Author : KJ Hannah Greenberg

Charles lingered in the treetop. Not munitions or bribery had coaxed him from his lair. Charles defended his sanctuary with occasional conflagrations and, less frequently, with bad puns. Charles continued to sup on jerboae and lorikeets. He even succeeded in catching a kestrel. Meanwhile, news crews recorded his actions.

Although the neighborhood, minus a ferret or two, remained rapt by Charles’ conduct, Doris didn’t notice, so preoccupied was she with her mailbox. Closing the lid, Doris sighed. Whereas the postal service insisted on placing parcels beneath Doris’ letter bucket, and whereas it had lost jewelry and flour sent by dim relatives, it was the lack of Wilson ’s correspondence which agitated Doris .

Wilson , busy hitchhiking through the Middle East , had reiterated, electronically, that he had sent hundreds of tacit missives. Doris had received two dozen. In contrast, Doris, who disbelieved that Mom pilfered mailbox treasures, had written, daily. Letters could not be interesting to a parent who could eavesdrop on private calls or “just happened” to walk on intimate moments.

Charles spun within his arboreal fortress. Forgetting, due to hunger-imposed hypoglycemia, that tail thrashing broke branches and caused humans to scurry forward with all manners of camera lens, he also snuffed and snorted. The chimera needed to scream and to belch (bandicoots are hard to digest), but he stymied himself remembering the incident he caused at a nearby house. Doris ’ roof, next in his line of sight, didn’t seem any more fireproof, though its layered grass looked serviceable against inclement weather. So, Charles continued his moral gymnastics.

Doris left her mailbox. Mom chastised her for loving Wilson , especially whenever Doris ’ bed resounded in the kitchen below. Even a university degree, lambasted Mom, would be better than canoodling with Dr. Hichkins’ scion.

Doris shrugged her way home and returned to her bedroom to compose. She and Wilson could travel to New York City after she won the speculative fiction writing prize. Doris described a scaly mouth sucking on a lion-like paw.

Charles watched and snorted afresh. He knew himself to be no more a manifestation of someone else’s intrusive thoughts than in any other respect imaginary. A proper monster, hatched from a proper egg, Charles was neither fabrication nor delusional invention. His source was his venerated mother.

Charles twinged again as he scanned the garden. Something rustled among the spiny-headed rush and common wallaby grass. Maybe he could take a small swoop; he was very hungry.

Doris clicked to another screen. An editor liked Doris ’ contention that individuals ought to be measured against their own norms. That woman wanted Doris to email biographical data plus a photo for Doris ’ pending work.

Such data, though, would reveal Doris ’ sixteen years and would necessitate parental permissions. Mom hated Doris ’ mass media rhetoric, caring nothing for ethical dilemmas. To wit, Mom had threatened to cancel Doris’ cable access and to disallow Doris a private postbox. What’s more, Mom instructed the postmistress to preview Doris ’ mail.

Doris scowled at her computer. It was vital to evade demographic questions. She enjoyed publishing, but enjoyed electronic access to Wilson even more. Doris rescinded her submission.

In the interim, the fire brigade that destroyed Charles’ nest designed to destroy him. Charles tweaked his ears as an armed vehicle entered the hamlet on an auxiliary road.

The next morning, Doris forwent visiting her mailbox. Fretting made her sloppy. There’d be no envelope from Wilson , anyway.

Fretting made Charles sloppy, too. He shuddered within Doris ’ mail receptacle, reflecting on just how close the municipal buccaneers had been to finding him.


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