Monday, January 14, 2013
Sure enough, Stan jumped when Brad appeared too suddenly from around a jut of rock, and made no attempt to hide his guilty look. Brad settled himself on a thin strip of ledge. Too winded to shift, and with Stan too nervous, they spoke in mountain goat.
(“So how’s your love life, bro?”)
(“Get bent. She’s out there. I can feel her.”)
(“You already did. Isn’t that how all this started?”)
(“I will butt you right off the top of this cliff, I swear.”)
(“Dude, relax. Mrs. Wembly’s not even in the area. I saw her drive into town.”) Stan’s breath left him in a bleat. (“Man, you have got to resolve this, pronto. You’re shedding. Look.”)
(“I know.”) Stan sat and let his horned head droop. (“I never thought I’d say this, but … I feel guilty about the whole thing. It was supposed to be the end of the world. I thought I’d do her a favor. Go out with a bang, so to speak. How was I supposed to know she’d take it so personally?”)
(“Or that the world wouldn’t end.”)
(“That too.”) Stan looked thoughtful. (“I should do something for her. Like get her a jaguar or something. Jaguars appreciate experience. They’re not that good with cubs, either, so her being past breeding age is an extra plus. Where can we find a big male jaguar who isn’t too picky?”)
(“Dude. She doesn’t want a jaguar. She wants you. She wants a piece of that billy goat action.”)
(“Don’t rub it in. What do I do, Brad? Widows eat their mates. That’s why they’re widows.”)
(“That’s insects, dude.”)
(“And cougars, I mean pumas. Especially if their last mate was a herbie. What am I going to do?”)
(“Hey! I think I’ve got it. We can get you off the hook and do nice things for Widow Wembly’s rep to boot. You with me?”)
(“Hell yeah. I can’t hang out on top of cliffs for the rest of my life.”)
(“Good. Now: we need a car. You did finally pay off your insurance, right?”)
# # #
Eula Wembly wasn’t hard to find. Her Army-green pickup truck was parked in front of the shopette at the edge of town. Brad and Stan peered in through the store’s display windows to verify her presence, then went into their act.
“You had your chance,” Brad loudly announced as he stormed through the sliding doors. “A lady of her quality deserves a real man.”
“Like you, I take it?”
“Yes. Like me.” Brad marched right up to where Mrs. Wembly stood by the paper towels with a plastic shopping basket on her arm. He took the hand not holding the basket and bowed over it. “Mrs. Wembly. Would you do me the honor of allowing me to escort you to dinner?”
She narrowed puma-golden eyes at him. “Excuse me, young man. Do I know you? Oh.”
She’d spotted Stan. He smiled weakly and waved. “Hi, Mrs. Wembly. How’s it going?”
“Back off,” Brad warned. He added a maahhh that sounded threatening. In reality it was Stan’s cue.
(“Oh yeah”), Stan maahhed back. He straightened his back and puffed out his chest and shook his head as if it bore horns. “Forget it, bro. I’ve got a prior claim. Isn’t that right, Mrs.—er, Eula?”
“Boys, please,” Mrs. Wembly fluted. “There’s no need to fight over me.”
By now they’d drawn a crowd. Even the bunnies industriously shoplifting in produce paused to watch. Ignoring her protests, Brad eased Mrs. Wembly aside and squared off against his brother. They wouldn’t actually fight, of course. He fully expected the store manager to escort them outside before words gave way to head-butts. By then the whole store would have seen two studly young goats competing for the amorous attentions of the older cat. She’d have more dates than she’d know what to do with. Enough to keep her from hunting down Stan.
“Seriously,” Mrs. Wembly said. Her voice was now a cougar’s clawed snarl. “There’s no need.”
The goat boys turned to her as one. “There’s not?” Brad said. Oh cripes, what if she wants a threesome?
“No, there’s not.” Mrs. Wembly stepped around Brad and patted Stan on the cheek. “You’re a sweet boy, dear, but not my type. Neither is your—brother? Yes, brother. You’ve got the same slack-jawed stare. It was a one-time thing. I’m sorry if you read more into it.”
“Uh?” Stan said.
“But the hunting,” Brad said. “The screams in the woods and stuff.”
“You thought that was for you? Oh dear.” She showed them the large bottle of prune juice in her basket. “As one gets older, digestion gets trickier. Blockage, you know. No, you wouldn’t know. Most of your diet is roughage. Mine is red meat. Occasionally it leads to problems.”
“You didn’t say no,” Stan blurted defiantly.
“Well, of course not, honey. I’m a predator. No cat turns up her nose at an easy kill. As for any future … ” She leaned in close and said to Stan in a whisper loud enough for the whole store to hear, “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but you just weren’t that good.”
# # #
“Get away from me,” Stan blasted. “Don’t you say one word to me. Not one friggin’ word.”
“Not. One. Word.” Stan threw himself into his car and roared off, leaving Brad stranded in the shopette’s parking lot. Brad turned toward the store. Every face pressed up against the display windows quickly drew back. All but Mrs. Wembly’s. She exited the store and, without a glance his way, climbed serenely into her truck and drove away at just under the speed limit.
Brad bleated an obscene word in goat. “I wish the world would end,” he muttered, “because right now it sucks.”