Author: Robert Beech

I woke with a sense of unease. Some sixth sense told me that all was not well in the world. Blearily, I turned on the light to see that my sixth sense had been right. It was midafternoon, I had overslept again, and the cage was open.

I slid into my housecoat and slippers and followed the damp footprints out of the bedroom and downstairs. Would the living room be a shambles? Again? Would he have eaten one of the cats? more than one?

I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked around. No signs of destruction. Maybe it wasn’t going to be as bad as I had feared. Then I saw the front door. Wide-open. That was bad, very bad.

With a sinking feeling, I grabbed the leash, headed out the door and down the front steps, and looked around. The footsteps led off to the left. Still in my housecoat and pajamas, I set out down the sidewalk, peering around for my missing pet. There was a mail truck parked about halfway down the block. That was a bad sign. He liked mail carriers, a bit too much.

As I continued down the block, a trail of letters and packages appeared alongside the damp footsteps. In some cases, the footsteps could clearly be seen trampling the mail that lay scattered on the ground. I stooped to gather it up as I walked along. No point in leaving a mess on the sidewalk. Or a messy trail. A little farther on I came across the mail carrier’s bag, damp footsteps could be seen going over it and continuing on down the block. Not good at all.

Another hundred yards farther down the block, I caught up with him. He was sitting in the middle of one of my neighbors’ yards, gnawing on a bone, looking obscenely pleased with himself.

“Did you eat the mailman?” I asked.

He didn’t answer but lowered his head apologetically.

“Again?” I shouted. “This is the third time. It’s the sort of thing that will get you talked about, and not in a good way.”

He looked away and resumed gnawing on his bone.

“Hey,” I yelled. “I’m talking to you, mister. Pay attention.”

He looked up at me uncertainly.

“What am I going to do with you?” I asked in an exasperated tone of voice.

He didn’t answer. I hadn’t expected him to.

Sighing, I slipped the collar over his head and gave a yank.

“Let’s get you home and cleaned up,” I said. “And then I’m going to have to finish delivering all this mail before people get home so it’s not so obvious what happened here. And you will be on your best behavior if you want to keep living in this house, got it?”

He didn’t say anything, but I hoped maybe the message had gotten through this time.

“Humans,” I sighed. And he had been such a cute little changeling when I’d gotten him.