Meeting: Part I

Characters and Text © 2002, C Sandwalker
Marcus © D Boccabella

"I think I'll take a ride out into the country," Serath said to Lukim over the breakfast table. He took a bite of toast and chewed thoughtfully. "Might be some new ideas for a painting hiding somewhere out there in the wilderness."

Lukim snorted. "I don't think a collection of farms with placid cows can be described as a wilderness." He sipped at his coffee then put the cup down again. "Auckland during rush that is a wilderness. Honking horns, demented drivers, ambulatory accidents waiting to happen." He shook his head with a smile.

"Whatever. Did you get the paper this morning? It wasn't out on the front step when I got the milk in."

"No," came the reply. "Could be the paperboy's bad aim again. Remember the time he swiped that plant off the porch? And when he threw it into the roses? And onto the roof?" Lukim sorted through the various incidents in his mind. "Hmm. You know, his aim has been getting worse over the past month. Think we should complain to his bosses?"

Serath shook his head. "Nah. If we don't, someone else will. Mrs Forsbury at number eleven had hers thrown into her fishpond. Mr Grantly at number thirty-eight got his shredded by his dog when it landed in front of its kennel. I'm rather surprised he's lasted this long." He finished his toast and leaned back in his chair, yawning widely.

"You're not the only one," Lukim replied. He drained his cup then stood up, picking up his plate and knife, and took them to the dishwasher. "I'm going for a quick rest before heading out to do the shopping," he said, padding into the hallway leading to the bedrooms.

"Rest? Yeah, right. I know what you do when you're resting," Serath called after him. He chuckled quietly to himself and began to clear the table, humming under his breath.

Half an hour later, as Serath was hanging the last item of laundry on the line, Lukim emerged from the house, whistling jauntily. "Enjoy your 'rest'?" Serath inquired with a grin on his face. He picked up the laundry basket and began walking back inside.

"Yes, I did. Just ignore the wet spot on the bed, will you? I sort of miscalculated."

Serath rolled his eyes. "Why me?" he moaned to the indifferent sky above in a tragic voice. "Why do I have to put up with cum stains on the bed?" When he lowered his head he was grinning widely.

"Because I'm helping to pay the rent, that's why," Lukim shot back. He covered the few steps to Serath and gave him a hug. "You should be used to it by now."

"That doesn't mean that I have to like washing your semen out of the bedclothes," the smaller wolf complained, though he was smiling as he said it. "On the other hand, it doesd leave a rather intriguing scent."

Lukim chuckled. "That's the spirit. Oh, do you have a spare twenty? I want to rent a couple of videos while I'm at it."

"Must you rent the latest movies?" Serath complained as he climbed up the steps into the house. "They're more expensive, you realise." He disappeared for a couple of minutes before returning with a $20 note. "Could you get me one too? Anything with Dusty Hoffman in it."

"Hmm. I'll have to ask the rental guy to suggest something then. Dusty Hoffman doesn't really ring my bell." Lukim shrugged and gave Serath a quick peck on the muzzle. "Catch you later."

Serath blushed a little inside his ears. "Okay. Don't spend too much on impulse buys."

After the other wolf had left Serath went back inside and collected some sketching supplies together, putting a pad and some coloured pencils, as well as ordinary lead ones, and an eraser into a small backpack. Having done that, he went to the kitchen to put together an easy lunch for himself. Luncheon sandwiches, cheese, fruit, a piece of fruit cake and a bottle of lemonade disappeared into the pack as well.

"Okay, I think that's everything," Serath murmured to himself. He left the house, locking it behind him, and fetched his bike from the shed around the back. "Urrf! Lukim must have used this last," he muttered upon sitting on the now too-high seat. He loosened the adjusting nut and jiggled the seat down to a more comfortable position. "Much better." Serath pushed off and put his feet on the pedals to propel it. "Needs oil too," he said rhetorically, hearing an irritating squeak from the rear wheel.

