Sometimes when I was at the Spur, I’d grimly joke that I was one missed payment or pothole away from what I called the ‘country music trifecta’- no girl, no truck and no home. I said that because the driveway needed as much work as the ranch house did, and the bank was getting antsy about some home-improvement loans I took out earlier with the ranch as my only collateral.
As for the driveway, navigating it was pretty tricky and my ’83 Chevy C-10 was more or less a collector’s item minus the TLC a dedicated collector would lavish on it. Still- the relatively high ground clearance was a saving grace for the old rattletrap.
After a week, I had nearly forgotten that I applied to be a homestay. No contact whatsoever from the Exchange Program. Not a single voicemail or letter in response to the questionnaire I sent off- not even a rejection letter. I was beginning to think that they had forgotten about me or overlooked my application altogether. Three hundred and twenty million people in the United States- even if only one tenth of them were interested in becoming homestays, that’s still more than thirty million requests to sort through. Not unreasonable to assume that my paperwork would get lost in the shuffle when you look at it that way.
Nearly two weeks after I had sent off my application to the Exchange Program, I was once again making my way down the rutted half-mile long driveway when I noticed that somebody had successfully navigated it before me. Parked next to the ranch house was a black Suburban with tinted windows. As I drew closer I could see two figures leaning up against the vehicle and a third standing a short distance away, gazing at something on the horizon.
‘Props to whichever one of them drove all the way in from Highway 79 without puncturing the oil pan on that thing’ I muse as I draw closer. Now that I’m getting a better look, there’s something familiar about at least two of the figures. They’re both wearing that yellow and black uniform and jacket combo that I saw on TV the night I sent off my application. The third figure is leaning against the Suburban and appears to be smartly dressed in a dark blazer, tie, heels and skirt.
While the one scanning the horizon doesn’t seem to acknowledge my presence right away, the other two are looking almost impatient- as though they’ve been waiting for me for awhile. With my Stetson on the passenger seat, I figured it was time to grab it and turn on the charm for my visitors.
Should I go for the aw shucks Matthew McConaghey cowboy or the more confident, stoic, deep-voiced Sam Elliot cowboy?
Killing the engine, I sidle out of the Chevy and immediately put on the Stetson in one fluid motion before tipping it to my visitors.
“Afternoon- what brings you ladies all the way out here?” I drawl. In all honesty, I had a pretty good idea what they were doing at my place, but wanted to hear it directly from them.
“Mr. Andersen….” the one in the business suit and shades begins, giving me a distinct Hugo Weaving vibe. “Bryce Andersen, is it?”
“That’s correct- and to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”
“I’m Smith and these two are my associates.” she brusquely says.
“My pleasure- I uh……I guess you’re here about my application, huh?”
No shit, Sherlock- why else would they be a four and a half hour drive from the nearest international airport?
She nods. This Smith looks kind of Asian, although she’s fairly tall and those sunglasses don’t really allow me to get a look at her eyes. Her command of the English language is good enough for me to assume that she’s a native speaker.
“We have a potential guest in mind for you, but we decided to come out and inspect the premises firsthand.”
“Well then- welcome to my humble abode.” I say, sweeping my arm out to indicate the barn and surrounding land as well. ‘Humble’ was something of an understatement. “As you can see- plenty of blue sky and wide open spaces. You gals must be starving after such a long drive out here. Can I get you a bite to eat? Maybe a coffee or soda?”
Smith seems to have perked up a little at the mention of ‘coffee’.
“If it’s not too much trouble, we’ll take you up on your offer. But first, you should meet your new homestay.”
I look around- surely it isn’t the redhead with patchwork skin on her face in the black and yellow jacket. She looks like she’s all business, and right now her business was babysitting this mysterious new guest and Smith. There was the other one off on the property somewhere that I caught a glimpse of on the way in.
As I turned to look around for her, I was aware of a darkness sweeping over me. It wasn’t a cloud- it was something else. Looking up, I briefly catch a silhouette of something with a distinctly feminine outline swooping down on me from above, a pair of outstretched feathery wings backlit by the glare of the sun.
Time stands still and that thought is quickly dispelled as something big whizzes by my head. Instinctively I raise my arm to shield my face, but the looming figure is gone just as quickly as she’s shown up.
And so is my Stetson.
