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Strange Sanctuary

Mac awoke to the sound of tapping on his window. Not the intermittent scraping of a tree branch or airborne debris from a stiff gust of wind. It was a steady, almost rhythmic, noise. The kind of noise that he knew was going to start his day off on the wrong foot.

He was certain of it when the sound of his name followed the tapping. ”Mac!” He kept his eyes shut, still awake but making a pointed effort to stay still. Maybe the problem would go away if he kept pretending to sleep. The tapping only sped up, holding a rhythm but a more urgent one.

Tap tap tap! ”Mac!” Tap tap tap! “Maaac!”

Keeping his eyes closed, Mac rolled over to address the problem. “Nooo! It’s too early for this shit!”

“Levántate y brilla!” Said a voice from outside the window. “Rise and shine, my friend! There is work to be done!” Tap tap tap!

Mac groaned. “How many times have I told you? Don’t wake me up before sunrise!”

“The matter is urgent, amigo!”

Mac threw the covers from his body and sat up in bed, placing his feet on the floor. Slowly, he stood and staggered over to the window. His eyes adjusted to the soft light outside and came into focus on the tiny figure darting back and forth on the other side of the glass.

The hummingbird hovered in front of the window when it saw the man, its wings beating in a blur. Mac stood there in his boxers, glaring at the small bird through one open eye. He pointed at the critter, his finger making a thump on the window pane.

″Piss off, Chico,” he growled.

“Buenos días, my friend!” Replied the bird. “There is trouble afoot in the fore-”

Chico was cut off when Mac suddenly dropped the window blinds. He stomped back to his bed and collapsed into it, not bothering to pull up his covers. What would be the point? They always knew when he was up, and if history was any judge, they didn’t give a shit if he was awake or asleep. More often than not, his day started when theirs did, and the click-clacking of trotting paws confirmed this thought.

Mac laid still with his face down in his pillow as the clicking sound reached his bedside. He knew this was about to be the second fire of the day he’d have to put out. Or was it now the first since he technically ignored the bird? Either way, he knew this one wasn’t going away.

“Mac?” whispered a voice.

Mac didn’t respond. He thought maybe if he held his breath, the dog would leave.

″Psst! Mac!” said the dog. ”Are you sleeping?”

“Yes,” said Mac, his voice muffled by the pillow.

“Oh, ok. I’ll just wait here until you wake up.” whispered the dog.

Mac felt something come to rest on the bed next to his head. He could feel the animal’s breath on the side of his face but continued ignoring him. The sound of the dog’s breathing quickly turned into a soft whine.

“Mac,” the dog whispered again. He lifted his face from the pillow and turned his head. He was greeted by a leathery black nose an inch from his face. Attached to the nose was a two-year-old Australian Cattle dog with mottled blue fur.

″Mikey,” Mac said quietly. “If you’re bothering me for food right now, you’re sleeping outside tonight.”

“Oh, ok. I’m not bothering you for food,” replied Mikey.

“Then why are you literally in my face right now?”

“I have to pee.”

Mac narrowed his eyes at the dog. “Then go pee, Mikey!” he hissed, gesturing towards the back door with a sweep of his arm. “We have a dog door. Go take a piss, the world’s your oyster.”

“I don’t know what an oinkster is, but I can’t use the dog door.”

“Why can’t you use the dog door, Mikey?”

“Lucy said it was a cat door, and that means if I go through it, I will die.”

Mac sighed and rolled over on his back, letting his eyes adjust to the steadily increasing amount of light in his room. “Mikey?” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What?” Whispered the dog.

“How long have you been using that door?”

“Um, I don’t know. A few weeks?”

“I put that door in over a year ago when you first came here. You’ve used it multiple times a day, every day, for a long time. The cat’s just busting your balls.”

“I don’t have balls,” replied Mikey.

“No, buddy. It’s a figure of speech. It means Lucy is playing a joke on you.”

The dog cocked his head to the side. “I thought you said jokes were supposed to be funny? That’s not a funny joke. I’m not laughing. If it’s a funny joke, then why aren’t you laughing? Why does anyone even need balls?” With every question, the dog tilted his head to one side or the other.

“Mikey,” said Mac, trying to get a word in.

“Speaking of balls, have you seen the size of the horses? Have you seen the horses pe-”

“Mikey!” Mac shouted, finally getting the dog’s attention. “You’re spiraling. Remember what we discussed? It’s ok to ask questions, but wait for someone to answer a question before asking your next one.”

Mac stood up from bed, groggily putting on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. No sooner did he have on his slippers than another voice entered the room.

“Hola mis amigos!”

“Son of a bitch,” muttered Mac, turning to the hummingbird.

“El Sol has risen, papi. You said not to bother you until the sun had risen, and Chico, he listens.” said the hummingbird.

“How’d you get in the house?”

“El Gato. She let me in through the cat door.”

″See, It’s a cat door!” said Mikey.

Mac looked down at the dog, opening his mouth to respond but then thinking better of it. He turned back to the hummingbird, flitting back and forth in front of him erratically. “What is it, Chico?”

