“Damn it, this is stupid.” I kept repeating to myself throughout the afternoon.
Today’s activity? Touching up the painted lines on the middle of route 168, even though they didn’t need it.
Why? Because if we didn’t do it in the next six weeks, the Highway Department would lose the funding by this time next year for when the road actually DID need to get the paint touched up. But since we’re doing it now, the paint won’t even need to get touched up by the time next year’s budget is released.
Government in action.
I had long ago stopped trying to make sense of the byzantine world of local politics and by extension my employer’s budget. This afternoon, my biggest concern was getting creamed by some speed demon who assumed the ‘ROAD WORK AHEAD’ signs we put out were for some other highway they were barreling down.
And also the brooding bird girl at home.
Last night’s ride home was remarkably subdued given the tension accompanying her surprise (to me, at least) visit at the Spur. I was reasonably certain Perri was going to use her talons to gouge my eyes out as soon as there were no witnesses, but instead the harpy gave me the silent treatment.
Not that she seemed like a huge conversationalist to start off with.
Still, there’s that old saying ‘The Quiet Before the Storm’. As of this morning, Hurricane Perri showed no signs of making landfall before I had to leave for work. All afternoon, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of reception I had to look forward to when I got home.
“Bryce, you can let the next 20 through“.
How does she get dressed anyways? from the looks of her top yesterday, it looked as though her tank top had some sort of clasps or hooks that were easier for her to fasten with her wing/claw/hands. Am I going to have to buy specialty clothes for her or can I get her regular human clothing?
Even though I had an additional source of income now, I hadn’t quite reached the Johnny Paycheck take-this-job-and-shove-it threshold with the highway department. Hell, I hadn’t even approached Drive By Truckers’ This-Fucking-Job level of discontent. The work was hard and the pay was subpar, but at least I had an awesome dental plan.
However, a killer smile wasn’t going to hold off foreclosure.
Nor were my pearly whites gonna put food on the table for me or Perri. And what about food? Those talons looked pretty nasty and I’m sure she wasn’t kidding about dragging off some of the larger mammals with them. If she still hunts for her own food, I’m afraid it may be only a matter of time before the town is plastered with Missing Dog posters and suspicious glares are directed my way.
Shit- there’s still a thick manila envelope’s worth of material about Perri that I need to catch up on. How could they just stick me with her and dash off like that, anyway?
“HEY! Earth to Bryce!” the radio crackles.
I’m jolted out of my reverie by the radio.
“Sorry- I thought we were gonna start taking some of the cones down before letting them through.” I radioed back as I flipped the little sign-on-a-stick from ‘STOP’ to ‘SLOW’.
“Why would we do that when the paint still needs to dry?” the voice on the other end asks impatiently.
Line of cars, pickups, buses and even a dump truck that I had been keeping at bay with nothing more than my Stop sign began to slowly roll past, each driver no doubt looking reproachfully at me as they crept through our work area.
I suppose the beauty of painting lines on the road in the high desert is that they tend to dry much quicker in the heat and sunlight.
Wait- did one of those kids on that school bus just flip me off?
Ah well, I was young once. If I had been stuck on an idling school bus with no A/C for ten minutes, I’d probably flip off the responsible party too.
The last of the waiting vehicles creeps past and I flip my sign on a stick from ‘SLOW’ back to ‘STOP’.
I really should do something for Perri after things started off on the wrong boob….er…foot…..no-wait…talon the other day.
That first check from the Exchange program still hasn’t been cashed yet.
Whatever it was, it would have to be fairly inexpensive.
I begin racking my brain for ideas as a line of cars and trucks starts creeping by heading the other direction and I’m halfheartedly directing them to the right lane on the other side of the cones. It’s not like they really needed my guidance to find the right side of the road once they went past the stretch we were painting.
That’s when it hit me. No- not the Kenworth dump truck that was bringing up the rear of the two dozen or so vehicles my colleague was waving through the other side of the road work area.
There’s a little mom and pop drugstore in town- not affiliated with any chain or anything and as a bonus they had their own lunch counter. The place even has a soda fountain where they still make old-fashioned malts. Various travel bloggers had discovered this and spoke quite highly of it, giving it four and a half stars
Come to think of it, after a long, hot, noisy day of holding up a ‘SLOW/STOP’ sign, an ice cream malt would really hit the spot.
