Saturday Snippet #2

Ethel dug parched hands into her purse, shoving aside her green, faux, lizard wallet with its floppy clasp to get a grip on the small envelope beneath it.  She pulled this out and leaned toward Margery as she opened the flap, exposing the neatly clipped coupons inside.

“I have one for three dollars off that good coffee in the red can.”  The papers stuck together.  Ethel dabbed her forefinger on the tip of her tongue and used the dampness to separate them.  “See?  This one here.”  Pulling it out of the envelope she displayed it to Margery.

“I don’t think I got one of those.”  Margery opened her own purse, a white, boxy looking bag with hard handles and plastic pearls adorning the exterior.  Many were missing, their absence leaving the stained, muslin-like fabric exposed.  She removed several items and set them on her lap.  No envelope for her, just a thin stack of raggedly torn coupons trapped together with a silver paperclip.  Before removing the clip she raised a hand to her head, digging a finger beneath the edge of her gray wig to scratch in a quick motion, like the paw of a vole with a ticklish twitch.

“It was in the Sunday paper,” Ethel said helpfully.  Her eyes watched Magery’s finger as it dug at her skin.

“I got my paper.”  Margery left her wig a bit worse for the wear along the itchy edge and began laying her coupons out along the wooden arm of the chair separating her from Ethel.  She barely flinched when the nurse called her name from the check-in desk.

“The doctor can see you now Mrs. Kline.”

“I didn’t get the coffee coupon though.”  Margery stared at Ethel.  “I wouldn’t have missed that one.”

Ethel nodded sympathetically and patted her friend’s knobby knee.

“It’s okay, you can have mine.”

Don’t Be My Valentine

Steve curled up in the bar, the small area he thought of as a holding pen, while he waited for his date.  Setting his one, pink, rose on the polished, gray slate bar, he fussed with the little drink napkin for a moment, rolling one corner to a sharp point before he caught himself and put it down.  Fidgeting would look bad.  He wanted this first date to go as well as possible and that meant not giving off a negative first impression.  Katie was cautious.  He had no doubt would look at him, fumbling nervously with things, and think he was not the man she was looking for.  Pushing the napkin away from him he brushed lightly at his jacket sleeves, removing imagined specks of lint.  The jacket was brand new, bought just for this Valentine’s Day first date.  His lapels were sharp, the cuffs clean and his collar impeccable.  He had spent time polishing his shoes last night, making sure he could see himself in the shine.

The bartender moved to the sink and began washing glassware and his cutting board.  The green, citrus smell of freshly cut limes rose up from the basin.  Steve inhaled the scent and held it as Katie walked through the door.

His first thought was, wow, she’s beautiful!  Shoulder length brown hair that looked so soft he wanted to touch it to see if it was real.  He knew her eyes were almond shaped, brown and had blue-green laced throughout.  The only real surprise were her small ears, set at just the right angle to her head.  He was an ear fanatic so this first glimpse was like an eyegasm.  The dating app had provided them both with photos and profiles of each other.  Her photos were always head-on with her ears hidden beneath a baseball cap or just her hair.  They had exchanged several emails and spent hours chatting in real time on the messenger.  The conversation had seemed to just flow so well between them.  Steve had strong hopes that this might be the start of something real for him.

“Katie?”  His heart was beating a little fast.  Grabbing the rose, he stood up and tried to look her in the eye like a man, not stare like a fanboy.  She was dressed to kill in a mid-thigh, black dress with slender ties around her neck as opposed to sleeves or straps.

“Yes.  Steve?”  Those gorgeous eyes sized him up and crinkled a bit in the corners as she smiled at him.  

“Yeah, that’s me.”  He smiled back magnanimously.  “It’s a real pleasure to see you.”  Did she just frown?  Steve held out his hand feeling suddenly awkward.  Was there something in his teeth?  Something in his nose?  God, he hoped it was his teeth.  Maybe an eye booger?  Oh crap, please let it be my teeth?  He wanted to wipe at his various organs and ducts but couldn’t just yank his hand away before she even took it.  She was hesitating.  Oh c’mon, shake my hand so I can dig at things!

Katie paused for just a heartbeat more, then smiled again and put her right hand firmly into his, shaking like a professional wrestler.  Steve tried to not look surprised.  When she let go he held out the rose, distracting her attention while his slightly crushed, right hand danced over his face.

