Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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27-Nov-2020

Welcome to today’s entry of Holiday Flash Fiction Friday!

Once again, things have gone a little dark. Or maybe twisted is a better description.

Rudy the Glowing Red Human

Today’s Flash Fiction Friday is brought to you by:
Decorating Cookies
Reindeer
and
Wild Rice

“Mama, where did all the humans go?”

“We don’t know. They disappeared one Christmas night long ago.”

“The silent night.”

“That’s right.”

“Is this what they really looked like?”

“Well, all we have are a few old depictions, but we do know that this is their general shape. They had a head, a body, two forelegs and two back legs.”

“Did they walk like us?”

“We don’t think so. Our scientists believe they only walked on their back legs.”

“They must have been realllllly tall.”

“Perhaps.”

“Did they have fur?”

“Just on the top of their head.”

“Is that why you put brown frosting right there?”

“Yes.”

“Were they blue?”

“They wore coverings over their skin. Without fur they got very cold.”

“They should have had fur. They probably wouldn’t have died if they’d had fur.”

“I think the coverings are quite clever. Do you remember the story of the silent night?”

“A little. The humans felt sorry for our ancestors, so they said we didn’t have to pull the big red sleigh anymore. Instead, the humans wanted to do it to show how strong they were.”

“And?”

“Could humans fly?”

“No, they could not.”

“Then how did they pull the sleigh? I thought they had machines.”

“The machines had failed, and humans had instead turned to honing their bodies.”

“Honing?”

“Improving.”

“Why?”

“So they could do all the things they liked to do, like build buildings to live in, make coverings for their bodies, play games—”

“Did they play reindeer games?”

“I don’t know.”

“They did. They had to. Reindeer games are the best.”

“What if they had human games?”

“They might be okay. What happened with the sleigh?”

“You see this sleigh?”

“It’s a cookie.”

“So it is. Use your imagination.”

“Okay.”

“After the machines failed, many humans changed their bodies so they could fly. Most died quickly, but some survived.”

“Why are you putting eight humans in front of the sleigh?”

“They wanted to celebrate their winter festival, and for that, they needed the red sleigh to fly. Eight humans said they would change their bodies so they could fly. It was a great sacrifice. Even now we remember their names, Asher, Tegan, Brooklyn and Griffin. Bridget, David, Conner, and Tristan.”

“What about Rudy?”

“I’m getting to that. As the winter festival approached, a great darkness covered the land. So dark, that the eight humans couldn’t see enough to fly and not run into things, or go right out into space.”

“They could go into space?”

“Some did. They did not return.”

“Cool. Is that when the glowing one came?”

“Yes. One human, his skin glowing bright, volunteered to change so he could fly too. Then he could lead the others all around the world.”

“How bright was he?”

“Legend says that they could see him from the horizon.”

“Whoa. But then he exploded, right?”

“Correct. Sometime during that night, far away from here, the light got so bright and so hot that it burned all of the humans away. It raced around the earth, and when we awoke the next morning, all of the humans were gone.”

“Why didn’t it burn us?”

“We don’t know.”

“Were there ashes left? Like, piles of human ashes?”

“Not according to the legends.”

“They maybe they’re not dead.”

“It’s been hundreds of years, and we haven’t seen a real human since that night.”

“Maybe they’re, like, invisible.”

“Surely they would have communicated by now.”

“Maybe they can’t. Maybe they’re like ghosts.”

“If they were ghosts, they’ve all moved on now.”

“Do you believe they’re really gone?”

“Yes. I do.”

“Can I frost the glowing one?”

“Of course.”

“What color did he glow?”

“Bright red.”

“Cool. Can I eat one of the other humans?”

“Not until your siblings get home.”

“What about a wild rice biscuit?”

“You know those are for dinner.”

“Please?”

“You’ll have to wait.”

“But whyyyyyy?”

Holiday Flash Fiction Categories!

