But Friday, though.
Things kind of always start on a Friday for me.
Before I make some night moves, while everyone employed bumrushes the green lights before the ambers in the morning to dodge the red. They get a little more erratic and less inclined to using turn signals before the weekend so I got to read into their driving that much more but it's ok, though. I'd rather deal and be focused on them. I'll just do what I can on the yellow line. Lanesplitting through this Downtown street to dance around the fools changing these lanes I'm riding in between. I know some Mammals just don't see a Fox on a motorcycle in their mirrors. And I get that most of them wouldn't think much of me being crippled for life or dead, besides a sing-song Good Riddance. It's kinda why my parents cried for me when they found out I got his old Ponda running again.
It wasn't just me leaving for Zootopia like I did.
And as much as I should care about the danger, I just care more about being moved.
It's not like anyone my generation can afford a car anyway, nor could ride or hide a car like I can this Vulpon.
Dodge the parking meters and the tickets.
Carve around what I don't want by me.
Make it through to get to the point.
Reduce the noise pollution by adding my own.
I can circumnavigate on this thing.
And it isn't a dirtbike, but I have knobby offroad tires on a Ranger 75 anyways. They got better grip in the sand and snow, but I try to avoid the Rainforest District. I got a little more reason than the rain or how crazy the roads are, there. I'd rather focus on something else. Like how for a motorcycle it's size, the Vulpon still has the perfect sound. Like a Hoggley, but better. The same snarl, but in a higher tone. And with a two to one pipe without a muffler, it thunders. Sure the thing's loud. That's the point: The first time someone ran me off the road and said that he didn't hear me was gonna be the last. You're so exposed on a bike, that you can't forget it. You're not encased in a steel cushion, but hanging on for life over an engine with two wheels and hopefully enough-but-not-too-much brakes.
But what makes cars so safe leaves room for distraction. There ain't one on a motorcycle. They take your mind off of whatever ugly thing it's on forcing you to try not to die or worse. And that's part of the liberation. Having some more present to worry about. It's not like you can get something like this in any other way. Go where you want whenever, and it's nothing else besides life or death all the way there.
It's times like 8:43 this morning, in a sea of horns of every volume and pitch wailing, the distant swearing over nothing that I can't hear over my parallel twin, that for a brief moment in my life? I can have some free time with my me time. I'm not a Predator, just some Mammal on a bike. With a genuine smile on my face. Like a blue moon. I can do a wheelie with maybe a foot of space between me and this traffic, and feel pride like I'm somewhere all those years of accumulated fear and doubt and frustrated depression can't go.
And then they come back around in one split second image in front of me because it starts on a Friday and the reason I remember is the sight of a pickup truck door swinging open in front of me. The smell of my tires burning, as I duck and cower behind the bike's handlebars just in time for the digital watch on my wrist to go from 8:43 to 8:44. I started to subconsciously brake just in time to save myself from a Pig's door but only for that Pig's screaming. He shuffles out of the driver's seat with a forced machismo and a haymaker to knock me off the bike. His wild eyed leer, his crazed shouting. As I start to yell, he belches out a stream of consciousness as his cloven fist clutches at my shirt collar.
You know, that typical specist road rage stuff. You preds can't drive, get back on a bus, your kind thinks you own the roads, the rest of us pay taxes, lowlives like you victimize the rest of us while your out of jail, don't you Preds ever think about the people you might kill, because I bet you do, You don't scare me, I'm not gonna take it, and on an on and on. It feels like forever. His snout brushes against my cheek. All I can see is his eyes so I close mine. Whatever he had with his morning coffee had onion. And as I start to go from rigid to limp, I begin to just take the abuse to get it over with. You dare not fight back. Not against Prey. Not unless you wanted even more to gang up and beat you, get the Cops called on you, get told you started it. They've already been called anyway. They're all gonna think I started this. But maybe I can get away before they come, if this Pig would just hurry up and stop shaking me around like a ragdoll.