“I am pleased to meet you, Steve.”  Her expression widened a fraction as she watched him rub at his eyes.

“I’m a little allergy prone.”  It wasn’t a lie even if it wasn’t an accurate explanation.  He noted her subtle frown again.  He nodded toward the rose in her hand and shrugged.  She looked blankly at it, then realization lit her eyes.  Lifting the flower to her nose she inhaled.  It looked like a mechanical movement as opposed to genuine appreciation.  Steve felt his stomach tightening with worry.

“Let’s get a table and sit down, eh?”  He opened one arm to invite her to lead the way.  Katie smiled tightly and turned away from the bar.  He gave her a couple steps worth of lead before he followed along.  

Something was off, but what?  Did he look different than she expected?  Was he too tall?  Too short?  Their height was comparable so neither of them had a disadvantage there.  He tried to recall if his picture on the app was current.  He thought so.  He had been brutally honest in his likes and philosophy.  He thought it was better to be rejected for what he was than what he pretended to be.  So what was wrong?  They hadn’t even finished saying hello and she was throwing off unhappy vibes.

“I see your date has arrived, sir. A table for two then?”  The Host, looking excruciatingly calm, plucked two leather-bound menus from his podium and looked at Steve for acknowledgement.

“Yes.  Could we have something a bit private? Not right in the open, maybe?”  He could swear he could feel Katie relaxing.  How strange?  He fought back the urge to put his hand on her waist as they moved through the dining room.   

“Certainly sir.  Right this way.”

They were seated in a booth toward the back with a clear view of the entire room.  Steve thought it was a bit more conspicuous than he had asked for since the whole room would also have a clear view of them but, he accepted the arrangement and stood politely while Katie slid delicately into her seat.  The menus were laid before them, the water glasses filled, then the Host made himself scarce.  Steve tried to make small talk while they scanned the menu items.

“I’ve read several good reviews of this place. They’re noted for their steaks.  The cook’s  supposed to be some kind of a beef genius.”  Again he felt the shift in Katie’s attitude.  She did not look up or change her position at all but Steve could swear that she was displeased.  What the hell is going on?  Every time he said anything she seemed to get on edge?  He decided to just lay his the question on the table and see what happened.

“Katie… What’s going on here?  I feel like you’re unhappy right from the start but we’ve barely even begun?”  He was quite surprised to see her visibly shudder now.  Lifting her head she tried to smile but it was very strained.

“I am sorry.  I really thought, based on our conversations, that you understood.  Obviously I was mistaken.”

Steve goggled at her, completely lost.  His mind raced through their online conversations in the blink of an eye but found nothing to indicate what she might be talking about.  His stomach dropped as he realized he was about to get the brush off.

“Understood what?”

“Your writing…” She waved a hand through the air like she was penning a letter.  “You never use contractions when you type.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“You see, I am a Trekki.  Most importantly, I am a Data Emulator.”  Katie was looking directly at him, almost challenging him to comment.  

Steve stared back and let his hand fiddle with the napkin roll.

“Data emulator…” he repeated slowly.  “What’s that?”  He was familiar with Trekkies but not specific branches except for the obvious ones like Klingon or Vulcan.

“Data is an android who is incapable of using contractions.  His words are always separate, never contracted together.”

Steve thought he understood what she was getting at.

“So you thought, because I didn’t use contractions when I typed that I didn’t use them at all?”  Every message and email he had sent had been painfully edited.  He had gone over each line several times to be sure he was saying exactly what he meant and not leaving any false impressions.  Evidently he had been too thorough and given one unintentionally.

“Yes.”  

The blunt answer made him aware of how many contractions he had just used.  He felt his insides implode with self-righteous anger.  What a stupid reason to brush him off.  He had polished his damn shoes! And he had really liked her.  The time they had spent together online had given him a real feeling of connecting.  Why couldn’t she just say he looked different from what she had expected?  He smelled funny?  Anything that made sense!

Seconds ticked by as Steve sat there digesting what was happening.  He wanted to leave.  He wanted to say something, anything, that would leave a mark on her but his mind was a blank.  All he found were images of their messages to each other saying how much they were both looking forward to their date.  This date.  Valentine’s Day.

“I see our positions have changed.”  Katie noted.  “You are now the one feeling… off.”  She gave him an empty smile.  “I guess we should stop this before it becomes too uncomfortable.”

