Monday, June 25, 2012
The Big Announcement
Vernon MacMahon, owner of Talbot’s Peak’s own Grease ‘n’ Grill, takes great pleasure in announcing that Eleanor Ewing has agreed to join him in a state of holy matrimony. The wedding will take place this August at—
Ziva winced. Nick’s tone didn’t bother her, but the volume was uncalled for, especially right up against her sensitive ears. “Problem, boss?”
Nick shook the latest edition of the Gutts ‘n’ Butts Gazette in front of her face. The paper was folded over so the offensive story couldn’t possibly escape her. “What the hell’s this?”
“Your dad came in while you were at lunch and asked me to run the announcement. What was I supposed to do, tell him sorry, can’t do it because his son the editor is a racist jerk?”
“You could have buried it in the back with the used car ads. Not blast it all over the front page!”
Ziva shrugged. “Slow news day?”
“It’s a conspiracy. Everybody’s out to get me.” Nick dragged his hand through his hair. “You know what’s going to happen? Check your computer. Look at the comments. The hate mail has started already.”
“I’ve been screening the emails. We’ve had a couple nasty ones, but I deleted those. The rest have been overwhelmingly positive.”
“The rest are from herbivores. Of course they’d be positive. As far as I’m concerned, good wishes from a herbie counts as hate mail.”
Ziva mentally shook her head. Getting past Nick’s prejudice and his twisted logic was going to take a lot of heavy lifting. “Don’t you want your dad to be happy?”
“He was happy. He had the grill and all the ladies he could hump. Wolf ladies. Some cat-tail once in a while. He doesn’t need to marry somebody who won’t even keep meat in the house. She’ll probably have him eating that tofu crap.” Nick shuddered.
“That’s probably better for him, at his age. He’s not as active as he used to be. When’s the last time he even shifted?”
“He’s shifted, all right. Right over to the herbie camp.”
Nick rolled up the paper and whapped his palm with it. Ziva watched every vicious thwack with fascination. Maybe she could divert all that pent-up anger into something more constructive. Get him to whack that rolled-up paper against her tush, for instance. It would get his mind off his dad and Miss Elly and make everybody happy in the process.
She stood up and reached for him playfully. “Settle down, Nicky. It’s no big deal.”
“No big deal? When my own father is about to marry some stinking—”
He broke off, his stare aimed over her shoulder. Ziva turned around. Mary, Miss Elly’s daughter and the company typist, stood like a statue, her eyes trained on Nick’s lips. Jamie Olsen, the staff photographer, hovered behind her, looking mighty uncomfortable.
“We, um, heard the ruckus,” Jamie said. “I mean, I did. Mary followed me.” He tugged at his shirt collar. “Well. Guess you two are gonna be brother and sister now, huh?”
“Sister?” Nick stared at Mary, looking sicker by the minute. “No. Not a chance. That’s where I draw the line.”
Mary signed something at Jamie. He signed back. When she looked at Nick again, her face had grown dark as a pre-tornado sky. She signed savagely.
“Mary says she ain’t happy about it either, but it’s her mama’s life and she’s good with it,” Jamie translated. “She don’t want you saying anything bad about her mama. Or herbivores in general, come to that.”
“No? Well, get used to it, sweetie. I don’t chew cud and I don’t need a sister at this late date, and I’ll say whatever I want about whoever I want, and that includes your mommy, who is not going to be my mommy in any sense of the word. You don’t like it, too flea-scratching bad.”
Mary glared at him, then signed something. “She said you’re a—” Jamie got red in the face. “She says you’re mean.”
“Look at this face. Tell me if it looks like it cares.”
Mary’s single-finger response needed no translation.
Now Nick got red. “You watch your language, little girl. You join our family, you join the pack. That makes me your alpha as well as your brother. So when I say jump—”
Mary lowered her head and charged.
That was one of the problems with a bighorn sheep. Their heads were granite-hard in both their forms. Nick reflected on this while he sprawled on his back on the floor groaning and holding his stomach. Ziva cradled his head in her lap while Mary glowered down at him. Jamie held onto her to prevent any follow-ups.
“Attacking your boss,” Nick croaked. “I can fire you for that.”
“I don’t think you can,” Jamie said. “A good lawyer’d pass it off as a rank challenge between siblings. You know, pack entrance exam? I don’t think you want to take her on in a real fight. She’d whup your ass. And you ain’t even faced down Bo and Hannibal yet. You keep pushing, you’ll end up the family omega before your pappy and Miss Elly even get to the vows part.”
Scat in the bath water. What the hell did a damn red wolf know about gray wolf pack matters? Not as much as Mary did, blast the sour luck.
Still glaring at Nick, Mary signed to Jamie. “She wants an apology,” he said.
Nick struggled upright. He bared his teeth. “Here’s what you’re getting,” he said. “You’re now in charge of the TP Lupa column. You read all those whiny emails and solve their stupid problems. You deal with selfish old bastards who’ve lost their minds and shake up a stable family by marrying a grass-eater. At least a human would eat meat once in a while.”
“And a grown alpha wouldn’t act like a spoiled puppy and throw a temper tantrum in the work place,” Ziva said calmly. “Now, sweetheart, you’re going to alpha up and apologize to Mary, and you’re going to keep your nose out of your father’s business, and I don’t care how PO’d you get, you’re going to keep your mouth shut before Bo and Hannibal find out about this, because I like having a boyfriend who isn’t a stain in the parking lot. Got it?”
Nick growled like a Chevy's engine, but he couldn’t resist Ziva when she used her dominatrix voice. “Sorry,” he grumbled to Mary. “But you’re not off the hook. You’re doing that column, and you’ll do it with a smile or I’ll can your bighorn ass. You don’t like it, the door’s over there. Understand?”
Mary shrugged, and signed. “If she’s gonna be a columnist, she wants a raise,” Jamie said.
Nick’s jaw dropped. “Let’s give it a month and then we’ll review,” Ziva said quickly. She got Nick back on his feet and helped him into his office, while Jamie hustled Mary out of harm’s way. Who’d be the harmer and who’d be the harmee was still an open question.
“It’s not right,” Nick whined after Ziva shut the door. He sagged against his big antique desk. “It won’t work. Carnie-herbie marriages never work out. He’s only doing this to get a leg up on that stupid mayoral election. He’s going to get himself hurt, and he’s too old to get hurt. How do I make him see reason?”
Like father, like son, Ziva thought. “It’s not about reason. It’s about love. Your father’s been fond of Miss Elly for a long time. You know that. It sounds like they’ve both been lonely. Look at it this way: you’ll finally be able to start the day with a decent breakfast.”
“She serves Fakin’ Bacon. What kind of self-respecting woman serves a wolf Fakin’ Bacon?”
“The kind who may one day have a boar for a son-in-law. Miss Elly will be good for your dad. You’re not even angry with either of them, are you? You’re just upset because the world is changing.”
“It isn’t right.”
“It is what it is. The sun will continue to rise and set, even in a world with Fakin’ Bacon. Are you going to be all right?”
Nick mumbled something. Ziva found a copy of the paper and rolled it up. She slapped it against her palm, as Nick had moments ago. “Or does bad doggie need a bit of retraining?”
“I’m not a bad doggie.” He sure kept his eyes on that paper. He started to pant. “Herbies in a wolf pack. What’s the world coming to?”
“Let me show you,” Ziva purred. She shoved him onto the desk.