bullet tearing through the windshield, grazing Victor's
Arm and embedding itself next to amy. "captain! get down!" she ducked her head as victor swerved, letting the side of the car take most of the rounds. the last sniper round hit victor in the arm. the car swerved and tipped over, rolling over and over again. when the car finally stopped rolling, victor clutched at his chest and looked back at amy, knocked unconscious during the roll. victor crawled out of the car and pried open amy's door, carrying her to safety as machine guns started firing towards them. there was a low ditch where victor lay amy. after which he ran back to the car and grabbed two MP40's. the machine guns began firing again and he slid back to the ditch and tried to wake amy. "Captain, captain wake up!"
her eyes fluttered open and she rubbed her temple, "what... what's going on victor?"
he propped her up and handed her an MP40. "we've been ambushed. i don't know how many there are. i got hit, but i can still fight."
amy peeked over the side and saw a group of people
Rushing towards them. they both opened fire, mowing them down effortlessly. "theres still snipers... and we don't have any reinforcements."
"can we flank them? take out a sniper and use his rifle?"
victor looked around, "we might, but itll take a while."
"lets try it once it gets dark, when they cant see us."
• * *
Nightfall came slowly, snd as the moon rose, amy and victor, with a bandage around his wound, slowly made their way to the right flank. they spotted their first sniper, who had carelessly fallen asleep near the road, and victor swiftly broke his neck. amy grabbed the sniper rifle and took aim, her cat-eyes enhancing her night vision. she held her breath slightly and took a shot at the next sniper, prone in some tall grass. the sniper round's supersonic boom echoed throughout the silent war-country. there was a cloud of red mist around the sniper's body, and victor dove for the man's rifle, taking a moment to grab ammunition and a sidearm from the corpse. amy followed behind him and they set off close to the road, toward stalingrad. they trudged on for the rest of the night, in search of transportation. though in a vehicle, it would take only two hours, on foot, constantly on watch for
russians, it would take a day and a half. Amy's coat protected her from the cold nights of
Coming winter. victor toughed it out, amy would have offered her coat, but knew he'd refuse. There was no sign of a search party or enemy occupation so they pushed on.
"where's our left snipers? if they got killed we're all dead!" The soldier's Nazi uniform was dusty and showed him as Corporal.
"Silence, corporal. we'll blame it on the russians. i bloody hate the third reich." the wolf faced soldier took a final drag from his cigarette and snuffed out the smoldering butt with his boot.
"But captain..."
"relax, corporal. i'm sure we got the SS captain."
forty miles down the road, victor collapsed in the snow, his sleeve soaked in blood. "captain, i'm not going to make it this time.. if we were back in the fatherland..."
"...we wouldn't be in this mess, just rest victor... lie down."
victor complied and took a few shaky breaths. he looked towards the road and pointed, "Captain, a car!"
amy spun around and saw a black car coming towards them from stalingrad. she flagged them down
And breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that they were Nazis.
While Victor was being tended by a doctor amy sat in a local tavern with a bottle of vodka. she downed the remains of the bottle and ordered another. the bartender was a major named Leon. "what happened out there, amy?"
amy propped her head up and took a few gulps of vodka. she swirled the contents of the bottle and replied, "where do i start, leon? first, me and victor got ambushed. a sniper clipped his arm."
"oh my, any idea who ambushed you?"
"i have an idea, the sniper rifles we picked up were Mauser 98K's... our weapons."
she took another swig of vodka. "yes, and our vehicle was compromised and we walked halfway to stalingrad."
leon nodded, "you must be exhausted, need a place to stay?"
the second bottle was now empty. "as a matter of fact i do. do you know anywhere around here with a decent room to rent?"
Leon nodded, "The place right down the street, last building."
"thanks leon."

Amy slept soundly for most of the night, though the bed was uncomfortable, she was too buzzed to notice. There was someone knocking at the door. Amy grumbled, "Come in…" she turned her back to the door and grabbed the Mauser under her pillow. The door opened slightly, "Major?  There's a telegram from the Major in charge, his name's Mordecai. He's … sort of like you."
"Hold your tongue, soldier, or I'll have it cut out of your mouth. Leave the message on the table." She listened as the soldier stepped into the room briefly and dropped the telegram. She waited for him to leave before extending her claws. She loosed a loud growl and arched her back. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot and her head was throbbing. I never was one for alcohol... but lately things have been so… so complicated... so irritating…
Amy sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She got up and stretched, walking over to the bathroom and splashing cold water on her face. After getting dressed, she holstered her weapons and fastened her coat. After her experience in Stalag 16, Amy had picked up a black leather mask, usually used in cold weather. It fit around her head and covered up the fur from her shoulders up, but still allowed her to speak, breathe, and glare. She pulled the mask over her head after flattening her ears back, and then put her cap on. Amy sighed and picked up the telegram: SS Major Amelia Weissmuler, if at all possible, please make your way over to the courthouse in town square, I'd very much like to meet you in person. Your reputation has spread even here in the Russian Front. –Major Mordecai.
Amy growled and crumpled up the message, grumbling as she did so. "Just another soldier wanting to see the Third Reich's new pet… Damn I hate this…" She opened the door and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. She had her car brought around to the front of the inn and gave the driver the address that had been scrawled on the message.
It wasn't a very long drive but it seemed to take longer because of her tensed nerves and the inexperience of the driver. I hope Victor will recover soon… these other drivers are going to piss me off…
The driver finally dropped her off at the courthouse, where the guard on watch had obviously heard tale of her, for he was at the car door to let her out before the car had stopped.  She was then greeted by two lines of soldiers, one on each side of each of the thirty steps. To others it would seem an impressive display of power, but these soldiers were relaxed and unintimidating. They saluted her as she stepped onto the sidewalk, but that did little to ease her glare of disapproval.  She could feel her gloved hands slip toward her pistol holsters but resisted the urge to shoot each of them.  The doors at the top of the steps were thrust open, and she was met by more soldiers, lined up in a similar fashion to those outside. She growled in pure irritation. She was led through another set of doors, and finally to the main courtroom.
The courtroom was massive compared to the other rooms, with rows of seats on the floor and a menacing seat raised at the far side of the room for the judge. A large Nazi flag hung from each wall. At least something was done correctly… where is this Mordecai?
Amy's eyes settled onto the judge's chair in the front center of the courtroom. A man with grey …was that fur? Occupied it, reclining in what seemed an overly nonchalant manner to be one who was currently in her own presence. He sat up slowly, returning to a more formal seated position.  Arrogant fool, why are you not standing? She thought.  He spoke. "Amy Weissmuller, how wonderful to finally set eyes on you, I believe I've only very nearly had the pleasure" His eyes glanced up and down her body, even to her unnerving, almost as if….he knew exactly what she looked like beneath her clothing, beneath her very fur – almost. What could… It suddenly clicked… this was man, the one who had been across the room from her that day…he had seemed only barely conscious, but he obviously remembered her well enough to imagine her naked.
She glanced around at the soldier's around the room and ordered them to leave. When they hesitated she drew a luger and shot upwards. The soldiers disappeared from view and she stepped closer to the wolf-man in the chair. "Subject 14-W… Mordecai." She holstered her pistol, making sure he knew she was carrying more than one gun.
He looked at her with a satisfied grin. "314-X… Amy, it's been quite a while hasn't it?"
She watched him cautiously. His gaze was piercing, knowing, even compassionate, and Amy, for the first time, felt vulnerable. "It has been a while. Nearly two years."
Mordecai stood, replying, "I never did get to see what those scientists accomplished with you. If you would, please remove your mask, if just for a moment." Her breath caught. She took off her cap and then slowly pulled off the mask. She felt him watching her, studying her.
As Amy removed her mask her sleek and shiny fur became visible. It was longer than he had imagined but still quite short.  Her tail flitted out from the slit in her coat tail, he guessed, to appear in something closer to her full glory. She was… spectacular, but like him, this state had been thrust upon her. She too seemed to walk in such a way as to suggest distaste for just how animal she had become, as he did himself.  
Amy now felt her most vulnerable, exposed to another who knew what it was like to be forced to become this. She let his eyes linger for a little longer before putting the mask back on. There was a sort of silent conversation between them, their eyes locked on each other. Mordecai finally broke the silence, "We had expected you to come to Stalingrad sooner. Was there some sort of delay?"
Amy sat in one of the seats in the front row and replied, "We were ambushed, and a sniper clipped my driver in the arm. When we killed one of the other's they were using one of our modified KAR-98K's."
Mordecai's heart rate elevated as he realized that she was talking about his counter-Nazi group. He put on his poker face and said, "Really?"
She nodded, "I'm being stationed here to take care of a few instigators, and I fear they may be in your regiment."
Mordecai frowned, "I see. I will assist you in any way I can, Amy."
Mordecai sat on an uncomfortable steel chair, a pale light shining down on a worn down table. "Now, Mordecai, just answer all of the questions to the best of your ability and we'll be out of here within the hour."
Mordecai nodded and sat straight in the chair. "Name?"
"Mordecai Dansker."
"September 19th, 1919."
"Major. You already know all of this, Amy."
She glanced up at him, "Just following procedure, Major. Now do you have any idea who might be causing all of this trouble?"
"No. I have no idea who's behind this." Crap… She's going to find out somehow… He felt her cold stare and sensed the shiver going down his spine. Amy said nothing but wrote extensively in a brown journal.
"Where were you two days ago, around 8:00 P.M.?" She watched him carefully as he struggled to reply.
"I was at the inn, reading a telegram from Himmler." He fidgeted a little in his seat, aware of the unmerciful look cast upon him. Amy wrote something down in the journal and returned a softer gaze on Mordecai. There were a few more questions but they were a bit easier for Mordecai to answer. after the interrogation, mordecai looked at her and asked, "come to this address, surely there's more for us to talk about."

