An Afternoon With Tycho's Toys             

 

R. D. Flavin 

  

Copyright 2016 by R. D. Flavin   

    

Photo of a rabbit.

    Combine interesting characters, shake well, and add a dash of 'clash'. Oh, and serve with fun!

      Faced with impending unconsciousness, Craig didn't pay much attention to the landlady's especially ugly live-in and his awkward stacking of garbage-bags near the curb. The weight inside was uneven and some of the bags couldn't stand straight by themselves.  Usually people in the neighborhood were considerate with the trash and recyclables, except for the occasional kitchen sink or worn arm-chair. Craig had been out drinking with friends from work, which helped him ignore signs of movement from inside the bags, and he barely managed a moist grunt of acknowledgment to the live-in. 

     "You pay ME the rent from now on. You know the door – you knock and slip the money under the door like always, okay? Understand?" The live-in kicked one of the dark-green garbage-bags that was falling over. 

     "I'm good for the clockwork and cash I have like ...always," Craig mumbled, aiming for the front doors of the eight-flat. 

     Standing before the double-doors, one hand furiously searching his pants-pocket for his apartment keys, and the other scooping snoo from his sleepy eyes, he was almost caught off-guard by the kiss to his cheek. Just before her black lipstick touched his unshaved skin, he smelled bubblegum and wine coolers. Karen! Of course, if he wouldn't have been so drunk, he'd have heard the heavy step of her artificial leg as she approached

     "Merry Meet!" she purred. "You've got great timing, lover! I just got here myself..."

     Craig was slow to snap from his gin and tonic stupor.  He smiled at the tall redhead and asked, "Can you keys upstairs to the door for me?"

     Karen put a steady arm around her inebriated boyfriend and, using her set of keys, helped him into the building. The landlady's live-in stomped up the stairs around them, as they were taking their time ascending, and disappeared into the landlady's second-floor apartment with a loud slamming of the door. Craig might have said something as the live-in passed, but Karen thought the chances were just as good the noise resulted from stomach indigestion. 

     The third floor smelled faintly of monkey-feces, as usual, and Karen hurried up the stairs to the fourth floor studio, guiding her boyfriend with a skill gained from Craig's several recent evenings "with the boys." Though he'd been at his present job for almost a year now, Craig still used his fellow employees as an excuse to get drunk. And, Karen was comfortable with this, as long as Craig kept his job and maintained minimal vomiting, she'd agreed not to call him on his lame reason for getting smashed. 

     "In we go," Karen encouraged, opening Craig's door to his apartment and guiding him in. 

     "Home safe and sound-proof," Craig said, pulling out and collapsing on his futon couch. 

     She closed the apartment door behind her, smiling at the sight of her wonderful lover just a few deep breaths away from unconsciousness. When he was totally out of it, she'd undress him, slowly. It was one of three benefits of being with a sexy drunk – the other two being the 'peace' and 'quiet' she enjoyed after he passed out. 

     Tossing her leather jacket on the kitchen table, Karen sat down and unzipped her knee-high boots. She kicked the left boot off, but had to pry the right carefully off her artificial leg. Opening the refrigerator, Karen hoped to find a couple of wine coolers, but had to settle for some ginger-ale. As it was the weekend, the hour being late, and her dear Craig canceled out of most equations, she reached on top of the refrigerator to Craig's stash of hard-stuff, and poured a little of his ten year old scotch in her ginger-ale.  Stirring the mix with one long, blood-colored fingernail, she took a sip and felt a moment of relaxing calm.  And then the scratching at the front door started... 

     Karen set her glass down, walked to the apartment door, and looked through the peep-hole. The hallway was dark, and no one was visible, but still the scratching continued. It was all too familiar, as she'd been through the same situation a couple of times before.

     Opening the door, she asked, "What do you want, monkey?"  

     The mangy chimp brushed past Karen and sat itself at Craig's kitchen table, an unlighted cigarette between its lips. It was the usual reason for the monkey to come upstairs, as the lack of an opposable thumb made the working of a Bic lighter extremely difficult, and striking matches were also way high on the tough-list. 

     "You shouldn't smoke," Karen said sincerely. The chimp didn't want to hear it and slammed a hairy fist down on the kitchen table. Craig had given it a light a couple of months back and it must have remembered. 

     "He won't listen to you. You should know males are self-centered troglodytes and ignore females except during feeding or mating..." The voice was sun-warmed honey dripping on an outstretched tongue.  Each word was pronounced a little sweeter than the one before it, and Karen turned her eyes and beheld the smallest and loveliest woman she'd ever imagined. 

