July 28, 2010

A Matter of Pride

Another offering from my partner, without whom I would never have been an author...a twisty surprise ending, which she does very well. If you're wondering why one of us has been doing the bulk of the short stories, it's because that is where our writing style leads. One of us tends to write brief and to the point, while the other rambles on giving great detail and taking a while to come to the point. this is one of the ways we balance each other...one can easily add detail where needed, the other is adept at cutting superfluous words when the meat is most important. --Anne Prompt: In the days of the Old Ones…there was an excellent…bunny rabbit…who lived in a duplex…and worked as a dental hygienist. Miss Bonnie (Cottontail) Lapin ran her slick wet tongue over newly brushed teeth and smiled into the mirror. Gleaming; it’s the only word which thoroughly described her smile. She turned her head presenting different views, but always it was the same; perfectly gleaming. Perhaps this morning at the interviews Gregorio would notice her. He should, but would he? She picked up her jacket and slid her shapely arms into it, shrugging her shoulders to settle it properly. She slipped her feet into the strappy slings and turned for one last look in the full-length mirror. The total effect was dazzling and completely color coordinated right down to the tips of her nails, which had been painted in the French fashion. It had cost her a week’s pay at the Painted Lady Boutique, but seeing the end product reach this degree of faultless excellence, she knew it was worth every penny, and she swelled a little with pride. Time was running out. If Bonnie didn’t land this job, she’d be deported, which meant disgrace for her family, her town, and her whole race. She had to get it. It was prestigious; coveted by every person in her settlement and meant the difference between flourishing and starvation for them all. Her spy in the Mayor’s office let her know today’s outcome would spell success or disaster for the entire project. Miss Lapin had slaved long hours in the computer clinics translating the records to Hareican so she could learn the language as well as the procedures in this country’s native tongue. She had legally changed her name from plain ‘Cottontail’ to the bilingual ‘Lapin’ to deepen the disguise. She’d even implanted a computer chip into the deepest recesses of her brain so it could be hard-wired to the verbal sounds which passed for the spoken language here. Bonnie had to admit her first attempts to speak were absurdly comical. Her friend C.C.—who lived in the other half of the cottage she rented—had laughed so hard she nearly lost her dinner as Bonnie worked for hours to become perfect in speaking and writing the infernal dialect. It had been worth it on graduation day to be in the presence of the Council of the Old Ones, hold a conversation with the Director and his entire Board, and know they’d no idea she wasn’t of their race. She’d been asked the usual graduation questions and had answered them outwardly, at least, with great confidence. Two Board members had even complimented her upon her answers. They’d had no clue she’d been so nervous she’d nearly lost two betraying pellets as she faced this final test. But she’d won the day; the certificate was hers, as was the Stamp of Excellence in the Discipline of Dental Hygiene, signed by the Director and the Board of Governors of Higher Learning. She left her half of the cottage at the edge of the Garden Grove Estates and hurried to the bus stop…another thing she’d had to learn. Everyone used the smelly public transportation vehicles. She could’ve made better time by jogging on her own, but it just wasn’t done. She waited for the contraption to stop and allow her and a few neighbors to get on board. Mrs. Felice Catus and her daughter Kit entered first, their noses in the air as if they were better than everyone. Bonnie didn’t mind, though; besides, they smelled like fish and their personal odor was an abomination to endure. Sir Frawgue climbed on next. Bonnie liked his funny little hop-skip walk which made her think he was a happy person. He didn’t talk much, though; he simply sat and gazed around him looking for something to fly nearby. She had a hard time understanding him, because he mostly made guttural sounds and she couldn’t watch his mouth form the words. She followed Sir Frawgue and his son Kermit on to the conveyance and settled to endure the journey. Looking out the window, Bonnie allowed her mind to wander to the interview ahead. All her credentials were in place, the criteria had been met, but, if Gregorio didn’t notice her and choose her above all others, she would find herself in the stew for sure. Bonnie silently articulated the words of interview answers in her mind so their pronunciation would be perfect. She pridefully practiced her gleaming, perfect smile. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm herself. A few small pellets released from nerves at this juncture would be her undoing. She reviewed her tutoring coaching and sat a little straighter with pride knowing how well she’d completed her teaching blocks on how to brush and floss the patient’s teeth. She’d proudly used her own smile as their model of perfection to emulate. Other trainees had been jealous of her standard of excellence. Bonnie hoped her efforts would gain Gregorio’s notice. If he didn’t notice, she wouldn’t be hired and all would be lost. Bonnie got off the bus, quickly traversed the distance to the admin building, and was delighted to be first in line. Gregorio Lupin motioned for her to come into his office. She rose gracefully although her heart was pounding and made her way to him. He closed the door behind them and reached for her hand. She blushed, but allowed him this privilege. “Ah, Miss Lapin,” he said, a wolfish smile on his face. “You’re so delicate. I’ve been watching you for weeks, and have decided you’d be perfect. If you would but come into my laboratory?” He pointed at another door on the far side of the room and, retaining his grip on her hand, ushered her forward while gazing raptly at her face. “Oh, thanks for your consideration, Mr. Lupin,” she said with a smile. She walked into the lab with her eyes on his handsome face and lustrous smile which was as bright as her own, which gave her another point of pride to inform C.C. with tonight when she got home. “My pleasure, Miss Lapin; I pride myself on finding just the right candidates for my pet projects.” He smiled even wider and held her hand just a shade tighter as he closed the lab door behind them. She turned to look in front of her and gasped with dismay. What she saw caused an entire flurry of pellets to drop from her body but she no longer cared. A huge cauldron was in the middle of the room, bubbling merrily away, with carrot greens poking out the top. The odor of a simmering stew perfumed the air. She looked at him in terror, squirming desperately to dislodge her tightly held hand. “What…what are you doing, Mr. Lupin?” “I’m preparing Rabbit Stew for the staff’s lunch, Miss Lapin. You may have fooled the Board of Governors, but I pride myself on discerning one race from another. Surely you didn’t think a delightfully delectable rabbit even dressed incognito as carefully as you could enter the world of wolves and live to tell the tale!” With that, Miss Bonnie Lapin, Dental Hygiene Honor Graduate and Rabbit Extraordinaire, felt the smallest pain from a very sharp knife as it slit her throat. Lunch would be out of this world.