After what seemed like all afternoon, my radio crackled once again.
“OK Bryce- we can start putting the cones away.”
Apparently our foreman was satisfied the lines they spent all afternoon painting had dried and the normal traffic flow could resume.
After wrapping things up at today’s work site, the ride home just seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.
Another day at ‘the office’ was done, and now instead of dreading coming home to a sulking, moody bird girl, I couldn’t wait to invite her out for a cool, refreshing malt. Lord knows I could use one of those myself right about now.
But as soon as I step out of my truck and put on my stetson, a thought occurs to me.
Isn’t this a bit like a date? And even if Perri was up for it, wouldn’t I technically be breaking the Exchange Program’s ‘No Fraternization’ rule? I quickly dismiss the idea- we’re going out for an ice cream malt- probably the most wholesome ‘date’ activity (if I even wanted to call it a date) there was out there. It’s not like we’re going to shoot and upload some homemade porn together while doing meth. Besides- as much as the girl loves flying around, isn’t the whole point of this Interspecies Exchange Program to have at least some interaction with other humans?
I can’t help but wonder what she’s been doing all day. Probably unpacking and flying-
My train of thought is interrupted as a dark shadow suddenly envelopes me. I turn and look up just in time to see Perri swooping down on me, her wings spread. The falcon harpy is backlit by the sun, but the brim of my Stetson allows me to get a glimpse of her as she soundlessly swoops down on me.
She seems to be smirking, too.
Before I know it, I flinch as she swoops past and suddenly I’m feeling a bit lightheaded.
Not woozy, but as though something’s missing….from my head.
Son of a bitch, she did it again! Both hands are reflexively feeling around my hatless head as I spy my Stetson, now in the talons of the falcon harpy as she’s climbing with incredible speed. Satisfied with her elevation, Perri then begins to bank right and lazily circle over the house and front yard.
If she was trying to goad me into some sort of reaction, she didn’t stick around to see it up close before taking off to circle over the house and driveway.
As Perri banked sharply overhead, I was awestruck at how this scene- a rather attractive and human-sized bird woman circling above my home- would’ve been inconceivable a few short months ago.
Now it’s getting kind of old. I scowl as I see that my Stetson is still in the clutches of Perri’s talons.
I take a few breaths to calm myself, although watching the beautiful but aloof harpy glide, bank and ride the currents of the wind is pretty relaxing in and of itself. Still, that’s the second day in a row she’s made off with my hat.
“Hey Perri- Got a minute!?” I call out to her.
She doesn’t say anything right away but continues circling at a much lower altitude.
“What is it, Mr Host?” she asks calmly.
“Well, I was thinking….How about you and I go out tonight?”
“We’re not going to that tavern I had to pull you out of last night, are we?” she asked sullenly.
“Nah- this will be a little bit different.”
“This isn’t going to be a date, is it?” she asks warily.
“Not unless you want it to be.”
She’s flying low enough that I can hear her scoff when I said that. She circled a few more times before speaking up once again.
“What exactly did you have in mind?”
“Well- I gotta do a few things in town anyway and thought you might like to come with me. We can grab a bite to eat or a malt at Culberson’s…..best ice cream malt in Fort Quinn- I swear!”
Technically the ONLY place in town that served an ice cream malt, but let’s not dwell on that super-important detail at this point.
“Hmm….let me think about it.” she pondered.
She was now lazily circling low enough that I could reach out and snatch my hat back from her talons if I timed my jump just right. But I decided against it since it looked as though she was coming in for a landing.
Perri slows down by flapping her wings a few times- barely making a sound despite the fact that each one is the size of a surfboard and I’m standing next to her when she alights. I can see that she once again deftly managed to bring my hat from her talons to her wing-hands as she landed.
“You don’t have to take me out to eat, you know. I saw plenty of rabbits and rattlesnakes from my earlier flight- I’m sure any of those would’ve sufficed-“
“Uh uh…..if the exchange program is giving me a stipend to cover the cost of your meals, then it’s not going to kill you to go out for a bite to eat in town every once in awhile” I interrupt.
“Very well- if you insist, I will accompany you into town.” Perri sighed as she handed back my hat.
Culberson’s was something of a throwback. Besides serving as the only functioning pharmacy around for miles, they also had the lunch counter and soda fountain as well as various toiletries and household items on sale like any other pharmacy or market.
