Monday, December 30, 2013
End of an Era
“Great Caesar’s goat!” Nick roared. Which, according to legend, Caesar had eaten grilled with a side order of fries. Nick vowed whatever was making that ear-splitting caterwaul would suffer the same fate.
He burst out of his office and into a scene straight out of a horror movie. Ralph Bruin, movie reviewer and writer of op-ed opinion pieces, was throttling the life out of a plaid canvas bag with pipes stuck in it. The bag shrieked a death knell that could probably be heard all the way to Missoula. Apparently his staff was celebrating the object’s demise, because they were gathered (not all that closely, he noted) around a desk with a sheet cake on it. Black balloons had been tethered to the chairs.
I’m not going to ask, he told himself, then said, “What the hell?”
“It’s a wake.” Oh dear Lupa. That thing with his face nearly hidden by his shirt’s black ruffles was Lamar. Behind him, Jamie looked at Nick apologetically. Ever since he and Lamar had hooked up, Jamie seemed to wear that expression constantly. “We’re celebrating the demise of 2013.” The snake wiped a tear from his eye. “I’m going to miss it.”
“Is that a bagpipes?”
“Yeah.” Ralph paused in his assault on all decent music everywhere. The bagpipes wheezed like an asthmatic. “There’s this Scotty bar out in the woods. I been taking lessons.”
Nick wondered how Lamar would taste grilled with a side of fries. He’d heard somewhere that snakes tasted like chicken. “Let me guess. ‘Amazing Grace.’”
“You kiddin’ me?” Ralph said. “I was doing U2. I wrapped up ‘Grace’ about ten minutes back. You people don’t know what good music is.”
Yes, we do, Nick thought, and that wasn’t it. “You’re supposed to clear any office parties with me first. Do you even still work here? I thought you quit to write porn.”
“M/M erotica,” Lamar corrected. “And this isn’t a party. I told you, it’s a wake. The old year’s coming to an end.”
“Good friggin’ riddance, you ask me.”
Lamar gaped at him. “Are you loco? Look at all that happened. The world didn’t end in 2012, for starters. It’s hard to beat that. Then we had the classic car cruise, and the fair, and that month where a bunch of people turned into My Pretty Ponies—”
“Which obviously it skipped you, though I can’t imagine how. That was not a fun time.”
“I’ll say,” Teddy called over from accounting. “I still whinny when I sneeze.”
“But everybody looked so pretty, with the manes and tails and all. Better than your usual grouchy—” Lamar watched Nick’s face get redder and redder and for once took the hint. “Okay, so we almost got wiped out by the psycho snake god—”
“Psycho snake god?” Jamie said.
“That’s right, you mammals wouldn’t remember him. No problemo. His wife got herself preggers and dragged him off to the serpent dimension, so todo es perfecto. And speaking of little wrigglers, I hear congratulations are in order.” He waggled his brows at Nick.
Nick went still all over. “What did you hear, and from who?”
“False alarm?” Lamar glanced at Jamie. “According to El Rojo here—”
“Hey, don’t go dragging me into this.”
Sharp horns and missed kills, Nick thought in a panic. Jamie. Because Jamie didn’t chase after the shes, Nick sometimes forgot he was still a wolf, with a wolf’s nose. He could read the changes in Ziva’s body like Ralph read the sports page. Thank Lupa she wasn’t in today. “Yeah. False alarm. Bad rumor. If anything winds up in the gossip column, I swear I will hire you just so I can fire you all over again. Got it? Oh scat. Tell me you’re not crying.”
“I can’t help it,” Lamar blubbered. “I hate it when the old year ends. It’s like shedding skin. You know why snakes shed their skin? Because they’ve gotten fat!” He burst into tears.
Nick gaped at Lamar, whose body was roughly the width of a No. 2 pencil, then at Jamie, who had his arms around his sobbing lover. “This morning,” Jamie said to Nick. “His moods’re jumping all over to hell and back.”
Sweet dog, Nick thought. This year couldn’t wrap up fast enough. “He’s not … um … ”
“Oh, hell no! That’s a rumor too. Male snakes can’t get knocked up.” Jamie looked suddenly panicked. “Leastwise, I hope they can’t. C’mon, sweetie, cut it out. Don’t be such a drama queen.”
“But it’s the only kind of queen I know how to be!”
“Hey.” Ralph patted Lamar’s shoulder gingerly, as if afraid whatever he had might be catching. “Look at it this way. It ain’t 2014. It’s 2013, the sequel. Same shit, different stink, y’know?" Lamar bawled louder. "Aw hell.” Ralph threw up his hands and walked away. “Hey, I tried. Who wants cake?”
“You want some cake?” Lamar asked Nick through his sniffles. “I really wanted a piñata.” His eyes filled up again.
“It’s fine. It’s perfect. Couldn’t be better.” Nick cut himself a hunk of cake and took it back to his office, leaving Lamar and the party/wake in Jamie’s hands. Whoever claimed reptiles were cold-blooded had never tried to work with Lamar.
2013, the sequel. More of the same, only worse.
Nick nibbled the cake—it was actually tasty—then picked up his phone and dialed Rattigan’s Pub. “Hey, Louie? Nick,” he said when the rat answered. “Next time Gil comes in, give him the biggest drink you make. Put it on my tab. Tell him I know what he has to put up with as mayor and I understand completely.”