by Ruben Stemple
I was walking my Chimera when I ran into doofus extraordinaire Dylan Corbitt. His stupid hair stuck straight up, as if he was trying to hide a flight of pixies. I wished I could get Cindy to attack him for calling me New Kid at school, but Dad says we have to keep her a secret.
“Hey, Maxie, whatcha doing?” I hate Maxie more than New Kid, and the little shit knows it.
I imagined what he would look like smoldering from Cindy’s fire breath, and how much fun it would be to watch her stomp all over him before biting his head off. I didn’t really want him to be eaten, but the little bastard deserves it for pulling my hair at school.
“Go away shit-for-brains! I’m playing with Cindy.” I wanted to say, “If you don’t leave, I’ll let her eat you, and then I’ll deal with being grounded for a couple days.”
“Cindy.” He laughed. “That’s a dumb name for a dog!”
It’s an even dumber name for a Chimera. Dad named her after a sprite he knew when he was little. We’re guardians, protecting the secrecy and survival of animals and near humans. Where we used to live, there were three families with pet cryptids, but in Baltimore there are brown-shoe gnomes everywhere.
“You can play with her if you want. Here, throw the ball.”
Dad says I should be nice to kids at school, but I couldn’t get past the thought of Cindy munching on Dylan’s stupid freckles. I figured bouncing a sticky Chimera-spit tennis ball off his dirty sweatshirt was close enough.
“Don’t just hold it, jackass. You have to throw it. Or she’ll eat your face off to get it back.”
I forgot to bring extra fruitcake with me, so I checked the timer while Dylan and Cindy played fetch.
It’s not real fruitcake. That’s just what we call it because it’s brown and has a bunch of crap in it like the ones Grandma tries to make at Christmas. Its cloaking powers only work for about two hours, which gave me twenty minutes to get back home before Cindy turns into a fire breathing monster and make a meal out of my stupid classmate.
Cindy dropped the slobber ball with a friendly tail wag. Chimeras are good judges of character, so maybe the kid wasn’t all bad.
“We gotta run. Let’s go Cindy.”
“Come on Maxie! We were just starting to have fun!”
“No. My dad will get worried and I’ll get in trouble. And my dog will turn back into a Chimera and burn your pants off for calling me Maxie, you little ass hat.” I had to be firm.
There wasn’t quite enough time to get home, but I knew there were guardians on Fifth Street. I’d be in trouble for bothering a stranger when I should have had my fruitcake, but I had to protect the cryptid. “Goodbye,” I called, and walked away.
“Hey, Maxie, your house is that way!”
It’s just like this idiot to pay attention at the wrong time.
“I’m going to see my uncle. Go away. I’ll see you at school.”
I wished on all the fairy magic in the world, but the dumbass followed anyway. Cindy padded along beside us down a row of townhouses until I saw a brown-shoe gnome with an orange coat–a guardian house.
I knocked on the door. Nothing. I rang the bell.
“Nobody’s home. Come on, I’ll walk you back.”
“Go home, jerk face!” My timer was starting to glow red.
“Do you even know who lives here? This is dangerous!”
“You have no idea, asshole! Now go away!”
Cindy sensed my anger and growled. The growl was more chimera than chocolate lab, which made me extremely nervous. I gave Dylan a shove and yelled again. Before I got all the words out, Cindy changed. Dylan screamed and Cindy swiped a big Chimera paw just as everything went dark.
I woke up in the bathtub with someone screaming and shaking my shoulders. Standing over us was the biggest, hairiest thing I’ve ever seen. Sasquatch.
“Please don’t kill us! Please don’t eat us!”
Dumbass. Sasquatch are vegan.
“Shut up, jackass. I know this guy. He’s a big friend of my Aunt Friedas.” I hoped the squatch recognized the local code for guardians. “I don’t know why he has us in the bathtub, but I’m sure there’s a good reason.” I wanted to add I’m sorry mister for showing up on your doorstep with an out-of-fruitcake Chimera and a dumb-shit seventh grader, but I was out of options.
“You’re Maxine, right?” I nodded. “Your friend was hit pretty good.” I nodded, remembering the last few seconds before my blackout.
“Don’t hurt her, you freak! My dad’s a cop and he’ll be searching for us.” That was a lie. While he was yelling, Dylan slid himself between me and the Sasquatch. I was more than a little impressed.
“Relax, kid. I’m trying to help. You have no idea what happened, do you?”
The sasquatch looked at me. I wanted to say I was sorry for bringing a stupid kid here and sorry that Cindy had nearly ripped off his leg, but it seemed fine now and if Mr. Squatch could just let us out of the bathtub, that would be grand. Instead, I cried.
Dylan took my hand. He was starting to surprise me.
“I’m not going to hurt you, but you need to stay put. The Chimera broke at least two of your bones and you were bleeding pretty badly. The mixture in the tub is healing you.”
What?! Bullshit! I’m not bleeding, but you’re about to be.” My defender balled up his fists, but before he got another word out, he slumped down into the water.
“Help me! He’s drowning!” Tears streamed as I struggled and pulled, trying to drag his stupid fat head out of the water. The squatch pulled me, kicking and screaming, out of the large porcelain tub. Everything went dark again.
I woke up soaking wet and lying next to Dylan. My Dad and the Sasquatch were looking down at us.
“Is he … dead?”
“No, but he’s going to have a headache. I had to put him out four times.” Said the Squatch. “You’re both lucky.”
“We’ll see about that,” Dad said. “He’s seen things. We’ll need to have a serious talk with him, and maybe his family.”
“He’s a good kid, Dad. Worthy of the guardians.”
He could be a little shit, but he defended me. Besides, his being here was at least partially my fault. I’m only 13, but I know what happens to people who see things they shouldn’t.
Dad nodded to the Sasquatch, who waved a fur-covered hand toward the bed and quickly left the room.
“Dylan.” I spoke first. I needed my Dad to know that I was willing to help. “Dylan. It’s Maxine.”
“Hey, goofball.” His groggy green eyes looked into mine. “Why am I all wet?”
“You’re okay, but we need to talk. Do you trust me? I mean, really trust me?”
“Sure, Maxie. You know, you’ve never called me Dylan before.”
Ruben Stemple is a lifelong lover of all things written. He reads everything from Shakespeare to cereal boxes (yes, they still print stuff on them), and from Homer to the great Douglas Adams. He has written a few things for publication but would love to develop and hone the skills necessary to become part of the brotherhood of authors. He also teaches middle-school mathematics, which, though most would not consider it literary, has a beauty and an artistic sense of its own.