Fortunately for us, there was abundant parking on Main Street in front of Culberson’s and still some daylight left.
Perri seemed to be able to work the interior door handles of the truck without much problem. However, as soon as she stepped out her eyes seemed to lock on something off in the distance.
“Hey- everything all right, Perri?” I ask my homestay.
She gets a few more sniffs in before responding to me.
“I believe so.” she tells me indifferently before giving her feathers an abrupt shake, leaving a few to flutter to the pavement.
As for the soda fountain, it was usually manned by a local high school kid hired to work behind the counter. I always suspected learning to operate that thing might’ve been a bit like learning to operate a steam locomotive or moveable-type printing press. A tangible relic of a bygone era that people were still enjoying.
A little bell jingled as I opened the door for Perri and quickly followed her inside.
“Hi! Welcome to Culber…….son’s….” the kid behind the counter began to trail off upon seeing the avian visitor.
“Hey there!” I started out pretty chipper. “Got any recommendations?”
“Well sir….” the nervous kid began. “Our flavor of the week is peanut butter swirl.”
I sat down at one of the stools in front of the counter with Perri hesitantly sitting down next to me.
“Sounds good- put me down for one.” I tell the kid before turning to Perri. “What would you like?”
“Ummm…..” Perri was looking up at the menu board as though she was looking for something but couldn’t quite find it. “D-do you have any flavors with green tea?”
“I’m afraid not, ma’am……” the kid said, seemingly more bewildered at Perri’s unorthodox ice-cream request than the fact that he was taking an order from an adult female harpy. “Besides what we’ve got on the menuboard here, there’s also black raspberry, peanut butter swirl and pistachio dream.”
Sensing our befuddlement at her request, Perri quietly explained to me and the kid. “Green tea ice cream was pretty popular when I was living in Japan.”
“Really?” I ask.
“Is it any good?” the kid follows up as he goes to work at the antique fountain making my peanut butter swirl ice cream malt.
“I guess you could say it’s an acquired taste.”
Now the kid is scooping some ice cream into a shiny cylindrical metallic pitcher.
“Seeing how there’s no green tea ice cream, do you have a ‘Plan B’?” I ask Perri as the fountain machine that dates back to the Eisenhower administration noisily whirrs to life.
Perri said something, but I could hardly hear her over the machine. I asked her to repeat herself as my drink was now being mixed inside that metal cup.
Suddenly the machine stopped.
“I may just have a vanilla one.” Perri said much more quietly now that the machine was off.
“Can’t go wrong with the classics.” the kid said as he went to work. I suppose he might’ve come off as trying too hard, but it was actually refreshing to see someone so enthusiastic about their job, given its pretty unique nature.
I could barely hear the bells along the door jingle over the machine and turn around. It’s a small town- it wouldn’t be that unusual to run into Cyrus or Clyde here- maybe properly introduce them to Perri in less awkward circumstances.
Instead, it was a mostly bald older gentleman who quietly greeted the three of us a slightly awkward wave before shuffling off to the pharmacy’s men’s room.
The lunch counter fell quiet again when the clerk shut down the soda fountain machine and brought over both of our malts, but not before adding a dollop of chocolate syrup to mine and some whipped cream and a cherry on top of Perri’s.
Even though Perri ordered the most basic thing from the menu, she looks quite pleased as the malt is set down before her.
I take a few sips from mine- it’s a bit like drinking from a chilled peanut butter cup. Perri was tentatively holding onto her glass with both wing-claws as she took her first sip from the straw. I had almost forgotten that she had pretty limited dexterity in those.
“How is it?” he eagerly asked the two of us.
I gave him a thumbs-up while Perri looked like she had something to say.
“This is pretty…..”
That’s as far as she got before the bells along the door rang even louder as the pharmacy’s front door virtually exploded open. This startled Perri, who lost her grip on the freshly delivered malt, sending the glass’ contents tumbling across the countertop.
“See- what did I tell you?” a barely feminine voice bellowed from the entrance.
“Ew- I guess you’re right. They’ll let anyone in here….” a second voice spoke up.
I turned around to see two rather homely women- both human and standing at the entrance. The shorter, chubbier one with scraggly blonde hair was looking at Perri and myself with a disgusted sneer on her face while she held up a camera phone.
