Monday, July 4, 2011
Beach Blanket Bingo
This ancient underground lake, Gypsy mused, probably hadn’t seen so much action since the dawn of the Paleolithic. It could never have hosted such an odd diversity of life, not even in creation’s earliest hours. Jess, the seahorse, slid through the dark waters with a sinuous grace he was trying to impart to his offspring. Little Tula was a natural, but Garth still thrashed around too much in his determined efforts to get the hang of it. Finally he shifted to human form and clung to his floatation device, aka Lamar, while he got his breath back. The snake was as much at home in the water as the ocean creatures, and didn’t mind Garth hanging on him.
Farther out from shore, Sergei romped in the water like a huge striped kitten. Gypsy had been told tigers loved the water, but observing this playful side of Sergei both surprised and warmed her. Beyond him, in the water’s black depths, Sivakka and Finley breached, twirled and dived like ballet dancers. The Nessie’s landings created minor tsunamis at the shoreline.
Gypsy lay back on her blanket and gazed up at the roof of the cave. Luminous fungus glowed up there in patterns that mimicked stars. If she flexed her imagination, she could almost believe she lay under a night sky.
She sensed rather than heard Jamie come up beside her. “Hate to interrupt, but you want a burger or a wiener?”
Gypsy opened her eyes and grinned up at him. Unlike the other shifters, he had covered his nakedness with a torso-length apron, more to protect his tender skin from spattering grease than any sense of modesty. After months as Lamar’s constant companion, she doubted if Jamie had any modesty left. “How about a burger and a wiener?”
Jamie shook his head. “You’re gonna wreck your figure, eating like that.”
“I doubt it.” She sat up and peered at Sergei frolicking in the waves kicked up by an enthusiastic leap and landing of Sivakka’s. She knew from experience he was tireless. “I get plenty of exercise.”
“Yeah. Me too,” Jamie said, with a similar look at Lamar. “Y’wanna call in the troops? I think we’re ready.” He went back to the grill.
Gypsy cupped her hands to her mouth and sent a howl echoing through the cavern. Those within earshot started for the shore. She knew her mental call would reach Sivakka, and the Nessie would inform the dolphin. If Jess missed the summons to dinner, Sivakka would pick up him and his twins on the way.
Lamar flowed out of the water, reared his snake-self upright, and assumed his human form. Sergei followed. Garth clung to the white tiger’s back. Sergei paced carefully so as not to dislodge his rider. “Babysitting?” Gypsy teased him. Sergei did not deign to reply.
The sea-shifters came next, rising from the icy water like beautiful primitive gods. Except for Tula, who splashed ashore like the five-year-old she was. She raced up to Jamie. “I wanna hot dog!”
“You wanna keep your hand away from there, little girl. You’re gonna burn yourself.” After a quick look to Jess for permission, Jamie handed the girl a well-grilled dog in a bun. Not to be outdone, Garth jumped off Sergei to demand his meal. Instantly the tiger shook himself all over Gypsy. “You're a monster," she hissed. “You know I hate the water.”
“Poor little puppy,” Sergei said upon shifting to human. He didn’t look in the least contrite. “You fail to provide towel, you live with consequences.” He extended his hand and helped her to her feet.
In moments they had a party gathered around the grill. Finley had never had a cheeseburger in her life, to Lamar’s delight and endless teasing. Sivakka had brought a cooler from Dante’s, full of beer from Lex’r's microbrewery, and soft drinks for the children. Finley had never had beer either. “I’m going to get her drunk,” Lamar confided to Gypsy and Sivakka. “Jamie too. I’ll bet I can get a threesome out of this.”
“Not with a dolphin, you’re not,” Sivakka warned. “Their metabolism is different. She’ll drink you right under the ocean.”
“Ha! We’ll see.”
Gypsy said nothing, simply basked in the camaraderie. Some day, she hoped, Freedom Day would mean more than a day at the “beach” and cookouts in an underground cavern. Some day creatures like Sivakka would not have to hide themselves even from their fellow shifters. Sergei would not have to hide his shift in allegiance from Shere Khan’s many eyes. Jess would be free to take his children home. Lamar and Jamie would be free to enjoy their relationship without censure or threat. Not this Freedom Day, she knew, perhaps not even the next. But someday soon.
She lifted her beer. “To freedom,” she said. Her toast was echoed by the others.
Much later Lamar complained, “I can’t stand up. The floor won’t stop tilting around. Hey, are those fireworks?”
Posted by Pat C.