soon amy would be in his quarters, mordecai's body quivered in anticipation. there was a knock at the door, "you may enter." amy stepped sleekly past the door and shut it fast. she thought she was here because he had found evidence that pointed to the traitors of the reich. he knew better as her eyes took him in she looked as if she expected him to speak. he instead stepped to her in a single stride and pulled her furry body close to his own with his arm tight around her waist. he felt her breath catch in her chest. he forcefully pulled her mouth to his own. she was tense but not in anger, she was startled but she was enjoying being caught off guard. her sandpaper tongue slipped past his lips and her fangs bit lightly on the edges of his mouth and pulled. a warm growl escaped his throat. his claws raked across her silky skin, leaving centimeter deep crimson trails. her eyes widened with shock and she pulled back and bit deep into his sculpted shoulder. they crashed into the wall, their breath escaping in short howls and growls. amy unbottoned her trenchcoat and let it slip to the floor. underneath she was completely naked, save for a garter with two knives hooked into it. mordecai gently grabbed her inner thigh and her breath caught. he slipped the garter off and kissed her furry belly a few times. as he stood again amy wraped her legs around his torso and unfastened mordecai's belt. his trousers fell to the floor and he stepped out of them. they kissed excitedly a few times and mordecai led them to the bed, bumping into it a moment later. amy leaned back and shifted herself so he could access her. she lay on the bed with her legs splayed out, waiting as mordecai mounted her. the fur on the back of her neck stood on end. she watched in pleasant fascination as he moved into position, directly over her, dominating yet gentle. Amy's heart was pounding inside her. she gripped the sides of the bed in preparation for the ecstasy inducing waves of energy she knew would come. he was making his offer to her, and  she watched as his member, smooth and hard, penetrated her warm, soft ventrality. she moaned involuntarily as she felt every inch of it slide deep into her, hitting the far walls of her body. he let out a slight gasp of ecstasy as he did so and then waited for her answer. her tail flitted back and forth between their legs excitedly as she said, "take me." mordecai gingerly held her, just above the soft fur of her tail. "ready?" he asked.
the muscles of her ventrality quivered against his shaft. she nodded, unable to speak, her body tense and ready.
he pulled back some and she
Gasped quietly as the wave hit her. she gripped the sides of the bed and he thrust deep into her, drawing out yet another moan, louder than the first. he watched her reactions carefully and judged what motions pleased her most. she bit her lower lip and closed her eyes. he pulled back again, feeling her soft muscles contract against the sliding shaft. he angled himself a bit, so as to hit the pleasure points he knew were hiding inside her. he thrust deep and hard and watched as her eyes shot open and she cried out amorously. gotcha... lets see if i can make you scream... he thought. he angled himself up this time and pulled back, hitting the nerves on the other side. she arched her back and moaned for a moment before slowly falling back to the bed. her ventrality had swelled to its full size and was close to dripping wet. mordecai felt her muscles pleading for more, squeezing and
contracting around him. he thrust again and again, each time at a different angle and a different speed,
Filling the room with her moans and cries. her sounds grew ever louder as he picked up speed until she was close to screaming. their fur was dripping with sweat, but this just added more fuel to their fire. mordecai now pressed closer to amy, so she could muffle her cries his thick fur. he continued to thrust, and she continued to moan to the point where she lightly bit into his shoulder, drawing a few moans from him as well. he could feel her heart racing and could feel her body coiling up in unison with his, preparing for the release. he held out just before they climaxed and listened for her whimper, he could feel her body's longing, the full tingling ache of pleasure just as he felt in his body and thrust one last time, spraying his seed as she screamed, her muscles pulsing against his throbbing shaft, squeezing the seed from his body, mixing with her own juices. she felt the soft jets of semen coating her walls, the excess dripping out onto her fur. Amy reached down with one hand and massaged the swollen lips of her vagina, brushing his shaft as she did. his breathing had slowed a bit, but amy wasnt done yet. she forced him onto the bed so she was on top of him. amy leaned forward and whispered, "my turn, i'm gonna ride you like a horse." she grinned at his shocked expression. she gave him half a moment to prepare before they she went at it, not as gentle as he had been but still gentle. the bed shook, creaking as she rode, to the point that it bumped rhythmically against the wall. at least this building

is empty...
he whimpered against his will and began panting, his tongue lolling out of his open mouthed, half dazed smile. she caressed him, held him and kissed him until he was exhausted, yet she kept going, even after he had climaxed. she wanted this last one to be memorable. she felt him sliding in and out of her, building up
just as she was. she looked in his eyes and gave the final strokes, climaxing with a
Satisfying scream, coupled with his own howling. she let the already overflowing fluids drip down, where a large wet spot had formed on the bed. she lay on top of him, let the rise and fall of his chest carry her. she crawled up so that she could kiss him, his shaft slowly and agonizingly pulling out of her. mordecai's eyes shut for a moment as they kissed, and she knew he was falling asleep. "Did i wear you out too much, mordecai?"
he responded with a slow kiss and fell asleep.
• *

