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Book 1 – Chapter 6 – Climax – Part 1

On Wednesday morning, we discovered that our private posts on clawscratches had been compromised. Trisha learned first. A few weeks before, she had tried to have a civil discussion with a West Coast tranny-girl who went by “Moonyena.” This girl insisted that transwomen without surgery were emotionally malformed, since it limited the range of people who might date them. Moonyena was very proud of her surgery, and the number of women she took to bed. She could discuss trans issues in lesbian circles where a lesser tranny-girl would not be taken seriously. Trisha tried to explain the idiocy of an identity based on acceptance by the majority – that she was only real as long as her girlfriends let her be. Moonyena didn’t waver, and dismissed Trisha’s attempts at sanity. “Just wait until you try it,” she said. “You’ll understand too.”

Trisha had a few choice words for Moonyena which she locked away in some private posts, all of which appeared in Moonyena’s journal that morning. The culprit was our friend Minkabee, who didn’t mean to do it. She had signed up for a blog-archiving service which logged into clawscratches under her account and archived everything, including the private posts she was able to read. She had a long apology on her journal explaining that the service would remove them soon. I arranged a party to take Trisha out to the Milky Way Lounge for bowling to cheer her up.

That wasn’t the worst thing to happen that week.

With my private posts unlocked, I honestly felt threatened while at work. Before that, work was dead space that stopped as soon as I put on my tail to go home. The new girl in Justine’s cube didn’t talk to me much. Manager Badger was recovering from pneumonia. He’d spent the weekend in the hospital and still showed up on Monday. And then, when I was shaking out the cracker crumbs from a keyboard between calls, I found the post which said anyone who let Minkabee see their private words – Simon, Trisha, me – was screwed. At least no one at my job read inane blogs like mine.

The next day, an email hit every mailing list in town. A flash mob would try to form in Copley Square on Friday afternoon, and they needed people in their most outlandish, freaky best. Our governor, Mitt Romney, had slashed medical care, youth programs, homeless programs, and every civil rights measure he could find, in an attempt to make Massachusetts a safer place for business and pave his own road to the White House. The mob would be the least we could do to remind him of his constituency. There would be donuts.

I weaseled out of my office at four for the mob. I had a fully-prepared excuse about a headache that I didn’t end up needing.

On the subway, it wasn’t hard to guess that the girl and the guy several seats down were heading to the same stop as me. She had a purple Mohawk top hat and he had a gas mask covered in LED lights. I offered my seat to a standing man, and swung from pole to pole to say hi to them. The girl flushed but smiled when I said I liked her hat. “Thanks,” she said. “I put it together for Halloween. I never thought I’d wear it in public. It’s so goofy.”

The boy jabbered at a parsec a minute and I lost most of it behind his mask. “Oh, don’t believe her. She can sew some of the most incredible outfits that I’ve ever seen. Smashing Brobdignagian masterpieces with this fine lace on the side that I like to sew electronics onto. Utter space opera Louis XIV court dress. I had to drag her out kicking and screaming.”

“I just repair outfits they throw away at the costume shops,” she explained. “Did you make your tail?”

“The cover, yes,” I said. “But underneath, no. I really wish I had, though.”

She pointed at a light on the boy’s forehead that had burned out. She dug through her leather purse and popped a new one in. It flashed in time with the others.

“They should call you the six million dollar engineer,” the boy said. “You assemble me. You have the technology.”

She blushed again and kissed him on his rubber cheek. They stood up as the train pulled to the stop with “Copley” on the walls.

We squished onto the walkway behind three boys who had suits straight out of a swing band. The line slowed to the speed of the escalator up ahead.

If only a fraction of the people who get an event announcement go to it, everyone with Internet access in Boston must have read that one. It was twilight, so the rustling of the mob across from the public library was very distinct. A few Cat-In-The-Hat hats poked up from the rest of the parka caps and bare heads. They swarmed around the benches.

I waited with a pack of confused business people for the policemen to let us cross. The back-to-back traffic always rushes the light. On the other side, a second officer accosted a troop of Goth kids. “So, who’s organizing this?” he said.

“Organizing what?” one boy said. “We’re just hanging.”

I didn’t come off as a threat to anyone, which made it so easy to hide. I put myself behind these girls with R-rated buttons on their coats, to avoid harassment. The Square was salted to death and the stones were sticky from antifreeze. I recognized people from lines at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, or from the sci-fi conventions around town. Some Renaissance people with heavy cloaks mixed in with the shivering computer geeks with very red faces. No one had anything outright fetishy. A few earmuffs had deelie-boppers. Some boys and girls had anime body stockings and were clustered around their cigarettes.