He rode out onto the street and headed for the service station in the centre of town; he'd have to get that squeak seen to before it drove him nuts.

The feline assistant that greeted him when he rode in was very helpful, fixing the squeak on only seconds. "Thanks, mate," the wolf said with a wave as he left. "Any time," came the reply.

A few minutes later, having dodged through morning traffic, Serath was riding comfortably along a straight country road at a reasonably quick pace. The cool breeze blew through his fur, making him shiver now and again. Cows standing in the paddocks on either side looked up from their grass munching then went back to their task at hand, totally uninterested in him.

A small pond glided by on his right, and he stopped to inspect it further. The water was dark blue, almost navy. Around the edges grew fat cat-tails, which waved to and fro in the breeze. A group of Muscovy ducks paddled contentedly in the middle. Serath got off his bike and wandered over to lean on the fence. In his mind's eye he pictured a canvas, with a large lake, rather than a pond, featuring black and white swans instead of ducks. The sky, rather than being the clear blue it was now, he pictured as a glowing sunrise. "This'll do," Serath murmured to himself, pulling his bike into the long grass at the side of the road. He took off his backpack and removed the pad and a lead pencil. Clambering up onto the broad wooden fence he began to sketch, looking up now and then to get another visual fix.

Cars went by on the road, and Serath ignored them all, glancing behind him only if a particularly noisy vehicle went by. On his pad appeared simple lines, grouped together to form meaningful sequences. The little scene in front of him gradually took shape on the blank white paper. The ducks, obviously, kept moving, so Serath left them to last.

In less than an hour he had the scene captured on paper. As yet it was uncoloured - the colouring could wait until he stopped for lunch around one o'clock. With a contented smile Serath packed his pad and pencil away and pulled his bike back onto the road. A final look at the pond, then he set off.

By lunchtime the artistic wolf had sketched a wintering barn half-filled with round hay bales, and a field of cows grazing. "That's enough," he said to himself as he unpacked his lunch. He sat down on the lush grass on the verge of the road, watching the slow movements of the cows in the paddock. One of them, a Jersey, came over and inspected him, chewing her cud idly, watching him with her big brown eyes. She stood there, just watching, for a few minutes, before she tired of that activity and went back to grazing instead. "Thank goodness for that," Serath remarked to himself. "I really don't like cows staring at me like that; makes me feel as if I'm a criminal or something."

When he'd finished his lunch the wolf packed his litter away in his backpack, and mounted his bike to begin the long ride back home. He'd come at least thirty kilometres in his search for inspirational material, and he had to get back home to prepare dinner for himself and Lukim.

The ride went smoothly for the first few minutes. A few cars went past; a couple narrowly missed him, forcing him onto the rough verge, much to his disgust. "Mongrels!" he yelled after the second one. "Makes me wonder how people get their licenses," he muttered sourly.

He rounded another corner, and found himself staring at a fast oncoming car, obviously overtaking on the corner on the off chance that it would be clear. A sudden panic, tempered with cool-headedness, washed through Serath's body on the wings of adrenalin. "Oh shit!" Serath swore, twisting the handlebars in an effort to avoid collision. He felt the wind of the car as the driver swerved his car to avoid him, accompanied by a small shower of gravel as the car hit loose gravel.

"Damn, that was close!" the wolf muttered silently, trying to regain purchase on the road. His bike wobbled dangerously, the tires just a little too close to the ditch beside the road.

Serath suddenly found his balance failing as the bike decided to yield to the demands of fate and gravity. The tires slipped as the bike went over, tumbling the young wolf off his bike; the metal frame fell over onto his body as both crashed into the water-filled ditch with a splash.

"Owww," Serath mumbled, his body battered and bruised, his mind a confused turmoil. "What the hell...?" Before he could fully take stock of his situation, the bike shifted position, and the handlebars whacked him on the head, putting an end to his thoughts.

On to Part 2