The 'Taur Next Door
by J.L. Atwood


Well, hell. Where do I start this story? I guess I could start by introducing myself. I'm Justyn Jones, a 22-year old wolf attending Berkshire college on the eastern seaboard of the American continent. I'm a marketing major (exciting, I know... but my parents are paying my way) with a minor in English... scholarship student for track... pretty much a mid-B student. Just your average Joe, ya know?

For looks? Well, like I said, I'm a track runner. So, long and lanky... a medium gray coloring mostly, with a bit of light fur under the chin. I wear the mop I call headfur in sorta a skater cut. Mostly 'cuz my mom seems to hate it.

I know, I know... get on with the story. I'm getting to it! Geez. I'm almost done setting up... Anyway, I come from a wolf community (a.k.a. Pack) in southern New England. My parents are big on pack values... you know, go to school, do good... come back home to the community. Devote all your time to helping your family and friends. All supportive like... and very narrow-minded, in some ways. If it doesn't fit in with the local views... it's just isn't done.

The story begins my junior-senior year (one of those in-between times). A new semester had rolled around, bringing in new students. And track was just about to start up again. Due to grades, I'd lapsed a year, so I'd not gone out for a while... and under threat of my scholarship, I'd been told to go back. So, I threw my shit in a bag, and wandered my way down to the fieldhouse to touch base with the coach.

The hike down to the 'house, which was all downhill, gave me plenty of time to scope out the incoming students. Past the dining hall I wandered, where some of my co-workers were sprawled out on the steps before their shift started. Several of them hollered out to me, askin' where I was going, if I was working tonight. I told 'em I was going down for track tryouts. Simon, a lapine, let out a whoop and called out something 'bout saying hello to the new 'kat that was down there. That she was a real looker. Something about how he said it made me think twice, but.... Hell. Me and my last girlfriend had split two semesters ago, and I was getting pretty desperate for any sort of female company. Besides... she ran track. As long as she wasn't ugly as hell, we'd have something to talk about.

The day looking up, I crossed main street, and broke into a jog and made time down to my destination. The college 'house, past the practicing fields and car lot. Inside, up three flights of stairs, and all the way to the back. His aide was in, and told me Coach Bernhart was out in the field already. So, back down I went, cursing that I didn't check there first.

I found Coach, who was a graying stag deep in his prime, in a knot of 'runners, giving a lecture of some sort that broke up just as I got there. Dammit. Late, the first day. I got one of Coaches grimaces, and he reached out to give my shoulder a shake. "Justyn... really."

"I know, Coach, sorry. I got behind in Chem Lab."

"Ah, well. Get out there... warm up. You been keeping in shape, training." It wasn't exactly a question. More a warning me not to tell him otherwise.

"Yeah. Not as much as I should have, but I'm not that out of shape.”

And with that, I departed his company before he gave me an earful. One I deserved. I sat on the grass, minding my tail, and carefully went over my pads for burrs and cuts. Then I layered on my cleats, fastening them carefully on 'round my pads and claws. Next the tape... I stood up, and began the warming stretches that everyone else was going through. Some with coach looming over them to make certain they did it right.

I was just starting my first warm-up lap, when I got the surprise of my life. Something... something shot by me. A bright yellow blur, which to any track runner screamed 'cheetah'. Cheetahs have their own classes in running, in sprint... but this was like no cheetah I'd ever seen. Something 'bout the way it was running.... That's when it dawned on me that it was ...on all fours. No one runs on all fours. Sure, you can, if your hands are used to it... but it's awkward and slower. This was by no means slow. Losing my stride, I fell off to the side to watch this blur... and then I saw why it looked so strange, as it hit the turn, and began the circle. It... it was a taur!!! One of the least common forms of furs, there was maybe three on the entire campus. And here was number four, running her heart out. Coming to a stop, I watched her fling herself down at the end, panting, in that way that cheetahs have. An amused chuckle came from just above my ear.

"Pretty amazing, isn't shi?" I glanced up at Coach, who was looking bemused at my expression... which I can only imagine to be something akin to shock.

"Y-Yeah... who is she?"

“Chakat Windchaser. Shi answers to Windy. Don't you know her?" He asks, bemusedly, as I suddenly feel like some equimorph just whooped me between the eyes.

"That's... Windy?"

Perhaps here's is a good time for a couple of flashbacks: The first is when I'm five: my parents are excited about something, talking with a few other wolves from the pack on our lawn. I'm out there, tussling with my brothers and sister. They're staring up the block, where a van is parked. I happen to stop, and look up just as one of the new neighbors happened to come out, to get something from the van. It was the strangest creature I had ever seen, almost like someone had stuck two halves of different creatures together. "Mama, what're those?" I remember asking, tugging at my mother's pantsleg.

"Chakats." I remember the reply coming. And it wasn't a good tone. One full of disgust, and something else. I learned later that Chakat Windracer and hir two mates, Chakats Chartip and Iceflake had recently moved to the area when Wind had gotten a good job nearby. The pack never really welcomed them in, even though they remained genial neighbors for many years and then eventually moved on to a different part of town. I remember Windy, a golden ball of fluff who would try to play with us sometimes. Usually we got along pretty good until the wolven parents called their children inside on some pretext of chores.

The second would be high school, when I learned something else about chakats. The fact that they were herms. Windy ran on the woman's track team, on the argument that she... shi... looked more female than male. But, I remember that shi often chose to change separate from the rest of the girls, because shi made them uncomfortable. I remember her as a 'kat still shedding the baby fat of cubhood, all legs and feet. Shi never seemed to have many 'special' friends, male or female. But then... high school was an awkward time and in my school, not too many folks came out of the closet to admit they even liked the same sex. And Windy was both... any guy or girl dating hir would get sidelong looks. Though, shi never really seemed to lack for friends.

And, here shi was again. Windy. 'Chase. The baby fat long gone, and leaving behind a long-limbed, graceful, and very beautiful creature. As shi rose up from her sprawl, and wandered this way, I felt my heart skip a beat. As I remembered of chakats, hir chest had filled out to a very promising size and hir short headfur a curly bob, a very attractive feature. A second later, I mentally kicked myself. Shi was as much guy as girl... what was I thinking? I'd never even looked sideways at another guy.... Shi had that side too. But, man... shi was tempting. Shi flicked her towel back over hir shoulder, and eyed me curiously.

"Uh, hi... " Shi said to me, "You're staring... at me. Never seen a chakat before?"

"Uh." I said brilliantly, "Actually, I'm Justyn Jones... you might remember..."

"Yeah, I remember you from high school... you were a couple years head of me." Shi flicked hir gaze to the coach, "How was my time?" Apparently I was forgotten. I took that moment to detach myself, and get back to my own running. Damn, but shi was good looking. But, shi was still a shi. Just run, Justyn... Just run.

Go on to Part 2: Class

Characters & Story © 1999 J.L.Atwood.

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