Amy woke up the next morning wrapped in mordecai's arms, his steady breathing lulled her into a sense of safety. she tapped his arm and he raised it, allowing her to get up. she sat up and stretched, a wide yawn creeping its way out. she stood, the pads of her paws making soft noises as she touched the wood floor. she began her day as she always did, push ups and other execises followed by a brief meditation. she was aware of mordecai's soft gaze as he watched her, learning her body a little differently than he had the night before. their uniforms lay in a hastily folded pile near the door, and amy went over to them, grabbing hers and walking back over to the bed.  she slipped into the simple undergarments, then donned her newer items: smooth, brown leather leg-guards that stretched from her ankles to mid-thigh and a set of bracers made of the same leather. mordecai growled softly, "i like that look..." amy growled back at him and, with a sly look, said, "i'll keep that in mind..."
After that came her black uniform, now decorated with a few bars and her rank tags. after lacing her boots, she walked over to the table where they had put their weapons. she pushed the magazine release button on the first luger and checked the rounds, and, after finding them just as they were when she's placed them, slid the magazine back into the weapon and holstering it. she did this for the other three Lugers, depositing them in their appropriate holsters. amy then coiled her whip and placed it on the clip at her belt, and then grabbed the sword, examining its blade with the care of a master. satisfied, she grabbed the messenger bag and checked its contents: five journals, one mauser pistol, extra ammo, a few knives which she took out and hid on her person.
she turned to see mordecai slipping into his trousers, but she couldnt help notice his member before it disappeared. "mmm..."
he raised an eyebrow and she walked towards him grabbing him and delivering a passionate kiss, her soft tongue toying at his. Mordecai growled softly and chased amy's tongue back into her own mouth. they groped each other, fondling the other under their uniform. when they finally pulled away, mordecai was sitting on the bed, and amy was sitting in his lap. amy wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered, "its still a little early..." mordecai started undressing her, unbuttoning her jacket and sliding a hand down her pants. she gasped and lightly rode his hand for a moment, getting her juices flowing, back and forth, his fingers teasing the soft lips. Once her jacket was off, he gently caressed her breasts, longing for her gasps to reach his ears. "You look... so beautiful..." he said between kisses.
Amy held him and said, "we cant do anything... with these pants still on you.." she reached down and rubbed his member, and he nodded, standing quickly and throwing the trousers to his ankles. he turned and she was waiting, her legs dangling off the bed, her vagina already dripping wet. He mounted her and wasted no time, locating her pleasure points and sending the agonizingly pleasant waves through them. She leaned forward and bit the base of his neck. he whimpered slightly at the initial pain, but then pushed it aside. Amy tasted blood in her mouth, but if she let go, she'd scream. She continued to bite down, and felt her claws extending as she held on to him. Then something unexpected happened, she felt a new sensation and had no choice but to let go, she screamed. She glanced down and saw what had caused the sensation: with one of his hands he had begun to probe her, massaging the soft flesh. her moaning filled mordecai with renewed vigor and he thrust harder and deeper until they climaxed, spraying her inner walls as he had done the night before. As the waves passed and their breathing slowed, they toweled off the sweat and the excess and again dressed for
the day. she glanced over at him and saw that there was blood at the base of his neck where she
Bit him. she rushed to his side and looked at it but there was too much blood to tell for sure, "let me lick your wounds." he winced a few times as she licked the blood from his fur. once it had gone, she looked again: there were a few spots where she had barely broken the skin, and others where she had practically gored him. she grabbed part of the white bed covers and tore it into strips, then set about wrapping it around the wound. once she was satisfied it would hold, she kissed him lightly and whispered, "I'm sorry..." her eyes were soft and apologizing. he pulled her close to him and replied, "its a war wound now, one worth getting." she buried her face in the fur of his chest, taking in the musky scent. they stood there for a few moments before breaking off and putting on the rest of their uniforms.
they left by different exits, he left through the back and she scaled the side of the wall, taking a back street to the hotel she was supposed to be staying at and climbing the wall to her open window. she peeked through to make sure nobody was inside and gracefully slipped into the room, where she had left her coat and two lugers, along with her mask, cap and gloves. she put these on and pushed herself to remain the cold, strict enforcer she was known to be. amy then opened the door and walked down the stairs into the lobby, where she knew a group of soldiers was waiting for her. they saluted her, more serious and imposing than they had been when she first arrived. she stopped at the door and pulled out her journal, scribbling down a note. she glanced at the squad leader and gave an approving nod. as she left she could hear him breath a sigh of releif. victor was waiting for her outside, as was a guard on watch who already had the car door open for her. she stepped inside and told victor, "take me to the prisoners."
"yaboe, heir major."
Victor drove amy to a hidden bunker, where inside were a few russian prisoners, known to be associated with the instigators in the reich. there were two SS privates standing guard on either side of the massive steel doors. neither of them moved, as they both knew the protocol. victor cut the engine and waited a few seconds before stepping out, his SS Sergeant uniform catching some of a passing breeze. he then raised his hands and turned, showing he had only his luger. he then opened the door and saluted as amy stepped out. the guards' reactions were mixed fear and dread, but they held a steely salute and then opened the doors. a row of lights, some flickering, stretched down a long corridor. there was the sound of dripping water echoing down the corridor. she turned to victor, who had a slip of paper held out to her. she took the paper and scanned for the cell numbers. "Cells three,
five, nine, and forteen." she turned to the guards and asked, "is the interrogation room ready?" The guard on the left nodded and said, "i-in cell n-number twenty five, heir major."
"good... but if i hear you stutter one more time, i'll demote you permanantly." she didn't wait for his response, taking long strides down the corridor in search of the interrogation room. she grinned as she saw the compound, the open air cells and long corridors would magnify sound perfectly. she scanned the prisoners as she walked past, noting the reactions and the build of the prisoners. there were two nazi soldiers in front of each cell, brandishing standard rifles. she got to cell twenty-five and looked at the tools at her disposal. anything from poisons to electricity were lining the walls. this had just become amy's private office, as she was put in charge of the toughest and most important interrogations. she turned to the two guards outside the room and said, "bring me prisoner number thirty-five, cell forteen." the man they brought was large, muscular and the toughest of all