“Remember that golf-ball sized clump of bird shit on the hood of your car last week?” the taller, far more masculine one began to bellow out. “I guess we know who the responsible party is.”
“I….I can make you another one if you want.” the kid working the soda fountain said to an unresponsive Perri.
The gruesome twosome took a couple of steps into the pharmacy.
“Wonder what she’s doing here. Don’t those things eat like…..worms and seeds and shit like that?” chubs asked loudly as she was walking right past Perri.
Damn it- seems like they’re here for no other reason than to instigate a fight. Hard to believe Perri could slip in and out of an one hundred percent authentic redneck bar without catching even a fraction of the shit these two fugly loudmouths are spewing right now.
Taking my eyes off the two of them, I could see Perri quietly glaring at the remnants of her spilled malt on the countertop.
“Perri?” I ask quietly.
“Here you go….” the kid said nervously as he handed Perri a replacement malt.
“Perri, are you-?” I begin to ask before I’m interrupted by the bellowing of the mannish half of the gruesome twosome.
“HEY KID– when your balls are ready to drop, me and my friend here would like a paddy melt.” she shouted.
“You know, I heard that these bird-girls are an all female species. They need human men to reproduce.” Chubs said.
“Really? Apparently they haven’t heard of these things called ‘standards’.” Butchie sneered at her friend. “Seems like they’ll sleep with any pathetic, trashy piece of shit to keep the species going.”
As I’m gritting my teeth, Perri seems to be trying to burn a hole into the countertop using just her eyes.
“Ew…what kind of loser is desperate enough to try and score with a girl who’s part bird, anyway?”
“Seriously- I’d hate to have my car parked under whatever tree she’s roosting in.”
Perri quietly shakes her head as the two obnoxious women continue. If she’s had behavioral issues before and these two successfully goad her into a fight, my homestay could be looking at deportation after barely two days.
I better nip this shit in the bud while I can.
The Falcon harpy much more cautiously clasps the glass containing her replacement malt as I stand up from the soda fountain’s counter.
Chubs and Butchie seem to have paused in their loud, obnoxious banter when they see that I’m walking towards the booth they settled into.
“Excuse me, ladies….I couldn’t help but notice that you had a few things to say about my homestay.”
“What about it?”
I bite my lower lip in contemplation. “Seems like you’re going out of your way to be exceedingly rude to her.”
“We didn’t say a thing to her!” Chubs said defensively.
“Yet you can see her plain as day and aren’t even using your indoor voice.”
“Whatever- you’re not my dad. Why don’t you go back to your fine, feathered friend- bird fucker?” Butchie demands.
“That’s uncalled for.” I said. “If anything, I thought your status might make you more sympathetic to those who are different from the rest of us.”
“You know…..your gender reassignment surgery.”
The lankier, more masculine one stopped smirking, her face immediately curling into a mask of hate.
“I’m not a fucking tranny, all right?”
“Oh- I get it. You must be Pre-op, then. In that case, I wish you the best of luck. I heard it’s a long, drawn-out procedure….”
“What are you talking about, asshole? You need to go back to your little-” the chubbier woman began before I cut her off.
“And YOU- what kind of example are you setting for your unborn baby?” I ask her.
She had gone from angry to crestfallen in the blink of an eye,
“I’m not pregnant, you ass!”
“You’re not?” I ask facetiously. “My apologies- this is a bit awkward, now- isn’t it?”
I suppose I could’ve twisted the knife a bit by pointing out that someone would actually have to be willing to perform coitus with her in order for her to get pregnant, but I figured I’d leave well enough alone for the time being.
“Kinda sucks when someone jumps to conclusions based on outward appearances, huh?” I ask before I turn my back on the two of them, ready to sit back down with Perri at the counter.
Although I’m not really listening, I can hear the chubby one try to reassure the mannish one “He’s not worth it- don’t do it.”
The next thing I know, I hear a chair sliding behind me. In the back of my mind, it occurs to me that I should be worried and turn around so I can at least see what’s going on behind me. Now standing and following through on a delivery that would make Max Scherzer jealous, she just threw one of the clear jars of sugar on the table at me.
Everything seems to be moving in slow motion- at least everything except for the heavy glass projectile closing in on my head. I could duck, but it seems like it’s going to hit me in the face nonetheless.