Steve nodded carefully, holding his face as still as he could.

“Right.  I’m sure my excessive use of contractions will cause you an unbearable amount of discomfort.  Won’t it?”  Bitterness dripped from the last words.  He slid out of the booth and dug into his pocket for his money clip.  Scowling, he thumbed out a twenty dollar bill to leave on the table for the busboy who would have to clean up after their ten minute usage of the table

“Take care of yourself, Steve.  It was nice meeting you.”  Katie remained seated, sipping her water and showing him her perfect ears.

Steve took a deep breath, missing the smell of the fresh lime from the holding pen.  How strange, he thought, to miss something that was only ten minutes ago.  Ten minutes ago he had been nervous, excited and hopeful.  Now he was holding a stomach full of molten lava.  He exhaled sharply and glowered at Katie.

“Yeah, you too.  And I’m deleting you as soon as I get home.”  Snatching the rose from beside her he turned and stalked away, shredding the petals onto the carpet as he went.

Monday Monologue #1 – Smashing Pumpkins

Revising and editing is hard work!  I have been successfully avoiding the bulk of the work by opening my laptop and the appropriate file then walking away to scrub my range top, scrape the litter box, vacuum all the cat hair from my furniture or just take a quick power nap.  There are so many effective and justifiable ways to not work on my book that it’s a wonder I have gotten anywhere with it at all.

I have to say, though, I am pleased with my present level of work – and my clean apartment.  Smashing Pumpkins (still a tentative title) is coming clearly into focus.  I have struggled a bit with my choice of a main character though.  In my mind, the MC has changed three times so far.  I believe this current choice is the one I will stick with though.  It has taken some heavy cleaning (the range top) to get my thoughts and background on the MC in order.  Somewhere during the mad dash of NaNoWriMo I neglected to actually develop this guy.  Deciding to use him as the MC brought me to a halt when I was unable to actually get him moving.  After several failed attempts to ignite his inner light I realized that I didn’t know a damn thing about him.  He had no life before this story.  I needed to sit down and flesh him out.

It’s funny to me that I managed to create a character that I knew nothing about.  The other characters of the book came forward out almost fully formed.  They were demanding to be noticed.  This guy… this guy, kinda slipped into the story without being noticed.  He sat quietly in a single chapter without really drawing attention to himself.  After NaNoWriMo ended I was left will all these pages of people and events and emotion that had no clear starting point.  I knew exactly where the ending was but finding the true beginning involved repetitive sorting and weighing of each character.  As I typed and retyped, this guy kinda stepped out from the crowd, all by himself, and bowed to me.  The strong, silent type.

I am rolling along again and hope to have a completed manuscript by June.  I’m not going to hold my breath over it but, that is my current goal.

Saturday Snippet #1

Anna groped awkwardly at the myriad of small items spraying from of her purse.  She had been meaning to clear out some of the debris but just hadn’t gotten around to it.  The entire intestinal tract of her bag was now spilling across the bathroom floor like skittles, knocked from its perch on the counter by her elbow as she had turned to pull paper towel from the wall dispenser.  Surprised and dripping water she wiped her hands quickly down her pant legs, huffed a few dark, stray hairs from her face and bent to collect her things.  This day was feeling too long already and it was only just past the lunch hour.

Grotesque Conversations

From his lofty perch above the main entrance to Milwaukee’s Mackie Building, Gandar watched with interest as the Shambler pawed slowly, almost languidly through the green trash can below.  Its movements were careless and cautious at the same time, one hand holding up the lid while the other churned the contents carefully, pausing now and then to assess an item.  Looking for food, he thought.  

“It’s the bottom of the ninth and the Shambler is looking for a final score to take him to victory.”

“So you are awake,” Gandar said with a soft chuckle.  “Once a Brewers fan always a Brewers fan, hey Jesticar?”

“Indeed,” came the response.  “Too bad I haven’t been able to actually see a game in over seventy years.”

“The price of choosing  to be a Grotesque.”

“Mmpf.”

Gandar recognized the vocal shrug of his companion.  Choosing to be stationary for eternity – or what passed for it in Milwaukee – came with a set of rules that most of them had known going in.  Jesticar was the youngest of the group guarding the entrance of the building that was once referred to by the locals as, the Grain Exchange and, occasionally registered dissatisfaction with that fact.  For the gazillionth time he thought the young Grotesque would have been happier at the Bay Shore high school where nearly two hundred Grotesques lived in various states of harmony.  He was certain there were Mysticals over there that had watched the Brewers before they were major league and could empathize with Jesticar.

