Friday, October 24, 2014

Free Fiction: The Littlest Razzle-Dazzle

It has been a very busy and topsy-turvey week here in the Ellis Household, but I had worked on this free read a while ago, and thought that even though I need to plunge back into the current tumult, I would post this up.  It is set just before Halloween, so it is a timely little tale.

Title:  The Littlest Razzle-Dazzle

Blurb: Roscoe's heart is broken, but that only means he is ready to meet his new best friend.

Genre: M/M romance, general fiction

Length: ~1600 words


Roscoe Robinson was a big man with sure hands. In high school, he'd played center on the football team.  He'd snapped the football between his legs to the receiving arms of his quarterback and then, like a brick wall, he'd blocked opponents from gaining territory into the area of protection.  During his career, he'd protected his quarterback with determined ferocity, foresight based on reading the defensive positioning, and gut instincts. He'd been so sure of it all.

Now he wasn't sure of anything, and all he had left was the determined ferocity.

Being three months into recovery from the worst heartbreak he'd ever experienced, he woke every day to the repeated mantra that it would get better.  Someday his heart would heal. He told himself this every day, sometimes every hour, even though it felt like a lie.  Then, he got himself up and kept himself going.

After four years of what he'd thought of as domestic bliss, Roscoe had come home to find his boyfriend waiting in the kitchen.  Shawn had a small satchel next to his feet, which was all that remained of the things he'd brought with him into the relationship.  Behind him, the counter was already bare of various appliances.  A hurried, bewildered scan of the living room showed Shawn's coffee table to be missing, as well as his DVD collection, and his favorite recliner. He'd even spirited away Flash, the little brown and white gerbil they'd raised together. With lowered eyes, Shawn admitted he wasn't happy, he had bigger dreams he wanted to follow, and that he was embarking on that newest adventure now.  Roscoe wasn't a part of that future.

It had been a devastating surprise.  Roscoe's vaunted foresight had failed, his knowledge of Shawn had obviously been deficient, and his gut instincts were stunned and useless. 

The next day and for many days afterward, Roscoe dragged himself to work. He treated his patients professionally and their bodies healed under his practiced touch, but the camaraderie he'd shared before seemed distant to him now.  Healing the body felt like a perfunctory task and he lent his steady hands to the application of it, but all the friendly chit-chat had fled his tongue. 

When grandmothers shuffled in with knee and hip problems, he strengthened their muscles but could only listen with envious shards in his heart as they spoke of their lovely families. When young athletes hobbled in, one limb in need of repair, and related how someone supported them through thick and thin, Roscoe wrapped his own heart as well as their joints with bandages. 

Now, he was facing down his older sister, and even though he weighed a hundred pounds more and stood five inches taller, she stared him down. 

"What you need is a new best friend."  She shook a finger at him.  "And I found you the perfect one."

Roscoe tried to imagine who Andrea could possible mean.  "But I have a best friend.  That's not what I lost."

"Hush," she ordered.  "Come with me."  She marched Roscoe out to her car and drove him across town to the rescue shelter.  "My friend Kyra works here.  She called me and told me about a dog here that's perfect for you.  Already house trained and everything.  Sweet as can be."

Roscoe followed her into the building.  It smelled like many animals lived there, but with the additional scent of antiseptic and mint, as if the staff cleaned and cleaned until they might someday eradicate the telltale scent.  He didn't want a dog.  The last thing he wanted was to fuss with a new pet.  He missed Flash a little, but that wasn't the hole in his life.  Replacing a pet wouldn't fix his broken heart. But moving a mountain would be easier than going against Andrea, so he humored her. 

"Kyra!" Andrea hugged her friend, and Roscoe recognized her. Kyra had been a cheerleader when Roscoe had played football.  "I brought Roscoe.  Can we see the dog?"

Kyra gave them a big smile.  "You're going to love Bianca.  Give me a minute to get her from the kennel.  Wait right here.  We can take her for a walk outside so you can get to know her."  She shoved a large book across the counter.  "Oh, better sign in here, just to make it official."  Kyra vanished into the back and Andrea bent to fill the ledger with information.

Roscoe wandered.  The reception area had the counter where Kyra had been, but it also had four large windows that revealed observation areas for clusters of animals.  The lower ones held some dogs enjoying a larger space to wait out the day.  Chew toys were scattered on the floor and a soft cushion was strategically placed in one corner.  Large water bowls were full, but the food bowls were empty. Both dogs were curled up, sleeping, and didn't even open an eye when Roscoe peered in on them.