Shit- even if I duck, this thing is moving fast enough to give me a huge shiner or chipped tooth at the very least.
Or that’s what I thought until I saw a blur of white feathers before my eyes. The next thing I know the glass container goes sailing off to my right and shatters against the wall.
Standing next to me is the voluptuous falcon woman, her face glowering and her breasts heaving- putting considerable strain on the clasps holding her tank top in place.
“You….” she said between breaths before turning to me. “I don’t need you making a big scene thinking you’re doing me any favors.”
My God- those golden eyes of hers were almost like a cool, relaxing spring in a desert oasis that I never wanted to leave.
Quickly, I regained my composure. “Regardless of what you think, SOME people need to learn some damn manners.”
I thought I did a pretty good job concealing my disappointment that Perri seemed more interested in arguing with me than showing any appreciation for having some words with the gruesome twosome on her behalf.
“Let them say whatever they please. Do you think I concern myself with the thoughts of the vermin and invertebrate on the ground each time I soar through the skies?”
“Did you just call me ‘vermin’?” the manly, sugar-chucking half of the gruesome twosome spoke up, now addressing Perri directly for the first time.
“Calm down, sugartits….” I interject.
“Oh- you’re really asking for it now.” the chubby one spoke up.
“These two seem intent on instigating some sort of confrontation with me.” Perri said before she flashed a lanyard containing her day pass. “I think at this juncture it would be prudent for me to take my leave.”
God damn it….I just wanted to take Perri out for a good old-fashioned milkshake and these two harridans won’t even let me do that in peace.
“That’s right- run away……fucking chickenshit.” the mannish-looking one said as she stepped out from behind the table and closed in on me and Perri.
That tears it, as soon as this bitch gets close enough she’s getting a chair right to her ugly mug.
I can hear Perri exhale. She had remained fairly calm throughout this whole thing, but apparently Butchie’s words finally got to her.
The falcon harpy looks like she’s ready to rumble.
As soon as I realize that, another thought occurs to me. Even if she’s defending herself, this could be considered Perri’s third strike- if she gets into a fight, odds are she’ll be deported. And if she gets deported within a few days of her arriving at my home, I’ll probably be blacklisted by the Interspecies Exchange Program and can kiss goodbye any chance of winding up with a much cuter cat girl, fox girl, wolf girl, kobold or any homestay with more personality than a fudgesicle.
And news travels very fast in small towns like this.
The next thing I know, I’m protectively stepping in front of Perri. It brings me little comfort to know that if Butchie is going to take a swing at my homestay, she has to go through me. And here she is, charging like a bull.
“HEY!” A gruff voice calls out.
Butchie stops in her tracks and I turn my head to see the balding, somewhat grizzled older gentleman taking the sight of the three of us.
Looks like he’s taken care of business in the john.
“Can’t a guy buy a birthday card for his granddaughter in peace?” He grumbles.
There’s something about him…the way he carries himself just screams former police or military, and he has some sort of an east coast accent I can’t quite put my finger on.
Moreover, with just a few words he managed to stop Butchie in her tracks and suddenly Perri didn’t look quite as ready for a fight.
The old man no doubt senses my eyes upon him, but he simply looks at me and shakes his head dismissively.
“Calm down kid- you’ll get yourself worked up and have a heart attack at this rate.” he half grumbles, half chuckles.
“You too, Ma’am.” He said, nodding at Perri.
Holy shit- is this old goat trying to pick up on my avian homestay?
Before I can say anything, he simply saunters off to a display rack stocked with greeting cards and begins sifting through them. Perri, myself and the gruesome twosome are speechless- this crotchety old man prevented a brawl with just a few stern words before going about his merry way.
The Manly-looking half of the gruesome twosome was just as uninterested in any further dealings with this mysterious old man as we were as she headed back to her friend at the table.
“C’mon Perri.” I hear myself say as I laid some cash out on the counter for the kid. “Might as well save that pass for another day and let me take you home.
Astonishingly, the voluptuous raptor harpy didn’t argue with me, but quietly nodded instead. It was pretty clear she had seen enough as well.
Much like the ride back from the Copper Spur that first night Perri tracked me down, a tense silence permeated in the cab of the pickup as the lights cut through the encroaching darkness.
