This week's TCE prompt was "This might not be the best time for getting philosophical."
I dove into completely uncharted waters for this one, and even if it's still wonky in spots (which I shall try to fix), it was a lot of fun to write. Hope you have as much fun reading it! Contains mild swearing**
Peach Cobbler Gone Meaty
If Credence Peaman had even the slightest bit of imagination, he would have stopped flat in his tracks, caught a taxi, and went straight to Lambert International to fly himself back home where he was safe and sound. But, as per usual in stories such as these, poor Cree had only one smidgen—a very tiny smidgen, at that—of imagination, and it was currently employed in the replay of Molina’s fine, fine hit during the game that afternoon, thus pretty much ensuring a twist of fate at which we readers can only shake our heads.
But yes, Cree’s imagination. What a beautiful hit, he thought to himself as a taxi drove past. Looking up and down the cobblestone street—you see, he rather liked that all of St. Louis’s downtown was cobblestone—he wondered which of the shmoozy looking lounges would have vegan-friendly meals. A thick dirt-colored Shetland eyed him nervously, dancing his forelegs and whinnying when Cree crossed in front of the sleek carriages in which tourists liked to take rides. But Cree paid no attention. Horse just doesn’t sound good tonight, but maybe I’m wrong, he thought to himself. Then he wondered why exactly he thought that … and warned himself that days reserved for baseball should not be used for philosophizing. Cree continued, as we say, along his merry way, whistling the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Soon, but not quite soon enough for Cree, he was seated before a nice meal of supposedly vegan-friendly rice and such, in a fairly small, hokey sort of bar with lots of garish neons and loud live music in the adjacent room. The music was loud almost to the point of being obnoxious —in fact, the late-afternoon, early-evening crowd seemed to him a great deal of loud, almost obnoxious types of people, though obviously loyal to their little local joint. This meal, however, was seriously lacking, and did not inspire any grand feelings of loyalty in Mr. Cree Peaman. He looked around for his waitress. Ahh, there she was, talking to the tiny old lady with the brown-gray hair cut in a bowl shape at the end of the booths by the doorway.
“But I swear it, I do, I tell you,” she was saying insistently, her hands laid square beside her untouched food as she spoke to the waitress, “me and my cats, you know, we’re all each other has, I tell you, and they just, well, I tell you, they just aren’t acting right. I tell you, they just aren’t acting right!” And the poor waitress nodded patiently, smacking some gum.
“Yes, Ms. Helen, I believe you. But how is your chicken? Does everything taste alright?”
“I’ll tell you a story; that’ll prove what I’m saying to you. I tell you, they just aren’t acting right. I think it’s moving to this new apartment next to the hotel; all sorts of people, you know, and animals, well, I tell you they just sense things. They just sense things.”
“Of course, Ms. Helen. You just let me know when you need something.” Cree raised his hand for the server, but Ms. Helen pulled her back before she could move too far away.
“I’ll tell you a story, I will,” the little old lady said again, pulling the girl down toward the table, as she was a very little, shrunken old woman who no doubt felt even more so when seated and trying to talk to a person of young and average height who was standing, “and I tell you, you’ll think twice about overlooking my old cats’ warnings. Time was, you lived by making note of what the animals did. I’ll tell you a story, I will. I’ll tell you a story; and, and—" the girl began to look exasperated between her gum chomps. “Ms. Helen—” but she was interrupted.
“One year, when I was a little girl living up north, all the animals went just crazed. Cats disappeared. Horses kicked holes clean through the stables. Calves ran themselves through the kitchen screen door to get inside. Something scared them, I tell you. They just sense things. They sense when there’s evil afoot.” She stopped short, then smiled; looked at the girl bent above her booth table. “Hello, dear,” Ms. Helen said. “I’ll tell you a story, I will.” Her smile was loose and bland now around the edges.
“That’s quite alright, Ms. Helen,” the waitress said, wrenching loose her arm and scooting down the row of booths.
“Werewolves! Werewolves, I tell you! Time was, werewolves walked amongst us!” The Ms. Helen character struggled with her cane. Another waitress sidled up to Ms. Helen’s table and began talking in soft, soothing tones.
“Sorry about that,” the waitress said as she came up to his table. Her nametag read “Peaches.” What kind of young woman has a name like that? “Ms. Helen lives right down the corner, and she’s a favorite of ours, just a little … well, you know,” she tossed her head winningly and laughed, “around the bend, sometimes. But she means well.”
“Right,” Cree said. I suppose the name sort of suits; she looks very good to eat. Then as you can imagine, poor Cree blushed a little and reached for his wallet. Mmmmm, went his hot blooded head, mmmmm, tasty. It seemed as if unimaginative Cree could actually imagine quite a lot. High time he got himself out of there and back to the hotel. Forget demanding to see the cook about the crappy vegan meal, and get out of here. Go to bed early. Yes. He passed her his credit card.
