NaNoWriMo marches on. Here’s the “Chapter One” I wrote yesterday!
What story might follow it?
Noah approached the corner table, pen and notepad in hand.
“Good afternoon,” he said – trying not to make contact with the cat-eyes across the table. “My name’s Noah, and I’ll be your server today. Can I start anyone with any drinks?”
Thank goodness for three years’ experience of rote repetition. The girl sitting in the far chair (she looked like a preteen) was very distracting.
One of her cat ears twitched, and she smiled up at him. Gah! Her pupils were thin vertical slits! How easy was it for her parents to adapt to that? The other three in her family looked like pretty standard humans.
“Can I have lemonade please?” she asked.
“O-Of course,” said Noah, scribbling in his notepad.
It wasn’t fair, of course. No one knew where the mutations came from…and no one treated him differently for the weird scars on his face.
One night, he’d scratched his face…and woken up to find his pillow covered in blood. That’s what happened when you abruptly grew claws without realizing it.
Thank heavens for industrial strength nail clippers.
Noah smiled and nodded and went to put in the drink orders.
“Hey,” he said, nodding to the fry chef as he entered the kitchen. “Have you checked out Table 8? The girl’s got cat ears!”
Mr. Michael was not so much a “fry chef” as a Fry Master. He chuckled around the stumps of his tusks (every six months he visited the dentist to have them shaved down; it kept him from drooling into the oil).
“Have you seen Table 3?” asked Logan, juggling two trays. “Kid’s got honest-to-goodness butterfly wings. I’d hate to do third grade in his shoes.”
“Amazing his parents haven’t taken them off,” said Noah, collecting his orders for Table 1. “Hey, can anyone do me a favor? My shoulder-blades are killing me.”
Someone started rubbing his back. “Fresh scabs?” asked a voice – Jake, the manager.
“No, just crazy itching. I don’t know what it is. It’s driving me nuts,” said Noah. “Thanks, man.”
“Anytime,” said Jake, scratching his shoulder-blades. “Anything to keep you from touching it yourself.”
“Ha! This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Noah, flexing one hand.
He delivered the tray to Table 1, took more orders from Table 8, and refilled soda on Table 7.
As he came back into the kitchen, Jake was talking to Logan while sorting through the order tickets.
“One thing’s for sure — these mutations aren’t going away,” he said. “Which begs the question: do we try to pretend they’re not there? Or do we make the best of it?”
“Yeah,” said Logan. “If my kid came out with a tail or something, would I want to hack it off? Or show him I loved him just the way he was?”
“If you nip it when it’s small, they’ve got more of a chance to live a normal life,” said Noah, arranging a tray of drinks. “Ask how I know.”
“Oh, come on,” said Logan. “Don’t you ever have days where you say, ‘Boy, I wish I left my wi–’”
“No,” said Noah. “I like my job. I like my life. I like being able to get through the door of my apartment. I’ll keep telling my body what to do, not the other way around, thank you very much.”
His back gave a throb, but he ignored it and grabbed the drinks tray.
He flexed his shoulders and pushed the door open with his foot. He had no time to get achy right now; the lunch rush was just dying down, and then the dinner rush would pick up. He had things to do, and he wasn’t going to let something like a shoulder-ache get in the way.
As he was setting out the drinks for Table 4, both shoulder-blades throbbed. He clenched his teeth to stop himself wincing in front of the guests.
“I’ll – be back in a moment for your orders,” said Noah. “Unless you think…Actually, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be – right back in a moment.”
Hugging the tray, he headed for the front door. He didn’t smoke, but he needed a smoke break. He needed some fresh air, and a good, hard scratch on his back…and…
Something hit his back, and he fell on his butt in the foyer. Something was hanging on his back, trying to tip him over backwards.
Noah curled forward, hugging his knees. He had to get out the door. He had to do something. But he couldn’t even stand up and walk.
A little old lady with a walker froze on her way to the door, staring.
Logan came through the foyer with his notepad out – and dropped it to rush to Noah’s side.
“Does it look that bad?” whispered Noah – and yelped as his shirt tore.
“What on earth?” Logan gulped, his hands flickering around like mosquitos as he tried to think of something useful to do.
“Get Mr. Jake,” rasped Noah, rolling forward onto his knees and stomach as the thing behind him hauled even harder on his shoulders.
“R–Right,” said Logan, and darted away.
Noah started crawling for the doors. It was hard to move because the weights were all wrong…Gravity was treating him wrong.
He reached the doors and pushed the bar. Still crawling, he made it over the threshold – and got stuck.
He pulled, and twisted, and then tried to move backward – but he was stuck.
A family stepped up to the glass outer doors – and froze, staring in fascination.
Noah waved at them weakly, trying to smile.
Something tickled him on his shoulder – except the part of the shoulder that was still inside the restaurant.
Noah clapped his hands over his head. His own nerve endings were sending the signals to his brain — but his brain couldn’t handle it. It was all wrong. His body shouldn’t be like this.
Mr. Jake came through the second set of doors and stood in the entry-way, looking down at Noah.
“Hold on a second,” he said, and opened the door for the family still hesitating on the sidewalk.
“Good afternoon, folks,” he said. “Feel free to come in this way…Just a little medical emergency. It’s under control.”
Noah did not feel like having your enormous wings lodged in the entryway was “under control.”
Jake smiled and held the door for some more customers, then stepped to Noah’s side.
“We’re going to go straight through,” he said. “I’ve got this side. Logan, you got the other?”
Logan’s voice came muffled from beyond the bulkitude of Noah’s wings.
Jake grabbed one side and shoved inward.
Noah felt his two wings meet above his back and rub together (although his brain rebelled at this interpretation of the sensations).
He started crawling again, and his friends followed at his sides. He made it through the outer door and kept crawling until he felt his wings spring free to either side.
As the huge, membraned limbs spread out above him, the sidewalk was cloaked in shadow.
Noah put a hand over his mouth to keep from swearing in front of his boss. “It was my good work shirt, too!”
“Man!” said Logan. “Why would they grow back like that? I thought you just had to trim the stumps every few months or so –”
“I did,” wailed Noah. “They never did this before. Why would they do this?”
“Well,” said Mr. Jake, hands shoved thoughtfully into his pockets. “Maybe, if keeping them trimmed isn’t working, you’ll have to find a new way to live with them. In harmony.”
“Harmony?” hollered Noah. “I can’t fit through doors! I can’t follow dress code! How can I live in harmony with an angry condor growing out of my back?”
“Hey,” said Jake, and put out his hand to help Noah to his feet. “Try brain-storming, huh?”
Noah staggered upright, and leaned forward to keep from landing on his butt again.
Without meaning to, he found the muscles that controlled the huge, freaky cling-ons…and almost knocked himself and Jake over with the air blast.
“Look,” said Jake. “Take the rest of the day off, and give me a call in the morning. We’ll work with you on this.”
“I’ll get with my doctor,” said Noah. “These beasties are going down.”
“Hold on,” said Logan, appearing around the corner of one tent-like, membranous wing. “If they grew back over about ten minutes, what’s to say they won’t grow back again as soon as you cut them off?”
“I’m to say,” said Noah, throwing out his arms to keep from toppling over. “I can’t live a life like this. I’ll figure out something.”
Mr. Jake gave a funny, smug-looking smile. “Tell me how that works out for you.”
She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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