The harpy was staring out the window in contemplation as we sped down Route 79 while a sad-but-uptempo country tune on the radio was struggling to be heard over the growl of the diesel engine. It was strangely sublime and even beautiful for a few fleeting moments- this pairing of the mundane with the exotic and otherworldly.
At long last, I manage to find my voice.
“Perri- I gotta ask you to be more careful in the future.”
“What do you mean?” she asks, clearly puzzled.
“I don’t want you doing anything that would get you in trouble with Smith or MON.” I clarify. “I saw your personnel file- it never went into specifics, but it mentions that you got in trouble a few times over in Japan.”
“Those weren’t my fault! Those were just…..misunderstandings.” Perri says defensively. “Besides, I wasn’t paying attention to anything those human women said until you decided to jump in.”
Shit. She has a point.
“I was kinda hasty- I guess my temper got the better of me.” I admitted. “But I couldn’t let some of that bullshit they were saying about you slide.”
“Oh…I see what’s going on now.”
“Yeah- you’re worried about losing your meal ticket, so you want to keep me in line. ‘Straighten up and fly right‘- does that about cover it?” she asks me churlishly.
“No- that’s not it.”
“Really?” Perri’s skepticism is apparent as she continues. “Then what is it?”
“Well- it’s just…..” I stammer. The more I stammer and sound uncertain, the more convinced she’s going to be that she was right about me only being interested in a stipend from the Exchange program. “That’s no way to treat a guest- you aren’t just a guest in my home, but in this community too. But instead of leaving well enough alone, they were calling you ‘nasty’ and saying you crapped on their cars and shit like that. But they were wrong and they knew it- you’re actually kinda hot, Perri.”
Whoops- where the fuck did that come from?
I mean, besides the fact that Perri is indeed stunning. Still, that was way too many cards I just laid on the table.
“But the ambient temperature is adequate-” the falcon girl begins.
“No- it’s a human saying- it means that you’re….uh……good looking.”
Perri looks as though she’s about to say something when my words sink in.
“Y-you think I’m attractive?” the raptor harpy asks in a surprisingly meek tone. “Wh-why on earth would you say such a thing? I’m not even human…”
“I guess ’cause it’s true.” I shrug. “And it hardly matters that you’re not human.”
Oh damn- now a little bit of color is creeping into her cheeks and her eyes are as wide as saucers, only adding to her overall allure. Except instead of returning my gaze, she goes back to staring out the passenger side window.
“Well….” she harrumphed, attempting to sound much more confident. “You certainly wouldn’t be the first human to indicate my physical appearance is pleasing to them, but you should know that my first love shall always be the open sky….”
“If you say so.” I chuckle as I tap the brakes. Our turnoff was coming up in a few hundred feet and I flicked the turn signal.
“By the way…do you have any idea where you’d like to go with your day passes?”
“I haven’t given it too much thought.” Perri began as she resumed gazing out the window. “I suppose I’m still getting acclimated.”
Honestly, that was a better answer than I realistically could have hoped for after tonight’s fiasco.
“Take your time- just let me know where you’re going when you end up deciding to use them.” Subconsciously, I’m still feeling the need to assert myself as the authority figure or else she’s going to end up walking all over me- but after what happened in Culberson’s I don’t want to needlessly antagonize her, either.
The ride up the driveway continued in slightly less awkward silence before we pulled in front of the house and I killed the engine.
“Perri…” I sigh. “I’m sorry things got out of hand back there-“
“There was nothing you could do, Mr Host. You couldn’t force those women to be civil any more than you could force me to change the color of my plumage.” she said coolly, but with a measure of understanding in her voice. “Some individuals will always be like that.”
She was right- I wish there was more I could do about it. A nice, quiet night out shouldn’t be too much to ask for.
“If you’d like to go out again, I’d be happy to accompany you.” I offer.
The harpy’s wing was stroking her chin as though in contemplation.
“Well- tonight’s malt was adequate, but the aromas emanating from that one structure with the glowing green cactus was most intriguing.” her face seemed to light up when she was recounting that.
Glowing green cactus? She must be talking about the neon sign in front of Fort Quinn’s only Mexican place- La Olla Cobre. Now that I think about it, she was looking off in the direction of La Olla Cobre when we first got to the pharmacy.
Come to think of it, it’s been awhile since I had any Mexican food.