Tradition:

  1. Decorating cookies
  2. Picking out a Christmas Tree
  3. Driving around looking at lights
  4. Staying up until midnight to hear the church bells ring
  5. Going into the woods to cut down your own tree
  6. Watching favorite holiday films
  7. Taking one of the men playing around with the deep fryer (while trying to cook an additional “better” turkey) to the ER for 2nd and 3rd degree burn
  8. PJ pictures on or near the stairs of all the kids Christmas morning
  9. The family sleeping around the Christmas tree the Friday before Christmas
  10. Christmas stockings made by grandma

Object:

  1. A Rabid Snowman
  2. Reindeer
  3. An old nutcracker
  4. Grandma’s crotched snowflakes
  5. Advent Calendar
  6. Krampus’ switch
  7. The heirloom tatted ornament that has been dunked in sugar water, starched, , and modge podged so many times it’s hard to tell what it originally was…(resembles an oblong Easter egg that’s been scrambled) but it’s been out for every Christmas since the oldest family member remembers, it’s tradition
  8. Wooden Christmas signs bought at Ensign
  9. Christmas village on the fireplace
  10. Death Star tree-topper

Food:

  1. Gluten Free Gingerbread
  2. Fruitcake
  3. Cranberry Jell-o Salad
  4. Homemade divinity
  5. Christmas crack chocolate
  6. Christmas Kibble (a cookie that looks like kibble)
  7. Aspic Salad
  8. Wild Rice
  9. Raspberry cream cheese desert
  10. Christmas sugar cookies

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Random Act of Fiction: Restoration

I found this gem in a long-forgotten folder in my Dropbox.

If I remember right, I wrote this story for a writing group many years ago. This version is really short, so maybe I wrote something different in the end.

The prompt was a picture like the one below. Actually, this might be the picture. How many abandoned ballrooms have a single chair sitting in the middle?

This is unedited, so please forgive the errors.

I looked at the empty, dilapidated ball room and wondered if the original owner had been on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland before they had designed it, or not.

The single chair sitting in the middle of the cracked up dance floor was a nice touch.

I half expected to see a woman dressed in a flowing, blue gown mournfully crying that she hadn’t been asked to dance all of the dances to float across the floor. Either that or a clown. Because, well, you know, clowns are creepy. And a single chair hanging out all by itself could only be a sign of bad things to come.

Like buying this place with the intent to fix it up.

Who’s idea had that been anyway?

I heard the clomping of the idea master’s heels before she rounded the corner. “What do you think?” Marci asked as she handed me a bottle of water.

I took it and used it to point to the gargantuan sky light. “I think we should for sure put some strobe lights outside and have a rave for the opening of the hotel.”

She gave me that squished face, “whatever” look that she only reserved for my more sarcastic moments. After what seemed like an extra long squishy face, she put her arm around my waist and snuggled up next to me. “Oh come on, it’ll be fun.”

If by fun she meant it would take us two days—if we were lucky—just to get to the original tile of the floor then yes, it would be a blast. Who didn’t love scraping biological weapons off of a rotting floor?

“Sure,” I said. “Super fun.”

Marci laughed. “Won’t it be beautiful after we restore it?”

I had to admit, it would be. But it would be more beautiful if someone else was doing the restoring. I never should have demonstrated my sculpting skills in the first three years of marriage. Bad idea. Duly noted.

Marci let go of me and started across the floor, her heels leaving little pock marks in the dust. “Imagine the parties we could throw.”

“Sure,” I said, “We can wind flowers around the pillars and hang vines from the ceilings. Every Friday night is Grecian night.”

I got a glare for that one. We were apparently way past squishy face.

So I put on my dutiful husband face and looked around again. The pillars rose toward the arches that ran along the room. Cris crossed ribbon patterns adorned the stonework, making me wonder how those ribbon wielding teams had ever gotten their sport into the Olympics. The three windows at the far end of the room were rectangles with half circles on top. If I squinted I could make out three eyeballs watching the lone chair. Waiting.

Oh great, now I was getting the creeps.


