“I’m supposed to what?” Gil ground out through clenched teeth. His patience was wearing thin quickly and the last item he needed was a screwball request from Lamar. “Look snake breath, where do you get these---“
“I’d think twice about who is calling names nutsy. I saved your scrawny squirrel carcass more than once out in the woods. Even Jamie says you owe me.” Lamar looked over his reading glasses and stared straight at Gil. Gil gulped and forced himself to breathe.
“Look Gil,” Louie began. “We’re in this for the kids. Some of us use to believe in Santa. Some of us still attend religious rituals. A few kids right now need to know that believing in themselves is okay. So stop complaining.”
Gil rocked back on the chair he occupied. Louie had closed the diner early to allow a dress rehearsal of Lamar’s holiday pageant. His twelve howling days of Christmas was a hit at the old folk’s home and with the local schools. Humans and shifters alike filled the seats each night. The five bucks a head price brought out Talbot’s Peak’s finest. What surprised Gil was the amount of money that filled the buckets as they passed through the crowd night after night. Lamar knew a good thing. Problem was how did Gil convince them his morphing into a decent sized squirrel who could play the babe in the manager for their living nativity scene didn’t happen at the drop of a full moon? Thanks to his screwed up attempts at magic and his latest mess up trying to date a local witch who told him she would see hell freeze over before she made any move to assist him, he wasn’t sure what he’d shift into.
“I’d love to help the kids out. But Louie. . .” Gil gulped. Between Lamar’s snake-eyes stare and Louie’s I ain’t taking no shit glare, saying no was not an answer. Come full moon, Gil prayed as though he had faith that someone or something was listening to his deep plea to save his puny arse and soon. Some fool had turned up the volume on the diner’s television.
“That’s the local forecast. Clear and a full moon for the next three nights over Christmas here on the peak. Happy Howlidays everyone!”
“Now are you in or out?” Lamar’s emphasis on in told Gil he’d been drafted whether he actually agreed or not.
“Okay, I’m in. I can’t promise you a miracle. Remember I got me cursed and trying to correct it hasn’t yielded any control over my size and morphing when I want. Only the moon controls that.” There he’d said it. Let his secret out. Silence greeted him. Gil looked up, to his right and left.
Lamar’s glasses landed on the table as he leaned forward. Louie’s smile probably hid his laughter. So much for acceptance amongst true shifters. Gil scooted his chair back ready to bolt, his mind tallying up what he could shove in his car and still get out of town with his skin and fur intact.
“No problem according to the weatherman. Let’s talk about what you need to do in order to get this right.” Lamar motioned Louie toward him.
“Great, you had to open your mouth,” Gil muttered to himself. His voice muffled any external noise. Not that he’d hear much stashed in the diner’s windowless storeroom. Twenty-four hours in this dank dark, hellhole and he wondered who’d was crazier Louie or Lamar. Shit, he had to be since he agreed to this. If his sense of time was correct, the moon was reaching its zenith and full light right about now. Someone had to open the door for their hair brained idea to work. Getting him to the playhouse under wraps still remained to be done. No one was stuffing him in another cramped box like they’d tried last night.
“Come one Louie,” he began; pounding on what he thought was a door or maybe a wall. “Let me out.”
The door opened. Light flooded the room spilling on to him. Crap, moonlight! Moans and groans filled the air and bits of fur spattered the illuminated floor.
Gil heaved himself off the floor. He ran out the open door. He caught his reflection on the large freezer door near him. Double crap! He’d morphed. Great, he’d have to use plan two.
Twenty minutes later, Gil reached the playhouse. Thank powers that be, Louie had left his customized mini bike close by. And the racing leathers and helmet were in his locker.
Gil raced down the aisle leading to the stage. He jumped over the feet and legs of patrons squirming in their seats waiting for the pageant to start. Under the curtain and back stage, he ran looking for Marissa. She had his costume and props ready. “Hey Marissa over here,” Gil squeaked running up the table leg near her.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Talbot’s Peak’s Twelve Days of Christmas and our living crèche scene.” Lamar nodded and stepped to the side as the curtain rose.
“Look Mama, the baby in the manager is a squirrel.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! Be safe and sane! Keep your loves and spices close by!
HAPPY YULE! MERRY SOLSTICE!