Except I feel another presence. Then a lunging forward and a release of that hoove's grip. And I fall back and on the ground. There's two pairs of hooves with weight clapping on the asphalt. Followed through by the tune sheetmetal getting crumpled. "GET IN YOUR TRUCK AND GET OUT OF HERE!" echoes against the city walls and now parked cars. I look up to see an Elk releasing his chokehold on the Porcine to shove him back in the cabin with a doorslam so hard it shatters this little Piggy's driverside window. For a millisecond, I dart my eye back down before the Pig can grab hold of the steering wheel. He had the wheels turned towards me. He was prepared to cut me off and crush me, and probably only opened the door in a split second decision on just how much he was gonna ruin his truck to make me pay.
The Boar hurriedly straightens his wheels and follows the Elk's command as I look back up from the ground. His reflection's gasping in shock and humiliation and fear from that rearview mirror. But he can turn it all off tomorrow. Because he doesn't know sorry like I do. Wouldn't get that I live those same feelings. Wouldn't even care. I'm just a concept with an anger over it I can't put a name to. As the Elk's chest puffs out with each inhale, and my attention draws on him. His well-practiced stance loosening back to a relaxed state with a slight crook of satisfaction on his lips. His mid forties attire gave him away as the teacher, not the learner, of some nearby martial arts school. I had noticed it before. It's a youth school that catered to Prey parents' fears of their children needing to defend themselves from Mammals like me. Against these sharp canines and that assumed bloodlust. Whether or not we want anything to do with them to begin with was a moot point. They had to be prepared for The Day. The day when they got the excuse to be a Hero and beat on a sharp tooth'd bad guy.
Prey should see how we're living.
That's what burns through my head as I try to get up. This Elk is feeling real good about himself, he's getting too close, his hoof is reached out and whatever kind of prey-guilt he's spouting off, thinking that he's done something about what little he's seen, I can't hear it through my still-ringing ears besides "...And I'm so sorry, I just want you to-" And the rest of me agrees with that black gloved right paw of mine as it slaps the Elk's gesture away. I flash my teeth, I snarl with all the fire and brimstone I can pack in my eyes. He steps back in a double-take and I help myself up with a forward lurch. My paw didn't care. His blackbelt, his remorse, his anything. He isn't scared, though. Not threatened. Just shocked. Taken back. He feels betrayed, I always do and doesn't even know he was only pretending to care out of a sense of obligation. He doesn't really sympathize and he can't really try. Because he can't understand, and even if he could, then what?
One awkward skiddish Prey guy thinking he can undo what everyone else did. The conceit in it. The Vulpon's engine is still running, but struggles in it's sideways state from having been knocked over during the scuffle. The Elk's shock had given way to disappointment and he turns with a "...Last time I ever..." muttered under rage-heavy breath. I need to get out of here. Pull the bike back up with a slight puddle of gas beginning to develop from the carbs. With a push to roll it forward, I ease the throttle off of a rev with the clutch engaged. And as I climb back on, I catch a flash in my eye when I look back. A phone camera... I don't think anything of it at the time, but in retrospect? I should have considered it. Or something else besides the immediate thought of my own camera: That Laika slung around my neck and under my arm.
I consider for a brief moment to check to see if it was broken but I don't. The only urge I have is to just simply leave. Just ride off now, just go before anything else happens. Besides: My head is like an aircooled engine. It needs airflow to cool down. Motion. Speed. So I'll kick it out of neutral and roll my thoughts off to blow away from me. Make my mind shift focus back to the Vulpon, back to trying not to die and just to have a moment where I can't think of anything else. I'm not far now from Marula Tree Park, now. A few more southbound blocks, and I could cut through an alley through the park's side, where I could ride the Vulpon a ways and walk the rest of the rest of it to the courtyard my friends always hang out at. The majority of us are broke and out of work enough to make our own schedules.
Except for the trustfund Bison, that guy literally has nothing better to do then wait it out for an inheritance... And beg me to parties... Like the one I'm sure he's calling me about right as I ride through the park threshold. My brows furrow. I'm a merit badge to him. He can wait. The rest of my morning can't. So I ignore my phone to slip the gears back into neutral, cut the engine so I can coast until I find a spot to hide the bike... And there it is, a solid hedgerow with a space between it and a brick wall. Walking it backwards into that space I slip it into first gear and lock the forks in place. And it's right about now, as I round a corner to see that courtyard, that I can start appreciating Zootopia again. Because 2015's summer is looking like it's gonna get bad, but I came here for a better reason than to get messed with by a different flavor of longneck. There's a beauty to this city. I don't think it's only because I'm a Country Fox, either. I got so much life to witness here, even at it's worst. Even if I gotta try to force a lot of it off my mind.
