Archive for December, 2009
The Bison Girl
Thursday, December 31st, 2009
I’d been on a panel discussion about Noh theater, and the bison girl had caught me on my way out and asked if I wanted to have coffee. I should have gotten out of it, but 1) I couldn’t come up with an excuse and 2) I was distracted by her tight-fitting costume. She had a lithe, beautifully-proportioned body. But it disturbed me that the body had a tail and a bison’s head.
My friend Isaac had tried to explain furries to me before I left for the convention. At one point he’d said, “There are furries, and then there are yiffy furries. The regular furries are just having fun.”
“Then what are the yiffy furries doing?” I’d asked.
He’d just laughed at me.
We were sitting. The bison girl sipped iced coffee through a long straw she’d taken from her purse. “Insurance,” she said, answering my last question. “I’m a field adjuster.”
“I should have guessed you’d work in the field,” I said. She laughed: a beautiful laugh, for a bison. And you had to admire her mask, especially around the eyes. Of course, the expression didn’t change–but then, masks aren’t an extension of your face: they’re a replacement for it, a veil, a barrier, a statement, a simplification, a distraction.
My watch beeped. “Oh, I have to get to my next panel,” I said, relieved.
“What are you doing after? Want to get some dinner?”
Just for a moment, I considered it. I thought of the graceful shape under the fur. Then I thought about Isaac laughing. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said. I waited for her to ask me why. Apparently she didn’t need to.
“Fine,” she said. “That’s funny coming from you–but fine.”
“I just don’t feel very comfortable with … uh, furries.”
“Obviously,” she said. “I just thought, working with masks, you might get what this is about.”
“Artistically? Sure,” I said. “Personally? No clue.”
She stood then and pulled off her mask. Her face glimmered with perspiration, framed by damp tendrils of dark hair. I would have recognized her anywhere: Jessie Rosner, the girl I’d been obsessed with all through high school. I’d never gotten to say more than two words to her, until today.
“You know, just because your face shows,” she said, “doesn’t mean you’re not wearing one.” Then she turned her back on me and left.
Another Winter’s Fantasy
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Uncle Cuthbert summoned us to his rooms in the North Wing. Edmund and I found him there, propped up on a heap of pillows with a lily-pad-pattern comforter pulled up to his chin and fires blazing on either side of the bedroom.
He was always sick, but we’d never seen him this bad.
“The countess assures me of your discretion,” he said, and we tried to act humble while he caught his breath. “I have… a task.”
He coughed several minutes before continuing. “The pond. Where I studied. Many years. Dangerous. In this cold. Creatures. Keep in. Walls up. Don’t…”
That was all he had strength for. His doctor wouldn’t let us wait for him to wake.
The woods were frigid — tree trunks coated with ice, path glazed slick. It was hard to walk, but not hard to find the pond. A little path led from the shack that had been Uncle Cuthbert’s research station.
We didn’t see any wall, although we tromped through the woods until our feet felt like stones. Pieces of glass lay everywhere on the ground, like windowpanes without windows. A few leaned up against trees.
“That could be a wall,” said Edmund.
We made quick work of it, setting up a wall of glass all around the pond, then hurrying home to thaw by the fire.
The glass was still there the next day; it must have worked.
Dark came quickly under the trees. We’d worn warmer coats and triple socks, and thought we’d wait to see what we were holding back.
They lifted themselves from the pond around moonrise. Long fingers, long noses like icicles — they were icicles. When they rickety-walked closer, I could see air bubbles, trapped insects, and bits of water plants inside their transparent bodies.
I backed up. They could just slip through between the panes. But the glass distracted their sharp fingertips. They drew patterns, lacy, intricate, mesmerizing to them and us. We wouldn’t survive sitting there like statues until morning — our coats weren’t that warm, and our socks were full of snow.
I couldn’t move my eyes, but could — barely — move my hand. I found a rock. I don’t remember throwing it, just the crash, the shrieking, their icy-sharp fingers on the backs of our necks as we ran all the way back to the house, and the shivers we couldn’t shake until summer.