by M. Mitch Marmel & E.O. Costello
© 2010 By E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
All characters © E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
It’s the same dream, with a horrible new twist.
It starts out the same. Just like when I was a young buck. At the far end of the boardroom table. Facing my sire. With his cheerful, vacant expression.
“The meeting is called to order. The Secretary will read the minutes of the last meeting, unless waived. Yes, Mr. Rose?”
This is where things start to go wrong.
My fellow board-members are rather stiff, with the exception of Mr. Bamboo, who bends rather easily. They’re also rather immobile, except when somefur moves their pot.
“Mr. Bonsai having made the motion, seconded by Mr. Ficus, the report to the shareholders is hereby approved, my son Joss opposing. Really, Joss, you shouldn’t be so stubborn.”
I think about answering George Buckhorn, the sire, but there is no way I’m going to launch into a debate on corporate governance with a garden shrub fancier.
It’s where things go that makes the twist so horrible. It’s a large hall, with a long table for the directors, and plenty of pitchers of water for them. And plates of mulch.
Facing us – oh, God! – is what seems like a crowd of fawns. All different sizes, all with their spots still, and all squealing, bleating and making an infernal racket. The meeting hasn’t been called to order when they turn as one to me and bellow the dread word:
There’s no escape. They’re pouring in through the fire exits. They’re pouring in through the main doors. God help us, they’re coming in through the skylights. Dozens and dozens of them, bleating happily. The older ones even have banjoes, which they’re strumming.
Where are they all coming from?
There’s a horrible answer. There’s a huge, looming face of awful familiarity beneath a rack. God’s teeth, just like his grandfather . . . my sire. Same damned cheerful expression. And leading a doe by the paw. A doe that’s swelled out to gargantuan proportions.
“I say, guess what? You’re going to be a grand-sire again! I think that makes 397. Or is it 398? Willow, what is the count?
Heavens above, she’s looking at him adoringly! “It doesn’t matter, my love, just so long as you’re their sire. I could go on forever like this. But it’s 399. It’s triplets!”
"Millions and billions of fawns! Where are they all COMING from?"
An evil leer from my daughter-in-law. "From me, Pop! I'm multiplyin’!" She cackles and works the lever of an infernal adding machine as more and more fawns pop into the scene...
Loud cheering from the hall and stamping of hooves, which is just enough to drown out my scream . . .
My mate struggled to sit up in his seat.
“You’re perspiring dreadfully. Wipe your forehead this instant. I’ve told you a thousand times not to eat so heavily before you sleep. I shouldn’t wonder if you have nightmares.”
This prompted a low, grumbling set of monosyllables as he dabbed at himself with his pawkerchief, straightened his tie, and fixed his monocle in place.
“Much better. After all the years and money you spent to become Lord Buckhorn, you might as well look the part. Katie MacArran can get away dressing rough, but she pilots planes instead of riding in them.”
Deliberate choice of name, there. The Duchess of Strathdern is one of the few furs alive that intimidates my mate. Or at least will get him to act politely and be quiet, which is perhaps much the same thing.
“And for heaven’s sake, will you stop looking so down in the muzzle. One would think you’re going somewhere in a tumbrel.”
“I feel like it, woman.”
“Now, let’s not start on this again. I am NOT going to have a repeat of your behavior last year. You were rude and mean to Reggie, and look where it got you. Miss Fawnsworthy treated you far more gently than you deserved, after all that scheming of yours.”
Another name to intimidate. And this one involves some real fear. Willow Fawnsworthy, soon to be Willow Buckhorn, is made of stern stuff. It’s good to see that Minkerton’s standards for femmefur operatives have remained the same since my day.
“And do stop squirming, dear. A Clipper stateroom is cramped at the best of times without you wiggling about.”
“I’m not wiggling about.”
“Oh, really, Josslyn. Have it your way. You’re fidgeting. Now, once more: are you, or are you not, going to behave yourself over the next few days?”
Actually, I was rather relieved to see the purple tinge creep back into his face. I’ve noticed of late Josslyn has seemed rather listless and lacking in fight, and that worries me. I’ve also noticed he’s begun to look rather apprehensively at church towers, and jump when the carillon bells ring.
“Now, blast it, I gave my word, didn’t I?!”
That was true. When Josslyn, Lord Buckhorn, gives his word, that is the final say on the matter.