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20-Nov-2020

Welcome to today’s Holiday Flash Fiction!

I pretty much hate Salli, who put Aspic salad on her list of Christmas foods. I can’t unsee it, and I can’t get the horrible, imagined taste of it out of my mouth.

Scroll to the end for a picture…

Traditions are basically torture from dead people.

Today’s Flash Fiction Friday is brought to you by:
Picking out a Christmas Tree
An Old Nutcracker
and
Aspic Salad

“Trista, bring the nutcracker over here!”

I flinched at my dad’s over-enthusiastic tone, and the way it carried through the entire Christmas tree lot.

“Yeah, Trista, bring the nutcracker over here,” my sister, Erin said in a high-pitched voice.

“At least I’m not wearing that ridiculous scarf.”

Erin glared at me with her green eyes and started to shove the scarf into her coat.

“Dad!” I shouted.

“Stop,” Erin hissed. I took a great deal of smug satisfaction as she pulled the hand-knitted, bright red and green complete with sequin snowflakes and four inch fringe hanging off the ends scarf back out. Even from here I could smell the old on it.

“This thing belongs in a museum,” Erin muttered as she wrinkled her nose.

“So does this.” I held up the nutcracker. It resembled a soldier with a red coat, black hat, and what had once been white fuzzy hair. The colors had faded in its hundred-year existence, and most of the hair had fallen out or clumped together.

“Trista?” That was our mom’s voice. She sounded almost as excited as dad.

“Come on,” I said. “They’re going to keep yelling until we find a tree.” I pushed past Erin, along with a couple who had a trail of little kids behind them, and went toward our parent’s voices.

“I’m still not clear how this scarf and that nutcracker are supposed to help us find the perfect tree,” Erin said.

“You and me both.”

A gasp sounded, and I stopped. The frozen ground crunched beneath my boots, and my breath made clouds of white before me. The gasp had sounded familiar. I turned my head to the side and glared through the row of Christmas trees.

Of course Melinda would be here, along with her pack of mean girls. Her bright eyes sparkled, and her perfect lips curled into a cruel smile. “Nice nutcracker, Trista,” Melinda said with a sneer in her voice.

Before I could decide between a nonchalant response and a sarcastic retort, Erin walked into my, throwing me off balance and onto the ground. My hands flew out to catch me, and the nutcracker hit the dirt with a crunch.

What new torture would our parents unleash on us if it was broken? I scooped it up and jumped to my feet.

Melinda was laughing.

Erin shrugged. “Sorry.”

My hands shook from anger and embarrassment. “Watch where you’re going.” Without looking at Melinda, her minions, or my sister, I turned and started again for our parents. A quick inspection of the nutcracker showed a chip taken out of the base. Nothing a little putty and paint couldn’t handle. I wrapped my fingers around the spot to conceal it and gritted my teeth as Erin ran to catch up.

She said nothing.

I said nothing.

If our parents caught us fighting they’d make us say ten nice things about one another. I’d run out of sincere things to say on Thanksgiving. December was going to be a long month.

“There you are!” My dad threw his arms out in welcome when we turned onto the row where he waited.

“Why didn’t we burn that coat last year?” Erin asked.

“Put it on the list this year,” I said. The over-sized Santa coat had seen almost as many years as the nutcracker. At least it didn’t smell as bad as the scarf.

Mom stood next to dad, a knowing smile on her face.

What were they up to?

“I think we found it.” Dad pointed at tall blue spruce. “Test it.” His smile got wider.

Did he love doing this every year, or was he just out to get me?

“Test it, test it,” mom chanted.

Other people gave us a wide berth. I pulled the collar of my coat up higher and held the nutcracker out. If I ever had kids, I would not force them to do this. I tilted the nutcracker to the side, then back, as if he were judging the tree’s worthiness.

“Well?” Mom asked.

I really wanted to say, “It’s good.” However, if I did that we’d be here all night. So I used the lever behind the nutcracker to move his mouth. “It is good and straight and true. The color is blue. It is the right tree for you.”