of them.
there was a desk in the room with multiple items on it. amy picked up the folder on the desk and turned to his file. "mister dimitri, former sergeant of the red army. lets start off with a simple question, who is the head of the anti-nazi uprising?"
dimitri stood there and said through a thick accent, "i'll tell you nothing, you think you can scare me with your black mask and dark attire?"
amy chuckled and ordered the guards to shackle him to the wall. dimitri laughed, "what are you going to do, pussycat, whip me? ha!" amy looked around the room, searching. she finally found it; a special bullwhip, the last two feet of it laced with barbed hooks and spikes. "as you wish, dimitri." she whipped him repeatedly, each time sending strips of flesh flying from his back. she could tell he was breaking, but not quite yet. this would be slow. once his back was stripped of skin, she coiled the bloody whip, taking a bottle of vodka and popping the cork. "thirsty, dimitri?" She then upturned the contents of the bottle onto his back, burning the skin. he gritted his teeth, but still howled in pain.
as she did so, amy said, "you see, dimitri, you seem to be under the impression that i need you alive." she picked up the a bottle filled with lighter fluid and then set about soaking him from head to toe. there was a ventilation shaft above him specifically for this. she had designed it especially for what was about to come next. she pulled out a lighter and flicked it, saying, "any last words dimitri?"
he fumbled to speak, "y-you think i'm sca-...?"
"guess not, " she interrupted, tossing the lighter onto him. she then said, "guard, bring me prisoner fort-five, cell three."
the next man came in and saw dimitri's last few thrashings before he died, the black corpse slumping over. "victor, former sergeant, welcome. have a seat." she pointed to a chair facing the desk. victor hesitantly sat. "now, victor, lets start with a few simple questions, eh? who is the
Head of the anti-nazi instigators?"
victor looked around at the various devices and swallowed hard. "a man... or... a wolf-man... named... m-mordecai..."
amy stared at him with cold eyes. he continued, "he and a group of others, they, they helped us... supplied us... even killed nazi's with us. the reich's hand doesnt necessarily reach this far out."
amy stood and felt her heart fall to peices in her chest. she pulled a luger from its holster and shot victor in the head twice, sending blood and brain matter out of the back of his skull.
she stormed out of the cell and walked down the corridor, growling, "kill them all..." the prisoners screams and pleads echoed for only a second before each of the guards' machine guns roared to life, killing everyone in the cells. victor was waiting outside and knew she was furious as she thrust open the car door and stepped inside. "to stalingrad. now, victor."
Mordecai was on his knees, his hands tied tightly behind his back. "Amy, please, just listen..."
Amy shakily held a Luger pointed at him. Her voice caught as she said, "Dammit, Mordecai... Ive listened to your lies long enough.."
Mordecai looked at her, his eyes pleading. he saw that she was on the brink of crying. "Amy..."
She pistolwhipped him once, "It was you the whole time... you shot victor, you shot at me! you led me along to save your own fucking tail." she paused for a few shaky breaths and then, "you used me... seduced me..."
Mordecai shook his head, "No, no, no, amy... i would never use you. i care about you. i did what i did that night to strike back at hitler. if i had known it was you in that car..."
she looked at him, seeing the truth in his eyes. her own gaze softened for a moment before shaking her heart back between her ribs. "Stop... no more... just stop..."
there was a silence between them, then mordecai said, "lets run... together. away
From hitler, away from the Reich."
she stared at him, dumbfounded, "w-what? no, i... i can't..."
"amy, yes you can."
she shook her head and holstered the pistol. "no, you had your chance to strike back at hitler, but now its my turn." she thought as she paced in front of him. finally she grinned and pulled the pistol back out. "just play along. i'll tell you the plan once we're out." she kissed him once and shot him. his eyes widened as she pulled away. he fell, blood pouring from his chest as amy whispered in his ear, "i love you..." mordecai's vision went black and then nothing.
Amy held him as he fell, then lay him on the floor.
the guard ran in, "major!"
"i'll take care of the body, just keep your yap shut."
mordecai woke up in the back seat of a car, driven by victor. his head lay in amy's lap and she stroked his fur. "mordecai..."
he clutched at his aching chest, finding it bare but bandaged. "amy..."
"sorry i shot you... it was the only way to get you out. you are now
Officially dead."
"what about... victor?" he glanced at the driver.
"he's on our side. we're on our way back to berlin. you'll wait on the outskirts of the city while i go and receive my orders."
mordecai looked at the bandages, feeling pain shoot through his body. amy kissed him as he lay in her lap and said, "just another war wound, but one worth getting." mordecai had said the same thing that night in the abandoned house.
"get some sleep, mordecai, we're still about a day and a half away from berlin." mordecai looked at her and saw that amy hadnt slept in a while. "only if you sleep too."
amy nodded and looked down at the base of his neck, seeing the scars from their first night together, and then at the bandage, from their last. she laughed a little and said, "i'm in love with a ghost." amy carefully embraced him and waited for sleep to take them.
Amy walked up the stairs into the capitol building of berlin. the soldiers here were properly trained, as they saluted and held their statued stance without hesitation. the doors opened and she was stopped by two of Hitler's SS Sergeants who asked her to remove the mask and identify herself. she pulled the mask off her head and said, "SS Major Amelia Weissmuler." the two sergeants nodded and allowed her to don the mask, then led her through more doors until finally she beheld the Fuhrer. he sat behind a regal desk and appeared to be gazing at her, a twinkle of intimidation in his eyes. "Amy, my favorite soldier, welcome back to berlin."
she looked at him through the mask and felt vengeful fury rise within her. "thank you, mein fuhrer. its been quite some time." she said, referring to that day in the laboratory.
Hitler looked at her with a fierce gaze as if he were trying to see into her soul. "not enough sedatives. i should have doctor shneider shot for his incompetence. nonetheless, He did succeed in creating one fierce and ruthless soldier."
amy set her briefcase on the floor beside her and replied, "i only do what is best for the reich, mein fuhrer."
Adolf grinned, "as do i, major, which is why i must request that you travel to our camps at Auschwitz and make sure that my soldiers are not lacking in order. you are rather notorious for the organization of the troops, and the executions of those incompetent."
amy held her gaze, "they were hazards, obstacles, ones that needed to be... removed."
hitler didnt say anything for a moment, then, "i see. you have a remarkably frightening reputation, major, even my highest generals fear you."
"as they should." she flashed her fangs. *as should you...