I wheel around, not finding it on the ground right away. Still unsure of what’s going on, I see my hat being clutched in a pair of talons as a giant bird noiselessly flaps its wings over by Smith and the redhead. Only I can now see that its not a bird as the talons clutching my headgear hover a few inches off of the ground.
It’s a woman. A beautiful woman with feathery arms and a surprisingly voluptuous human figure whose legs tapered off to giant talons beneath the knees. The arms almost immediately taper off into almost surfboard-sized wings starting at the shoulder.
How can she fly with such a buxom figure? I thought harpies were supposed to be petite and slender for better flight efficiency. Her hair is platinum- almost white and she’s wearing a pair of denim cutoffs and a light colored tank top with spaghetti straps seemingly struggling to contain a rather impressive bust. With a quick kick of her talons, my hat was now being held loosely in one of her wings- a small clawed hand barely visible among her plumage as she hovers next to Smith.
Save for a tiny disdainful smirk flashed my way, she shows next to no emotion as she alights next to the woman in the dark suit.
“Perri! That wasn’t very nice!” another voice called out. Striding over from a meadow adjacent to the house was an impossibly tall woman in the same black and yellow uniform jacket as the redhead with Smith- complete with padding on her shoulders and forearms. She had tan skin and long, flowing blonde hair- but the most striking thing was the thick black horn growing from the top of her forehead.
And her height- good lord, she’s a tall one, and every bit as stunning as my avian tormentor. Although the giantess has a much kinder and warmer vibe to her- I don’t know how I can even tell from this distance, I just know.
“Why don’t you give the nice man his hat back, Perri?” the giantess asked as she made her way over towards the four of us. Turning to me, she said “I’m sorry- I’m sure she’s a little cranky after being cooped up for so long on the ride over here.”
Please be my homestay, beautiful blonde giantess. Pretty please.
“It’s no problem.” I tell her, getting ready to tip a hat I don’t have.
Dear Lord- I’m not a proud man…..I will get down on my knees here and now and crawl across broken glass if it means that sweet blonde with the horn is staying with me.
The bird-woman sheepishly hands Smith my Stetson as the blonde giantess joins them.
“That’s Bina and she’s Tio.” Smith says, nodding towards the redhead and horned blonde respectively- pretty much dashing my hopes the pretty, horned blonde giantess was going to be my live-in houseguest.
“And THIS is your new homestay….” she said, indicating the indifferent-looking harpy.
“Howdy……..ou do?” I stammer as I once again absently reach for my head, already forgetting she grabbed the hat moments ago.
“What do you know about harpies, Mr. Andersen?” the one called Smith asked.
“I did a little research online. Easygoing, omnivorous….kinda on the forgetful side, apparently.”
“And what do you know about the family of raptor harpies?” she follows up.
Shit- I didn’t think there was going to be a quiz. The way she emphasized ‘raptor’, I can only assume there were some key distinctions between regular harpies and raptors harpies besides their eating habit. As I’m trying to come up with an answer that I think will satisfy Smith, she walks up and hands me my hat.
And that’s not all.
I was handed a file folder with a logo on it.
Or more like a seal belonging to the Interspecies Exchange Program.
“I suggest you read up on your new guest, Mister Anderson. Quickly.” Smith half chastised me.
Heeding her advice, I open the folder. There on the first page is a few small photos of my new avian houseguest- almost like the ones that have to accompany a passport or visa application.
“Perri Greene? Cute” I chuckle, looking up at my new housemate and then the woman in the suit and dark glasses.
The Smith lady was less than amused.
Nor was my new housemate who is slowly circling me, her snowy and auburn wings partially outstretched as she is now audibly sniffing.
“You have an interesting scent, Mr. Host. Kind of like a rabbit that can’t see me, but knows I’m circling overhead.” she observes dryly.
“Don’t worry- I can see you just fine.” I facetiously reassured her.
Returning my attention back to the folder- anything to get my attention off of the fact that she could pretty much disembowel me with one swipe of her considerable talons, I see that my new housemate is a falcon subspecies of harpy. Part of the raptor harpy family, it went on to say.
Moving aside the pictures paper-clipped to her file, I see a little blurb that this is the third time the exchange program has attempted to find a host family for her.
There’s some red flags for ya.