Erin snorted.

My dad beamed as if I’d just learned to ride a bike and clapped his hands together. Then he pointed at Erin. “Anoint the tree!”

She rolled her eyes, but quickly removed the scarf from her neck and wrapped it around the tree. Like me, she looked as if she would rather be finished, but also like me, she played along. “We anoint this tree to be our Christmas tree. May it bring pine scent, many needles, and perhaps a squirrel into our home.”

Mom clapped this time.

“We go!” Dad cried as he picked up the tree and started to haul it toward the cashier. “Tonight as we entrench this tree into our home, we will feast up on the Aspic salad!”

Erin moved up next to me. “What’s Aspic salad?”

“Googling now,” I said. After two tries—how did you spell Aspic—I brought up a picture.

“Why?” Erin asked.

I gagged.

“Is that tomato jello? Is that what mom was making earlier?”

“And shrimp,” I said.

“Our parents hate us.”

I glanced ahead. They were talking to one another. Ignoring us. I looked at Erin. “Apparently. Ideas for getting out of this?”

“That don’t involve getting in trouble for fighting?”

I nodded.

“No. You?”

I shook my head and steeled myself against the Christmas cheer to come.

***

This is tomato and shrimp aspic salad…no, just no…
Google if you want more gag reflex inducing images.

Holiday Flash Fiction Categories!

Tradition:

  1. Decorating cookies
  2. Picking out a Christmas Tree
  3. Driving around looking at lights
  4. Staying up until midnight to hear the church bells ring
  5. Going into the woods to cut down your own tree
  6. Watching favorite holiday films
  7. Taking one of the men playing around with the deep fryer (while trying to cook an additional “better” turkey) to the ER for 2nd and 3rd degree burn
  8. PJ pictures on or near the stairs of all the kids Christmas morning
  9. The family sleeping around the Christmas tree the Friday before Christmas
  10. Christmas stockings made by grandma

Object:

  1. A Rabid Snowman
  2. Reindeer
  3. An old nutcracker
  4. Grandma’s crotched snowflakes
  5. Advent Calendar
  6. Krampus’ switch
  7. The heirloom tatted ornament that has been dunked in sugar water, starched, , and modge podged so many times it’s hard to tell what it originally was…(resembles an oblong Easter egg that’s been scrambled) but it’s been out for every Christmas since the oldest family member remembers, it’s tradition
  8. Wooden Christmas signs bought at Ensign
  9. Christmas village on the fireplace
  10. Death Star tree-topper

Food:

  1. Gluten Free Gingerbread
  2. Fruitcake
  3. Cranberry Jell-o Salad
  4. Homemade divinity
  5. Christmas crack chocolate
  6. Christmas Kibble (a cookie that looks like kibble)
  7. Aspic Salad
  8. Wild Rice
  9. Raspberry cream cheese desert
  10. Christmas sugar cookies

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Random Act of Fiction

I’ve been stumped on what to blog about for the past few weeks, so you might get more of these random things I’ve written.

This is the first chapter of a Super Secret Agent (Babes in Spyland) story I wrote for Nanowrimo a few years ago. It makes me giggle!

It’s never been edited, so please excuse the choppiness and the spelling/grammatical errors I missed.

Chapter 1

This is the cover for the original story, no longer in print.

Sunshine pressed into the trees, sending dark shadows onto the ground. Shadows where anything could be hiding.

Super Secret Agent Bunnynose crouched behind a rock, peering around the edge of the jagged stone, her eyes searching for her prey.

“Anything?” Super Secret Milkshakes’ voice asked in Bunnynose’s ear.

“Negative,” Bunnynose said. She let go of the barrel of the giant tranquilizer gun and smacked a mosquito off of her neck. “You?” she asked Milkshakes as she wiped the remains of the blood sucking insect on her jeans.

“Nope.”

Bunnynose grit her teeth, then glared as a familiar chuckle came through her earpiece.