“Good idea- I know where you’re talking about, and we’ll have to try that next time.” I said enthusiastically, glad to see my homestay was looking upbeat for what seemed like the first time tonight.
I was about to offer to come around and open the truck’s door for her when she seemed to be able to do that on her own. Upon letting herself out, she briefly sniffed the air and examined her surroundings before heading towards the front door with me following.
“Good night, Mr, Host.” Perri said quietly.
Her choice of nighttime attire didn’t seem that unusual, but was still pretty attention-getting considering her voluptuous, buxom frame.
A snug, hot pink sleeveless t-shirt and what looked like a pair of polka-dot side-tie panties.
“I appreciate you taking me out earlier, even though things didn’t turn out so well.” she continued.
“H-hey Perri- how’s your bedroom? Is it comfy, at least?” I ask nervously as she turns to leave.
“I think I’ll be more comfortable once I get a few night’s worth of sleep in there. I’m sure it’s much more pleasant than the barn.” she said dryly. I couldn’t tell if that last part was sarcasm on her part.
“Good night!” I call out to her as I catch a glimpse of those cotton panties stretched across her ample backside as she saunters down the hallway.
Before I went to bed, I re-read some of Perri’s files. They were pretty specific about her species’ background and general data but- as I suspected- it lacked a lot of individual information about her specifically.
Then I remembered the card in my wallet.
It didn’t just have Smith’s number, but was a business card sized directory of MON members and their contact information. Smith may not necessarily be the best person to go to for what I have to ask.
Zombina’s name made the cut as well. I don’t think I could go to Patch Adams with my questions, either.
I’ve never heard of Doppel or Manako, either.
That just left the tall, beautiful ogress- Tio. Looking at her card, I see her full name is Tionishia- lovely name, but quite a mouthful. I perk up considerably when I see that the contact information included Tio’s Skype handle.
Here goes nothing I say to myself as I open up my laptop.
It’s a little optimistic of me to expect her to answer, I suppose. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.
For a few moments I got nothing but the logo on the screen and ringtone. I was about ready to shut down my laptop and start mentally composing my questions to send Tio via text or email when the screen flickered to life.
“Hello?” a slightly bewildered voice called out.
Tio’s angelic face suddenly appeared on the screen.
“Oh, hey there Tio!” I call out, doing little to conceal my enthusiasm at seeing her again. I hope I wasn’t loud enough to wake Perri.
Her face lit up the monitor with a little smile.
“Well Howdy, Billy the Kid.” she giggled as she tipped an imaginary hat.
With all the people and extraspecies individuals she no doubt encounters daily in her line of work, I’m actually a little flattered that not only does she recognize me, but has already given me a nickname.
“I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time.”
“Not at all- just signing and initialing some reports for MON- is everything all right?” She pulls back from the monitor a little and I can see that she’s outdoors. Looks like somewhere warm enough to have palm trees.
“Yeah- it’s just that……” I begin to trail off. Damn it, this is no time to start acting like a love-struck 8th grader with a crush on his teacher. His gorgeous, 7 and a half foot tall teacher with a black horn growing out of her forehead.
“It’s just that I had some follow-up questions about Perri that I never had a chance to ask you and Smith in person.” I say.
“Ah- I take it you want to know more about some of her run-ins with the Japanese police?”
“Y-yeah.” Not a good sign that she’s using the plural of ‘run-ins’
“You have to understand that in Japan, properties tend to be very small. Most of those cases were the individual officer overzealously enforcing the day pass issue when she left her host family’s property.”
She scooched back from the monitor and……HOLY CRAP, she’s talking to me while she’s naked!
I hear a nervous little squeak that I’m pretty sure I let out. This little glimpse of heaven is more than I could’ve ever bargained for. I’d like to thank God, whoever invented Skype and-
Wait a sec.
She’s not quite naked. I can see her from the waist up- she’s wearing a bikini with thin little spaghetti straps that are nearly the same color as her orange-ish tan skintone. It certainly is a very tiny and revealing bikini top- as much as I appreciate the view, I feel a little twinge of sympathy for Tio. It must be pretty difficult finding clothes in her size.
“Most of those?” I hear myself ask as I struggle to contain my euphoria.
“But……there was an incident with her last homestay.” Tio continued. “It seems they had two high school age daughters.”