“Now says here I would be Miss Congeniality’s third homestay. What gives?” I jerk my thumb to indicate the aloof falcon-girl who’s now starting her second slow, deliberate revolution around me.
“Given that her first two homes were in densely populated suburbs with hardly any open spaces for her, the program assumed that with Peri’s love of flying, a much more rural setting would be a better match for her.”
Sounded plausible, but I was still getting some readings from the bullshit-o-meter.
Almost as if she sensed some doubt on my part, the giantess with the horn sticking out of her forehead spoke up.
“It seems that in Peri’s old homes, she would’ve required a day pass if she basically wanted to fly the same distance as from your house to that barn. I’m sure you could see how that would be problematic…” she said in a remarkably soothing tone.
Point taken. Still- why couldn’t the soft-spoken taller one be staying with me?
Judging from her outfit, it looked like she and Patch Adams were at Smith’s beck and call.
I turn my attention back to the folder
Disposition- strong, proud, territorial.
The dossier went on into more detail.
Physical traits- Raptor Harpy subspecies such as the Falcon Harpy typically have larger bodies and wingspans than other harpies. They are also considerably more intelligent and possess more raw physical strength than other harpy species. Certain subspecies such as the Gyrfalcon are capable of lasting in cooler climates due to additional feathers.
Awesome- so this program decided to stick me with an airborne apex predator who could outmaneuver and outsmart me and possibly even kill me on a whim.
Nothing to stress out over, really.
“Hey….is she gonna fly south for the winter?” I ask Smith, holding out a glimmer of hope that this situation I find myself in will resolve itself somehow.
The redhead in stiches scoffs before Smith gives me an answer.
“Many subspecies of harpy tend to be nomadic or migrate annually.” She’s looking at me with a smirk over those glasses before she continues. “But not Perri- when the weather turns cold, her plumage can grow thick enough to offer her a considerable degree of protection from the elements.”
The bird woman is quietly glaring at me when Tio breaks the silence as she gently places a hand on Perri’s shoulder.
“Would it be all right if we took a look inside?” she asks me sweetly.
I nod, thankful for her intervention.
“Of course- this is gonna be where she hangs her hat for awhile, right?”
“Come on, Perri.” the soft spoken orange giantess, coaxing the falcon girl inside. “Let’s take a look at your new home…”
She sounded like a mother dropping off her nervous and uncertain daughter off for her first day of school, right down to the gentle and reassuring tone.
But instead of rebelling, the platinum-haired falcon girl meekly complies.
I race up the steps to the front porch and hold the door open for the four of them. As they file past, I’m pretty sure I smell formaldehyde coming from the redhead. The big, beautiful blonde carries the lingering scent of cinnamon rolls.
“All right then- welcome to my humble abode.” I say as I follow the quartet to the kitchen. The place is a bit of a mess, but I did manage to get some cleaning done a few days prior so it doesn’t look as bad now.
The kitchen, while clean, is still cluttered with lumber, power tools and a plastic tarp in addition to the normal appliances one can expect to find in a kitchen. Still, it wasn’t lost on me that Smith, Tio, Bina and Perri all had uncertain looks on their faces.
“You’ll have to pardon my dust- I’ve been doing some remodeling.” I explain.
“If you don’t mind my asking, Mister Andersen- what exactly inspired you to become a homestay with the Exchange Program?” Smith asks as she surveys her surroundings.
Don’t say ‘the money’. Don’t say ‘the money’. Don’t say ‘the money’.
Shit- she nearly tripped me up with the first question.
“Well….I wanted to open myself up to new experiences and maybe see-“
I’m interrupted by a loud electronic beeping and burst of static from the countertop. A female voice that didn’t belong to any of my guests spoke up- loudly.
“UNIT ELEVEN– Please be advised we’re getting reports of a lawnmower in lanes on the 200 block of Hidalgo Street.”
“Uh….riding or other, dispatch?” a male voice asks.
I was about ready to laugh the whole thing off before sheepishly apologizing and explaining that I kept a police scanner in the kitchen when I see that the redhead now has a Glock unholstered and is frantically scanning the counter for the source of the abrupt and startling noise.
“Whoa there….easy, Patch Adams.” I tell the redhead. “That’s just a scanner- why not calm down and put away the piece?”
“Why exactly do you have a police scanner?” Smith asks, the suspicion in her voice evident.