“Are you laughing?” Bunnynose asked.

“Maybe.”

“This isn’t really funny.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Milkshakes said. Bunnynose could imagine her fellow agent scratching her chin for dramatic effect. “We are literally out here trying to find a kitty cat.”

“Excuse me?” Bunnynose asked, leaning the other way to check the dirt path. “Kitty cat?”

“You know, like they used to show in old stories. Fire or police men rescuing a cat from a tree.”

“Those were actually kittens,” Bunnynose said, looking the other way again. “Not several hundred pounds of lost cougar.”

“They said she’s docile.”

Bunnynose snorted. “Yeah, right.”

“You still have your back-up pistol, don’t you?”

“Course,” Bunnynose said. “Like I’m going to trust some tranquilizer gun. If I’m about to get eaten, that kitty cat, as you call her, will have a whole new set of problems.”

Milkshakes sighed. “We’re supposed to take her back alive.”

“Unharmed,” Bunnynose said. “The contract said unharmed. But I’m not one to quibble.” She smacked another mosquito. “I’m getting eaten alive out here.”

“You should have eaten that broccoli. I’ve heard they don’t like the smell.”

“Neither do I, which is why I didn’t—”

“Hold up,” Milkshakes said.

Bunnynose straightened, staying behind the rock. “You have contact?”

“Yeah. She’s in the brush on the north side of the trail. Heading right for you.”

Bunnynose looked up and noted the direction the wind was pushing the leaves above. “I’m going to be upwind of her. She’ll smell me.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“Yeah, you can be my distraction.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Totally. Now go get the kitty’s attention, and don’t shoot her.”

“I’ll shoot whoever I want,” Bunnynose grumbled as she glanced at the rock. A quick inspection and a few seconds was all it took for her to be on top of it, pulling the giant weapon off of her back and aiming it at the trail. For good measure, Bunnynose took a protein bar out of her pocket, pulled off the wrapper and tossed it ten yards down the path, toward Milkshakes.

Sweat began to trickle down Bunnynose’s back and through her hair, but she didn’t move. A few seconds later, the twittering birds and rustling rodents went silent.

The brush from the direction Milkshakes had indicated began to rustle. A moment later, the light brown fur of the cougar emerged. First a paw, then a nose, then the rest of her.

Bunnynose gave her radio one tap.

Milkshakes answered with one of her own.

The cougar was smaller than Bunnynose would have imagined, but the sleek muscles under her taunt fur told Bunnynose that this animal, while supposedly house trained, could chase her down and kill her without having to breathe very hard.

It took a moment for Bunnynose to remember the cougar’s name.

Nancy.

Who named a giant killing machine Nancy?

She gave herself the luxury of an internal eye roll as she watched Nancy stop and sniff the air around her.

Bunnynose already had the tranquilizer gun up and ready, but she didn’t want to shoot from this far away. She had no idea how accurate the weapon was, or how far it would really go. Nancy’s owner had said it would shoot accurately at fifty paces, which made Bunnynose believe that the man had gotten it off of D-Bay from someone who had found it at a garage sale.

Nancy’s nostrils flared, and her ears twitched. Bunnynose couldn’t see the cat’s tail, but it was probably twitching as well.

“Come on,” Bunnynose whispered as she willed Nancy to notice the protein bar.

Again, the owner had assured the agents that Nancy would come right too them if they had one of her favorite treats. Peanut butter and chocolate with nuts. Bunnynose had been tempted to eat it herself, but had refrained. Even though she and Milkshakes had only had time for a gas station stop on their way here. Bahama Mama’s only went so far in the realm of hunger satisfaction. Plus, their pebble ice machine had been busted.

“Why are we here again?” she muttered.

“Because Mud needs a favor from this guy.”

“Why am I always on favor duty?”

“You’re just really luckily.”

Nancy took two steps forward, exposing her whole body.

Bunnynose was a millisecond from tapping her radio to tell Milkshakes that Nancy was in place, when the cat stopped, and then sat.