The bird dropped and hovered above Mikey. “May I take a rest on you, amigo?”

The dog looked to Mac and then back to Chico. “Take a rest and me go? Go where?” he said, tilting his head. The bird ignored Mikey’s dull response and landed on his head anyway.

“Amigo means friend, my friend,” said Chico.

Mac shuffled out of his room and down the hall, with Mikey and the hummingbird on his heels. He continued through the kitchen and to the back door, turning the coffee maker on as he passed. He opened the door for Mikey, and Chico disembarked as the dog took off in a sprint, peeling out on the linoleum as he did.

Chico landed on the counter next to the coffee maker as Mac grabbed a mug and waited for the coffee to finish. He filled his cup, and thankfully the bird had enough forethought to let him take his first sip before speaking again.

“Ok, Chico. How are you going to ruin my day first thing? Are the ducks demanding to speak to management about the pond algae build-up again? Is the donkey laughing too loud for the cow’s liking? What is it? The suspense is killing me.” said Mac, taking another sip.

“It is neither of those things you said,” replied Chico. “It is something far more serious than algae and donkey laughter.”

“The llama’s saying racist shit again,” said Mac, wagging a knowing finger.

“It is not this thing either, my friend. Although Chico has come to understand that the llama does not like animals from other countries.”

“Yeah,” said Mac. “Larry’s a work in progress. He spent his whole life on a militia compound before it was raided by the Fed’s.”

“What does this mean, amigo?”

“It means the people that owned him before were white nationalists and as a result, Larry’s a bit of a bigot.”

“He told the alpacas to go back to Mexico where they came from,” said Chico. “This thing he said does not make sense. Chico comes from Mexico. Alpacas and llama’s come from South America.”

“As I said, he’s a work in progress,” replied Mac “By the way. I’ve meant to ask you something.”

“What, my friend?”

“So you hatched up here in New England and then migrated to Mexico for the winter, ultimately winding up back here in Vermont?” asked Mac squinting his eyes at the bird.

The bird sat and stared with what Mac was sure would be a blank expression if hummingbirds could actually exhibit facial expressions. “Chico does not understand what you are getting at.”

“Why don’t you sound like you’re from South Boston? What’s up with the Spanglish?”

Chico flitted closer to Mac on the counter, taking small hops around the various objects littering its surface. “Chico does not know the answer to this question. I speak how I speak.”

Mac nodded. “Glad that’s all cleared up.”

“Chico is here to help.”

“You’re doing so great,” said Mac dryly as he walked over to the sound of Mikey’s scratching at the back door. “Mikey,” he said. “Use the godamn doggy door.” He already had his hand wrapped around the knob awaiting the dog’s response.

“It’s a cat door, Mac,” said Mikey’s muffled voice.

Mac opened the door for the dog, throwing it shut after he trotted by. “Mac!” said Mikey, slightly out of breath. “There are so many squirrels and chipmunks in the yard right now!”

“What?” asked Mac “Where the hell is Grem?”

“I asked him why he wasn’t chasing them off, and he told me to tell you that you don’t pay him to get rid of squirrels and chipmunks—just mice.”

Mac gritted his teeth. “He’s a barn cat. I don’t pay Gremlin anything. He keeps rodents away from the house, and his payment is sleeping in the barn and all the mice he can eat.”

“He also said that his working conditions were no longer acceptable and something about joining an onion,” Mikey added.

Mac blinked slowly. “Gremlin said something about joining a what?”

“An onion,” said Mikey. “He was all about them. He said something about ‘onionizing,’ then said that you needed to speak to his onion rep.”

Mac sighed. “Mikey… Do you mean union? Gremlin told you he had a union rep?”

“Preeetty sure he said onion,” snorted Mikey.

Mac rolled his eyes. “I don’t suppose he told who his ‘onion rep’ is?”

“Uh-huh, sure did. It’s-”

“It’s Me.” said a voice from the living room doorway.

Mac, Chico, and Mikey all turned to see a long-haired black and white Maine coon cat. She sat in the middle of the entrance, nonchalantly licking one of her front paws. “What’s up, dipshits?” she said, continuing to clean her foot.

“Lucy,” replied Mac. “Good morning to you too.” The cat ignored him and switched to cleaning her other paw. Mac pulled a folding chair out from his sad two-person dining table, and plopped into it. He narrowed his eyes at Lucy.

“Did you tell Mikey he couldn’t use the dog door?”

“No, I told him he couldn’t use the cat door,” she replied coolly.

“Lucy, you don’t even use it! You don’t even go outside, for that matter,” said Mac. “And why does Mikey think he’ll die if he uses it? Hmm?”

“I don’t know. Sparky came to that conclusion on his own.”

“No, it’s Mikey,” interjected the dog.

“It’s quiet time now. Go lay down,” Mac told Mikey, pointing towards his bed in the living room.

“Fiiine,′ groaned Mikey and began to trot towards the doorway. He paused, staring at the cat and, ultimately, his only way out of the kitchen. Lucy lowered her paw from her mouth and remained rooted in the center of the doorway, her tail swishing back and forth rhythmically.