“Not a whole lot to do for entertainment in these parts, but I can always keep track of gossip or find out which one of my friends is in trouble with the law with one of these…” I explain as I point to the scanner.
“And how often does your name come up on one of these?” Bina asked me.
“Who me? I’m a model citizen for the most part.” I sounded a bit too facetious when I said that.
“I wouldn’t go that far…” Smith starts to say as I turn on the Keurig machine and begin adding water. “Criminal background check didn’t turn up anything more than a couple of traffic citations from the Llano County sheriff’s department over the last couple of years.”
Coffee ready, I hand Smith a mug of Java before getting to work on a cup of my own.
“Never married, so no outstanding alimony or custody claims either.”
“However, something did come to our attention when we were vetting you as a possible host home.” Smith adds.
Oh shit- I have a feeling what she’s going to say next. Better not prolong the inevitable.
“Your personal finances seem to be in disarray.”
That was actually putting it kind of charitably. Still- I had to assume it wasn’t bad enough to disqualify me from being a host if they’ve already made the trip out here.
“Well, you see….I inherited this ranch not too long ago and fixing it up is taking a little more-“
Smith held her hand up to cut me off.
“You don’t have to say any more. Your situation is hardly unique and certainly doesn’t prevent you from being a host household.”
Her tone is calm and measured- almost reassuring. But….I can’t shake the feeling she’s building up for something.
“We couldn’t help but notice that you’ve been falling behind on your loan from the local bank.”
All too true- if she went over by the phone and checked the answering machine, she could probably be treated to a half dozen terse messages from the Loan Department of the Federal Savings Bank of Llano County reminding me that I’m a few weeks behind schedule on some loans I’ve taken out.
“Yeah…you know, with the economy the way it is….”
“Which is why we took the liberty of stopping by the local bank to resolve the issue on the way over here.”
I nod absently before I realize what she’s saying.
“Wait- resolve HOW?”
“To make a long story short, Mister Andersen, the exchange program paid off the outstanding balance of that loan you’ve taken out.”
“Hang on a sec…what?”
“Oh the bank was quite interested in getting that debt off of their books Mr. Andersen.” Smith said smugly as she took a sip of coffee. “And that means we’re now technically part owners of this ranch, too.”
Shit- is what she saying even true?
“At least until you can find some way to repay the Exchange program- in all likelihood regular monthly deductions from your stipend.”
Bina seems to be relishing my no doubt dumbstruck expression.
A feathery wing slowly raised itself, as though Perri was in a classroom asking the teacher a question.
“How will this affect me?” she asked quietly.
Ah- straight to the point I see.
“This shouldn’t- it’s more or less legal wrangling over who has the legal title to your host’s property.” Smith shoots me a smug glance over her shades. “The Exchange program or the bank.”
Sensing the tension and awkwardness, Tio attempted to intervene.
“I know- why don’t we show Perri around the rest of the house?” she offered.
I was quick to take her up on it. Anything to distance myself from that damned Smith for now.
“That’s the living room over there. TV’s on the fritz, but I sometimes get DVDs from the library.”
Perri looks unimpressed while Tio just smiles sweetly, as if to urge patience on my part.
“Now where would you like to sleep, Perri?” I ask. I’m not even sure if harpies her size need a bed or a perch. “We have a spare room in here- if that’s too cramped, I can clear out some space in the old barn.”
“You want me to sleep in the barn? Like cattle?” the falcon-girl asks indignantly.
“Hey now….we can spruce it up if you want, and that’s only if you’re not interested in the spare bedroom.”
“Perri?” a soft voice behind us asks. It was Tio- she was hunched down to keep from bumping her head or horn against the hallway’s ceiling. “While we’re here, why don’t you try the doors to see if you can get in and out- all right?”
“Oh…OK.” The falcon girl said. “Good idea.”
It was a good idea, except the door the falcon harpy was trying to open was the one to my bedroom, not the spare guest room.
I should also probably mention at this point that I’m a pretty big fan of the retro 1950’s style pin-ups, most of all the iconic model Bettie Page. A big enough fan to have adorned my room with a couple of posters featuring the raven-tressed model scantily clad in animal skins and posing with two live cheetahs.
