Chapter 2: The romance of creatures
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
My mother takes my hand and steps backward. I step backward with her. We step backward through the glass doors without damaging them, as if we’ve passed right through them. This is my Mum doing this, not me. We take several steps more back into the garden and stop.
The beast comes crashing through the glass. The glass explodes outward in a shower of shards. I can see them spreading out, as if in slow motion. And for an instant, they just hang there. Just an instant. Abruptly real time starts up again and all of the shards reverse course and go plunging into the creature. It lets out a howl of pain and takes a step forward. The movement of its muscles drives the shards deeper into its body, and the magic on them starts to infect it. Another step and another. It is shrinking before us, its howls getting softer and less scary. Finally it collapses at our feet, dead, shrunk back to the size of the poodle it was before. It’s encased in glass, as if it’s some sort of dog paperweight.
Glazed dog. Sounds like a Franco-Vietnamese delicacy. I’d better not mention the idea to my mother; she’d try to make up a recipe to suit the name.
I know I’m in a psychological state of shock. I’ve been in one too many times not to recognize the symptoms. Like my next great idea, turning to my mother and saying, “Now I know why you wished I’d not thrown the glass of water at it.”
She doesn’t take her eyes off the dead dog. “No, this isn’t what I wanted it for. I was going to use the glass to punch out the creature’s heart.” She turns and looks at me, takes a sniff, and frowns. “You’ve wet yourself, dear. There’s a fresh change of clothing upstairs in your room. Why don’t you go take a shower?”
My Mum’s idea of kindness is to put magic into those commands so I’ll do them without having to think about them. So I turn and walk across the garden, through the shattered glass doors, across the living room, up the stairs, and into the bathroom up there. I shuck off my clothes, jump into the shower, and turn the water up to a suitably hot temperature.
Then I have my nervous breakdown. I sit in the tub, my arms folded around my legs, pulling them to my body, shaking and crying. I almost got killed. My Mum almost got killed. True, it’s happened before, but it still gets to me.
After I’ve let enough water to fill the Quabbin Reservoir wash over me, I stand up and take a wash cloth and soap and start cleaning myself up. That includes anywhere with sweat glands, because I smell of fear.
I only get started when I hear a plop behind me in the tub, and then something furry rub against my legs. I almost do a backflip in surprise. Turn around, and there is a huge cat, probably a Maine Coon cat, in the tub with me. Great, a cat that likes to get wet; my mother does keep some truly unnatural creatures about. I say to this one, “Do you speak, too?”
Naturally, it answers. “Yep. Your mother sent me up to guard you.”
“If I’m threatened by any mice, I’ll let you know.”
The cat looks offended. “I’ll have you know I’ve taken down bears single-handed.” It then looks me up and down and leers at me. “Nice bod you got there.”
Why is it the first reaction every naked woman has to an unwanted comment like that is to cover her breasts and genitals? “Let me guess. You’re a tomcat.”
The cat leers again. “Yep. And I like what I see.”
“Perv.” I turn my back on the thing. We spend the rest of my shower with me trying to ignore him, and him rubbing against my legs and explaining to me the joy of cat-human sex. I try to escape it afterwards by shutting it in the bathroom, but somehow it knows about door knobs.
“My” bedroom is what used to be my bedroom. It’s really a guest room now, but somehow it always has a change of clothes for me in its dresser. Another of my mother’s tricks. There’s an old oversized football jersey in there, the kind some girls like to wear. (Including me, sophomore year in high school. The football player I was infatuated with wouldn’t have noticed me if I’d crept into his bed naked.) Since I don’t need a new top, I consider trapping the cat in the jersey. There’s a way to turn an item like that into a Klein bottle, and I’m pretty sure that would fuck up even a magical tomcat. But I don’t know the spell, so I drop the idea.
A new change of panties and a worn pair of jeans that fits me precisely, and I head down stairs, cat trailing. Mum is bringing tea and biscuits into the living room. She’s changed her outfit, too, presumably to confound my vision of her death. I glance over at the glass doors as I sit down. They are in perfect condition. Mum sits down on the sofa beside me.
Let me introduce my mother. Her name is Cynthia Vane. She stands 5’11”, has long golden hair, ice blue eyes (normally), dimples in her cheeks, and a figure that would be the envy of an 18-year-old. Believe me, I know: I envied it when I was 18.
Oh, and she’s a goddess. She says so. I’ve found it wise not to dispute with her upon the subject. Escaping death by walking through glass doors is one of those things you just learn not to argue about.
We both pick up biscuits. I bite into mine, chew, swallow, pick up my herbal tea cup, make sure there’s nothing living in the tea, and have a sip. My mother’s just chewing on her biscuit. So, figuring I have to start the conversation, I complain, “The cat keeps making passes at me.”
My mother puts down what’s left of her biscuit. “Of course he does, dear. He used to be human. Weren’t you, Eric?”
Eric purrs at my mother, and then jumps up on his hind legs, rests his forelegs on my lap, and sticks his head in my crotch. I bat him away, which requires a lot more of my strength than I thought it would. He tries to get back, but I use my palm to block him.
Why do things like this always happen at my Mum’s? I look at her. She’s amused. So I ask, “Can’t you get him fixed? They have vets for that.”
Mum’s on the verge of laughing. “He’s a poor animal now, Daphne. You wouldn’t take one of life’s few joys away from him, would you?”
Eric jumps over my outstretched hand and bounds into my lap. I manage to knock him off before he can dig in with his claws. I give him a foul look to keep him from trying again, and then say to my mother, “You’ll turn a human into a cat and think nothing of it, but depriving him of his sex life is too much? Someone has a warped sense of values. And any idea who’s trying to kill you this time?”
My mother collects Eric, sticks him in her lap, and kisses him. I notice the cat’s got an erection. Ewww. My mother turns back to me and says, “I don’t think they were trying to kill me. I think they were just trying to scare me into arranging a marriage.”
I finish off my biscuit before replying, “Didn’t know you were back on the marriage market again, Mum. Wouldn’t killing you kind of limit your ability to marry?”
My mother shakes her head. “Oh, not my marriage, darling. Yours.”