     Desperately wanting to light up, the chimp bolted past Karen towards Craig asleep on the futon couch. The little woman moved so fast to block the primate, Karen was unable to see the white lace of her peach-colored camisole so much as flutter. A tiny finger on its nose stopped the chimp a couple of feet before reaching Craig.

     "Fine catch, my Fay," came a low voice from the doorway. 

     Karen turned to the door, as did the little woman and the monkey. The third-floor tenant, and owner of the chimp (and perhaps the little woman, as well) was a square-jawed, handsome, and uniquely flawed man. As Craig learned from another tenant, the fellow had lost the tip of his nose in an attempted mugging, and because he'd no insurance to cover reconstructive surgery, had fashioned a gold toe-guard from a boot into a shining facsimile of the tip of a nose.

     "Tycho!" Craig called out drunkenly from the couch. "And two babes and a monkey...," he added, before passing back out.

     "It's Melvin, not Tycho'," the third-floor tenant corrected. His exquisitely 'perfect' capped teeth caught the light of Craig's studio nearly as much as Melvin's highly polished fake-nose. The brilliant smile was all for Karen, and it gave her a cold blush.

     His hand rose signaling the little woman and the monkey with a maneuver reminiscent of Francois Truffaut in Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The deft manipulation of fingers and the flip of his palm must have been some private version of sign language, but it seemed to work quite well. She walked straight to the doorway of Craig's apartment and out into the hall, with the primate following close behind. Neither gave Karen so much as a glance. 
"I regret the disturbance," the downstairs tenant apologized. "I'm hosting a small get-together tomorrow afternoon and would be pleased if you'd attend..."

     She felt his gaze upon her body like clumsy hands; no soft, gentle caresses, but rather a crude heaviness on her bare, white thighs, the slope of her hip, her breasts, and her long, red hair. As she moved to disrupt his visual inspections, he added, "And, Craig is also invited, providing his hangover doesn't prevent him..." 
Stepping backwards into the hallway, he showed more capped teeth, and pulled the apartment door closed. Karen quickly reached for the bottle of Craig's single malt scotch, another glass, sat at the kitchen table, and poured herself a few inches, ignoring the ginger-ale mix before her.

     "Well, that was different,"musing as she took a drink. 

     "Monkey...," Craig moaned in a semi-conscious daze. 

     She set the glass down, walked over to the couch, and began to undress her boyfriend. Normally, Karen would turn the act into a long, slow ritual, but tonight she ripped his clothes off and had him naked in only a minute. Removing her artificial leg and pulling her dress over her head, she let both fall to the floor beside the couch, joined Craig, and was soon fast asleep. 

      "I'm not going," Craig said the next morning upon hearing of Melvin's invitation. "The freak scares me and you should have woken me when the monkey showed..." Craig really liked the chimp. 

     Karen was at the stove frying bacon and gave Craig a playful glance over her shoulder. "Lover," she sassed, "Monica Belluci, Sofia Vergara, and Agent Scully could have been balancing beer-nuts on each other's noses last night and you would have slept through it!" 

     "Are you making any eggs to go with that burnt pig-fat?" Craig asked, gently placing his hands on her hips.

      "No!" It was the voice of the Goddess; one of authority and finality. "We're having toast and bacon and THAT'S IT! We have to save room in case they set out any food this afternoon..." 

     "I really don't want to go," Craig protested. 

     "Have you ever seen that little woman that's with him – Fay, I think he called her... She's a doll!" 

     "I imagine Tycho does play with toys... Do you think he dresses her?" 

     "You're going this afternoon and you'll behave!" Karen commanded. 

     The brief debate ended with Craig silently acquiescing. During breakfast, it occurred to him there was an outside possibility he might actually have a good time. And, at the very least, he'd have a chance to play with the chimp. 

      From Craig's meager collection of wines, Karen chose a bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon, scrapped off the $5.99 price-sticker, and told Craig not to stare at the fake nose as he presented it to the host.

     They knocked on the third-floor apartment door at the respectable hour of three in the afternoon. The chimp answered wearing a velvet smoking jacket and ascot. Recognizing Craig, the chimp removed an unlighted cigarette from its jacket, and moist, large, brown eyes looked up at Craig, wordlessly begging for a light. 

     "Sorry, buddy," Craig said to the chimp, handing over the wine, "I don't smoke..." 

     "And neither should he," came the uncommonly deep baritone voice of the host from behind the monkey. 

     With a cute and high-strung synchronization, Craig and Karen blurted "Hello!" at the same time. 