"i heard that your assignment in stalingrad was a success." amy stopped herself from growling. "the wolf-man was always unstable, reckless, impulsive. just another failed experiment." amy bit her lower lip to keep from objecting.
"why bring this up, mein fuhrer?"

Adolf leaned back in his chair and said, "because auschwitz holds more than just the Imperfect." he was interrupted by the ringing telephone on his desk. as hitler took the call, he waved her away; she was dismissed. amy sighed and turned to leave. she took a step before shaking her head, turning and then bending over to pick up the briefcase, hesitating and then picking it up. she made her way outside and into her waiting car. as victor drove, amy carefully pulled on the briefcase handle, barely exposing a tripwire. with a claw, she cut it and opened the briefcase. inside was a special mechanism that would have deployed a Bouncing Betty in hitler's office. victor gave her a quizzical look. "i couldn't do it victor. not this time... to auschwitz, please."
* *
Amy began talking to victor as they went to pick up Mordecai. "the fuhrer began saying something about Auschwitz not just holding the undesireables... do you know what he might have meant?" victor had previously been stationed in Auschwitz and seen some of the darker sides of the prison camps.
victor pulled into an alleyway and slowed the car to a stop. he pulled out a carton of cigarretes and tapped it on his hat a few times before getting out of the car. amy rolled down her window and they continued their conversation while he leaned against the car. he took a long drag of the cigarrete and blew a grey-white stream of smoke. "don't you ever wonder why i am so at ease around you? how i know exactly how i know when your skin crawls beneath that pretty fur of yours?" he took another drag and continued, "its because ive seen your kind before."
amy stared at him in disbeleif. "you've seen more?"
victor nodded. "yes, four others. all of them in auschwitz. there was another tiger; a male,
who goes by "Grey". another Wolf; a female named roxi. and two lizards, one male and one female. named dante and diana."
amy was lost in a dream, "theres... more of us...." she mumbled quietly.
"yes. notice there are one male and one female for each species. the fuhrer had planned that they create the perfect soldiers. havent you wondered how you aren't carrying mordecai's child? its because you are both of entirely different species, unable to breed thanks to doctor shneider and his collection of psychopaths. however, as you have already seen, the genetic realignments made the experiments... rebellious.. and the fuhrer wouldnt have disorder in his ranks. so he sent the original four to auschwitz to die quietly. one thing he didnt foresee was that your kind are very resiliant, and it has been predicted that they, and you, will have an estimated lifespan of two hundred years. you, herr frauline, are still quite young."
amy gaped at him for a few moments, dumbfounded, trying to take it
All in. victor took a final drag of the cigarette and tossed the smoldering butt on the gravel before climbing back into the car. as they kept along their route, amy looked out the window of the car, and yet saw nothing, she was going over all that victor had told her.
they finally stopped on the outskirts of town and waited as mordecai got in. amy immediately pulled him close to her and kissed him. when she pulled away, amy looked him up and down before whispering, "we aren't the only ones..."
Mordecai put his feet up on the cushion to sleep, propping himself up on the interior of the car. amy lay on top of him and rested her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat and the rise and fall of his breathing as he stroked the fur on her belly with on hand and held her with the other. Amy's uniform lay folded on the floorboard, leaving her with her simple undergarments and her leather bracers and leggings. victor had turned on the radio and the car was soon filled with soothing music. amy purred a little and ran her paw over the scars on mordecai's chest. he looked at her shoulder and said, "i beleive you have a few war wounds as well..." he put a finger on each of the bite scars from where he'd bitten her the first time. he took his hand away and gently kissed her shoulder.  amy moaned slightly. he looked and saw another scar at the base of her neck. he slowly crept toward
it and kissed that spot as well. he pulled away and looked for the last one, on her lower lip, and
Drew her closer to him. he kissed her and lightly nipped at her lip. she growled softly and returned the favor. he opened his mouth a little and her rough tongue slithered its way inside. she found his tongue and licked at it until he chased her back into her own mouth. after her retreat, she sucked at his tongue and his lip simultaneously. she bit lightly on the edge of his lip and teased his tongue. he whimpered slightly and amy felt his hand travelling lower and lower down her back. his hand crept under her panties and she grabbed it. they continued dancing with their mouths and she guided his hand between her legs. mordecai inched his hand deeper into the front of her panties and stopped. he pulled his mouth away and glanced at victor. victor was pulling off to the side of the country road near a cluster of tall leafy bushes with what looked like a clearing in the middle. the moon
was still creeping up and victor said, "i'm going to catch a few winks. and you guys might want a bit
Of fresh air." he winked at amy and gestured at the bushes. the couple got out of the car. before mordecai got out, victor handed him an MP40 submachine gun. "just in case of greys." greys being nazis. mordecai nodded and followed amy into the bushes. she grabbed mordecai by the shoulders and sat him down on the ground. he looked up at her slowly and watched every curve of her body as she moved. as she sat down on his legs, he gripped her by the arms and turned so he was over her. "you've been a naughty cat, amy; assisting a fugitive, attempted assassination, being so beautiful. tsk tsk tsk" amy raised an eyebrow and pushed him onto his rear and she was on top of him once again. "as i recall, you were quite the naughty one yourself; starting an uprising, attempted murder of an SS officer, and being so damn handsome."
he grunted as she lightly humped at the bulge in his shorts. he looked at her with pleading eyes, "what's my punishment?"

Amy chuckled and said, "you're going to sit here and let me ride you, if you howl, we start over." mordecai gulped as she stood and pushed down her panties. then she pulled at the string holding her simple bra in place and it fell to the ground. she looked at him and the growing bulge and asked, "you're a little excited i see. a crime punishable by sex." she grinned at his wide eyed expression and stepped closer to him. mordecai's tail wagged back and forth and his breathing was rough. amy crouched and reached forward, her hand brushing at his bulge as she grabbed his shorts and pulled them down to his ankles. mordecai swallowed hard and watched as she crawled up his body. he whimpered as she licked at his shaft a few times and then continued her way up. she purred once in his ear and sat up onto his shaft. both of them gasped as she moved. every move she made sent ecstasy inducing
waves into both of them. amy bit her lower lip and placed her hands on his belly. she rode him slow at
First and then faster and harder. mordecai was panting heavily in unison with amy's moans until his entire body clenched and he howled as he sprayed her. she cried out and lurched forward as she came right after him. they lay there panting for a moment before she said, "you howled... time for another go."
victor woke up in the middle of the night covered in a cold sweat. he wiped his face with the back of his glove and shakily took out the lighter and cigarretes in his pocket. he flicked the lighter a few times before it sparked to life. he lit the tip and took a long drag. he looked over his shoulder and saw amy staggering over to the car. he blew a stream of smoke out of the window as she asked, "victor? did we... wake you?"
victor laughed a little and replied, "no, no... nightmares... of auschwitz and their... experiments..."
amy leaned against the door. "what happened?"
victor sighed, "you'll see all of it when you get there..." amy nodded and said, "at least itll take a
Few days to get there... i cant seem to walk straight." she turned to leave and stumbled back into the bushes. victor began rolling up the window and stopped when he heard mordecai start grunting and amy started purring. victor took a final drag and crushed the cigarrete in his hand and threw it to the ground. he rolled up the window and turned on the radio.
in auschwitz, a form shuffled in the dark corner of a rather large cage. a slender tiger-man crawled forward into the dim light, the bars' shadows casting more stripes. "the others are coming... Roxi, wake up." he called to the wolfette in the cage beside him.
"what is it, grey?" she glared at him with tired eyes. "why the hell did you wake me?" she growled.
"The missing two... they are coming... Here!"
roxi sighed, "ones an SS and she killed the other! what makes you think she'll break us out?"
The Grey looked at her, "just trust me..."
* *

Nelize May 2015

Within the fields of grace
and moving waltzing wheat fields
moves the spotted feline with pace
black tears run down its face and yields
to the sun's tangerine gaze

The rythmic thomping of paws through grass
with undivided focus so clear
every step as fragile as glass
sounds perilous behind this feeble deer

Colossal strides that fly through air
pefected anatomy claws down its goal
rules of nature have never been fair
but one must know the key is survival
this deer now knows its fatal fate
is nature's gift to the cheetah's plate.

There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there--
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.

howard brace Aug 2013

     "A leisurely breakfast" their mother would admonish, "aids digestion and builds strong bones..." so what with the imposed inactivity every morning, boredom broken only by Sockeye the family Spaniel, whose want of table manners coincided very conveniently with mealtimes... as he paced restlessly under the table, slobbering indiscriminately in his daily scramble to devour every dangling morsel before supply and demand shut up shop for the night and went home, far tastier... he gobbled down the latest offering of egg white, than the remnants of his own dietary allowance, they just had to get the timing right that was all, or risk loosing a finger, or gaining one depending upon who was doing the dangling, or who was doing the gobbling... he gave an indignant sneeze, not so much a hint but more of a... 'what's with the pepper malarky...'  So that it was only with a good deal of snappy hand coordination, lengthy digestion and sturdy bone building that Rocky was finally able to extricate himself from the table and make the most of what little time remained until lunchtime, meagre time indeed for the Rocky's of this world to hang around with their dogs, leaving their little sisters to help mums do, whatever it was that girls usually did when they should have scooted out of the kitchen faster, when it would have been all so much simpler just to grab a handful of biscuits instead...  Meanwhile, laying in wait in the room above, flat out upon the bedroom counterpane, having recently had their insides stuffed to bursting with a full English breakfast's worth of beach and holiday apparal... and that was just the luggage.    

