What Now?

“So you’re home at last. About dang time.”

Gavin looked around for the source of the comment. He spotted a small, furry creature, about the size of a cat, sitting on the edge of a weathered pot holding a fake palm tree. His neighbor, Mrs. Colfax liked to fill the shared front walkway between their apartments with a variety of fake tropical plants. She claimed it made her feel like she was on vacation. As long as she kept bringing over cookies and cupcakes, Gavin wasn’t going to argue with her.

“Um, hello? Uh, do I know you?” Gavin asked staring at the little… squirrel? Rat? Whatever it was it was not a cat.

“Ya do now, mate. I’m a quokka, B-T-W. Not a squirrel or a cat.” The little grey animal had a slightly pointed face, round ears on top of its head, and big eyes.

“A what now? Quokka? What’s that?” Gavin asked, patting himself on the back for not running screaming into the night. Not only was there a talking something on Mrs. Colfax’s palm tree, but with a name like “quokka” it had to be an alien. His tired brain had given up trying to explain anything and was now just going with the flow. Talking quokka. Sure. Fine.

“Quokka, small marsupial, native to southwest Australia, mate. Keep up, now. M’name’s Angus. And you’re Gavin. We’re gonna be working together for a while. Ye gods and little fishes, why do I always get the slow ones?” The last sentence was muttered, half under his breath, but Gavin heard it anyway.

“Right. It’s two o’clock in the morning, I’m just coming off a double shift at the bar and you’re gonna rag on me for not immediately grasping this entire… bizarre situation?” Gavin snorted and shoved his key in the lock. “I’m going to crash and if you’re still here in the morning, I’ll maybe talk to you then. Assuming you’re not a hallucination from not enough sleep.”

Gavin opened the door and jumped back in surprise when Angus darted between his legs and into the small apartment.

“Hey! What’re you doing?” Gavin whisper-yelled. He didn’t want to wake up Mrs. Colfax and have to explain this, whatever this was. He quickly stepped into his apartment and closed the door.

“If you’re gonna crash right now, I’m not waiting outside on the walkway for whenever you decide to get your lazy butt outta bed. That palm tree is fake, you know that, right?” Angus sat up on his hind legs and glanced around the open living-dining room area. Gavin had furnished it with a small table and a couple of chairs he’d scrounged doing some dumpster diving at the local college on move-out day, along with a couch his older brother had gifted him. The only two items worth anything were the large flat-screen TV and the fancy gaming set up sitting next to it.

“Well, it ain’t the Ritz, but I guess it will do.” Angus jumped up onto the couch and settled into one corner.

Gavin gaped at him. “Um, uh, what exactly are you doing?”

“Imma stayin’ right here until you wake up, mate. Like you said, we’ll talk in the morning.” Angus gave a small nod that radiated finality and closed his eyes.

Gavin stared at the quokka for a moment. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Nope, didn’t work. When he opened his eyes, Angus was still right there on the sofa. Sighing, Gavin trudged back to the bedroom. He managed to brush his teeth and take care of other business before falling face first into his bed and falling asleep almost immediately.

Sun streaming in through the open curtains woke Gavin up earlier than he liked the next morning. He lay in bed trying to remember the weird dream he’d had about coming home and finding a talking quokka on his doorstep. Shaking his head and vowing to no longer volunteer for double shifts three days in a row, Gavin stretched and clambered out of bed. After taking care of things in the bathroom, he shuffled through the living room into the kitchen.

Pausing in the act of pulling down the coffee, Gavin turned to stare at his couch. Angus was sitting up waving at him.

“Oh, hell. It wasn’t a dream, was it?” Gavin muttered.

“Oh, there’re some sheilas who’ll say I’m a dream,” Angus chortled.

Gavin shook his head and focused on making coffee. That would make everything better. Coffee always made everything better. He grabbed a bag from the shelf, poured a handful of beans into the grinder and let it rip. A few seconds later he poured the freshly ground coffee into the filter cup, added water, and pressed start. While the coffee maker did its magic, he opened the cabinet above it and grabbed a mug. Turning ninety degrees, he pulled open the refrigerator door and reached for the heavy cream.

“Hey, mate…” Angus called from the sofa.

Gavin held up one hand, not even looking over at the quokka. This was the coffee routine. Nothing disturbed the coffee routine. A minute or so later, the kitchen smelled heavenly, and the coffee maker had filled the little four-cup pot with the nectar of the morning. Gavin poured a careful amount of cream into his mug, and slowly added coffee. He gave the mixture two precise clockwise stirs before lifting it to his lips and taking a slow sip.

After a second sip, he turned to face the living room. “Okay. You get one comment now. You can talk more when I finish this cup.” Gavin stared at Angus over the rim of his mug.

“Damn, mate. You’re peculiar,” Angus said with a sniff.

“Says the talking marsupial,” Gavin responded. He indicated the mug in his hand. “This is Bali coffee. It is its own experience. If you expect me to be coherent you will respect the coffee ritual.”

He took another sip, continuing to stare at Angus. “Alright. I accept that you’re real and you’re sitting on my sofa. Why are you here? Last I checked Australia was a fifteen-hour flight away. And how’d you get here anyway?”

Angus waved his paws in front of himself. “Maaa-gic,” he said, drawing out the word.

Gavin looked at him and then down at his nearly empty mug. “I’m gonna need more coffee for this explanation,” he muttered.

******

Okay, so it’s weird. I dunno. Angus just popped into my head. Anyway, my MOTE challenge this week came from Padre: “So you’re home at last. About dang time.” My prompt went to Fiona Grey. As always, click your way on over to More Odds Than Ends to see what everybody did with their challenges.

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