“Thanks Mr. Cree…Cree Peaman,” Peaches said. She stopped smacking gum just long enough to flick her pale eyes at him quickly. “Why, that’s even more unusual than my name, Peaches.”
Much to his surprise (yet perhaps not so much to yours), Cree awoke the next morning face down in dewy grass, in the middle of Forrest Park. His mouth tasted … well frankly, his mouth tasted god-awful. He hadn’t the slightest exactly what it tasted like, but if he were to hazard a guess, his guess would have been cat, crazy old lady, and a finicky Shetland. But that was just if he was to hazard a guess, which he didn’t. He'd had quite enough of imagination and was obliged to avoid guessing at all cost.
Cree pushed himself to a seated position. Looked around. Some bicyclists and runners were out, but it was still quite close to dawn and the park looked quiet and still, for the most part. Good thing, too. Poor Cree had no idea where his clothing was. Luckily the cabbie was a money-focused sort, and didn’t ask any questions.
Despite it's rather discomfiting beginnings, the day was shaping up to be perfect for the second game of a double header weekend. The sky was high and clear, the wind low and sweet, and the sun bright and cheery. Perfect day for a ballgame, Cree thought to himself as he strode into the stadium. He even bought himself a beer without wondering in what manner the hops were harvested or worrying that the plastic cup wasn’t eco-friendly. No philosophizing. He felt positively brazen.
The young woman who’d been his waitress the night before stepped off the bus onto the sidewalk not far from where he stood, halfway between the stadium and the slow Mississippi, debating if he was hungry or not. Yes, very, he realized. Cree began to amble down the hill.
“Hi,” Cree said. It didn’t even feel awkward. Something felt different about him. Something about this city, something about this strangeness of person. Something. “Peaches, right?”
“Actually, that’s just my work nickname,” she said, her walk falling in with his as they headed towards the river, darkness spreading even across the horizon, save for the bright glow of the moon, lounging, waiting. “My real name is Cora. I’d really rather you call me that. And you’re Cree, right?”
“Yeah. Say, Cora … are you going to work, or are you just out and about?”
“Personal day, or night rather. Poke around in some shops, meet up with the girls, whatever. Maybe gamble. Why,” she said flippantly, tossing her shiny, sweet-shampoo-scented hair in the night wind, “you going to ask me out or something?”
“Or something.” And Cree Peaman grinned at poor Peaches-Cora in a way she’d never been grinned at in in all her life. Made her think about all that Ms. Helen had said, later in the night before, when she’d wandered back into the bar, eyes wide and words still full of ominous warnings of folklore.
Peaches-Cora turned just her head slightly toward Cree.
“What do you mean?”
“Hmm?” Cree said absentmindedly, unaware that the sneaking voice in his head was slowly gaining control of his mouth. “Oh, yes. Well, you know ... I am rather hungry.”
One look, one singular look; that was all it took after Cree growled those words. Peaches-Cora took off down the hill in a sprint. Classically, however, she turned her ankle while trying to cross the cobblestone street. But this wasn’t a silly little ankle twist like one sees in the movies, this was hard-core, trying-to-run-in-heels-downhill-over-cobblestone-in-a-skirt-while-being-chased-by-a-wolfman ankle twist. Down she went, cracking her head on a rust colored manhole cover. Blood leaked into the darkness, and then…
Cree Peaman became cree-py wolf. In Cree’s place stretched a huge, growling beast. He gobbled that waitress up right there in the middle of the street, like peach cobbler of all the wrong colors and all the wrong ingredients. As soon as he finished, he lumbered onto his hind legs.
“Weeeerrreeeewoooollf,” a lady screamed from another sidewalk, drunk and yet somehow not only very loud but very believable. Cree—or whoever/whatever he was at that moment—felt a quiver of fear. Werewolf? Did she say werewolf? Where? And he turned this way and that. Unfortunately to passerby, it looked like the creature was whipping itself back and forth into a frenzy. More people screamed, and cell phones began to get dialed by frantic fingers.
Finally, something clicked in that wolfish brain of his that in all his years of peculiar upbringing and odd habits (the bed chains, the raw steaks as a child, his aversion to wolfsbane and silver, the choice to go vegan) had in his human brain never clicked, not once. Then, when he knew the truth of the matter, he peed his pants (though this expression I use just to demonstrate his human side, as his actual pants were in shreds some feet behind him)and then fainted into a crumple of muscled fur and glinting teeth there on the blood mottled cobblestone street.
But as he fainted there occurred a beautiful moment of perfect agreement between man and beast: That was the best damned meal he’d ever had, and if he should ever get out of this mess, he was thoroughly done with that vegan nonsense. Because there were just too many beautiful and delicious things in the world waiting to be eaten.