     The contents of which, up until a week last washday had been snoozing fitfully behind 'Do Not Disturb' signs, cautiously peeping out from the gloomier, more remote recesses of the bedroom dresser, or carefully concealed in cupboards and closets... and being in every other respect by no means readily accessible to public scrutiny of any kind... had been left to their own devices some twelve months earlier with a clear understanding to skip bath nights from that moment on and henceforth immerse themselves in the heady, camphorated pungency of mothball, vowing once and for all never to darken portmanteau lids again... but now, after many hours of arduous laundering and de-fumigation... were now being squeezed and unceremoniously shoe-horned into what had recently become nothing short of an overcrowded sanctuary for the dispossessed.  
     Meanwhile, all the luggage asked from life other than be detained under section four of the Mental Health Act, 1983 and be found cosy padded accommodation elsewhere... was to have their interiors vacated, their tranquility reinstated... and with a questionable wink from a dodgy Customs official, have their travel permits invalidated... irrevocably, for despite throwing a double six for a spot of well earned convalescence back on top of the wardrobe some twelve months ago, basking in the shade of a warm Summer Sun, striking up the occasional conversation with the floral decor, third bloom from the left currently answering to the name of Petunia, the still over extended luggage, seemingly with little hope of R & R this side of the letter Q, faced the perennial disquiet of vacational therapy, of being knelt on, sat and bounced upon and be specifically manhandled in ways that matching sets of co-ordinated luggage should not...
     Tina could be heard quite distinctly in the next street concerning her husbands lack of competence, whilst Red it appeared had become just as outspoken as his wife in that particular direction... as the local self appointed busybody, who lived well within earshot of the address in question would bear witness to as she put feverish pen to paper, writing to what had become a regular... and some would say hot bed of intrigue in the local tabloid concerning how vociferous the once tranquil neighbourhood had become of recent and how certain undesirable elements within the community were to be heard carrying on alarmingly at all hours, day and night... and as she diligently weighed her civic duty against simple household economics as to whether to send this latest block busting eye opener by first or second class post, their parents could now be heard broadcasting, if anything to a wider listening audience than the previous newsflash, some of the more sensational episodes of the previous twenty-four hours as to who was pulling whose suitcase zipper now... although in which direction it should be pulled, they both agreed, wasn't for public disclosure at that time... vowing to draw blood well before the day was out, as three lacerated fingers would later testify and that it was only because of the children that they were going at all... but God willing, they would be setting off very shortly with rosy smiles on their faces for the sole benefit of the neighbours, even if it killed them. 

     Spurred to fever pitch  by this latest 'stop-the-press' newsflash, the same public spirited busybody now threw herself wholeheartedly into further award winning journalism and for the second time that morning took to pen and paper, only now directed to the gossip column in the local Parish Gazette, followed by grievous lamentations of impending bloodshed to the incumbent Chief Constable as to how they'd all be murdered in their beds ere long before nightfall.

     By devouring his water bowl, thereby dispensing with the need for it to be washed and by its abrupt and mysterious absence, disposing of all further incriminating evidence as to where the abundant supply of liquid, now surging copiously across the kitchen floor had sprung from... the flash-flood was hastily making its own getaway beneath the kitchen units, leaving Sockeye to his own devices to carry the can on his own, ankle deep in what up until earlier that morning had been sloshing around quite contentedly in Eccup reservoir.

      Having inadvertently released the handbrake in a boyish gesture of bravado, thereby placing himself in sole charge of a runaway vehicle, Sockeye it appeared was not the only member of the Salmon family to have dropped himself right in it that day as Rocky, having unwittingly placed the following ten years pocket money well out of reach and back into the pockets of his parents dwindling resources, had to a far greater extent nominated himself for the same Earth moving experience as the one his mum would shortly be giving Sockeye...

      Having just been granted licence to do whatsoever it pleased, the vehicle began its leisurely rearwards perambulation down the long garden driveway and by way of small thanks for its new found independence took Rocky along for the ride where due to a certain lack of stature on Rocky's part, at no point had he ever been in the slightest position to influence the Holiday threatening train of events which now engulfed him, never thinking to reapply the handbrake... that would be too easy, he perched on the edge of the seat clutching the steering wheel and stretched out his sturdy little legs in an heroic, but futile attempt to reach the pedals as the family car, which up until any second now had been his fathers pride and joy, pitched backwards at what seemed to Rocky, breakneck speed and directly into a very severe and unforgiving brick wall.

     Almost missing this latest round of entertainment above that of her parents most recent exchange, River accompanied by Sockeye scampered outdoors and slap into what could only be described as the most fun she'd had all year as an unsuspecting "what was that noise" muscled its way through the open bedroom window and fell flat on its face in the garden below and which, if that morning to date was anything to go by, then the neighbourhood would soon be tuning in to the latest Salmon family's 'hot-off-the-press' breaking news bulletin.

     Opening her mouth River hesitated as she fine-tuned the speech centres of her young and delicate synapse into full vocal alignment, then adjusting shutter speed from f8 to automatic she closed her mouth... then opened it once again and informed her brother that if the tip of dads size 9 was an Olympic gold, then Rocky would be sure to take first in the 110 metre hurdling event with 'team GB...' and could she have his autograph... with those words of solid encouragement rattling around his ears like the last biscuit in an otherwise empty tin box, River went skipping back into the house to announce the latest newsflash of her parents next financial happening... which she felt certain would prompt further rounds of thought provoking front page journalism.

     A steady two hours drive away, over on the east coast, the inhabitants of a sleepy fishing community were gainfully employed, pretty much as any other, going about their daily business, one such denizen... a baby crustacean, currently marooned by the tide had taken up temporary accommodation in a beachfront rock-pool property of certain distinction, was as yet unaware of a completely different and obscure set of circumstances that would shortly be rearing his slobbering jowls and bring all four paws, the size of dinner plates, crashing down upon the unsuspecting seashore fauna... was determined while she waited to catch the next high tide home, that until such time that the right wave rolled along, would potter about in the little rock-pool, perhaps indulge herself in a leisurely bathe... and catch up on a spot of therapeutic knitting.

     So, placing the days events since breakfast into perspective...  [i]  the vehicle indemnity provider, henceforth to be named 'the party of the first part', who currently weren't cognisant of an impending claim to date, would shortly be laying eggs attempting to squirm out of all liability, due to  [ii]  the automobile, driven by a minor, fortunately for Salmon senior on private land and henceforth, the aforementioned to be called 'the third party, to the party of the second part...' which urgently needed rigorous cosmetic attention to the rear tail light cluster and surrounding bodywork so as to maintain a favourable resale mark-up price.  [iii]  Having been dragged kicking and screaming from the top of the wardrobe, the luggage had rapidly developed cold feet and cried sudden illness in the family, but were being taken to the Wake anyway.  [iv]  Wrapped around the hot water cylinder since the previous Summer, the various sundry items of holiday apparel stood united, resolute as a Union Picket line not be seen dead looking as though they'd never so much as seen the bottom of a flat-iron.  [v]  Both Red and his wife, Tina, despite wearing the same anaemic smile as the one show to the neighbours as they departed, travelling counter clockwise along the crescent so as not to unduly advertise their recent misadventure with the garage wall, were only going for the sake of the children, whilst  [vi]  River and her errant brother didn't want to go anyway dismayed at leaving the television set behind, were already missing their favourite programs, which only really left  [vii]  'mans-best-friend' who, when he wasn't actually hanging over the front seat giving dad big sloppy licks as though... 'are we nearly there yet' or perhaps... 'I need to stop and spend a penny... or you'll all know about it if you don't,' was more than content to be taking up the majority of the rear seating arrangements and with a delinquent wag of his tail, was deliriously happy to be wherever his family were.