The perk of being a rural wallflower all your life, I guess, is that the distance between you and everyone else brings you that much closer. You get to see so much, from so many mammals. One passing glance a vignette of someone else's life. You can tell so very much from the look in their face, the clothes they're wearing, the gate of their stroll. The crook of their smile or frown. I guess it's things like this that made me take up street photography as a hobby. Just to keep myself busy in between tracking down income. This trail I find myself on now is crowded unlike the one I rode in on. A Bear, a group of Sheep, a crowd of assorted Deer and Antelope all herding together. Zebras, Horses and other Equine. And then there is a Deer to my side.
He looks to be an Odocoileus Hemionus. A respectable twelve points held over his head. Well tailored suit. A Deer's prose is in their graceful movements, like walking poetry. A waltz. Maybe it's a little envy, but mammals that say it takes two to tango have never studied a Deer. Even when I gotta to risk assess on them like any other Prey, their prose still strike me. He looks to his phone, with the magic of a wizard studying an ancient scroll. It's such a mundane act, but still so captivating. And with a split second to spare, I start to grab for my camera. I have to decide, right now, if taking this one shot from the angle I'm seeing it from, is gonna be worth someone else yelling at me and throwing my camera into the ground. It's a picture that could be timeless, without any filter needed.
It's also a potential fight or a stern talking to by ZPD. The subject could be captured in this beautiful little moment forever. Or I wouldn't stop lamenting the fact I tried to shoot a Buck for weeks. But eventually, time runs out and decides for me. A delicate gesture tucked the phone into the inside of his jacket and he turns. And so did I, trying to hide the fact that I was about to take a picture. "HEY OOOHHHH!" My tail frizzes out and ears tuck back as the male Coyote comes up from behind and grabs me by the sides. The look on my face must be the perfect blend of fright and irritation. Hey Oh started becoming a thing right around the time this smart aleck moved into town and Andy Howlerson started bringing him to the parks with us.
Now everbody does it. Except the picking me up and carrying me around like a stuffed animal thing. That's just what Wally does. And is doing. Right now. Embarrassing me. In broad daylight. In front of Andy and the rest of 'em I see in the distance, already howling and cackling their heads off and cheering my assailant on while my muzzle twitches and brows furrow into one solid, uniformly level expression of frustration. Andrew, the Wolf, slaps his thigh as Jager teeters on the verge of falling over. The classic image of a Hyena. And Toby, the token prey boy of the bunch, he's doing everything he can to maintain his dignity. A vain attempt at containing his chortle and hiding it under his hooves, but his eyes give it away.
Meanwhile, I can't see it, but Wally must have this stupid smug Look-What-I-Found look on his face. He isn't much bigger than me, not much heavier then me, but I've stopped trying to figure out how he does this with ease. He's gotta work out, but his build doesn't show under his fur. Andy continues laughing as Wallace sets me down in the middle, and it's about now that I get the news. Andrew starts to settle into a snicker, and then stares. Deadpan serious look. "What happened to your shirt, bro?" I think of my collar, and as I grab it, I don't even have to look down. I feel the already torn silk tearing further. That Pig, he must've torn it as he grabbed at me.
"Ah, cripes... I dropped the bike on the way here. Must've got snagged as I fell." I'm good at facades, and it seems like they buy it.
"Dude, Owen, one Pred to another? You gotta stop it with the riding. That heap's gonna get make you roadkill." I roll my eyes and start unbuttoning the shirt with a "Jager, I'm not gonna stop riding that Vulpon, I'm not a public transportation kind of guy and we've had this talk."
"Oh, this freakan guy..." Andrew trails off. They've all been getting annoyed with me lately about this. I can't really blame them.
"Look, OC, this city isn't bike friendly." Toby has a point that's been proven time and time again.
