Chapter 5: AWAY
Clocks and birds screamed the morning awake. As the last remnants of night slunk across the tree stained horizon like a cat dragging a crow home, the visitors of The Rose Motel woke reluctantly to pay homage to the approaching sun god with flushing toilets and squeezing toothpaste tubes.
At 4AM, Away drank his coffee in the lobby. The night clerk had brewed a fresh carafe an hour before and he had commandeered the entire thing. The local newspaper lamented three missing persons. Away skipped over their vague disappearances for Garfield. Away loved Garfield. And lasagna. And naps. But he had a nagging suspicion as the coffee drained from the carafe that, in this strange place, the latter would be in short supply.
As he enjoyed his coffee and his comic he felt a heavy shadow stretch across his shoulders. He was sitting with his back to the door and, as he turned, he felt the rush of crisp morning air as the glass door swung inward and the bell chimed. A boy wearing a scruffy, black leather jacket and a scarred, black backpack slung over his left shoulder walked towards the breakfast counter. His right shoulder was obscured by a prickly fall of black feathers.
Away set his chipped, beige mug down, folded Garfield into a small square, and stuffed him in his pocket.
Here gravitated towards the blank space Away’s carafe was supposed to occupy. In a sudden blur of movement, he lashed out at the tower of mugs on the counter and sharp ceramic shards danced around Away’s boots.
“You special or something?” Here demanded.
“No,” Away said, his gold eyes flicked to the broken mugs on the floor, “are you?”
“Am I what?” Here asked.
“Special. Are you special?” Away asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m the king of coffee and I demand you share.” Here snatched a surviving mug from the tower and thunked it down on the table in front of Away.
“All you had to do was ask,” Away said.
Here smiled with tight lips and slung his jacket and backpack down in the opposite chair. He slid his mug under the carafe and raised his hand to the top button. Before his fingers touched the warm plastic Away’s hand shot out and pinned Here’s hand to the top of the carafe.
Needle sharp claws hooked into Here’s hand. Away felt the large veins lazily pumping blood beneath the pale skin. His thumb dug against Here’s forefinger knuckle. A red slivered moon of blood welled against his thumbnail and trickled down the carafe’s lid.
“You haven’t asked yet,” Away said, “you demanded. I don’t like demands.”
“And I don’t like feral, flea bitten beasts who argue over semantics.” Behind his outstretched and pinned hand, black feathers ruffled.
“Politeness,” Away hissed, “not semantics.”
“Since when do cats care if people are polite?” Here asked.
“Since when do birds drink coffee?” Away asked.
“Call me a bird again and I’ll eat you,” Here’s mouth split his cheeks and stretched almost the entire length of his jaw, his lips thinned and hardened, turned white and sharpened to a wicked point.
Away growled, his eyes grew to large, round, pupil filled orbs.
The door to the kitchen swung open and one of the three regular day servers pushed into the lobby with a rolling cart full of pancakes, scrambled eggs and hash browns. Away snatched his hand back and Here dropped down into the chair next to his backpack, closer to Away than he would have liked, and slammed his face into the tabletop. One of the servers looked his way at the sudden crash but hurriedly turned her eyes away, not wanting to draw the attention of the crazy person.
“So was it you making that racket earlier?” Away asked the pancake bearer. She cast Away a shy glance and set a fresh, steaming carafe in front of him, careful to not look at Here, before retreating back to the kitchen.
Here groaned and sat up slowly. The feathers and menacing, curved beak were gone. He rubbed his chin and slid his mug under the new carafe.
“Please,” he whined, “I thought we’d have more privacy.” The smell of a strong, dark roast with a bite of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the small lobby.
“Why?” Away asked, “so I could kick your ass without interruption?”
“I think you’ve got reality all twisted around,” Here said.
“Is that my problem?” Away laughed. Suddenly, he felt a pain in his left eye, like a bee sting or a thorn’s bite. He growled and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand to kill the pain. When he opened his eyes he was no longer in the motel lobby.