                                                        ­                             ...   ...   ...

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1862

I watched the turtle dwindle day by day,
Get more remote, lie limp upon my hand;
When offered food he turned his head away;
The emerald shell grew soft. Quite near the end
Those withdrawn paws stretched out to grasp
His long head in a poignant dying gesture.
It was so strangely like a human clasp,
My heart cracked for the brother creature.

I buried him, wrapped in a lettuce leaf,
The vivid eye sunk inward, a dull stone.
So this was it, the universal grief:
Each bears his own end knit up in the bone.
Where are the dead? we ask, as we hurtle
Toward the dark, part of this strange creation,
One with each limpet, leaf, and smallest turtle---
Cry out for life, cry out in desperation!

Who will remember you when I have gone,
My darling ones, or who remember me?
Only in our wild hearts the dead live on.
Yet these frail engines bound to mystery
Break the harsh turn of all creation's wheel,
for we remember China, Greece, and Rome,
Our mothers and our fathers, and we steal
From death itself its rich store, and bring it home.

How neatly a cat sleeps,
Sleeps with its paws and its posture,
Sleeps with its wicked claws,
And with its unfeeling blood,
Sleeps with ALL the rings a series
Of burnt circles which have formed
The odd geology of its sand-colored tail.

I should like to sleep like a cat,
With all the fur of time,
With a tongue rough as flint,
With the dry sex of fire and
After speaking to no one,
Stretch myself over the world,
Over roofs and landscapes,
With a passionate desire
To hunt the rats in my dreams.

I have seen how the cat asleep
Would undulate, how the night flowed
Through it like dark water and at times,
It was going to fall or possibly
Plunge into the bare deserted snowdrifts.

Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
Like a tiger's great-grandfather,
And would leap in the darkness over
Rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

Sleep, sleep cat of the night with
Episcopal ceremony and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams
Control the obscurity
Of our slumbering prowess
With your relentless HEART
And the great ruff of your tail.

Jessie Mar 2014

Let me trade in my smile for fangs
And my feminine fingers for paws.

Let me trade in my manicured nails for claws
And my curly locks for silver fur.

Let me trade my heart shaped mouth for a long snout
And the freckles on my nose for whiskers.

Let me trade my curves for a round, bushy tail
And my clumsiness for strength and agility.

Let me trade my tears for whimpers and barks
And my voice for howls in the night.

Let me trade my dinner reservations for hunting down a moose
And my poor senses for keen ears and a nose.

Let me trade my soul for a different one
And become a friend to the moon.

Let me live my life as a wolf
And all that it encompasses.

Let me symbolize the dawn and the dusk
And let me symbolize the converging of light and darkness.

Because that is wolf,
And that is what I see, when I look in the mirror.

Namir May 2014

Once upon a winters eve, there was a young little fox. As she played around in the forest and snowy plains she kept trying to walk along the thick snowbanks. But she always seemed to fall into the snow. In the distance there was a older, but still young, snow leopard, watching and giggling as the little fox kept falling through. The snow leopard decided to get up and walk closer to the fox and softly he said with a happy laugh, "so what are you trying to accomplish?"The little fox looked up at the leopard with an annoyed looked as she poutingly explained, "The snow is to high and I am to small, and I can't seem to walk on top of it." She then sighed softly. The snow leopard laughed and smiled, "You can't just jump on it then. You can't try to walk on it," the leopard said with a grin. The little fox looked up at him in befuddlement with her bright blue eyes. The leopard slowly walked around the snow hole she was in and proceeded to explain, "You have to let it lift you," he smiled, picking her up by the scruff carefully, takeing her out of the hole and softly placing her on a less deep part of the snow bank, "Only when you understand this, may you be able to walk atop the snow."The little fox was still confused but was willing to learn, "What do you mean 'let it lift you'?" the little fox asked. The leopard smiled and lay on the snow, sticking his paws into the snow, "Every flake, like us, is different. Each one being different gives it it's own type of life, melting fast, or melting slow. Sticking firm, or lightly." he then softly blows the snow off his paws into her direction, "You have to let life of each of the snow flake be as unique as your life is and let it lift you. Let them lift you, as if it they were trying to show you somewhere new, to bring you places." He got up and started walking off atop of the snow, but then stopped and turning around and said with a big smile "Now do you see?" The little fox was still kinda confused, but when she looked at the beautiful snow, and saw each snowflake, a different shape, a different size, she smiled and believed what he said. The little fox looked back up at the leopard and softly placed her paw down on the snow before she said to him softly, "I think I get it..." She was afraid but she slowly started walking on top of the snow, step by step, not looking down, But looking to the leopard as she got closer to him. The leopard with a happy laugh, smiled and congratulated her, "There you go. Like a natural." The little fox smiled brightly and ran up to the snow leopard happily and excitedly asking him, "What can you teach me next?"The leopard laughed and patted her head with his paw. "My my, Looks like I have a little apprentice" the leopard said with a smirk, "We shall see where the wind and sun takes us and what lessons we have to learn as the days go on," the leopard said as they both started walking out into the setting sunlight.

This was a little story I made for my love. I was thinking of making it a continued series. Leave a comment if you wish. Maybe if you want to see a continuation or not.
Nigel Morgan Oct 2012

The courtesan and poet Zuo Fen had two cats Xe Ming and Xi Ming. Living in her distant court with only her maid Hu Yin, her cats were often her closest companions and, like herself, of a crepuscular nature.
      It was the very depths of winter and the first moon of the Solstice had risen. The old year had nearly passed.
      The day itself was almost over. Most of the inner courts retired before the new day began (at about 11.0pm), but not Zuo Fen. She summoned her maid to dress her in her winter furs, gathered her cats on a long chain leash, and walked out into the Haulin Gardens.
      These large and semi-wild gardens were adjacent to the walls of her personal court. The father of the present Emperor had created there a forest once stocked with game, a lake to the brim with carp and rich in waterfowl, and a series of tall structures surrounded by a moat from which astronomers were able to observe the firmament.
      Emperor Wu liked to think of Zuo Fen walking at night in his father’s park, though he rarely saw her there. He knew that she valued that time alone to prepare herself for his visits, visits that rarely occurred until the Tiger hours between 3.0am and 6.0am when his goat-drawn carriage would find its way to her court unbidden. She herself would welcome him with steaming chai and sometimes a new rhapsody. They would recline on her bed and discuss the content and significance of certain writings they knew and loved. Discussion sometimes became an elaborate game when a favoured Classical text would be taken as the starting point for an exchange of quotation. Gradually quotation would be displaced by subtle invention and Zuo Fen would find the Emperor manoeuvring her into making declarations of a passionate or erotic nature.
       It seemed her very voice captivated him and despite herself and her inclinations they would join as lovers with an intensity of purpose, a great tenderness, and deep joy. He would rest his head inside her cloak and allow her lips to caress his ears with tales of river and mountain, descriptions of the flights of birds and the opening of flowers. He spoke to her breasts of the rising moon, its myriad reflections on the waters of Ling Lake, and of its trees whose winter branches caressed the cold surface.