It didn’t just stop with posters, however. There was some lighters, a calendar, a lunchbox and even a lamp I got on eBay. Nothing incredibly lewd, mind you, but if I adorned my workspace with these knickknacks somewhere with a Human Resources department, they’d probably have some words with me about my ‘provocative’ choice of decorations and quietly urge me to remove them. I’d stop shy of calling it a ‘shrine’, but whoever got a look at it would have a pretty good idea I was a fan of the late Playboy playmate.
And Perri was about to get a good look.
You see- the doors along the hallway, including the one to my bedroom, had more of a lever than a knob. Something I was pretty sure the falcon harpy could manipulate with no problem.
“Hey wait- that’s not your room!” I call out to Perri as I lunge towards her, hoping to stop her before she opens up the door.
Problem was that the door was already open, although she wasn’t looking inside. Another problem was that I was lunging too enthusiastically. I tired to hold up, but that only made things worse as my feet got tangled up with one another. My momentum carried me forward, sending me crashing into Perri and the already opened door, causing us to land in a heap on the floor with me on top of her.
No- god damn it. This stupid shit is supposed to only happen in those insipid romantic comedies or whatever. I should’ve just let her catch a glimpse of my pin-up adorned bedroom and let the chips fall where they may.
“Hey…you all right?” I ask as I realize my right hand is on something warm and soft. I cock my head a little and see that I have her wing pinned to the floor- her feathers feel so unexpectedly nice and downy.
“What are you doing?” my houseguest asks me through clenched teeth.
“I’m sorry…it was an accident…” I begin to explain as I realize where my left hand is.
It’s still cupping her left breast, which is even warmer and softer than the feathers along her wings.
“Oh damn! Sorry…sorry….sorry….” I repeat as I pull my hand away.
She’s breathing deeply, and although I’m no longer touching them, I find myself captivated by the pronounced rise and fall of her robust bosom as they’re straining the fabric and thin straps of her tank top. Her alabaster skin is so warm and inviting and I’m looking at her amber eyes- partially hidden by a tuft of her platinum hair.
Except- not too surprisingly- she looks quite pissed.
Wait a second.
I’m snapped out of my haze by the realization that my crotch is most likely mere inches from those wicked looking talons that swiped the hat from my head so effortlessly.
One more apology for good measure.
“Perri- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-“
Neither Perri or me were clearing our throats, so…
“Ho ho…..what do we have here, Casanova?” a voice speaks up from a few feet behind us.
It’s Bina standing in the doorway, and I’m still on all fours on top of Perri. I turn my head to see Smith and Tio standing behind her. I thought Perri’s glare was harsh, but if looks can kill they’d be drawing a chalk outline of me on my bedroom floor thanks to the gaze that Smith is looking at me with.
Tio is looking at my room’s décor with a slight blush and what seems to be quiet disapproval. Bina has this insufferably smug expression on her face.
“That picture over there is from what many would consider Bettie Page’s most iconic photo shoot.” I say matter-of-factly to the pretty ogress. “Now what’s interesting about that it that it was taken at a safari park in Florida with live leopards, and it was all arranged by a model turned photographer named Bunny Yeager….”
“Get off of me…” Perri almost growls.
“Oh, right…” I’m now on my knees in front of a still sprawled out Perri.
“Mister Andersen…” she seethed. “I think this is as good a time as any to acquaint you with the Interspecies’ Cultural Exchange Program’s policy on fraternization with homestays.”
“What’s that?” I ask as I get to my feet.
“It can be summed up in one word: Don’t.”
I was about to say something when she continued.
“If you choose to ignore this, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Do I make myself clear?”
“Even consensual?” I ask as Tio lithely slides past me to help Perri up.
“I’m afraid so.” she sighed. Smith actually seemed a bit earnest when she said that.
“This is actually for the protection of both the Extraspecies guest and the host.”
“Some humans can take advantage of a liminal’s lack of understanding about human culture, while certain Extraspecies are capable of using pheromones or hypnosis to entice humans into….becoming intimate with them all while lulling them into thinking the whole thing is being done of their own free will.”
“What about Perri? She isn’t capable of anything like that, is she?”
Perri shoots me a baleful glare that indicates consensual anything from her is going to be a non-issue for a long, LONG time.
“No- but the rules against fraternization are a blanket policy that applies to all species as well as all hosts.”
“That’s really not going to be a problem.” Perri said coolly as she began dusting herself off with her wings.