     "Good of you to make it, Craig – we don't see enough of each other... And, I've not properly introduced myself to your lovely friend... Melvin Abbot Donnant, gentleman and subscriber to HBO since 1979, at your service..." The subsequent foppish bow revealed the relentless advances of his male-pattern baldness and brought a timely smile to Karen's face. 

     "Karen of the Clan Paterson," she countered, adding a bit of a curtsy.

     "Well, Craig and Karen, come in... Come in, and join my get-together!" The host stood back from the door, and Craig pushed Karen through first, as he later explained it, in case someone had to run for help as Karen's artificial leg prevented any really rapid response from her. 

     The third-floor apartment was decorated in a style similar to the American Southwest, yet skewed uniquely boring and exquisitely odd. The several steer-skulls scattered about the apartment had been turned into monstrous Chia-Pets, with spiky green growth jutting from eye-sockets and other openings. On the walls were sandpaintings, after a fashion, which seemed upon examination to be posterboard, glue, and the spilled contents of a couple of ashtrays. There was a single potted cactus near the front windows with all of its needles removed and replaced with brightly colored Christmas lights. At the decor, Craig and Karen felt the first serious tremors of misgiving, and even more when they glanced about the room at the other attendees of Melvin's "get-together." 

     "This is Joey, a student of Houdini," the host introduced an Asian fellow bound securely in a straitjacket. 

     "A student, yes," Joey admitted, awkwardly standing, "but, not a very good one, I must confess..."  

     "And, this glamorous creature is Marilyn Dean-Wartenbaur, the secret love-child of the legendary heterosexual actor, James Dean, and Wanda Wartenbaur, a coffee-shop waitress from Cleveland," Melvin said, pointing towards the sofa where a three-hundred pound woman sat eating chocolate-flavored 'nilla wafers. The 'creature' waved, her mouth too stuffed with cookies to say anything. 
"Pleased to meet you – I loved your Dad's movies!" Karen said, suppressing a giggle. 

     "Ditto," Craig added, with a wide grin, not quite as successful as his girlfriend. 

     "Now, if he can stop surfing The Net for ... A MOMENT," Melvin raised his voice, getting the attention of a well-dressed, young black man using a laptop computer. "This is Mr. Emil Hamilton of Long Branch, New Jersey – our resident cyber-geek... Don't send them an e-mail, Emil – use your voice to say hello!" 
"Hello," the young man said, his voice dry and lifeless, as if he was unaccustomed to using it. 

     "And, last and least," a woman's voice, sensuous and sure, called out from the kitchen, "the domestic slave and amateur ethnomycologist gets introduced!" 
Craig had been prepared, or so he thought, to met a good looking woman about four and a half feet in height, but the actual sight of her stunning beauty nearly killed him. She entered the living room carrying two trays of hors d'oeuvres, stood before Craig and said, "Hi, my name's Fay McLean and if you don't want to see me cry, you'll eat my stuffed mushrooms." 

     "I, for one, certainly don't wish to see you cry," Karen popped an appetizer in her mouth. "I'm Karen. From last night?" 

     "It's nice to name you, Karen," Fay answered. "Does your boyfriend ever say anything or have you just got him trained nicely?" 

     "Craig, two of the mushrooms," Karen instructed. "Eat one and give the other to Joey, over there in the straitjacket. He's probably hungry!" 

     "Hi. Sure. Thanks. Okay," Craig replied, helping himself. He was flustered, but grateful to be alive. She was gorgeous! And, he felt twelve years old again and just as challenged. 

     "Well met, all!" Melvin said, struggling to wrest the bottle of wine from the chimp's grasp. "Our number is whole and prime, and nothing will DIVIDE US," he pledged, gaining possession of the wine, at last.

     It took several minutes to prepare a toast, as Emil had to log-off, Marilyn was forced to give up her cookies, and a straw needed to be found for Joey. Soon, a toast was made and the "get-together" was officially under way. Fortunately, for Craig, all the guests had also brought wine and he sat in a director's chair between the chimp and Joey and proceeded to get drunk.

      When Fay announced dinner, Craig was relieved. He'd lost ten dollars and change to the chimp playing nickel-dime-quarter poker and blackjack, but it was his own fault. Melvin had warned him the chimp was expelled from a university study because of "influences" generated by the after-hours maintenance crew. During the day, the study would teach him sign language and problem solving, while at night, he'd smoke, drink, and play cards with the janitors. That behavior, if limited, may have allowed him to stay in the program, but there was a troublesome incident with one of the young, female lab-assistants, which forced the university to let him go.

     "I didn't hear the buzzer, so we're not having pizza or Chinese delivered...," Craig joked. "So, what are we having?"

     "Hasenpfeffer!" Karen said, helping to carry out dishes of rabbit stew and noodles.