"I understand what you're saying..." I unsling my camera and lay it down. "...And your comments are valuable..." I peel the torn shirt off, revealing my black slimfit tee. "...But I'm gonna ignore your concern." I stroll over to the nearby trash bin, gazing down at the balled up silk fabric. I just got the thing, too. A collective sigh of frustration with me is had by all. Except Toby Antelier.
"Well hey, at least let me have that. I don't get to work with much silk stock." The Buck has a point. Antelier, opposite of the small terrace, was an artist that couldn't be pinned down to any one outlet. He sang, and was damn good at it. Fairer than Andrew, and pretty consistent with bandmates. He writes, but I tend to feel some undue sophomoric vexation in his words. He paints good abstracts, though, and is amazing with the needle and sowing machine. He even does some embroidery from time to time on laundry shirts. His high fashion take on art nouveau is a stark contrast to his attire of skinny jeans and old western pearlsnaps. A whole lot of me envies just about all of him.
He doesn't completely Get It, but he Got It a lot more than any other prey mammal that I've known. He isn't trying to be a savior, he never patronized us, and he never spoke out of turn. He's reserved, but isn't holding back anything ugly. We trust him enough that we don't have to hold back when smiling, or laughing. It was liberating, when we figured him out like that. Predators have to be so concerned with scaring Prey that they had to learn how to smile and laugh as non-threateningly as possible. As recently as thirty years back, social studies classes in public schools still required pred students to master their Non-Predatory smile to complete the class. It's taboo even today, with Predators like me or Andy and the others trying not to let their guard down in public. Jager still can't pull it off, and it makes him awkward. More suspicious to anyone needing their confirmation bias fix.
A predator has to be so comfortable around prey, so perfectly at ease, it's a show of trust to not hold back. This is how much my eyes squint when I laugh. This is how many teeth I have. This is my tongue rolling in between my fangs. This is that look that you think is threatening, but it's not, and I trust you enough to not be scared that you'll be scared. And Toby has endeared himself so much to me and the others that I would have given him the shirt regardless. I crack a smile, a sincere one, as I ball the shirt up a little more and give him my best free throw. The guy doesn't even need a Think Fast from me: He reads me like a book and hops with poise as I toss it. "You're gonna surprise me with it about a week from now, aren't you?" And he cracks a knowing smirk to that. Looks good on his skiddish azz self. I get a little wry, too, hopping on the space next to Andy.
"Anyone else hungry? Got anything besides a beer?"
"I got a cider."
"You always got a cider, Jager, that's a given. Who's got eyes on something not liq-"
...Everyone's looking at Wally present a vine of grapes to go with that grin. The tool. Has 'em give a snicker off because they know exactly what he's going for, here. I sigh. He's not kidding. Well, he is, but he's not kidding about kidding. I have to leer a little at him, over this Fox and the Grapes act. "May I please ha-" A quick toss, and it's aimed in my direction but too high. I still reach, but Andy's got more. And yeah, it's pretty much nothing we're turning into a big deal, but Toby's been around us long enough to get it: We kind of need any chance we can give ourselves to joke around. He's easy to amuse, though. And everyone's been inspired lately to get my goat. Now Andrew's gotten too comfortable with trying to play me like Wally does. Like he's being right now, dangling his grapes over my head while I make a face and everyone else chuckles.
Here's the thing, though: I still gotta get him back for doing me wrong like he did last week. All he's done now is open himself up to the fact I know my way around Wolves. I trail my gaze from the Grapes and down his arm, past his pit, and at the exact spot he's weakest at. I fold my ears back, let my grin loose and strike: One hand peeling his shirt up to reveal the side of his stomach, and my free palm strikes just below his ribcage to pet the ever loving heck out of it. He realizes whats happening, but it's too late. My quick, rapid strokes gets his tail wagging, and everyone starts to lose their minds as Andy starts to thump a foot against the ground and pant.
I'm grinning ear to ear. Right now he must be hanging his tongue out the side of his mouth and making the stupidest cross-eyed face, because Jager's fallen down, Toby's practically squealing and losing every bit of his composure, and Wally's giving off the best damned horse laugh I ever heard. The Lupine drops his grapes, and I stop embarrassing him to let em fall straight in my lap. As everyone proceeds to completely break down and die in agonizing laughter, so he can let it soak in with his paws over that blush. He's taxed me. And I played him like a friggin' piano. So darned smugly victorious I can smell my own catharsis and it's stronger than limburger. I'd be gagging if it wasn't mine.