Suddenly looking bored, Nancy raised a paw and licked the side of it. Then, as only a cat can, she began cleaning her head.

It if didn’t look so cute, Bunnynose would have groaned.

“What’s going on?” Milkshakes whispered.

“Apparently it’s bath time,” Bunnynose said. She watched Nancy, but the cat gave no indication that she heard the agents.

“Did you put the bait out?”

Bunnynose tapped once.

“Did you unwrap it?”

Another tap.

“Is Nancy cleaning her head?”

Tap.

“Are you still mad about the pebble ice?”

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Oh, I know you hate me. But you’ll forgive me when we go and get some ice cream.”

Three more taps.

“And fries.”

Bunnynose glared at nothing in particular. While she liked Milkshakes, the other woman could be infuriating. What made it worse was that Milkshakes was almost always right.

Once Nancy had finished with her head, she suddenly turned and started licking her back, in a display that would have made any Yoga instructor envious.

“Still cleaning?” Milkshakes asked.

Tap.

“Can you get to her?”

Tap. Tap.

“You got on that rock, didn’t you?”

Bunnynose sighed. Tap.

“Okay, I’ll come up from behind, but if she stops tell me.”

Tap.

Bunnynose kept her eyes on the cat, but also watched for moving brush. Milkshakes had offered to take the lower half of the little wooded area, so now she would have to climb back up.

The distance between her and the cat had to be at least thirty yards. The protein bar lay only ten yards from Bunnynose. She once again willed the cat to come for it.

At that moment, Nancy stopped cleaning, and Bunnynose saw the brush about twenty yards beyond the cat move.

Bunnynose tapped the radio once.

The bushes went still.

Nancy’s tail whipped back and forth, hitting the hard dirt path with an audible thump.

Bunnynose sighed and glanced back at her perch. Maybe she could get down without making too much noise, but it would have to be on the far side of the rock, and she didn’t want to leave the cat of her sight for that long.

A gust of wind hit Bunnynose, from behind. She smiled when a moment later, Nancy’s nostrils flared again. The cat’s attention turned to the path, and her eyes landed on the protein bar. She licked her chops.

It took another ten seconds of looking bored before Nancy rose to all fours and began to pad toward the treat. As if she knew she was being hunted—and Bunnynose wouldn’t be at all surprised—Nancy varied her pace and direction, approaching the protein bar as if she had no idea it was there.

Where did cats get that from?

Bunnynose shook her head and lowered her eye to the sight of the tranquilizer gun. Nancy got bigger, and Bunnynose could see the feline’s dark eyes through the scope.

Bunnynose had been through a lot of strange things in her life, many of which had left her a little paranoid. She didn’t deny it when the others poked fun at her for it, which they did less and less, because her paranoia kept saving them. So to look in the cat’s eyes, Bunnynose recognized the look of caution.

Nancy did know they were there, and she knew that this was a trap.

So why come out?

Bunnynose opened her other eye and glanced around, wondering if this was some elaborate trick. Was Mud still angry about her getting caught by Lady Cluck? That had been months ago. And Bunnynose had practically been a model agent since then.

Well, except for the ultimate fighter tournament. But she’d been undercover. It wasn’t her fault she’d actually won.

Bunnynose tapped twice. Then once.

Tap.

Milkshakes could see it too.

“Let me try,” Milkshakes said softly. “Cover me.”

Bunnynose didn’t bother to ask of the other woman was crazy. They all knew the answer to that one.

Nancy had arrived at the protein bar. She glanced one way, then another, before putting her head down and gobbling up the treat.

Bunnynose once again closed an eye and watched as Nancy chewed. Just like most dogs, the big cat began to lick her own mouth, probably trying to get every last ounce of peanut butter frosting.

“You soaked that, right?” Milkshakes asked.

Tap.

“Good.”