The upper viewing areas held cats.  One held the fluffiest, whitish cat Roscoe had ever seen.  It had eyes bluer than sapphires and it blinked languidly at him.  The other window held a mama cat and several kittens.  As he watched, the kittens played an impromptu game with each other, swatting and leaping.  They tumbled sideways and over their heads more often than anything else and Roscoe couldn't tear his eyes away.

One kitten in particular held his attention more than the others and Roscoe watched the little fellow swat his littermates with determined ferocity. The kitten didn't give up even when it was two against one.  He feinted in one direction and swiped with his paw in another. The two other kittens leapt away and looked to be reconsidering their options.  Roscoe chuckled. He tapped the glass and the little kitten zeroed in on him for a moment. "You've got some razzle-dazzle there," Roscoe told him.  The kitten bounced away for more action with his playmates.

"Here we are!  Roscoe, this is Bianca."

He tore his attention away from the kittens and turned to see Kyra holding the leash to a gorgeous, lithe husky mix.  She had brown eyes and black and white markings.  She sat primly on the floor next to Kyra's feet and thumped her tail when Roscoe looked at her. Even though she was beautiful, he knew she wasn't the one for him.  His broken heart had already made its choice.

"She's pretty," he said.  Bianca closed her eyes as he rubbed the top of her head and scratched behind her ears.

"I hate to rush you, but if you like her, you'd better adopt her today.  She has another family that just signed on to her waiting list.  I put your name down for her so you could meet her first," Kyra said.

Roscoe was glad to hear it. If he had the time, money, and space, he'd want to bring home all the animals. "I'm glad she's got a family that wants her," he said. "Actually, I think I found a kitten."

"What?" Andrea asked. Her eyebrows knitted down.  Big sister wanted an explanation.

"A kitten?" Kyra looked confused.  "I thought you wanted to adopt a dog."

"This one."  Roscoe pointed to the window.  "The all black one."

Kyra and Andrea peered into the window.  At their feet, Bianca sat down and looked up at Roscoe with an expression that he could have sworn was a smile.

"I'm so sorry, but you can't," Kyra said. "We aren't allowed to adopt out black cats until after Halloween. People adopt them for the holiday and then abandon them, so we have a rule."

Roscoe looked down at her.  "Exceptions can always be made."

Kyra narrowed her eyes and then sighed. "Give me a minute to put Bianca back and talk to my supervisor."

"What do you know about cats?' Andrea asked once Kyra was gone. "We never had cats when we were growing up.  Just dogs."

"I'll learn." 

"Well, you do need something to keep you busy.  I guess a kitten would do it."

Roscoe didn't want to stop watching the kitten play.  It hadn't yet grown into its long limbs.  It pounced at its mates and everyone went down in a flurry of waving paws.  The access door in the back opened up and Kyra reached in to nab the little guy.  A minute later she brought him out front.

"Let's meet him in this room."  Kyra opened a door to a small room, barren except for a table and two chairs.  She closed the door and carefully handed the kitten over, disengaging its claws from her shirt where it clung. "His name is Midnight."

Midnight weighed almost nothing in Roscoe's hands.  In fact, if he wasn't a bundle of wiggling energy, he would have fit in just one of Roscoe's palms.  His fur was silky soft and underneath were solid muscles.  His tiny paws pushed at Roscoe's fingers as he tried to climb his way up.  Roscoe rubbed the very tip of his index finger on the top of Midnight's head and after a moment, Midnight closed his amber eyes and started to purr. The sound filled the room.

"His purr is bigger than he is," Andrea said.

Kyra laughed.  "He likes you." 

"I like him."  It had been so long since Roscoe had trusted his gut that it felt odd, but he knew this was important, and so very right. "But I think his name should be Razzle, not Midnight."

"Razzle.  That's a cute name," Kyra said. "There's a whole lot of paperwork to fill out, and an adoption fee.  But my supervisor says you can have him as long as you agree to a post-Halloween check.  They want to make sure he's safe."

"He will be," Roscoe said. He pulled the kitten in against his chest and Razzle resettled his head there, pressed warmly.  His purring vibrated slightly and Roscoe felt something ease deep in his chest.  His hands were steady and his heart was sure.  Razzle was coming home with him. It wasn't a cure, but it was a start.

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