A "Winds of Change" Story
By Jon Sleeper
I had to park outside the complex, unfortunately. I'd given up my parking placard long ago, and Mom had told me that they were now very strict on towing. Brian slid out the back door, lucky thing these RAV-4's have really low floors... "So where's the condo?" He asked, perplexed.
"In that jungle in there," I pointed at the veritable forest of trees and plants inside the gate. That's why I feel so at home in my apartment, I'd gotten used to all the plant life. I punched in the gate code, and we began to walk through the complex's middle green area to my mother's condo. "I should warn you that we've got a flight of stairs to climb," I said as my hooves clicked quietly on the concrete walkway.
"It's OK, I've gotten the hang of it over the past couple months. Thanks for the warning, though." I sniffed the air for a moment, we were coming to the fountain. In front of the fountain was a plant that I liked. "Pardon me," I said to Brian, and picked off a few branches to munch on. Sometimes I just can't resist the urge to browse... Oh, well.
"How does that taste, by the way?" Brian asked, curiously rubbing the bottom of his beak.
"Like a stick with leaves on it. My stomachs were aching for something, so I *had* to put something in my mouth." Then I started to smell something else. Something that smelled incredibly good. I licked the end of my nose, and took a deeper breath.
"Smell something?" He asked, then sniffed the air himself. "Saaay! That smells good." And it was coming from my Mom's condo. We looked at each other, and rushed tiredly onward.
If anything, the leaves had only whetted my appetite. Not quite as much as the smell had done Brian's though. He beat me to the top of the stairs. I knocked quickly, and my Mom opened the door.
As I said before, Mom was a gray fox. A very pretty one. Average Degree, with a fluffy tail which she always keeps carefully brushed. I'd finally gotten control of my instincts, and so like Brian I felt no fear while I was next to her. "Jon!" She said, and gave me a big hug, which I returned. "You're OK! The news said you'd been injured."
"Just a case of exhaustion, Mom. Nothing serious. Bucks like me do it all the time." I tried to make it sound normal, but there was no fooling Mom. She gave me a knowing vulpine grin, but said nothing. "And this must be Brian." She extended a clawed hand.
"Happy to meet you, Mrs. Sleeper." Neither Brian or I expected it, but she drew Brian into a hug like she'd done to me. "Thank you for saving my son's life," she whispered quietly. I could still hear her, though. I ducked my head for a moment, noticing that the skin around Brian's nares was bright red. He was blushing.
"Now, let's go inside," my Mom said. We moved to go inside. "I just *knew* you'd show up sometime. I've had this on the stove all day. It's just right. Watch your head, Jon." She habitually says that, even though I'd not bumped these things for weeks.
Inside I noticed a bunch of new furniture, all with tail slots in the seats. "I've done a little shopping," she said, smiling again. I noticed two large boxes, each with the same sign on it: "Computer Cabinet. U assemble it!" She saw that I saw it, "Jon, would you be a dear and assemble this for me?"
I really must of been tired, because my reply was, "Mom, I already *am* a deer."
"Not THAT kind of deer."
Brian laughed, "I'm sorry," he said. "My brain must be half asleep."
My Mom went into the kitchen, then brought out a couple of bowls filled with a chicken noodle soup. The scent made my mouth water, and we both gratefully took the bowls. "You can assemble this later. *After* you've eaten, and perhaps slept a little." We ate the stuff up gladly.
"You know," Brian said, fatigue in his voice, and putting down the empty bowl. "I think I'm in the mood for a little nap. Then he yawned. He was right about his yawn, it was the widest I'd ever seen, and if I had not been so tired I would of reacted badly. I think.
"I think you're right." I yawned myself for the umpteenth time that day. He must of been really tired, too tired to stand up (Mom did not have a perch anyway). So we went upstairs, and made a kind of "nest" for him out of pillows. He lay down and promptly fell to snoring. I looked at him laying, well, spread-eagled in sleep. Then went into my own room and fell asleep myself.
I must of slept really deeply, I don't think I would of heard a predator if he was howling in my big ears. I was a bit stiff when I got up. But other than the stiffness, I felt terrific! Completely and totally rested. Though my neck felt a bit swollen... I hoped that did not mean my real rut was starting. But the rest had cleared my mind enough that I thought I could resist any instinctual urges to fight.
Working out my stiffness, I looked at my room. I'd pretty much left everything here, except my computer. Even the whitetail poster I had on my wall above my bed, with the bald eagle one above it was still there. Brian ambled in a minute or so later. "You know we've been out most of twenty four hours?" he said, feathers looking a might ruffled. I shook my head. "But I feel great! What was in that soup?" Mom came in a moment later.
"Just a little something." she said quietly.
"Mom, do you have a 'talent' you have not told me about?"
"Let's just call it 'Mother's Touch' and leave it at that. Now that you've rested, you can start on the cabinet. Channel 8 called, by the way. They want to interview the both of you. I told them you were sleeping, and you'd give one if you wanted to." It looked like I'd be spending the day assembling that... thing. And I had suspicions to my mother's actual reason as to *why* she fed us that soup.
I reluctantly went downstairs and opened the first of the boxes. As I was laying out the pieces, Brian came down. He'd preened a bit and he looked less ruffled. "Want me to help? It'll go faster if we both work." He said.
"Could you? I mean, this'll take me most of the morning. It's a good thing I got a few days off. Then again... you could fly back to my apartment and wait for me there."
"Nah. I'd get bored pretty fast. We can get this done in half the time if both of us work at it. Besides, I spent a summer doing this one year. I know a few shortcuts." He did indeed. We put it together in less than three hours, record time for a piece of furniture that has more parts than a Shakespeare play. We only stopped for drinks, and breakfast. The assembling took long enough that by the time we were done I was already rechewing it.
"Well, that was not so bad, was it?" My Mom said when we were done. We just glared at her for a second. Brian looked at me, "Ever have the feeling you've been 'out foxed'?" Brian asked me with a grin. I just put a hand on what forehead I had, rubbing the bridge of my hairy muzzle, and shook my head. Mom chucked.
There was a knock on the door. Mom went to answer it. "It's the news, they want to interview you. What should I do?"
"God! I don't know. I hate the media... Brian?" Brian and I had both noticed while we were putting It together that I seemed a bit... short tempered. Little things bothered me. Probably due to what my book called "testosterone poisoning". I did not feel like answering stupid questions. He looked to be thinking it over. I don't think he felt like answering questions either. Personally, I was afraid he'd start thinking of those newspeople as prey...
We both came to a decision. And both nodded. I think we'd both came to the same conclusion. "Let's get it over with," he said.
Copyright 1997, Jon Sleeper
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