The last year had seen vast improvements in the SSA’s science department. Mostly due to she and Sugar Lips having saved the mad scientist from Lady Cluck. He’d send her the formula for a fast acting downer that she’d then soaked the bar in. He claimed it would work in less than five minutes. Looking at the cat’s eyes glaze over, Bunnynose would have to tell him that it took less than two. Even for several hundred pounds of cat.

The bushes moved again.

Nancy flicked an ear, but kept licking.

Agent Milkshakes emerged. Like always she was dressed in form fitting but stretchable jeans, knee high boots and a graphic t-shirt. This one had a Doctor Whom reference on it.

“Good kitty,” Milkshakes said in a soothing voice.

Nancy’s ears both went back.

“That’s right, I’m back here.”

Milkshakes kept going forward. Slowly, but steadily.

Bunnynose’s finger moved to the trigger of the tranquilizer gun. If nothing else, she would get the big cat’s attention before her partner lost a limb.

Milkshakes had another bar in her hand, this one also soaked.

“Look what I have for you,” Milkshakes said.

Nancy finally turned her head all the way around and regarded Milkshakes.

“Good kitty,” Milkshakes said again. “You want this?” She waved the bar.

Nancy flicked her tail a couple of times.

“Keep that gun ready,” Milkshakes said in the same, soothing voice.”

Tap.

Milkshakes got closer, going in a lazy circle about ten feet away from Nancy. If she was afraid, she was doing a good job of not showing it.

Nancy’s head followed Milkshakes. Her eyes finally settling on the bar.

“You want this?” Milkshakes asked. She crouched down and held it out.

Bunnynose grit her teeth as Nancy approached.

The great cat slinked forward, staying low to the ground, watching.

Milkshakes managed to look a little bored.

Nancy kept coming, apparently the appeal of a second treat too much to pass up.

Bunnynose could relate. But she kept her finger ready.

“You’re a good girl, aren’t you?” Milkshakes said.

Nancy took another step forward, then another, until her nose was inches away from the bar. Her great tongue came out of her mouth and licked it.

“Oh, you like the frosting the most?” Milkshakes asked. “Well, I don’t blame you.”

Nancy sat on the ground and continued to lick. Her head seemed to get heavier and heavier.

“There you go,” Milkshakes said as she reached at and scratched Nancy between the ears. Nancy froze, and Bunnynose could have sworn she heard a growl. But Milkshakes kept scratching. And, after a moment, the cat continued with the bar.

Milkshakes waved Bunnynose down.

Bunnynose climbed back down and came around the rock, the gun still raised.

“You’re not going to need that,” Milkshakes said. She smiled.

Bunnynose didn’t lower the weapon. She circled around, noting that Nancy’s ear twitched once. But the cat stayed put.

“Who’s a good girl?” Milkshakes asked again.

A low rumble came from the cat.

“Is she purring?” Bunnynose asked, finally lowering the gun.

“She is.” Milkshakes grinned. “Come scratch her head.”

Bunnynose came up next to Milkshakes, and saw that Nancy was almost out. She reached out and pushed her fingers into the cougar’s fur.

She’d expected it to be rough, but then she remembered where the beast had come from, which meant this cat probably got more in the way of beauty treatment in one month than Bunnynose did in a year.

The purring grew louder.

“She likes you,” Milkshakes said.

“She’s on drugs.”

Nancy’s tail began to twitch.

Bunnynose pulled her hand away. She knew what that meant. She stood and put her hand to the radio on her neck. “We have the target.”

“Is my baby alright?” a man’s frantic voice asked.

Bunnynose sighed. “She’s fine. Almost asleep.”

“Oh thank goodness.”

Bunnynose looked back to share an eye roll with milkshakes, but found Nancy right in front of her. It took everything she had not to yelp and jump back.

Nancy regarded her, and with stumbling steps, bumped her head against Bunnynose’s leg, then pushed her whole body past Bunnynose.

“You’ve been marked,” Milkshakes said with a grin.

Bunnynose glared at the cat, now flopped down in the sun, dozing. “She just knows I’m allergic.”

“Probably.”


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