With the sun dropping, it was impossible to find anyone in particular, so I phoned Trisha to ask where she was. I didn’t have to go far. The cat-eared hats were only a couple trees away. I spotted a backpack shaped as a husky.

Trisha held a steaming cup in her mittens, ready to hurl it if the wrong person showed up. Every curl of her hair shook like a wind chime. She stepped aside to make a space for me.

The computer boy from Kristen’s party had his prosthetic nose made up as a feline’s. “Oh dear,” he said towards me. “We’re still waiting for her.”

I was puzzled, so Trisha answered, “Minkabee is supposed to be coming. I haven’t heard a thing from her, and our posts are still up.”

“Son of a bitch,” I said and scowled.

“I tried unfriending her,” another cat said. “I knew it wouldn’t work, but I gave it a shot.”

I poked at Trisha’s cup. “May I?”

She passed it over. “Leave some for me.”

She had ordered an exotic combination of bergamot and similar spices which ended up more bitter than rich. It was nicer than ground-up pills, though.

The computer cat bent behind me. “I see it’s still working,” he said.

My tail shot up. I swished it as everyone else turned to look.

“You weren’t kidding,” one ex-MassFur said. “I thought you were making it all up in your blog.”

Trisha cracked a grin and waited by the tree.

I explained to everybody I couldn’t tell them who had given it to me. I curled it around my leg, wagged it, stiffened it low, and lifted it as high as I could. They applauded, which was phenomenal. I posed for pictures and didn’t charge. I could’ve made a career from this.

When the excitement wore off, we resumed the Minkabee vigil. Trisha hadn’t seen Simon around. I phoned him and sure enough, he was by the church waiting for friends before dinner. I said goodbye to the furs. I asked them to leave Minkabee with a few brain cells so she would learn something.

The church had its anti-freak field up, and left a huge stretch between itself and the crowd. Simon hung with a row of trenchcoat crows watching the mob with disinterest. From their spot, the mob was a series of clumps, one social event before going out to another.

The crows had their own buttons which read “Perfectly Normal Discordian.” They shrugged at the splintering of the mob. A guy with hair longer than mine said, “We should be at the Statehouse. It’s not that far of a walk.”

“Maybe it’s a prank on us,” Simon said. “Hey, Cheryl.”

I wagged at him. “Hey,” I said. “Where are the donuts?”

“Gone before we got here,” another boy said.

Simon flicked my hat ears. “We’re doing a Mall Game on Sunday. Want to come?”

“Sure,” I said. “When and where?”

“Same as last year. Cambridgeside Galleria, two-ish.”

“Imagine if we could get this many people to do a Mall Game,” another crow said.

“Screw ‘em,” another said. “I’m going for a DVD player this year and I don’t need the competition.”

“Amen,” Simon said. “Do you want to come along to dinner after Rod gets here?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “Let me tell Trisha. She’s waiting to kill Minkabee.”

Simon breathed into his scarf for warmth. “Oh, yes,” he said. “If I was her, I would bring many, many brownies.”

“Good ones, too,” the first crow said. “Half undercooked brownie mix, half chocolate chips.”

I hurried across the courtyard to the furry tree. With the sky almost dark, every face around me was entangled until I got close. At that moment, I was pulled out of space and time into this freakish world dressed up to be mine. The trash spilled out of the park cans and Simon waited for me, but in that new space were words that froze me in place. “Hey, Cheryl,” she said as I passed her. “You’re still wearing it.”

Della waited by the trash in her desert-bleached jacket. She was rooted to the ground with a half-finished cigarette in her hands. Her head was bent in hope we could be friends again.

I was stupid, and I talked back. “I am,” I said. “Why do you care?”

She shrugged, and flicked her ash toward an empty corner of the square. “No reason,” she said. “Do you want to come over here for a second? I need to talk. It’s kind of private.”

If I’d had a few minutes for her spell over me to fade, I would’ve said no. All the old patterns in me resurfaced of us together in bed, in the street after work, at the dances, and in her friends’ apartments around crackers, dip and good times. The bitch knew I still loved her. “Okay,” I said.

She took a drag and led me away. “I lost my job a couple weeks ago,” she said. “I’m thinking about moving to Amherst to finish my degree.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” I said.

“Yeah, especially since no one around here’s talking to me anymore,” she said.

I waved her smoke from my eyes. “What about Kelly?” I said.

“Except her,” she said. “You know what I mean.”

I shook my head at her, at the mess she had made. “You wanted to play around,” I said.

“Boy, I never heard that one before,” she said.

“And I still get to say it. Why am I talking to you right now?”

The corner had too much wind for anyone to hear us. “I sold your CDs,” she said. “And I can’t pay you back. And I’m sorry, okay? I owe you.”