Returning his attention to the Shambler who was now rubbing softly at its forehead just over its left eye, Gandar tried to distract his companion from his self-induced pity.

“Looks like he’s going to survive long enough to choose.  What do you think he will become?”

Jesticar repeated his noise and rolled his eyes.

“Probably another werewolf or vampire.  It’s what they all choose these days.”

“Yeah…”  Gandar wondered if the appropriate libraries were still functioning.  “It’s as if the other choices have all been erased.”

“Not only that but, once they choose, they all act like they have been that way since the dawn of time.  None of them talk about how they started their mystical existence as a Shambler.”

“Do you remember your time as a filthy, mindless, meat seeker?”

Jesticar cranked his eyes as far toward Gandar as he could and looked shocked.

“Of course I do… kind of…”  He rolled his eyes away.

“Exactly.”  Gandar knew he had started as a Shambler but it was a very vague memory for him.  His memories of being mortal and part of a family were easier to access than the brief window he had spent groping in garbage cans and shuffling around as a zombie.  The memories were part of the choice.  Nothing was erased, it all just faded with time like everything else.

“First human babies then, mystical amoeba.”  He mused aloud.  “The same thing just a different stage in development.”

The Shambler gave up on the trash can and began to shuffle west along the sidewalk.  Gandar watched it vanish into the distance, blending into the deep, night shadows of the downtown streets.  Silently he wished it well.

Another Tender Tale

I sat staring into the Styrofoam box, horror and suspicion sweeping over me. Beside me, innocently shoveling boneless, barbecue wings down her smooth, slender throat as if nothing was wrong, sat my wife in all her selfish glory.  Her eyes were fixed on the television, one of three that we could see from our table, where the latest Packer game was being picked apart by sports aficionados past their prime.  I narrowed my eyes at her.  She hated football.  She was only watching now because she knew I was going to find out the truth.  Shoving my box of chicken away from me I turned to her in disgust.

“You broke up with the cashier, didn’t you?”  My voice was just a bit too loud for a public restaurant, even a wing joint.  The couple by the front window became suspiciously still, the husband turning to look while his wife stared down at their food.  I didn’t bother to make eye contact.  What would I do, smile and wave?

Popping the last bite of a wing into her guilty mouth she reached for another, barely turning her head to face me.

“What are you talking about?”

I pointed at the box of tenders then looked at her again with my eyebrows cranked all the way up my forehead, my expression as hugely exaggerated as her innocence.

“There’s only four tenders in there.”  I crossed my arms and waited for an explanation.

“How many did you order?”

“Four!”

Looking at me as if I was mentally dysfunctional she reached out to pat my arm, her face a portrait of sympathy.

“That’s what four means, honey.”

“No!  Four does not mean four and you know it!”  I always got an extra tender no matter what amount I ordered.  She knew it too. She couldn’t fool me. I knew she’d been cozying up to that cashier. I always got the extra tender as an effort to placate me while they made googly eyes at each other.  I glowered and leaned in close so my breath could repel her like kryptonite.  “Don’t play coy with me,” I hissed.  “Did you two have a falling out?”  I scrambled my brains to come up with something biting.  “A saucy argument, perhaps?”  I cringed just a bit at my own word choice there.  Maybe I should have left it at a falling out.

“Jesus honey, what did you eat before we came here?”  She fanned the air between us.  “Roadkill?”

I spared a thought for the cold, two day old, Chinese takeout I had gulped down while she was getting ready; chicken and garlic, with garlic and extra MSG.  Close enough, I thought, and gave her a nod.

“That doesn’t change your guilt.”  I felt my point was obvious.  “You need to make up with him.”

“Make up with who?”

She might be able to pull the wool over his eyes but, I was married to her.  I knew the truth!

“You know own exactly what I’m talking about.  You fix this and quick.”  I pointed with my chin at the box of tenders congealing in front of me.

“Oh for heaven’s sake!”  She turned away and picked up another wing.  “You have a seriously abnormal imagination, honey.”

“Don’t act like this is nothing,” I warned, dragging the box toward me again.  “This is something.”  I held up a single piece of chicken between my thumb and forefinger and shook it at her.  “This is small, overcooked and completely lacking in effort.”  My wife studied it for second, her green eyes sharpening to icy points.  Her smile became feral.