“Did they get along?”
“Oh yes- their parents said they looked up to Perri like a cool big sister. But one night……”
Tio composed herself, placing a hand on her chest. Taking a quick glimpse around, it looked like she was by a swimming pool and there really was a weighted down stack of papers on a little table next to the lounge she was reclining in.
“One night, when they were doing their laundry, a panty thief struck.”
I can’t help but guffaw.
“Oh my God!” I chortle. “That is the most Japanese thing ever…..did he stock vending machines with them or something?”
“Perri chased him down and caught him.” Tio said, nowhere near as amused as I was by this anecdote. “Clawed his face pretty good before the police showed up. It turned out the boy was a classmate of the host family’s daughters and lived in the neighborhood. Perri was fortunate she wasn’t deported that same night.”
“I see.” I replied, not quite as willing to yuk it up over the apparent Japanese affinity for used panties now.
“It took a lot of negotiating by Smith to persuade the police not to press charges. But after that night, we decided Perri would benefit from a change of scenery.” Tio continued, sounding a bit more forlorn. “Is she doing all right, Billy-kun?”
“Well, she seems really fond of flying around and grabbing my hat.” I chuckle.
Tio smiled wanly, but knew I had more to say.
“We went into town tonight to get a malt.”
“Oooh…..like a milkshake?” the beautiful ogress asked as her eyes lit up. Upon seeing the joy in her eyes, I really wished I could’ve taken her out for one, too.
“Sort of- anyway, these two girls came in and started this real passive-aggressive shit with the two of us, calling her nasty and saying she probably shits on cars.”
“Oh dear.” Tio sighed. “What did Perri do?”
“Oh?” the ogress seemed intrigued.
“Yeah….I um….got kinda worked up after one of them called me ‘birdfucker’ and I decided to remind these girls they were no prizes themselves. One of them threw some condiments at me, but then this old man started barking at us and suddenly we weren’t that interested in fighting anymore.”
Oh shit- I might’ve said too much right there.
“Hey…hey- Perri’s not gonna get in trouble, is she?”
Tio gently smiled- it was so warm and disarming.
“I don’t see why- you said she didn’t do anything, right?”
“Billy-kun…” she said sweetly. Even though that wasn’t really my name, I could’ve melted right there. “I’m sure it feels a bit awkward right now, but being a host is meant to be an enriching and fulfilling experience. Just show a little patience and leeway with your homestay and I’m sure you’ll see that for yourself soon enough.”
The reality wasn’t quite as straightforward as Tio’s words of encouragement, yet I felt much more optimistic after hearing that.
“I guess you’re right.”
“Now….” Tio continued as she leaned in closer to the monitor on her end, giving me an amazing view of her gigantic breasts complete with an itty bitty tan line as they struggled mightily to liberate themselves from the orange floral print bikini top. “I think it would be wonderful if you and Perri hit it off- so is there anything else I can help you with?”
Don’t say ‘Marry me’.
Don’t say ‘Marry me’.
Don’t say ‘Marry me’.
Before I could speak up, I heard a high pitched voice call out Tio’s name off screen.
“Tio-san? Are you still talking to your boyfriend?“
The tall ogress’ face scrunched up into an incredibly cute pout.
“Polt-san….that’s not very nice to tease me like that. You know I don’t have a boyfriend.” she almost whined to the voice off screen.
“You could if you really tried.” the voice was interrupted by a soft splashing noise. “Now c’mon- you said you were gonna join me for a few laps.”
“Well, Billy the Kid…” she began, stifling a giggle. “I suppose I should get going. But please- call me back sometime. I’d like to know how you and Perri are getting along.”
“Right- will do. Thanks, Tio.” I hear myself say absently before I catch a glimpse of the gorgeous giantess getting up and stretching- her side-tie bikini bottom also nearly the same color as her soft and supple flesh and revealing so much of that virtually flawless body.
Wait….wait….as much as it pains me to say it, now is not the time to be perving over the bikini clad ogress. The heavenly image has since been replaced by a MON logo in the span of a few seconds anyway.
Today was pretty bad, to be sure….but it could’ve been much worse.
Instead of just cashing checks from the Exchange Program, I need to take Tio’s words to heart and at least try and make Perri’s stay a pleasant one.
Tomorrow’s a new day.
Better not fuck it up.