But it is, so I'll get up with grapes in hand to monologue. Because Toby's crying, Andy's too flustered, and Wally's the only one to see him.
What I don't.
"And another thing, You don't get to-" "SIR YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO CALM DOWN AND KEEP YOUR HANDS IN PLAIN VIEW."
I freeze solid from the turnaround I made when I do see it. That sight of a badge. This seven feet of hippo towering over me. The one and a half ton herbivore cop is the omnipotence trifecta. I do what I can to hide my frustration, and I keep a firm grip on those grapes to hold back the urge to indulge in that tick I have of putting my hands in my pockets. And yet I still look behind to see Andy holding his paws out to his sides, palms exposed. Wolves probably catch more grief from the World than any other predator, and it shows in him. "FOX, EYES ON ME, NOT YOUR BUDDY!" How could I be so stupid? Because I'm scared. He grabs his radio, and he starts to call for back up. Wally, Jager and Andrew must hate me right now.
"Now listen, You and You sit down. You, get up, sit down next to them. Keep at a distance from each other. Further. Further."
We keep our paws out, we're doing everything, but he's still got his hand over his belt like he's a gunslinger. His eyes are darting over us. I'm getting the feeling that he's an overzealous rookie. I'll hope so, if maybe that'll mean he's not completely unhinged. "You, Bucko, what're you hanging around with these guys for? You trying to buy something from em?" I didn't know whether to be angrier or relieved, because him asking Toby that question just obviously telegraphed the fact that he couldn't have graduated academy more than a month ago, and barely graduated at that. The White Tailed is so taken back by the cop that he just sits there, quizzically slackjawed and squinting. "ARE YOU TRYING TO BUY SOMETHING OR NOT?"
I can't even, with this. Neither can Toby, but "Sir... These are my friends? I'm with these people because I like their Company... And no, No I don't smoke, before you ask."
"Let me see your ID... And who does that camera belong to? That one in the middle." Because we're so stupid, he has to point out the one camera in plain view. The only one he could be talking about.
"Mine." I raise my hand slowly, non-threateningly. Trying to reassure him. Maybe I can get him to get his hoof away from the taser.
"Really, Boy? Where'd you get it from?" The suggestion that something I have, that could be considered valuable, was stolen, had stopped phasing me ages ago. But I still pause, because I'm that amazed this joke is writing himself.
"Are you aware that being in possession of stolen goods is a felony, Fox?" and it's a mistake I did.
But Toby butts in before I make another. "Officer, I gave that camera to my friend several months back. It's a Laika 5R Irafas and the last three digits of the serial number is 427." Except Toby's gotten his Drivers License out of his wallet while cutting in and is about to make the stupid, horrible mistake of getting up to approach the Hippo.
But thank god, the Hippo's backup has finally arrived. A bear. Looks to be Ursus Arctos Horribilis. Has the stroll of a veteran. "What are you doing Officer Telt?" That dismissal. This hippo is a rookie and he's screwed up before.
"These mammals were causing a disturbance and I had reason to believe they were intoxicated."
But if that was the case, then "Did you ask them if they had any open containers?"
"Sir, th-" "Oh Now you remember to say Sir."
I clinch my jaws and do everything I can not to chuckle. One misstep, now, from any of us, and the tables turn back against our favor. We're all holding it in except Toby who's just a little too skiddish around cops to be amused. "As a matter of fact? You're going to wait for me around the corner because I'm going to wrap this incident up for you. You read me?" Somewhere, I feel a little pity for the idiot. But mostly smug. I feel a whole lot of smugness, right now. "...Sir, Yes Sir." He tries his best to act authoritarian in his shuffling, but he couldn't pull it off.
"So did you folks have any open containers?"
"What's your name?"
"Andrew Howlerson, sir."
"Drop the sirs and tell me what really happened here."
The Wolf hesitates.
"...My friend to the left made me drop my grapes."