“You’re right, honey.  I’ll fix this.”  She turned back to her wings.  “Right after I give my phone number to the new cashier.”

I stared at her.

“What new cashier?”

“You didn’t see the guy who took our order?”

I shook my head like an idiot and tried to see past the soda machine, around the corner to the front counter.

“You gave him your number?”  I was astounded.

“Not yet but we haven’t finished eating.  There’s still time.”  She smiled.

“What happened to the other guy?”

My wife shrugged and kept chewing.  I watched the two little sticks she put into her hair to keep it rolled up and thought they looked a lot like chop sticks.

“Baby, be serious for a minute.  What happened to him?”

She paused between bites and stared into my box of untouched, lemon pepper tenders.

“Eat up honey, before he gets cold.”

 

(The original Tender Tale is here)

The Gargoyle Queen – Chaz

Calvin stood in the open doorway rubbing at the back of his neck where the small hairs stood up and made him itch like he had shaved it.  The apartment was wrecked and Rain stood in the middle of it, her arms stretched over her head running a duster across the ceiling while her foot dragged the running, canister vacuum along behind her, it’s cleaning attachments strewn about like they had been vomited up.  She had braided her long, nearly black hair and it lashed the air behind her like a thick tail.  A large, black trash bag, half-filled, lay under the dining room table, its top edges rolled down to hold it open.  He could see last month’s cell phone bill, considerately mailed to him despite his repeated requests for paperless billing, laying on the top of the heap.  

His eyes tracked her movements like an unseen feline tracked a dog.  Should he just back out and close the door?  Come back later?  He still had a few bucks in his wallet.  He could just wander over to the gas station and get one of those overly sweet concoctions they called a cappuccino and wait this out.  His conscious prickled uncomfortably and he looked toward the small hallway, trying to spot his cat.  It wouldn’t be fair to leave Hobbes by himself with Rain right now.  The small, gray tabby was nowhere to be seen which probably meant he was huddled inside the box spring of the bed, thinking hatefully of the vacuum.  Thoughts of the torn fabric under the bed brought to mind the promise he had made to Rain about removing it.  Hobbes had made quite a furry, nest in there.  A smile tugged at his lips as he remembered the look on Rain’s face when he had explained the hole as being the cat’s only real place where he could get naked and be himself.

The vacuum turned off, aided by a swift kick from Rain’s work-booted foot.  Calvin locked his eyes on her face and closed the door carefully behind him.  He had lost his chance.  Keeping his voice carefully neutral he greeted his beloved.

“What’s going on Rain?”

“Your mother called.”  Rainbow rolled her shoulders backward then forward, her long, usually friendly face tightening with pain.  The dust sweeper hung down from her hand, its asbestos-like covering nearly black with dirt and cobwebs and cat hair.

“Huh?”  Calvin felt in his jacket pocket for his cellphone.  It was there.  “How?”  He squinted slightly, suspicion dragging his eyebrows a little downward.  “What do you mean?”

After a final stretch with both arms in front of her Rain poked the duster at the computer in the corner of the living room.  It looked innocent on its chipboard desk.  Calvin stared at the screensaver, a green and black simulation of The Matrix.  He loved it.

“She emailed?”

Rain gave him a withering look and extended the duster to prod the mouse, sending the screensaver away.  A vaguely familiar window was open on the monitor, it’s short list of contacts running downward on the left.  Calvin stared blankly for a second as he processed what he was seeing.

“She Skyped you.”  Stabbing the duster down onto the carpet Rain leaned on it like it was a cane and gouged him with her eyes, her braid rolling ominously over her shoulder.  Calvin blinked.  Did her braid just twitch on its own?  “She fucking Skyped you!”

“I didn’t know she would do that.”  His voice was soft and apologetic while his heartbeat picked up.  “She never seemed to like the program.”  If The Queen had Skyped Rain then she had seen the apartment.  That explained why Rain was cleaning but, why was she so mad?

“She invited us to dinner.  Sean is coming home.”  Rain’s eyes flashed lightning bolts.

“Sean’s coming home?  When?”  Carelessly Calvin forgot about everything in front of him as excitement over his brother’s homecoming blossomed in his stomach.  “How long?”  A huge smile spread over his face.