     Melvin handed Craig a bottle of wheat-bock, saying, "We owe this fine meal, not only to the talented Fay, but to our gracious landlady! This tasty coney arrives courtesy of those second-floor warrens you must smell every time you're walking up the stairs!"

     Karen and Craig exchanged perplexed looks. It was true they'd both detected the stale, musty aroma of animal feces, though they'd assumed it resulted from Melvin's chimp. An outsider would have deemed it "dueling Mr. Spocks," as Karen and Craig each raised a single eyebrow to one another. Both suddenly realized that Melvin's apartment, though odd to an extreme, did not reek of 'monkey-feces." 

     "The landlady runs a bunny-farm out of her apartment?" Craig asked. 
"Until her recent accident, yes," Melvin answered, implementing his dazzling smile, and claiming the attentions of everyone in the room.

     Dinner was suspended while Melvin described the landlady's peculiar fascination with rabbits. It was a PETA nightmare. The landlady had raised rabbits in a spare bedroom for years, utilizing most for personal food consumption, though in all fairness, giving many away as gifts throughout the neighborhood. And, as Melvin retold from an EMS-driver's description, she'd recently grown lonely and bored with her live-in's 3-11 shift at work, and after a shower one evening, covered with a layer of Neutrogena light sesame oil, had let the rabbits out of their cages to ...frolic on her bare skin. The resulting bites were not life-threatening or noticeably disfiguring, but the incident, when the live-in found out, brought an end to the warrens. 

     Marilyn was the first to put down her rabbit stew, followed by Emil. Joey was still in his straitjacket, but didn't seem particularly hungry. Craig and Karen, on the other hand, knew with certainty they'd lost their appetites for 'hasenpfeffer'. Craig had bought Karen rabbit-lined gloves the previous Christmas and neither felt comfortable admitting they too had experimented with the luxurious sensations of fur on flesh. 

     "So, you're saying this crazy rabbit I was just about to eat attacked our landlady?" Karen asked, her voice taking an uncontrolled turn towards hysteria.

Fay stepped forward and put a hand carefully on Karen's shoulder, saying, "It's not like it came from the backyard and we have to worry about tularemia..." 

     "It's arrogant!" Karen yelled. "I've got nothing against eating meat, but it's SICK to tell people such a story and EVEN imagine they'd not care!" 

     "No one talks to her like that except me!" Melvin menaced with his loud voice. 
Craig moved between his girlfriend and the enraged host, placing his nose a fraction of an inch away from the gold fake-nose. "So much for the afternoon, Tycho," he said softly. "You just ended the party..." 

     "Oh, the party will go on without you!" Melvin shot back.

     Karen pulled Craig to the door before he had a chance to smack Melvin. Turning back towards the host, she said, "It's a shame my boyfriend keeps calling you Tycho, after all, Brahe was a famous Danish astronomer who kept great notes and you're just a jerk!" 

     "What she said!" Craig added, as Karen pushed him out of the apartment. 
The door slammed behind them, leaving Craig and Karen in the hallway frustrated, free, and still hungry. "Thai?" Craig suggested. 

     "Green curry and Pad-Thai with shrimp?" she asked in turn. 

     Walking down the stairs, holding hands and comfortable in their silence, both relaxed in the surety of each others' company. Karen was most proud of her boyfriend's behavior – though he did stare at the little woman's not-so-little breasts a bit too much, he passed the afternoon without doing anything stupid AND kind of came to her rescue. Craig was thinking about chicken-on-a-stick with spicy peanut sauce. 

     As they neared the front-door, the landlady's live-in raced down the stairs and clumsily passed them. The garbage-bags he was carrying were overstuffed and ready to burst. Karen faced her boyfriend and began to laugh. 
"What's so funny?" he asked. 

     "I can't believe I'm actually weighing what's more important right now! I should call the local SPCA, I've always wanted a fur-coat, and I'm starved for dinner!" 
He kissed her, lightly, yet with much affection. "Let's go to a pay-phone, make a call, have some Thai-food, and we'll see if your coat is still here when we get back. Okay?" Craig offered.

     Spring was near, Karen loved extra-hot green curry, and agreed to his offer. Craig couldn't believe how fast she finished dinner.

~The End ~


R. D. Flavin is a Registered Ketchup Offender in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (the ketchup from his home fires BARELY touched his scrambled eggs, but the waitress called the police regardless), enjoys writing, value menus at McDonalds and Burger King, and once stood on his right leg for over an hour. He's currently practicing for standing on his left leg.

I'd like to thank J. R. Nakken for editorial suggestions.

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