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Book 1 – Chapter 2 – Summoning – Part 2

The Green Line train took forever to arrive, with Trisha and me on the open platform in the median strip of Commonwealth Avenue. We didn’t care.

“I’ve got a tail,” I said out loud by accident.

“A whale of a tail,” Trisha said.

“And it’s all true,” I sang and she joined me, “I swear to God it’s true. Yes, I swear to God it’s true!”

A couple of girls glared at us, with their hair so straight it couldn’t be real. We went right on filking.

“With fox-like stealth, upon our way we steal,” I sang.

“With dragon’s breath, we’ll fry ourselves an eel,” she sang, badly.

The girls looked to each other. Trisha and I would make this a very long trip for them.


The sky was apocalyptic red when we took the escalator up to Green Street in Jamaica Plain. The sun always went down before I got out of work. We stopped to watch it.

“So, what’s with Simon?” she said.

“He’s without his Chet and depressed?” I said.

“I know that,” she said. “The ‘butter ‘n’ eggs’ thing.”

“It’s a hot button reflex,” I said. “He does it when he’s uncomfortable.”

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” she said.

“He doesn’t really like it,” I said. “He says he doesn’t have control over the phrase. It used to be, ‘Let’s kill monsters.’”

Trisha snapped her fingers. “He said that for months.”

We headed up Green Street to the triple-decker where she lived. Her pocket jingled as she grabbed her keys. “Do I have any annoying tics like that?” she said.

“Trisha!” I said.

“It’s okay. I trust you,” she said.

I was being good. “You’re fine,” I said. “What do you want to hear?”

“The truth.”

“That is the truth.”

“What is?”

I jumped in front of her and stood on my tiptoes. I pressed my face an inch from hers. “When I’m this close, I can almost tell you have stubble.”

She flicked my nose with her middle finger. “Ow,” I said, and rubbed it.

“I am so beating your ass,” she said.

I was used to visiting her apartment by myself, so I reached for the doorbell before she had her keys out.

The carpet inside was fabulously muddy and the other tenants had left their boots out around their mats. Her apartment was on the second floor, and the stairs weren’t much nicer. Her door opened halfway before it hit one of the bookcases lining her hall. Gunshots, zombie moans and Spanish curses rang out of her roommate’s bedroom.

We slipped into Trisha’s huge loft. She tossed her coat on a pile of laundry and fell onto her massive bed. One of her windows was stuck open, and she rose to switch on the portable heater in the corner. She had taped a Chinese dragon print over the crack, which sucked inwards as cars passed.

“I’m thirsty,” she said. “Would you mind getting me a glass of water?”

I nodded and stepped into the hall. Her bookcases were taller than I was. They were completely filled with cracked paperbacks with names like “Babel Redeemed” from many sci-fi fire sales. She had actually read most of them. I thought my EarthSea collection was impressive, but I could smell the newsprint dripping from them.

I took the filtered jug from her refrigerator and filled a souvenir glass I knew she liked. She had spread out on her bed when I returned. She drank it all in deep gulps without stopping. “Thanks,” she said. “Take a seat.”

She spread her arms behind her. I pulled my legs into the chair and settled the tail behind me.

“You know, you have a beautiful face,” she said.

I touched it, in case someone had replaced it in the last few minutes.

“There are a number of things we can do, but I’m really out of practice,” she said.

Most of her toys were in a box against the wall covered in paperbacks. “I guess there’s pain,” I said.

“That’s what I was thinking,” she said.

I slumped my head into my knees. “I don’t like pain,” I said.

“I can try to make it quick,” she said. “I have my canes.”

I shivered. “I don’t suppose you can just order me around for a while.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know how that homeless guy did it. That was something else.”

I was startled. It never clicked that he was homeless. “Sorry,” I said, “I’m slow tonight.”

“It’s all right,” she said, “I haven’t used the canes in months. But hopefully I can get you near the space you need to be. Open and raw and all that.” She tasted the words, and licked her lips.

“I’ll tell you if I need to stop,” I said.

“I have one favor to ask,” she said. “I’m barely making rent this month. I would really, really owe you everything if I could take pictures. I’d obscure your eyes and pay you the same cut as before.”

The room lightened while the heater pumped out more air. “We can do that,” I said. “Tell me where you’re sending them before you do.”