Not even ten minutes into my homestay’s introduction and already things are starting to go to shit.
“Remember- these aren’t just Exchange Program guidelines. These are criminal offenses we’re talking about. If we find out a homestay and their host slept together, she’d almost certainly be deported while he’s looking at some prison time.” Smith pushed the glasses a bit further down her nose and was glaring at me over the top of them. “And believe me- we WILL find out.”
“R-right.” I stammer nervously.
Honestly, I thought it would be more than fifteen minutes before I had second thoughts about hosting a monstergirl.
Yet here I am….better say something- anything.
“Well, I appreciate your clarification on the matter.” I said as I straightened myself out.
“Now- seems as though the doorknobs here aren’t going to be much of an issue for Perri to use.” Smith said, seamlessly changing the topic. “As of now, it appears that the house itself doesn’t require any extensive modifications to accommodate her.”
The rest of the tour of my property concluded without incident. The doors, cabinets and even the shower was accessible to Perri. Apparently my conduct was enough to persuade Smith and the others that I wasn’t this degenerate rapist who got off on feeling up unsuspecting raptor harpies.
Granted knocking my homestay to the ground and groping her tits was going to be an extraordinarily hard act to follow.
Still, I was getting anxious and couldn’t wait for Smith, Bina and Tio to get out of my sight. The first two because they were starting to rub me the wrong way and the latter because I knew no matter how much I apologized or tried to explain what happened, I still felt like I disappointed the sweet, gentle giantess.
Smith’s parting gift was a list of Exchange Program contact numbers (including her own) and a check- the first month’s stipend. Just as important was a trio of laminated cards attached to a lanyard- they were the day passes that would let Perri venture from the property unaccompanied. Apparently she got three of those a month.
Damn it- I really could use a drink.
And that’s exactly why I went to the Spur almost as soon as Smith and the others parted company with me and my homestay.
Do not pass ‘GO’, Do not collect $200, Go Directly to the Copper Spur. Told Perri I’d be out for a little bit and she could do some exploring and unpacking while I was gone. I didn’t even bother cashing the first month’s stipend check from the exchange program, since the bank was closed by the time I got to town.
Almost as soon as I settle into my barstool, a familiar voice speaks up besides me.
“So tell us all about her.”
It was Clyde. Damn, he seemed particularly annoying today, but his curiosity was only natural. I turned and saw Cyrus standing next to him- each of them holding a pool cue. He seemed content to let Clyde ask all the prying questions while just listening to the answers.
“How did you guys know?”
“Doreen said a Suburban with tinted window and out of state plates rolled into the Sinclair station.” Clyde nodded towards the barmaid. “Business lady-type with dark glasses got out and was asking for directions to your place.”
“Asked for you by name.” Doreen chuckled. “Thought maybe you got yourself a sugar momma there, Bryce.”
“Naw- Bryce applied to be a host for one of those monstergirls.” Clyde said cheerfully.
Damn it Clyde- do you want me to answer the questions or are you just gonna go around telling everyone that I applied for to be a host?
“Oh really?” Doreen was polishing a glass before hanging it up on a rack.
I inhale sharply.
“Seven and seven, Doreen.” I sigh.
“So what’s this new girl-“
I silently hold up my index finger to cut Clyde off. I’m not saying another damn word until I get my drink.
Craning my neck, I see that Doreen is using some Jack Daniels for my drink. I should probably break my unofficial vow of silence to thank her for breaking out the good stuff for me.
Nope. I’m not gonna say a damn thing until that glass is on a coaster in front of me.
Sure enough, there it is before me after a short wait.
Dolores, Clyde and Cyrus are all leaning in as if I’m going to dish some juicy gossip. And the events of today certainly could qualify.
“Turns out the Wheel of Extraspecies landed on ‘Harpy’ when I spun it.” I say as I take a pull from my drink.
The bartender looks disappointed and excuses herself.
“Some sort of Falcon or Raptor Harpy, it turns out.
“What’s she like?”
“Kinda cute. Not much for words, it turns out. Can’t say if that’s because of jet-lag or whatever….”
“And the money?”
Oof- the less they know about Smith verbally emasculating me over my finances in front of her subordinates and Perri, the better.
“It’s not as much as I thought, but I get a monthly stipend while she’s staying with me.”
