Animal Magnetism

Written with my Thursday night group with the prompts:  whatever you do, won’t piss off the crow; you can’t walk your alligator on the streets of Chicago; you keep that up and you’ll never have to worry again; looking for drive-by love; everything you need; here at last.  And yes, I did name the protagonist after Julie Newmar.

“Whatever you do,” Stan whispered one more time, “don’t piss off the crow.”  

They were standing on the doorstep of his boss’s house, about to ring the doorbell.  Julie nodded.  Okay, fine.  She knew her role as trailing spouse.  She knew not to rock the boat.

The door swung open and Stan introduced her to his new supervisor, the mercurial Charlie Byrd, whose underlings secretly called him the crow.  Julie could see why.  The man had a beak-like nose, thick dark hair, and was dressed all in black–black pants, black turtleneck, black sweater.  He had a reputation for being brilliant but difficult.  “Wow,” he said locking eyes with Julie.  “Where did a dog like Stan find a beauty like you?”

Stan took a deep breath and rested a protective hand on Julie’s shoulder.  “The important thing is I did find her.”

In that moment Julie hated both of them.  Charlie had made an inappropriately sexist remark and her husband had responded in a possessive, territorial way.  It made her so mad she wanted to hiss, but this is why Stan had warned her.  She decided to retract her claws.  For now.

Stan led her to the buffet table, but Charlie continued to stare at her.  He obviously had recognized her, and she knew it might be impossible for her to remain neutral.  She smiled politely at the crow, as Stan drifted away to mingle with other guests.

“Do you have everything you need?” Charlie asked as she nibbled on a cracker spread with liver pate. 

“Oh, yes,” she said as she eyed a platter of sushi.  “This is lovely.  I’m surprised.”

He shrugged.  “I want to accommodate my guests.  I’m told it’s important in my position.”

“It appears you’re doing well,” she told him.  “I’m sure no one suspects.”

“Don’t be too sure,” he lamented.  “They even call me The Crow.”

She leaned forward and lowered her voice.  “You might try dressing in something a bit more colorful.”

“That won’t help,” he countered.  “After all, you’re wearing red, and I can still tell you’re a house panther.”

“Shhh. . .”

“You mean Stan doesn’t know?  Jeez, you’re slick.”

“Stan is a border collie.  He wouldn’t be too happy to discover he’d married a cat.”

“I know,” Charlie agreed.  “Relationships are tough.  I had to leave Chicago because my ex-girlfriend couldn’t hold her shape, and I couldn’t walk an alligator on the sidewalk there.”

He grabbed a handful of sunflower seeds from the buffet table, and they stood side by side, mulling over their individual predicaments.  “Peanuts?” he asked, offering her a bowl. 

“Carnivore,” she said, thumping her chest lightly with her paw.  She reached for the plate of raw tuna.

He sidled up closer.  “So how are things with Stan?”

“That’s really none of your business,” she said though she didn’t move away.

“I’m tired of fly-by love,” he pleaded, but she was unmoved.

“I could off you with one swipe,” she snarled.

“I’d like to see you try,” he cawed.

She gnawed on a chicken wing.  “You keep that up and you’ll never have to worry again,” she purred.

They faced off, whether ready to resort to claw and talon or to lock lips, no one could say, but the intensity was palpable.  Here at last, Stan squeezed between them.  “Whacha talking about, you two?”  he asked good naturedly.

“Border collie,” Charlie said.  “I had thought basset, but I see it now.”

Julie smiled warmly at her husband and took his arm.  “We’re talking about our favorite breed of dogs.  I like border collies because they’re so eager to please.”

Stan grinned at her, his tongue nearly slipping between his lips.  “I didn’t know you liked dogs.”  He turned to Charlie.  “She loves birds.  We’ve got the biggest cage of parakeets at home.  She spends hours just gazing at them.”

“Hmmm,” Charlie said with a nod.  “And something tells me your wife might like an aquarium.”

“Funniest thing,” Stan said, shaking his head.  “All our goldfish disappeared.  Every one of them.  Into thin air.  Go figure.”

Photo by Tasos Mansour on Unsplash

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