Jager snorts. I nearly lose it and Wally and Toby do. The Bear's half amused and half under the impression he was joking. And it almost got him upset, before he noticed them in between me and Andy. "What Andrew means, is..." Toby began to explain, "That Coyote tossed some grapes to him, and he held it over the Fox's head, and then h-"
"I don't need an explanation for this but was anyone fighting with anyone?" A unanimous No was uttered by all to quell the bear's frustration.
"Are you guys gonna cause another scene?" A second unanimous No.
"Good then stay out of trouble and don't make Me come back." No tickets. No cuffs. No muzzles. No county lockup. He has bigger fish to fry. A collective sigh had by everyone. I look to Andrew, trembling next to me. He's still a little more Deer-in-The-Headlights than the Deer to our right. Toby knew about pred profiling. He's seen the videos. But I don't think he's witnessed as much of it right in front of him than just now. He feels a little guilty, only knows better than to say anything, because nothing could make what just happened go away. He ought to be thankful he didn't see that grief, earlier... But I ain't gonna be hungry for awhile, now. I'll sit the grapes down next to Andy, after this and that... We've kind of all had the joking taken out of us.
"...You were saying?" I look to Wally with quiet sobriety. "Hmm?"
"Before the cop interrupted you, you were gonna say something."
"Oh..." That. "Guess it was gonna be some scat talking about... You know, my usual flexing. The point is I only let you guys win when I'm bored."
Andrew's "Brah you making me glad that cop shut your speech down." to get smirking through an "Step off." while I cock a brow an elbow Andrew with a dry laugh, then go to grab the camera. It's only now I get around to checking it after this morning. A scratch or two, but the lens has the same uniform resistance as before in both zoom and focus, and it doesn't sound like anything is loose in the body. I figured. I remember now that it was hanging from my right side and I fell on my left. "Hey oh? What's with this buffalo guy I keep hearing about?" I have to cringe a little, and the Wolf explains to Wally for me. "Buffalo's some tryhard preyboy that thinks he knows Toby. Pretty much."
"And he won't. Stop. Calling me."
"Oh, Owen don't tell me-"
"Yeah Toby He called me again just as I was riding up to here."
"He's that bad?"
"Wally, he's nauseating." seethes out from my teeth.
There were Mammals on this earth that treated basic social interaction like a presidential debate. Treated Preds like me an minorities like others like a commodity to win social interaction with. That talk about things like agency, then decide that they're someone else's representative. That's Buffalo. A podium that speaks for whoever's on it instead of letting them speak. A user. And yet people wonder why I didn't vote for mayor Lionheart. And as I look at my phone and just now notice the small series of cracks on the bottom left of the screen, I look at the voicemail app and consider whether or not I want to get even more upset than I already am.
"He left you a voicemail?"
"Course he did."
"Play it, I wanna see Wally's reaction." Andrew and Jager both laugh. "I'm plugging my ears..." Toby proceeds to cover the sides of his head and hear no evil. I roll my eyes and press play before tapping the loudspeaker.
"Heyooohhhhh we're doing a dress up party tonight at my place at eight and I know you just got through raiding thriftshops so don't give me that 'I got nothing to wear excuse' for the millionth time and hey look I KNOW you think you won't like my friends but here's what I'll do I've got money for gas AND I'll let you sleep over which means I'm literally bribing you to have fun so be there or be..."
My face twists in frustration. I can see the stupid bison making an invisible square gesture with his fingers. He's watched pup fiction too many times. He's done it too many times. He thinks his awkward prey hide can jive with preds and be hip and my eyes roll again with the weight of a metric ton of seething rage behind them because now he apparently knows about Hey Oh.
"...Soooooooohhhhh I guess I'll see you here!"
"Who told him about Hey O-" "I did." "Andrew why did you even?!"
"It came up! You know how he is!" and yeah, sure, but I still gotta press my fists against the sides of my head about it.
With an "urrgh..." in the middle of it.
"Just don't go, Owen."
"No, you know what Jager, I AM just so I can crash his party and make him pay me for the favor. I just need an accomplice. Andrew, what about you?"
"I'm broke, bro. I don't have subway money for this and I ain't asking for a ride from Toby."
