Pets O. K.
This couple is peculiar. Both are black, I think. At least, each has the flat nose, full-lipped, wire hair thing going. But their skin is the texture of orange rind, the color of red clay, and their eyes spit off the light like fire seen through a glass of sherry.
I'm taking them on the full tour - the one everyone gets - ground floor to attic. One holds the other's hand in a crab grip; the other does all the talking.
"Where is the fuse box?" He leans into his (lover? friend?) as we tromp up the stairs to the attic.
I turn and they stare back at me, owl eyes snapping. Except for the tight grip of the hands, there is nothing that would tell anyone they are gay. I flash my best barracuda mouth their way. "You saw the closet right by the door when you came in?"
A dual nod.
"It's there." I push the attic door inward with a practiced flourish. "Lots of storage space up here."
A butterfly touch on my arm. It's Mr. Silent, the one who hasn't spoken yet. "You allow pets?" The touch leaves a residue behind, something powdery.
"Yeah, that's right." My arm wants to wither, but I keep it still. "Pets are fine." A whiff of something sour and moist tickles my nose. I can taste it, this smell. The guy stares at my hand like a wart has just sprouted.
"The rent is six hundred fifty?" The other pipes up while the silent one retreats.
"Six fifty." I take advantage of Mr. Silent-and-Stinky's recoil, brushing past them and pounding down the stairs. "Move-in is first, last and a two hundred dollar deposit." A glance over my shoulder shows them clutching each other's hands again. "I know I said pets are okay, but no gerbils, eh?" No response. "I mean, you aren't breeding rats or something, are you?" Still not a quiver, though Silent's right eye does a one-blink. "I might have to raise the deposit if you do."
"We don't breed."
"Well, good, good." I reach the landing and open the front door. It's a little warped from the last rain and squeals at me. "Six hundred fifty twice and two hundred it is then."
They give that blank stare.
"Hey, guys, I know this borders the Western Addition and it's small, but it's a whole fucking house, you know?" Yeesch. Some people.
"Why so low?"
Ohhhhh. Got them, got them. I show my teeth again. "I like to pick my tenants."
Yes indeedy, I do. Every last one. I'm in the lab now, all suited up, working on a Creutzfeldt-Jacob cocktail. Dengue fever is bubbling away in a retort and Helicobacter Pylori whirls in the centrifuge. Did I mention I work at Pacific Labs? Hell, the Centers for Disease Control have nothing on us. We have everything, from ebola to yellow fever. Me, I'm a blender, a microbiochemist. A cook. Infectious diseases are my specialty.
Including retroviruses. And no, I didn't create AIDS, though I wish I had. That was a stroke of genius by someone over at Fort Henry. One virus, one minuscule, molecular bullet, and thousands, hell, tens of thousands of gays bite the dust. Of course, it takes a long time, but that's beautiful too. The infectious spread is exponential when the host doesn't know he's infected.
I know what you're thinking. Gays are people, just like you and me, did I get that right? Well, you're wrong. I know they aren't and I'm the expert. Got my MD before twenty-three and a Ph.D. to boot. Gays are not like us.
Have you ever looked at their thumbs? I mean, we're talking small, tiny, miniature. An evolutionary throw-back, that's what they are. All the way to pre-Ice Age. An annoying blip on the timeline that stretches from early caveman to the moon landing. They may look just like you and me, but they're not. Take a look at my thumb. See? As long as my index finger. But gays, now, they can barely pick things up. Little bitty thumbs.
You may be thinking "But they don't have kids - what's the problem?" Hey, can you spell T-U-R-K-E-Y-B-A-S-T-E-R? They can even marry in some states. What is this world coming to?
So you see, they've got to be stopped. I even heard they have breeding farms out in the corn belt somewhere. Kind of a UFO-Area Fifty-One type factory in Iowa or Kansas.
Well, I didn't create AIDS, but I refined it. A fold in the genetic structure, a little thiamin-guanine nip and tuck, and voíla! Virulent and lethal. Specific, too. Transmission is only possible through sodomy.
I slip my special vial into the secret pocket I sewed into my shirt and magnetic-strip my way out of the lab.
The house is quiet. I always watch my new tenants to scope out their habits. These guys are at work from nine to five every day, never late. Very punctual. Almost a shame. I let myself in and bound up to the bathroom. Go straight for the petroleum jelly. Once the virus is in place, I can do a little creepy-crawl, snoop around. I stand on the stairs and allow the familiar prickly shiver to dance all over my belly and down my thighs. Which room first?
The kitchen door sticks. I shove it open with my foot and wonder what died. God, the stench is awful. The cabinets offer no clues, just flour and rice. The refrigerator is packed with neat little paper-wrapped chunks of raw hamburger. I peel the foil off a plate and stare at a gray gelatinous ooze that looks and smells like octopus. Another plate rattles when I lift it. I peek under the wrapping and discover fish scales. H'mmm.
Bedroom next. It's a good choice to make. Even if they come home early, I can be checking out the water heater; it's in the closet. After all, I'm the landlord, right? I open the door and stare into the shadowed room. My jaw hits the floor. Empty.
I pace the edges, kick at dust devils. No furniture. Not even a mattress. Who the hell are these people? The bathroom was stocked. The kitchen had food. What gives? A thump and crackle from above draws me to the stairs again. Are they home? I call out, but no one answers. Wait - didn't they say they have a pet? Maybe they're living in the attic. Well, I'd better check this out. I climb each step, soft-footed, and stop at the top, ear against the door, listening.
Something inside snuffles. Shit! Did they close a dog in there? Visions of dog feces and fumigation costs tickle my brain. I lean in to the door again. Dogs bite, but this one doesn't sound very big, just a lot of tiny, desperate whimpers.
I decide to take a chance, grasp the knob and turn it. Push the door in. "Here Spot," I say. "Nice doggie."
My arm disappears in an explosion of torn flesh and spray of blood. Then the stump is caught and I am dragged into the attic, no time to scream, no time to even draw a breath. The walls are splattered with blood, the floor covered with bones.
My hand hangs out of a razor toothed mouth three feet wide that crunches the bones; yellow-red eyes that snap and spark glare at me over a snout that puffs gore. The nerves in my severed arm start to scream, and so do I. Right up until . . .
STATUS REPORT START
We recalled Tliazaffar and Galbescar to Sector Five. Both admitted to breaking code sixty-seven of the Dimantian Suspense. A severe reprimand, followed by a posting to the Tekla quarter served as their punishment for keeping a Keela Faso in heat within their quarters on the third world out from Sol.
I am concerned about the purported breeding of the Faso. Apparently, the two were able to locate a native biped with opposable and first digit of equal size. As you know, this type of biped provides the only nourishment that could cause a Faso to calve. I believe clean-up got there in time to vaporize all the young, but we should put Sol on our Restricted Systems list.
Finally, it is my recommendation to rehabilitate Tliazaffar and Galbescar. Three thousand cycles in the Tekla quarter should suffice.
STATUS REPORT END
Carolina Montague lives (if you could call it that) in Northern California with her eleven-year-old son and a cat named Demon Spawn. She works at a major university and tries to fit work, child care, and cat care (not an insignificant concern when you are dealing with a demon) with writing odd bits.
Ah, the joys of being female in the nineties. She is the author of a novel on Basque witches currently under consideration at a publishing house, a short story about the love affair between a centaur and a water sprite published (under another name) in an obscure astrology journal, and is hard at work on two paranormal romances.
"Pets O.K." is dedicated to her beloved gay brother, Jan (pronounced "Yan") Mattison b. 8/17/42 d. 11/14/95.