“I figured out that much,” I said.

Her cigarette was useless now, and she tossed it in the street. “Look,” she said, “I know you have about four thousand dollars in the bank right now. I read your statements. I need a loan.”

She might as well have peeled my skin open and poured pepper into it. “No,” I said. “Absolutely no.”

“I’m good for it,” she said. “I can’t run from you. You’d find me if I did.”

“Why should I?”

“Don’t make me do this,” she said.

“What?” I said. “I didn’t make you do anything.”

She lifted out a thick white envelope from her coat for me. It was blank. I tore it open and checked out a handful of print-outs. They were from my clawscratches journal, in with a few pictures. In them, I was nude, blindfolded, and clutching a pile of pillows with my tail hung over me. I laid in a huge bed in a room with Indian prints on the walls. The shots of my ass also showed the electric base of my tail close up. I could follow the cord which led to the battery pack. I had helped Trisha to select these.

“If you don’t lend me the money,” she said, “I’m going to send them to Professor Lanyi, the guy who made your tail.”

I checked over the pictures again. “You can’t see my face in any of these,” I said.

She flipped her cell phone open. On the tiny screen, I was showing off to the other furs by the tree with my tail held high. She scrolled through multiple angles. “I already mailed them to myself,” she said.

I squinted at those shots. “You still can’t make my face out,” I said.

“Not at this resolution,” she said. “I took them a lot bigger. And I can get witnesses to say it’s you.”

She had me pinned down. “One thousand,” I said.

“Four,” she said.

“The bank won’t let me take out that much tomorrow,” I said.

“I’ll take it Monday.”

“I haven’t said yes.”

“You will.”

“You can get a loan. You’re a student.”

“My mom’s credit history is shot,” she said. “I still have loans and I need more. I am not fucking around, Cheryl.”

I shook the papers at her. “You are. I can’t be the only person you know with money.”

She backed away, calm from doing this a hundred times already. “I left you an email address in there. You write me on Sunday. If I don’t hear anything, I’m sending this out.”

I stormed after her. “Uh uh,” I said. “Stop being such an ass.”

She exploded at me with her teeth out. “Don’t follow me,” she said. “If you follow me, I swear, I am sending all this stuff tonight and I am telling everybody that I gave you herpes.”

“Who’d believe you?” I said. “And my doctor hasn’t said yes, yet.”

She backed towards the train station. “You really think anyone cares?” she said. “Besides, you can just make the money back. You’ve got a good job.”

I planted my feet like a good girl. I lost her in the crowd. I was so relieved. I had searched for a reason to hate her, and she had given me one personally.

I told Simon I wouldn’t join him for dinner. I wasn’t in the mood and I would explain why later.

Minkabee had arrived on the edge of the furry gathering. Everyone was very quiet. I whispered to Trisha that something had come up. I’d tell her about it soon. She didn’t seem to care, with Minkabee standing right there.

On the train ride home, I checked that I still had Kelly’s number. Della had admitted that Kelly was the only person speaking to her. I didn’t dare to dial it yet.

Minkabee had another apology on her journal, but my private blogs were still up.

I needed an excuse to leave my apartment, so I carried my trash downstairs. Someone had left a huge television on the floor. Part of the side had cracked open. The case was higher than my knee and it wasn’t any more than a few years old. It was a flat screen sold in a case built for a cathode-ray tube. My old television was ancient compared to this but it worked. The trashed TV was gorgeous, though. It may have had only one loose wire, easily fixed.

I traced the tip of my tail to bob it back and forth. I had command of my body and beyond my body. This was what I wanted. I couldn’t give my tail away. I needed another option.

I had no delusions that I’d ever see the money again. But she could always come back for more, and I might grow to hate my tail in time. I don’t feel money unless I owe it, and she wanted a significant amount.

I shut my eyes, breeze and summoned my shadow-mask. My smile claimed me. I could still invoke it without my tail, probably-hopefully-maybe. But it was so much easier when my tail was already there.

I had no idea what my mask meant; if I had discovered a form of meditation, or channeled a hunter’s empathy, or if it was a reaction to some latent body dysphoria. If I had studied Zen attitude I could accept it for what it was, no matter what caused it. Yet I couldn’t even explain it to myself, let alone anyone else.

I wrapped my tail around my side. I stroked my palm with its tip. I could do some amazing things with it. I needed time to do more.

I had to find Della. We could hash out a compromise. Two thousand was enough. There had to be another way.

I knew someone who was good at tracking people. I hustled to my room and I called Elory.

Categories: Book 1 - How Cheryl Got Her Tail, Chapter 6 - Climax.

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