“Well- they’re giving you money to rebuild your place so that you can better accommodate her, right?”
“Turns out I may not need to do too much since bird-girl can use the doorknobs and cupboards indoors. Might be for the best, since there’s probably some strings attached with that extra money.” I sigh.
“Still…a harpy? You might’ve just dodged a bullet then, Bryce.” Clyde says.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Oh man- I heard this one guy in Japan ended up with a lamia housemate- super pretty and affectionate, but she really didn’t know her own strength and wrapped herself around him one night and **BAM!!**. It was like goddmaned Lenny from Of Mice and Men- she might as well have squeezed a tube of toothpaste empty…..”
“Clyde-” I try cutting him off.
It’s no good. Once he gets started….
“Only….you know- instead of toothpaste, it was his guts all over the floor.
“Holy shit- Clyde, I don’t want to hear this right now.”
Hardly missing a beat, Clyde turns to Cyrus and Doreen.
“I heard about a different guy- I think it was over in Japan, too. Exchange program gives him a mermaid- real polite and refined. He gets some money to remodel the place and add a pool to accommodate her. But this chick is really messed up in the head, and one night after she lures him into the pool, she seduces him….”
Well now- mandatory prison sentence notwithstanding, I like where that bit of gossip and innuendo is going.
“…..and then drowns him.”
Fuck. Spoke too soon.
“Oh shit- you probably don’t even want to hear about this spider-girl dominatrix then-” Clyde spoke up.
“You’re right- I don’t.” I offer.
“I hear they mate and then devour their partners afterwards.” Clyde blurted out.
“Jesus Clyde- what part of ‘I don’t want to hear about it’ was so hard to understand? Where were you with these horror stories when I was still filling out the application?”
“I didn’t do any research until after your sent off that form!”
My palm is firmly planted on my face now. Truth be told, I didn’t do much research either. Still- to the casual observer, it looked like this was my response to Clyde….who was under no real obligation to do any research for me.
“You seem a little testy there, Bryce….” Cyrus says.
“Yeah- as big a pain in the ass as you think your bird girl might be, at least she’s not poisonous or can turn you to stone…”
“Or drinks your blood.” Cyrus offers. “We have enough trial lawyers around these parts- don’t need any more bloodsuckers.”
There’s a bit of a pause as the two glance behind them before I speak up.
“What does she look like again?”
“You’re asking me what the giant woman with falcon’s wings and friggin’ talons looks like?”
Cyrus nods. “Well- I mean…does she look like anyone famous?”
“Not that many famous falcons out there.” I say, taking another pull from the glass half filled with 7up and Jack Daniels. “She could be a model, though. Maybe if Christina Hendricks had wings and could fly and had almost white hair and these scary but amazing gold eyes.”
“Tell us about it.” Clyde urged.
“Well, she’s got white, almost silvery hair. Her feathers are white and brown. I think standing up she’s just shy of 6 feet tall, so only a little shorter than me…”
“What about her eyes?”
“Y’know- I think the best way to describe them is ‘gold’. I imagine she doesn’t miss too much with them, tho. I mean with phrases like ‘eagle-eyed’ or ‘watching like a hawk’, I imagine she’s got excellent eyesight like most birds of prey do.”
“And you say she’s good looking?”
“Oh- without a doubt. She’s real easy on the eyes. Too bad it looks like there’s zero personality to go with that…” I say as I finish the last of my Seven and even.
I nod before I continue.
“I tell ya what, though- those tits of hers…gotta be at least a Double ‘D’ from looking at them.” Except I did a little more than look. “I mean they’re big- I don’t know how she even gets airborne with those things. Kinda got me wondering what falcon’s milk tastes like, y’know?”
Clyde and Cyrus are both smirking like grade-schoolers just moments away from pulling off an elaborate prank. They can’t be this amused by my description of my well-endowed avian houseguest- there’s gotta be something more to it.
“Actually, as an early bloomer, I learned from a young age how to compensate for their size and weight whenever I take flight.” a stoic, feminine voice spoke up behind me.
Perri was standing behind me this whole time. I couldn’t see her in the bar’s mirror because the lower half was obscured by all the bottles lined up alongside its base.
Well- this explains why Clyde and Cyrus were smirking so much.
“Sports bras help, also.” she continued in her monotone.