“Thank you,” she said. “It’ll be through the usual channels. Deborah’s always glad to get more material on her site.”

She pushed herself off the bed and set up a folding screen around the heater. “Take your time getting undressed,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to put up the lights today.”

I hid behind the screen while she went for her closet. I unzipped my jeans. She hadn’t left me a peg or a stool, so I draped my clothes over the top. I kept watch on the heater in case my bare leg touched it.

She tossed over a heavy cotton robe. Its sleeves were too long and it almost grazed the floor. I ran to her bathroom quickly and checked around my lips for any white hairs.

Trisha had set up two tripods with light bulbs behind parasols. She placed cameras under both of them. “I’m all ready,” she said. “Spread your arms.”

I reached for the robe’s belt. “I can undress myself,” I said, but she shook her head. We had our roles. I put my arms out and gave myself to her. She straddled my tail. She wrapped her arms around me and undid the belt. She lifted the robe from my shoulders. My skin prickled.

She gestured to the pillows in the center of the bed. I climbed over them and pressed my naked belly into them.

“You shaved,” she said and winked at me.

I wiggled my butt comfortably, but I winced when the ropes dug into my thighs. “I thought I’d be doing something else this weekend,” I said.

She slid a Mindfold over my eyes. “Lucky me,” she said. “Can you blink?”

I opened my eyelids wide and all the light was sealed off. “Uh huh.”

Her foot crushed the edge of the mattress beside me, and I felt her secure my tail to the ceiling. She plugged it in, and it tried to pull the ropes through my belly. I gritted my teeth. I prepared to be broken.

She massaged me with an old rabbit pelt on all the places she was going to strike. It tickled, but settled nicely as she finished her rubdown.

I used the moment to imagine Della caressing me, to see if I was over her yet. I couldn’t picture it. Della would never be in Trisha’s room. She wouldn’t like the curtains or the scent of the vanilla candle. She always said it was hot to have sex in someone else’s bedroom, but we never did it. We either spent time on her bed or mine, or the futon or the floor. She never started as soft as Trisha or ended up as hard.

Trisha slapped me with a leather paddle and it stung me out of my pondering. “What are you thinking about?” she said.

“The girl,” I said.

She paused before her next swing, but I didn’t tense. I needed the impact to go deep into my muscles. “Well, your time with her couldn’t have been that bad,” she said.

I focused on my body and took the hit. “It wasn’t,” I said. “I just feel played, you know?”

She cupped the red spot to keep the heat from escaping. “I do,” she said. “And the worry only goes away if you ride it out. It’s no fun.”

I buried my nose in the pillow for the next swing, and then it came. I grimaced and relaxed. “But it’s messed up that I have to,” I said. “I’ll probably hear why she left from someone who knows her. But by then, it’ll be a public secret.”

Trisha began to work me faster, in 4/4 time, over my thighs. I was relieved to predict when her strikes were coming and I settled into each. My heart pumped and the pain became burn. “Hold your head up,” she said. “I need to get your reaction.”

I did. My breaths became shallower. Della had left me with nothing. I accepted it because I cared for her, but it wasn’t fair. The breakup game was rigged to the starting player. I couldn’t beg or fight her without being an idiot. If I asked her why, I would admit I was desperate. All I could do was surrender.

I had no reason to be around her friends. They were nice enough, but seriously flaky. And as part of our game, she would tell them about me first and her words would be law. The game worked so well, she could date hundreds of people back to back, and never feel anything as long as she was the first to leave.

Trisha switched to slapping me with her bare hand. It stuck like a brand. “Too much?” she said.

“No,” I said.

I wouldn’t play anymore. Trisha had to make me believe I wouldn’t. The moments between her slaps were gifts of Heaven, as the endorphins raced to protect me.

“I want you to follow your tail rising off your back,” she said. “Sense your spine beyond your body.”

I tried, but I had to keep my head straight, force my shoulders to relax, and obsess about Della leaving. I couldn’t do it with the rush building. I didn’t want to bear it, but my wants were animal things bred from four million years of uncivilized life. I wanted sweets from the days when sugar meant miles of walking and meat from when it flew overhead or scurried on four legs. I didn’t want the pain, but I didn’t trust my subconscious to do what was right for me.

“Cane,” I said.