Whilst Zuo Fen walked in the midnight park with her cats she reflected on an afternoon of frustration. She had attempted to assemble a new poem for her Lord.  Despite being himself an accomplished poet and having an extraordinary memory for Classical verse, the Emperor retained a penchant for stories about Mei-Lim, a young Suchan girl dragged from her family to serve as a courtesan at his court.
      Zuo Fen had invented this girl to articulate some of her own expressions of homesickness, despair, periods of constant tearfulness, and abject loneliness. Such things seemed to touch something in the Emperor. It was as though he enjoyed wallowing in these descriptions and his favourite A Rhapsody on Being far from Home he loved to hear from the poet’s own lips, again and again. Zuo Fen felt she was tempting providence not to compose something new, before being ordered to do so.
      As she struggled through the afternoon to inject some fresh and meaningful content into a story already milked dry Zuo Fen became aware of her cats. Xi Ming lay languorously across her folded feet. Xe Ming perched like an immutable porcelain figure on a stool beside her low writing table.
Zuo Fen often consulted her cats. ‘Xi Ming, will my Lord like this stanza?’

“The stones that ring out from your pony’s hooves
announce your path through the cloud forest”

She would always wait patiently for Xi Ming’s reply, playing a game with her imagination to extract an answer from the cinnamon scented air of her winter chamber.
      ‘He will think his pony’s hooves will flash with sparks kindling the fire of his passion as he prepares to meet his beloved’.
      ‘Oh such a wise cat, Xi Ming’, and she would press his warm body further into her lap. But today, as she imagined this dialogue, a second voice appeared in her thoughts.
      ‘Gracious Lady, your Xe Ming knows his under-standing is poor, his education weak, but surely this image, taken as it is from the poet Lu Ji, suggests how unlikely it would be for the spark of love and passion to take hold without nurture and care, impossible on a hard journey’.
       This was unprecedented. What had brought such a response from her imagination? And before she could elicit an answer it was as though Xe Ming spoke with these words of Confucius.

“Do not be concerned about others not appreciating you, be concerned about you not appreciating others”

Being the very sensible woman she was, Zuo Fen dismissed such admonition (from a cat) and called for tea.

Later as she walked her beauties by the frozen lake, the golden carp nosing around just beneath the ice, she recalled the moment and wondered. A thought came to her  . . .
       She would petition Xe Ming’s help to write a new rhapsody, perhaps titled Rhapsody on the Thought of Separation.

Both Zuo Fen’s cats came from her parental home in Lingzhi. They were large, big-boned mountain cats; strong animals with bear-like paws, short whiskered and big eared. Their coats were a glassy grey, the hairs tipped with a sprinkling of white giving the fur an impression of being wet with dew or caught by a brief shower.
       When she thought of her esteemed father, the Imperial Archivist, there was always a cat somewhere; in his study at home, in the official archives where he worked. There was always a cat close at hand, listening?
       What texts did her father know by heart that she did not know? What about the Lu Yu – the Confucian text book of advice and etiquette for court officials. She had never bothered to learn it, even read it seemed unnecessary, but through her brother Zuo Si she knew something of its contents and purpose.

Confucius was once asked what were the qualifications of public office. ‘Revere the five forms of goodness and abandon the four vices and you can qualify for public office’.
       For the life of her Zuo Fen could not remember these five forms of goodness (although she could make a stab at guessing them). As for those vices? No, she was without an idea. If she had ever known, their detail had totally passed from her memory.
       Settled once again in her chamber she called Hu Yin and asked her to remove Xi Ming for the night. She had three hours or so before the Emperor might appear. There was time.
        Xe Ming was by nature a distant cat, aloof, never seeking affection. He would look the other way if regarded, pace to the corner of a room if spoken to. In summer he would hide himself in the deep undergrowth of Zuo Fen’s garden.
       Tonight Zuo Fen picked him up and placed him on her left shoulder. She walked around her room stroking him gently with her small strong fingers, so different from the manicured talons of her colleagues in the Purple Palace. Embroidery, of which she was an accomplished exponent, was impossible with long nails.
       From her scroll cupboard she selected her brother’s annotated copy of the Lun Yu, placing it unrolled on her desk. It would be those questions from the disciple Tzu Chang, she thought, so the final chapters perhaps. She sat down carefully on the thick fleece and Mongolian rug in front of her desk letting Xe Ming spill over her arms into a space beside her.
       This was strange indeed. As she sat beside Xe Ming in the light of the butter lamps holding his flickering gaze it was as though a veil began to lift between them.
       ‘At last you understand’, a voice appeared to whisper,’ after all this time you have realised . . .’
      Zuo Fen lost track of time. The cat was completely motionless. She could hear Hu Yin snoring lightly next door, no doubt glad to have Xi Ming beside her on her mat.
      ‘Xe Ming’, she said softly, ‘today I heard you quote from Confucius’.
      The cat remained inscrutable, completely still.
      ‘I think you may be able to help me write a new poem for my Lord. Heaven knows I need something or he will tire of me and this court will cease to enjoy his favour’.
      ‘Xe Ming, I have to test you. I think you can ‘speak’ to me, but I need to learn to talk to you’.
      ‘Tzu Chang once asked Confucius what were the qualifications needed for public office? Confucius said, I believe, that there were five forms of goodness to revere, and four vices to abandon’.
       ‘Can you tell me what they are?’
      Xe Ming turned his back on Zuo Fen and stepped gently away from the table and into a dark and distant corner of the chamber.
      ‘The gentle man is generous but not extravagant, works without complaint, has desires without being greedy, is at peace, but not arrogant, and commands respect but not fear’.
      Zuo Fen felt her breathing come short and fast. This voice inside her; richly-texture, male, so close it could be from a lover at the epicentre of a passionate entanglement; it caressed her.
      She heard herself say aloud, ‘and the four vices’.
      ‘To cause a death or imprisonment without teaching can be called cruelty; to judge results without prerequisites can be called tyranny; to impose deadlines on improper orders can be thievery; and when giving in the procedure of receipt and disbursement, to stint can be called officious’.
       Xe Ming then appeared out of the darkness and came and sat in the folds of her night cloak, between her legs. She stroked his glistening fur.
       Zuo Fen didn’t need to consult the Lu Yu on her desk. She knew this was unnecessary. She got to her feet and stepped through the curtains into an antechamber to relieve herself.
       When she returned Xe Ming had assumed his porcelain figure pose. So she gathered a fresh scroll, her writing brushes, her inks, her wax stamps, and wrote:

‘I was born in a humble, isolated, thatched house,
and was never well versed in writing.
I never saw the marvellous pictures of books,
nor had I heard of the classics of earlier sages.
I am dimwitted, humble and ignorant . . ‘

As she stopped to consider the next chain of characters she saw in her mind’s eye the Purple Palace, the palace of the concubines of the Emperor. Sitting next to the Purple Chamber there was a large grey cat, its fur sprinkled with tiny flecks of white looking as though the animal had been caught in a shower of rain.
       Zuo Fen turned from her script to see where Xe Ming had got to, but he had gone. She knew however that he would always be there. Wherever her imagination took her, she could seek out this cat and the words would flow.

Before returning to her new text Zuo Fen thought she might remind herself of Liu Xie’s words on the form of the Rhapsody. If Emperor Wu appeared later she would quote it (to his astonishment) from The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons.

The rhapsody derives from poetry,
A fork in the road, a different line of development;
It describes objects, pictures and their appearance,
With a brilliance akin to sculpture and painting.
What is clogged and confined it invariably opens up;
It depicts the commonplace with unbounded charm;
But the goal of the form is of beauty well ordered,
Words retained for their loveliness when weeds have been cut away.

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