“Clyde, you motherfucking Brony!” I snarl.
“Hey man- that was supposed to be in the strictest of confidence!” Clyde stammers, aghast appalled at my apparent betrayal of his deepest, darkest secret.
“What’s a Brony?” a genuinely confused Cyrus asks.
“You don’t want to know.” I reassure Cyrus before I lunge at Clyde. “But I’m sure Clyde can tell you all about it after I beat his pony-loving ass into the-“
I’m stopped by a curtain of auburn and white feathers.
It’s my homestay, who doesn’t see much humor in the present situation.
“Oh hey, Perri!” I said casually, doing my utmost to ignore that I was openly admiring her breasts moments ago. I suppose that’s a step up from my unsolicited fondling the them. “Fancy meeting you here. How’d you manage to track me down?”
“It wasn’t difficult- I’m already accustomed to your scent and was able to locate you here. Also, a municipality of this size has a limited number of establishments that you could be in.”
“So what brings you out here?”
She faltered, even if only for a moment.
“I wanted to make sure you weren’t spending the Exchange Program’s stipend on alcohol.”
My my…so suspicious.
“How thoughtful.” I mumbled.
“Mr. Host really needs to be on his way.” Perri said to Clyde and Cyrus in a surprisingly apologetic tone.
“Hey now- I’m not finished here.” I retort.
“I think you are.”
“My home, my rules.”
“You’re not home anymore, though.”
Shit. Unassailable logic right there.
“My money- I haven’t even cashed the stipend check yet.”
“But there are laws here against operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, yes?” the falcon-girl reasons. “And that’s your primary means of getting around, isn’t it? I’m sure the legal costs will eat into funds that were designated to make your home more accessible for Extra-species like me.”
Clyde and Cyrus shift uncomfortably on their stools as Perri asks this.
“So you plan on dragging me away?” I challenge her.
She looks around for a moment before stepping closer and speaking to me in a much quieter voice.
“My talons are capable of carrying off a deer or young elk. I doubt you would pose a significant problem.” Perri said in a soft, icy monotone.
It was her little way of saying ‘Try me’.
Shit- this sucks. A cold, emotionally distant nagging wife without the benefit of her doing any of those freaky and lewd or sweet and affectionate things wives do for husbands.
Fuck- I’m not even henpecked…I’m falconpecked.
“He’s ready to pay tonight’s tab.” Perri said to the Doreen, pointing a giant ironing board-sized wing directly at me.
“The hell I am” I grumbled.
“You are, man…” Cyrus interjected, giving me a look that told me I needed to pick my battles more wisely. “Pay the tab, Bryce.”
If all eyes weren’t on me beforehand, they certainly were now. Even the jukebox was quiet, whatever country tune had been twanging on it earlier stopped shortly after Perri’s arrival.
“Fine…” I huffed as I dug around my wallet and fished out a minty-green portrait of Andrew Jackson before setting it down on the bar. Browbeaten and nagged by the quiet-but-imposing falcon girl for all my friends and drinking buddies to see.
“Keep the change.” I sullenly inform the bartender as I turn to leave.
I was about ready to ask Perri if she was riding back with me or flying back on her own when a thought occurred to me.
“Hey Perri? Do you have your day pass?” I ask in a normal tone, yet still loud enough for the whole bar to hear.
The falcon girl’s stoic expression falters as she looks away.
“N-no…I don’t.” Perri says quietly.
A triumphant smirk starts to creep across my face.
“You know you’re not supposed to go out on your own without a day pass, right?” I chide her in a voice just above normal conversational volume.
“I seemed to have forgotten it…” she murmurs, suddenly finding the Budweiser sign on the other end of the bar absolutely beguiling.
“Oh- you know what that means, right?”
Perri says nothing.
“Come on, Perri.” I say in front of the entire bar in my best I’m-very-disappointed-in-you voice. “I guess Smith doesn’t have to know about this, but I’m taking you home.”
The falcon-girl remains quiet, but I can see her teeth are now clenched and I can see her glaring daggers at me in the blood red glow of one of the neon signs as we get ready to exit the establishment.
We’re leaving on MY terms now.
Hooray for salvaging a tiny shred of my dignity!
I glance at the fuming, platinum-haired falcon girl.
Oh lordy- this was going to be a long and awkward ride home.