Mikey looked from Lucy to Mac, then back to Lucy, and began to whine. “Mac,” he said in a too-loud whisper. “She won’t let me by.”

“Lucy, let him by,” said Mac.

“There’s plenty of room to get by,” replied the feline.

Mikey remained frozen with his snout low to the ground. “If I walk by her, she’ll swat me with her paw,” he whined.

“You have my word, Sparky,” said Lucy, her tail still swishing back and forth. Mikey looked to Mac and then back to the cat again.

“Damnit, Lucy! Just move out of his way!” snapped Mac.

“No. I was here first.”

Mac took another breath in and sighed through his nostrils. He found himself doing that often these days. “Mikey, she doesn’t even have claws. She won’t hurt you.”

“Yeah, but she hits me on the head sometimes, and it scares me.”

“Lucy, leave him alone. Mikey, go lay down right now.”

At first, the dog remained unmoving, but slowly, he put one paw forward, carefully placing it on the floor. Then suddenly, Mikey took off in a dead sprint towards the doorway, skittering in place for a moment before he caught traction. Mikey made it across the kitchen in a blur, all while rapidly juking from left to right in a fruitless attempt to psych the cat out. The dog finished his spectacle with a high arching leap, victoriously shouting as he achieved lift-off. “Ha haaaa!”

Mikey’s victory was short-lived, however. As he was sailing over the cat, he happened to glance down at Lucy, who until that very moment had remained perfectly still. Mikey could do nothing but flinch when the cat lifted her paw as though to swat him.

Mikey, still in mid-air, was so focused on the cat’s paw that he forgot what he was doing, that is to say, leaping over the cat. Completely disregarding everything in front of him, the canine landed with a crash in the living room. Lucy lowered her paw, purring as she strolled further into the kitchen. “I’m ok,” called Mikey from the other room.

“You gave him your word,” Mac scolded.

“I kept my word. I didn’t swat him.”

“You swatted at him,”

“Mmhmm, but I didn’t actually swat him, did I?”

Mac shook his head in disbelief. Before he could further reprimand the feline, Chico, who he had forgotten about, landed on the rim of his coffee cup. He furrowed his brow at the hummingbird, disgusted at the thought of where his feet might have been.

“About the animals outside, my friend.”

“Yes, Tito. Tell us about the animals outside,” said Lucy with a hint of amusement.

“They want revolución, amigo,” Chico said frantically.

“Revolution?” asked Mac with a dead-pan expression.

“Si. They believe you intend to burn the forest down and turn it all into parking lots and human houses.”

Mac turned his head slowly to the cat, now perched atop the counter. “Why on earth would they think that?”

When Lucy didn’t answer, he stood up and walked over to the sink, peering through the window above it. He was met by the sight of more than just squirrels and chipmunks.

Outside his house was every woodland creature imaginable. Beavers, black bears, and every furry critter in between were gathered in his yard. A cacophony of shouting and protests began to cut through the morning silence when the animals saw his face in the window. “There he is!” yelled a porcupine. “Let’s burn his house down!”

“Yeah!” replied a raccoon. “Does anyone know how to make, and, or use fire?”

Mac turned away from the window and leaned over the counter, inches away from the cat. “Lucy,” he said quietly. ”What did you do?”

“Why do you think I had anything to do with this?”

“First,” said Mac, holding up an index finger. “You convinced the cows I was infringing on their religious rights.”

“I don’t know how I could have done that. I don’t even go near the barn or outside, for that matter.”

Mac held up a second finger. “You unionized my mouser.”

“It’s onion,” called Mikey from the other room.

“Gremlin’s working conditions are unsatisfactory,” said Lucy.

“He’s a barn cat! His working conditions are sleeping in a barn and keeping rodents away from the house and the aforementioned barn.”

“His contract needs renegotiating.”

Mac pointed to the kitchen window. “Did you tell the woodland creatures I was going to destroy their homes and that they should start a revolution?”

“Again, I ask. How could it have been me? I’m inside all day, every day.”

“Lucy,” said Mac putting his hands on the counter in front of the cat. “Unions? Religion? Revolution? You don’t believe in any of those things.”

Lucy stood up and brushed his arms with her side, still purring. “It’s not about belief,”

“Then what’s it about?” asked Mac

“It’s about sowing the seeds of discord and watching them grow into a garden of chaos,” said Lucy, hopping down to the floor and walking towards the doorway.

“Huh?”

“Remember when I told you I wasn’t happy with being fed 20 minutes late, and you gave me a smartass response?”

“A week ago? Vaguely,” replied Mac, confused.

“You said, and I quote, ‘What are you going to do about it, furball?’” Lucy repeated, doing an over-husky impersonation of Mac. The cat stopped in the doorway to look back over her shoulder. “Mac?” she said in a normal voice.

“What?” asked Mac, still reeling from disbelief.

“If you ever feed me late without a good excuse again… I’ll burn this fucking place to ashes.”

With that, the feline exited the kitchen, leaving both Mac and Chico in utter shock.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Humor

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