“Quite so, Josslyn, but I’m keeping my eye on you, all the same.”
There was some more sotto voce grumbling as a pudgy paw reached for a tin of Zepps, followed by a loud snort when he discovered the tin was empty.
“No more at least until afternoon tea, Joss. You’ve had an entire tin today.”
Some more enraged, indignant and impotent spluttering ensued, much to my pleasure and amusement. It’s how I like my Josslyn.
May 6, 1937
“Well, Lodge, it’s been an eventful few days, hasn’t it?”
I paused in hanging up my employer’s coat, and regarded Mr. Buckhorn gravely. “Indeed, Sir.” To say that the past few days had been eventful would, of course, have been understating matters.
Over the past few days Mr. Buckhorn had been in and out of jail.
Andre d’Arbres, the maitre d’hotel at l’Etoile d’Argent, had been the target of a particular species of retaliation at the paws of Miss Fawnsworthy and Miss Baumgartner, who had then gone on to participate in a soiree known as a ‘bachelorette party’ that had landed them, several dozen other young women and a detachment of sailors from the nearby naval base in jail.
Miss Fawnsworthy was back in her hotel room after a late breakfast with Mr. Buckhorn, well-fortified with aspirin and strong coffee. I daresay Miss Baumgartner was in similar straits at Luchow’s.
“Still,” Mr. Buckhorn mused aloud, “things turned out well for everyone concerned.”
“Almost everyone, Sir,” I hastened to remind him.
“Oh yes. Magistrate Spaniel and Andre. Well, things turned out well for everyone who matters.”
“Quite so, Sir.”
“And now one more day, and then a splendid wedding. What could possibly go wrong?”
I would rather Mr. Buckhorn did not tempt Fate like that.
Everything was going perfectly.
Reggie looked so absolutely gorgeous in his white tie and morning dress. So far, it had all gone on without a hitch.
Until Father Merino had said those fateful words: “If there is anyone who knows any reason why these two should not be joined together in holy matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”
Sure enough . . .
Suddenly the back pews of Saint Anthony’s (which suddenly looked the size of Saint Peter’s) were filled with women of every species, all yelling at Reggie.
The most frequent words were “You promised!”
And suddenly Grace was standing next to me, dressed the same way I was and looking radiant as she turned to me and snarled, “I saw him first!”
We started fighting at that point, starting with whapping each other with the bouquets we had in our paws and ending up with us rolling on the floor yanking on each other’s headfur.
Reggie stepped in to intervene, but I heard another voice cut through the hubbub.
“Beat it, Buster! I saw her first!”
Yeah, it was Rosie, dressed in a spotless white suit. I guess she wanted to be the groom after all, and they started fighting.
Merino tried to restore order, but Reggie and Rosie hurled him over the altar before resuming their own fight . . .
I woke up with my legs tangled up in the bedclothes, my headfur matted and in my eyes and a foul taste in my mouth. Still not altogether conscious, I wrestled with the sheets for a few minutes until I managed to pin them for the standard three-count.
Finally sitting up in bed, I put my aching head in my paws and looked over at the (heavily shaded) windows. My clothes had been thrown against a chair, which told me that I really had to have been hung over.
Oh boy. Yes, Grace?
(I *did* warn you, Twin. Honestly, Nootnops Blue and rum – what were you thinking?)
I was enjoying myself.
(Oh really? Well, slap yourself a few times – we have a problem.)
(Reggie said something while he was walking us back to the hotel.)
(Last night . . . )
(He talked Da into giving us away at the ceremony.)
My headache blossomed like a sunflower.
Thank the Lord I didn’t mix my drinks.
The hangover would have been truly hideous.
As it was, Vicky had to help me up the steps into my apartment over the restaurant. She gave me a thermos of hot coffee and told me that she and Nick would run things – quietly! - and that they’d keep B’onss and K’nutt from destroying anything.
Good luck with that.
My thanks were more than a bit heartfelt, but petered out as my head hit the pillow.
I’m sure I was asleep a grand total of two seconds when I felt a weight settle on the mattress and a paw lightly touch my shoulder.
Then a soft voice: “Rosie?”
My eyes managed to open enough to first focus on the bedside clock. Glory be! It was already after lunch.
I looked up, and my beloved Franneleh was gazing down at me, a concerned look on his face. In the same soft voice he said, “I hesitated to wake you, my dear, but I have a small problem.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“Yes,” and he told me.