Rainbow seemed to relax a little, her anger diffusing just a bit.  She smiled back at him.

“He’ll be here Wednesday and he’s staying for a week.”

“Wednesday is the start of my weekend!”  Calvin smiled even bigger.  He would have two full days to spend with his brother and hear all about the Army’s boot camp.  His mind filled with visions of what Sean might look like now that he was well fed and exercised.  His little brother had always been a bit stringy.  Muscle would probably look good on him.  Calvin tried to picture Sean with a military haircut and fatigues and couldn’t do it.

“Yes.”  Rain nodded.  “And dinner will be at six o’clock sharp.”

Dinner.  Calvin’s smile saggged a bit.  Dinner with The Queen and her golden son.  

“Ugh.”  He stepped fully into the living room and sat down on the orange recliner.  “God, we have to go to her house.”

“Now you’re getting it.”  Rain chuckled.

“Is that why you’re so mad?”  Calvin looked up at her and nodded toward the mess that was Rainbow’s cleaning project.

“Oh that?”  Rain lifted the duster and began twisting the handle between her hands like she was actually wringing out a wet cloth.  She looked a little guilty but still managed to send off a sheet of anger like a solar flare.  “That’s just because of what she said.”

“Huh?  What did she say?”  Calvin tensed.  His mother had a gift for saying exactly the right things to get under someone’s skin.  It was like she had no social-buffer or, deliberately ignored it.

“Just the thing about me having two mothers.”  The duster handle creaked faintly, the plastic straining in her hands.

“What?  Did she say it again?”  Calvin remembered the first time his mother had met Rainbow.  It hadn’t gone well.  Rain was Native American and had grown up on the Rez.  Her parents were Mr and Mrs Starshine.

“No.  I just got to thinking about it after we hung up and got mad all over again.”  She looked around her as if just then noticing the destruction.  Every piece of furniture was a bit off from the indents in the carpet and the drawers of both the computer desk and the endstand were ajar and lacking the normal view of their heaped contents.  Calvin suspected his small collection of Harry Potter trading cards had found a new home in the trash bag.  It probably didn’t matter, he never really did anything with them anyway.  

“I guess I got a little over-zealous.”  Rain laughed and propped the duster against the table before sitting down in the golden overstuffed chair that was normally covered in Hobbes’ hair.

Calvin grinned and thought she looked more beautiful than ever when she was angry.  Her life-force shimmered off her like a heat mirage when her emotions were jacked up.  Was that his t-shirt she was wearing under her button-down?  He thought it might be his favorite blue one.  A warm, happy feeling spread out in his stomach.

“She said that months ago.  I thought you were over it now?”

“Yeah, well… I don’t actually get over things.”  Rain looked at the television, it’s black screen off and not looking back.  “It’s how I am.  Five years from now I’ll be watching something on tv and somebody will say something or do something and it will remind me of what your mother said and – BAM! – I’ll be pissed off all over again and yanking the stove out to clean behind it.”  She grinned back at him, all teeth and honesty.

Calvin felt his heart leap into his throat.

“You plan on still being with me in five years?”  In spite of The Queen?  Was she saying she loved him unconditionally.  He wanted to wriggle like a puppy but forced himself to hold still like an adult, setting for letting his feet arc upwards onto the toes a couple times.

“I don’t have any other plans at the moment.”  Rain pulled her face into an overly serious expression.  “Where have you been anyway?”

“Talking with Chaz.”  Calvin snorted.

“Chaz?  Who’s Chaz?”

“You know, my good buddy, Chaz.  The guy I have been friends with since he was a little girl?  The guy who normally tells me everything?”  Calvin felt a little of his happy feeling going away as he snipped out the words.

“Chaz?”  Rain stared uncomprehendingly, reminding Calvin of himself only a few moments ago.

“Yeah, Chaz.  That’s what he wants to be called now.”

“What?  Why?”  Rain eyed the duster across the room and leaned forward in the chair, shifting her weight toward her knees.  “He hasn’t even spoken to you in a month.  Did he say where he’d been?”

“Well, when you get a new life I guess you get a new name too – and he explained his absence.”  This was going to be the biggest bomb of the day, even bigger than the news about Sean coming home.  Rainbow waited expectantly, looking ready to launch back into a cleaning frenzy.  Calvin felt his neck hairs stand up again as he made his lips form the words.

“Charles is a werewolf.”