She released me, and I hung over the earth while the blood rushed to my head. She whiffed the air with two strong strokes for practice. “Ready? On three,” she said. “One.”

The cane cut into me, white-hot, and I couldn’t think, only shudder. Hot acid ate through all my nerves. I had sat on a radiator. “Again,” I said.

The sharp edge skinned me outwards like a starfish bursting from me. I gritted my teeth so I didn’t cut my tongue. I was forced to meet every muscle in my body as they squirmed and begged me to stop. Only the tail was free. I sent my conscious thought up to the tip. “Again,” I said.

I left my mouth far away. It was a chore to form words. My body scorched itself to a cinder. My nerves offered no resistance to the last strike. I was still too close. I buckled over and my vision turned green. I wanted to know why. I crackled like static. I punched the mattress. My limbs surrendered after the first hit. I never had control over them. I only thought I did.

I filled my lungs with pillow and cried. I seized up and shivered. I wasn’t strong like everyone else. I was only a tiny ball of whimper wrapped in bone and gristle that aged and rotted. I took it all back. I didn’t want to be broken. As I was shattered, I would become a child huddled on the floor with her comforter. The tail didn’t help me at all. Not one bit. I wanted Trisha to stay far away from me if she knew what was good for her.

I walked a tightrope every day of my life. Nothing was guaranteed, and nothing was controlled. Except for now. I hurt.

My right side itched and I swore bugs were burrowing into me. I reached down and pushed the tail’s fur away.

Trisha wrapped me in a sheet. “Cheryl, you took three strikes,” she whispered. “Lie down. You did fantastic.”

I tossed off the Mindfold and clenched my face at the bright bulbs. The three stripes throbbed on my rear end as I rolled off the pillows.

My tail curled over my waist. It hugged my skin and did not move. I waited until I could recite the alphabet, and stretched myself out. The tail swung off me and formed a hump under the sheets. I felt it to be sure it stopped moving. “I didn’t do that,” I said.

Trisha leapt beside me and her face went slack. She rubbed her right palm in her lap. “I’m sorry,” she said.

I cocked my head at her. “For what?”

“You said to keep going and I did,” she said. “You cried and I couldn’t touch you.”

I took her arm and heaved her onto the bed with me. I held her bony shoulders and she stroked my wrist. “Top drop?” I said.

“Pretty much,” she said. “How are you?”

I had the same glow from great sex, except I hadn’t had a single orgasm. My butt ached and my tail held itself away from the sensitive spots. I inhaled the candle scent, and my stomach rumbled. I wanted lasagna stacked a foot high with all the cheese that physics would allow inside.

“I could really use some of that pizza,” I said.

She slid from my grasp. “Let me get it for you,” she said.

I checked that my tail was still plugged in after she left to run the microwave. My cheeks were hot and I must have flushed. I was more awake than I had been all week. Still, it took effort to move my legs.

Della was gone and that made me a little sad. I was half-expecting it. I wanted to get out of the city. I wanted to take a bus to Chicago and just walk around town. Eat at any coffee shops that seemed charming. Hit the poetry slams and flirt with the cute chicks. Make some stories to tell the rest of my life.

Trisha brought the pizza in without a word. She passed me the robe. She took a slice for herself and sat facing the wall.

I wrapped myself up. “Thanks babe,” I said. “Really, I’m fine.”

“I figured,” she said.

I scarfed down my slice so fast, I got oil on her robe. I licked off what I could and dropped the paper plate. I nudged her for her attention. “You know my cut?” I said. “Forget it. You can have all the profit.”

She turned to me while gnawing her crust. “What’s that for?” she said.

I slid out of the bed and hiked the robe over my waist. I shifted left and right while the tail balanced me out. “For that,” I said. “Check it out.”

“That wasn’t me,” she said.

I knew how to break her. “Are you going to any conventions this year?”

“Maybe.”

“Furrificon?”

“Probably not.”

“Then my share can pay for that. You got some nookie last time you were there, right?”

I saw her blush, too.

I twisted my hips and twirled around the rug. I considered making new sheaths for my tail; latex, blue fur or even denim to color co-ordinate. I wanted to go out and buy new things instead of replacing what I had. I can’t describe it exactly. The tail wanted direction. It didn’t matter where to.

Categories: Book 1 - How Cheryl Got Her Tail, Chapter 2 - Summoning.

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