HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMOON
I barely prevented myself from turning around and running away. I was going to sleep here tonight? I was going to sleep here every night till my lease ran out? How long a lease had I signed for? I couldn’t remember. I didn’t want to remember. Maybe I could stay at the Friendly Campfire till the tourist season started. No, I couldn’t afford it, especially after I finally called Mr Wolverine back and found out that I’d misread the fine print and I still owed him seventeen gazillion dollars plus a home-made chocolate cake on his birthday. Every year. I had a better shot at the seventeen gazillion dollars. Maybe Serena could teach me how to make a cake. Learning to bake cakes sounded like a nice stay-at-home country activity, in which the size of your front door key is not an obstacle. Maybe Serena would let me sleep in her garage. Maybe the vet would let me sleep in an empty kennel. . . .
Sid. I wasn’t running away, I was only going back to the van to get my dog. Why shouldn’t she be part of the official first threshold-crossing? All she needed was some gold braid and a trombone. All I needed was a better attitude. She jumped down from the van, missing the ruts. She looked around interestedly, both ears and tail up. I felt a little better, watching her. She seemed unworried by the rustling deinonychus. Maybe it was the wind in the trees. It seemed a little more solid a rustling than air through leaves though. Maybe it was the giant person-eating squirrels that lived in the trees rubbing their paws together at the arrival of fresh supplies. Maybe it was Mr Melmoth’s swirling cloak. . . .
MacFarquhar. Get a grip.
I looped Sid’s shiny new red nylon lead over my wrist, hoisted my knapsack up on the undislocated shoulder, and climbed the stairs to the porch again. Slowly. I already wanted a freight elevator and this was only the first load. My ankle was not throbbing because I couldn’t afford it to be throbbing. It was true that my knapsack was so heavy it needed grommets and steel cable reinforcements and that mere book boxes were bagatelles in comparison . . . but I had only one knapsack and I suspected the boxes would become less bagatelle-like the more of them I carried up these stairs.
Sid and I stepped across the door sill and paused.
It wasn’t even dark. That was just the effect of coming indoors from outdoors (plus the above-mentioned bad attitude). It was an overcast grey day (those clouds were not banding together to make rain, they were not) but sunlight was still coming in through the windows.
And I wasn’t alone. I had a dog. A warm, breathing, hairy, live-young-bearing mammal just like me. I had the opposable thumbs. She had the sense of smell. “You’ll warn me if unspeakable evil is creeping up on us, right?” I said to her, but my voice sounded so strange in the empty house I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. Did unspeakable evil smell?
I unslung my knapsack and leaned it against the wall. I took a deep breath. The air smelled of dust and closed-up house and . . . something or other. More of those mysterious country smells. Green growing things and wildlife crap presumably. Nothing ominous. Nothing to do with (say) a poker-playing trio of cosmic horror in the cellar. I looked at my dog again. She was investigating a hole in the wainscoting. Okay, mice. I could probably cope with mice.
As if she felt me looking at her, she glanced up, waved her tail matter-of-factly, and began casting around for the next hole in the wainscoting. She was not worrying about Shub-Niggurath. She looked happy. She didn’t know about the bottle of dog shampoo in the back of the van. Maybe I could hire Gus to help me give her a bath. I wasn’t going to be able to do it alone if she objected, and she probably would object. Most dogs did. This might put Gus off dogs long enough to get him safely off to college, which would please Serena. Vivid memories of bathing Mom’s Ghastlies daunted me briefly. I could worry about that later too. “What a good idea you were,” I said to my dog. “You won’t believe this but I thought it would be wise and practical to move in before I got a dog.” Sid had lowered her front half till her elbows were on the floor, the better to wedge a little more of her long thin nose into the original hole in the wainscoting. Her butt remained standing, tail wagging faintly. She looked ridiculous. It was very reassuring.
Thou’rt fortunate. Thy new comrade is swift and loyal and high-couraged. Thou and she will go far both as the world doth count span of distance, and in the journey of the heart. Maybe if I counted deinonychus crap as fewmets I’d feel more in control. But the deinonychus were raccoons. Probably. And the large forsoothly-speaking guys in funny clothes were a figment of my imagination.
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