I'm genuinely surprised that "Andrew, you're broke?
"I wouldn't give you a ride anyway. I don't even wanna be on the same block as him."
"Since when?" It's not like him to be broke this soon after the first of the month.
"I lost that job at Snarlbucks the day after I told that angry ram customer to go shear himself."
Laughs and chuckles all around.
And that excuse I got to finally force his paw on learning how to be self-employed:
"Alright, Andy, it's settled: You're helping me dumpster dive tonight after I leave Buffy's."
"Owen I told y-"
"Ah, b-b-b-But Nada. You're gonna be my look-out, I'm gonna split the pawnshop profits with you fiddy fiddy, and you're gonna learn what kind of perfectly good wares mammals throw in the trash."
The Wolf groans in frustration. He needs the money to hold him until his next gig, I need a lookout, and he knows both of these things.
I got a "fffiiiiine...", but I'm still gonna try to not suffer Buffalo by my lonesome.
"What about you, Jager? You coming to Buffy's shindig?"
"Owen Buffy can't pay me enough to swallow my pride."
Oh. Oh Jager thinks he's cool. "Look at this nerd..." Jager thinks my style has rubbed off on him.
I'm way too amused, but it's good to see Jager beam a little. Hyenas like him don't do it often enough. Always gets confused, when they do.
Which means I'm gonna have to solo this.
"So you guys're gonna leave me all alone with this loser, huh? I see how it is." That noone's gonna volunteer to help me out with a little coping and I'm just gonna have to face it alone.
Something Toby's gotta reinforce with "Maybe you need to re-instate the draft if you want us to take a bullet for you." and a laugh, but it's fine...
I'll give him back that knowing, plotting smirk he gave me earlier to call his bluff with a pointed claw and "Just you wait 'til congress is back in session."
I notice the time though, as I point and see it on my Bullova watch. If I go now, I'll have just enough time to get to the Young Mammals Religious Association in Savannah Central, get to my locker, pick an outfit, and head back up to Downtown in time to be a fashionable fifteen minutes late.
Time to take my cocked thumb and signal my ducking out of here.
"I Ride. I'll debrief you tomorrow if I don't make the news."
That American Bison owes me a spot on the Six O'clock, if nothing else.
This Wolf is looking to me like I owe him something too, though. Andrew getting up to "Let me walk with you." before I can say a word.
He must have something on his mind, but "My bike's not that far, Andy..." yet doesn't change the fact on his face: he's got more than walking on his mind.
"Hey, I'll see you guys tomorrow."
No nos, this time. He's heading my way with a wave to follow behind him.
So I hold my tongue, and accept that he's got business with me that's gonna get conducted, either way. His footsteps are telling it behind me. They are deliberate and purposeful. Looking back to Andrew, I'm reminded of my appreciation for Wolves. It ain't just that sense of community they got. They have dualities to them, and prey folk tend to only see as mixed messages at best. They're not good at hiding their feelings, and their feelings get lost in translation. But there's a sincerity in their aura. Their presence. It's a stupidity that it garners a mistrust similar to what I face, instead of the respect and admiration it deserves. Their biggest fear is being feared. So it's not really a surprise that even among his own kind, a Canis Lupus can be a little awkward, a little timid.
They're cautious, but not immediately concerned like a Vulpes Vulpes is. We hide it well, for most part. They're too honest to hide it. Yet there's still a majestic aire to them, when they choose to present it. They can be a little goofy when relaxed, which is endearing. They're even strangely calming. Yes, they have this stoic quality to them, and that can be intimidating, but they're more than that. They're more than the cartoon trope they've inherited as, if they ever were that in the first place. As I look back, though, what I see first is the frustration in his eyes. His worry. The tell-tale crook of knowing in his frown. He didn't buy what I said about dropping the Vulpon. I can see it in his brows. Just because they're not good liars doesn't mean they're not good at detecting lies.
"You didn't drop the bike."
No I didn't, but "Well, what matters is I'm out one of my nicest shirts in my wardrobe."
