Dyes & Gulls
© 2011 by Walter D. Reimer
It was getting cloudy as well, promising rain at some point.
George nodded approvingly at the site. “Near the water, so we can trace the outline of the walls – “
“Near the beach,” Laura muttered, “so I can at least get a bit of sun and a swim in.”
“ – and it’s not on anyone’s property, so we don’t have to shell out anything in order to be able to dig!” George plucked a series of stakes, a spool of twine and a shovel from the gear and headed over the site, only to be stopped by Mororua.
“Not so fast, there,” the fox said. “You gotta make a donation.”
“Sure. Donation to hard-working priests.”
“Yeah,” Lararua said. “We gotta eat too, y’know.”
That seemed to impress George, who unceremoniously dropped the equipment he was carrying and got out the checkbook. “Sound and sportsmanlike, mate. Who should I make the check out to?"
Mororua said, “Make it out to ‘Charitable Association of Sacred Huckst – er, Holiness.” He mumbled the amount, and George dutifully scribbled it on the check. The buck ‘roo gave the check to the fox and passed the book back to Laura.
"Say, mate,” George asked, “how d'ye keep all them organizations what use CASH as an acronym straight?"
"Well, I'M woiking dis side of th' street."
“Makes sense.” George gathered up his gear again and started laying out a grid in order to start digging. “About how far down ya think it is?”
Lararua shrugged. "Dunno. But if ya dig far enough, ya might find the ruins."
"Yeah. Or a pony." Lur’paka sniggered, then yelped as Mororua boxed his ears again.
Laura flipped open the checkbook and gasped at the amount – five hundred pounds! – George had so carelessly scrawled in the amount blank. She felt faint and sagged backward, coming up against Tiny’s furry and very muscular chest and abdomen.
He smiled down at the doe, who took a deep whiff of his musk before recovering her wits and backing away a step.
George, on the other paw, was digging with his usual industry as the three foxes muttered among themselves. After the better part of an hour he had managed to clear the site and was digging below the very thin layer of sandy topsoil and down into the loose phosphate-bearing layer below.
“Oi! Love!” George called out. “Laura?”
“Yes, Skippy?” Laura asked. She had stretched out a bit of tarpaulin on the beach, shucked off her boots and was lying in the sun. “Did you find anything?”
“Looks like it.”
The doe got to her feet and walked over to the hole, which was about six feet deep by now. She leaned over it, making sure that George got a good look down her shirt. Not at her cleavage, though; femme kangaroos, unlike their placental counterparts, had their mammaries in their pouches, while anything on the chest was largely muscle.
Laura was rather well-developed.
George paused, wiping sweat from his face, and passed a bottle up to her. “Dunno what this is,” he said, reaching for his canteen, “but it can’t be as old as Lemuria. Old rubbish, I think.” He grinned up at her. “Looking smashing, love.”
Laura smiled down at him, then inspected the bottle as her mate resumed digging. She got out a stiff brush and started brushing it down. A series of etched lines resolved themselves into a date over twenty years earlier. The weight of the bottle indicated it was still full, and a sloshing sound told her it contained liquid.
She worked the seal off the stopper as one of the foxes caught sight of what she was doing, and nudged the other two. They all started talking excitedly, staring at the bottle.
Laura raised an eyebrow, and flinched as a fat drop of water struck her head. Several more drops followed, and she busied herself with rigging the tarp she had been lying on into a tent fly to keep off the rain.
The rain started pouring down with that special vehemence reserved for tropical weather, but the storm didn’t deter George in the slightest. Shovelfuls of increasingly damp material kept flying out of the hole as Laura watched.
Lararua sidled up to her. “Heya, Missy,” he said with a sly look on his muzzle, “whatcha gonna do with that bottle, hey?”
“I’m not sure,” the doe replied, “but the guidebooks on this place say that you lot brew rice wine, and bury the casks in guano to help it ferment.”
“Is true,” Lur’paka said. “Is fine old tradition. But you don’t want it.”
“Nope,” Mororua chimed in. “Not good for you at all.”
“Uh huh. Well, I think I’ll hang onto it, then.”
“What for?” the three vulpines chorused.
“Because you want it,” and Laura smiled as their faces fell. Her expression changed as just then the pile of rain-soaked tailings slumped, then slid into the pit that George was in. “Christ!” She grabbed up another shovel and bounded to the hole, starting to dig her husband out.
The three foxes watched her go, then eyed the bottle, then looked back at her, then at the bottle, then loped over to watch her dig.
“George! George, dammit, say something!” Laura shouted as she dug. She tossed the shovel aside as the ground shifted at her feet.
A paw erupted from the muddy soil.
Followed by the rest of George, considerably muddy. As soon as his muzzle broke the surface, he screamed.
“I’M ON FIRE!”
The boomer leaped out of the hole and started running around, flapping his arms as his body steamed in the rain. Laura watched openmouthed until she realized that the guano would heat up on contact with water.
George was realizing it too, at firstpaw.
He ran straight for the sea and, without bothering to wade out, dove in. He surfaced, still screaming.
Laura walked down to the shore and pulled him in, shaking her head at the sight of him. George’s fur was bleached in patches, and most of his clothes showed signs of chemical burns. Rips in them showed where he had tried to tear them off. His eyes were red and he was gasping for breath.
Fortunately, Laura had dealt with things like this in the past.
Lugging George back to the hotel was the hardest part. He helped her rub a paste of baking soda and water all over him to counteract the acid in the guano, then showered it off. After that, Laura rubbed him all over with oil before putting him to bed. She shook her head as she shut off the light, leaving her husband stuck to the sheets, and sighed at the prospect of spending the night in a sleeping bag on the floor.
There was a knock at the door.
Opening it, she saw all four of the foxes standing in the hall, Tiny stooping slightly. “What do you lot want?” she growled.
“Um, well, that is, er,” Mororua helpfully supplied.
“What he means is, well, um,” Lararua said.
Lur’paka simply tried to look hopeful, but only succeeded in appearing confused.
Heads turned, and looked up at Tiny, who smiled.
“Yeah, what he said,” Mororua said.
“So, you want that bottle of rice wine, eh?” Laura asked.
The trio looked at each other, then nodded.
Lararua looked up, shocked. “What?”
“What is it worth to you?”
“Um, er, well, that is.”
Laura glanced at Tiny. “Tell you what – I’ll trade you.”
They looked at her again.
They noticed her look at Tiny.
The penny dropped.
“The bottle for him, huh?”
“Just for tonight.”
The huge fox was apparently following along, as he started to show some interest.
“We’ll have to ask him. Hey, Tiny!”
The massive vulpine grunted, “Yuh?”
“Can you show the lady a good time?”
“Y'know, give her the woiks?”
“Sorry,” Mororua said apologetically. “See, when th' blood rushes down dere like dat, don't leave much up top, see?”
“Here, lemme try,” Lararua said. “Tiny?”
The big fox slowly nodded and his expression changed to a big smile. “Bonk-bonk! Yuh!”
Laura glanced down. “Crikey.”
“Well, ya know dat t’ings grow bigger on Gull Island.”
“So I see. Have we got a deal, or not?”
The bottle was given to Mororua, who shook it slightly while an ear was pressed to the bottle. A blissful smile wreathed his features and he and his two articulate brothers left.
Laura looked Tiny over.
Tiny said, “Bonk-bonk.”
“Oh my,” the doe said a little breathlessly as she took his paw and pulled him into the room. “You’ll do – won’t you just... “