"Forget the Shirt, Owen, What Matters to Me is You." I'm taken back by this and reminded of a Wolf's first and foremost quality: If a wolf has nothing else in this world, he or she has The Pack. Wolves are careful of who they befriend. They are afraid of betrayal. They meticulously assemble a closely knit, interwoven fabric of relationships to anchor themselves. They seek social bonds that are earned and bestowed with mutual loyalty and trust. It's a contract in everyone's best interests. They look out for everyone they love, and they truly love. But they expect it back in kind. It's why they like to stick with their own kind. And at this moment? "...I know." he's frustrated in his loyalty to me.
"Do you really? Me, Toby, Jager, we worry like crazy about you."
"I don't need pity, Andrew."
"Well then take pity on Me, Bro! I don't let mammals into my life to watch them throw their own away!"
It's rare, but he is a wordsmith just like me and Toby.
That's when the trouble starts, where I gotta get defensive and I hate it.
I don't look back as I hold court with him to the tune of "Andrew I didn't choose what I need to get by but I got it! I got what I need to keep me in transit an out the deep end. You know what I was like without that Ponda and now I got something even better!"
He doesn't skip a beat either, though, as I swing around to watch him tell me that "You got something that's gonna piss someone off into running you over even quicker!"
And yeah, he's right but "Andy? Andrew we didn't ask for the struggle but we all got our ways to deal." I love and care for him, just as he does me, but I'm frustrated by it too at times. I just need a way to cope. "You have that, I have it, we can't get by without the fight and the hunt for our own peace of mind. You pour yourself into your music with Toby and me?" I turn the wall's corner and point between it and the hedgerow as I look him dead in his eyes. "I ride this therapist like a madmammal because it empowers me. It's the one thing I have to express that need for hope and passion and liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
"You mean that old worn out heap with a parking ticket wedged into the handlebar?"
"Yes, that old worn out WHAT?!" I snap my head to the bike.
"Oh get the freak Outta here with this!" A ticket. Right there. Tucked under the wire for the clutch on the lefthand side.
"Sixth ticket in the past year?"
"Tenth Ticket." My grimace is so rigid it threatens to pull a muscle.
I snap my eyes back to the wolf with an "Andrew, they haven't gotten me yet, and they never will, but if they do, yes, they are going to hang me. But first they gotta catch me an I'll be damned if I'm gonna let 'em!"
Turning back to the bike, I have determination etched into my brows. "... I'll swap out plates with another bike, someone else is gonna get fined, they're gonna take it to court, the judge will rule in their favor citing an obvious clerical error, and I'll keep riding because it's my one outlet-"
The Wolf crouches down and grabs hold of my shoulders with the most deadly serious look he's ever given me. "You want to be Impossible? Fine. Be Impossible. Do yourself all want but Just do me one favor, One Predator to Another."
It's like it ain't obvious that I've been trying not to. That it's kind of the whole point to riding in the first place.
But we're not arguing. Maybe we don't see eye to eye, but I can at him and hope it kind of shows.
We're on the same page, here. Neither of us wants him stressing over how ratchet I am.
The Wolf straightens up and loses the serious look. "I mean would you seriously leave your apprentice hanging, bro?"
I smirk, walking under the hedgerow and turning back to look at him as I grab the ticket and crumble it up.
"You Know I look after my employees. Hey, speaking of trash, chuck it for me." I throw it, he grabs it, and I wrap my palms around the grips to push the Ranger out. The complete disregard for traffic laws throw him off-guard. Again. Let's me know he can still appreciate my crazy. And as I come out from the bush with it, I get a sense that he's admiring that old worn out heap. I see cogs turning in his head. The thought that maybe he should get his motorcycle license, too.
"You're making me want to get a Gudaggi..."
Now he's got me concerned.
"You don't got the greenbucks for the valve adjustments. Get a Triumphant."
I see him getting defensive like "I'm not a teasipper, O-." but I gotta cut him off.
I gotta break into song as I hop on the bike because "Somehow I'll! Make a tea sip-per! Out of Youuuuuuuu!"
I'm at least five octaves too low and I don't care. He nearly busts his gut laughing as I stand up and kickstart it like I got Chung-Lee's legs and the engine rattles to life as I roll out. Smug, proud smirk and all.
Buffy is gonna regret this decision.
But that don't mean I won't have a good feeling about it.