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“I’m In Your Hometown” by DukeFerret (read by Rob MacWolf)

Riley, a mailman off his route, encounters a foreign squirrel seeking answers in the abandoned ruins of the local swamp. There's something elusive about the legend: a strange feeling that the possum just can't slip.

Today’s story is “I’m In Your Hometown” by DukeFerret, a queer romance and sports fiction writer who uploads short stories and artwork regularly on his furry social media accounts. One may follow his work by the Twitter handle @dookinduke, or the username DukeFerret on FurAffinity and SoFurry.

Today’s story will be read for you by Rob MacWolf — werewolf hitch-hiker.



Transcript
Khaki QOD:

You're listening to the voice of dog.

Khaki QOD:

And today's story is.

Khaki QOD:

I'm in your hometown by duke ferret.

Khaki QOD:

Uh, queer romance and sports fiction writer who uploads short

Khaki QOD:

stories and artwork regularly on his very social media accounts.

Khaki QOD:

Well, my follow his work by the Twitter handle at duke and duke or the

Khaki QOD:

username duke ferrets on FurAffinity.

Khaki QOD:

And sulfury.

Khaki QOD:

Today's story will be read for you by Rob MacWolf.

Khaki QOD:

Werewolf hitchhiker.

Khaki QOD:

Please enjoy.

Khaki QOD:

I'm in your hometown by duke ferrets.

Khaki QOD:

At first I thought she was a ghost.

I saw her in the thick brush:

a white blur under the gleam of my

I saw her in the thick brush:

car’s headlights before it was gone.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I stepped on the brake and pulled over.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I grabbed my cap off the dashboard and exited into the sunset swampland.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The figure—I saw now as a squirrel—stepped out of the trees several yards away.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She held a sketchbook in the wing of her cloak, short fur blending black to grey

I saw her in the thick brush:

to orange when she pulled away her hood.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She smelled of thyme, like flowers picked from my mom’s old garden.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The squirrel sized me up as I approached.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The arms of her cloak were sweat stained in the humid air.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Got a letter for me, postie?” Her voice had a whistle to it that I

I saw her in the thick brush:

hadn’t quite heard around these parts.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I shook my head.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Just making sure you know where you’re going.

I saw her in the thick brush:

You shouldn’t be out here after eight, y’know.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She peered at my mail truck.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Why are you here, then?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Drove to Lahe to cover for an employee.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I was taking a shortcut back.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“To where?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I pointed over my shoulder.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Lowell.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“And you’re a possum,” she remarked.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Interesting.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She reached for her pencil to scribble something on her pad.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Crickets chirped in the shade of overgrown roadside vegetation.

I saw her in the thick brush:

No other vehicles sat on the road.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Do you live here?” I asked.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Same city.” She didn’t make eye contact; she just kept writing.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I took transit this morning.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Then I walked out here alone.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“With camping supplies?” No answer from her.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Did you bring water?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“No.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m just trying to get a closer look.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“At what?

I saw her in the thick brush:

The afterlife?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I waited for a laugh or a chuckle, but she just frowned at me.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I stuffed my paws in my pockets as she narrowed her eyes.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“The deep swamp.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I need to take in the lost colony with my own senses.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The work of people—largely woodpeckers—who lived here before the weather

I saw her in the thick brush:

pushed them to move away or die.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Maybe she was a ghost.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Did my joke hit too close to home?

I saw her in the thick brush:

I shook my head.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You’ll join them if you run into something venomous after dark.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her rigid frown rose into interest.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Maybe the first unconceited look she gave me.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Really?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“My uncle got bit out here once.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Only made it back to town on his brother’s back.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She thought that over for a moment and nodded.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Thank you, uh…” She caught a glimpse of my name tag.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Riley.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’ll walk back now.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Dying sunlight filtered through palm branches.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I turned around and beckoned her.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I can drive you back.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She raised an eyebrow.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“While I watch you make deliveries?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“The route’s over.” I spread my paws.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Half-an-hour beats three, huh?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She followed me back to the mail truck, squinting as I slid open the door for her.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I didn’t know delivery trucks had passenger seats.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I stepped in and sat behind the wheel.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Where don’t they?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Home.” She clutched her sketchpad to her chest, then shot out a paw between us.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“My name’s Luna, by the way.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Exchange student from Bernan University.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

The truck hummed as I started it up.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“A whole continent of coast between here and there.” I looked idly

I saw her in the thick brush:

at the GPS stationed between our legs and noticed my path back to

I saw her in the thick brush:

the office turned near her school.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s what this ‘lost colony’ stuff is for, right?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She nodded, then paused to inspect my windshield trinkets, including

I saw her in the thick brush:

my permit and business card.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I checked my mirrors and hit the road.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“An anthropology project,” she clarified.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Like, digging up bones?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She chuckled.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I’m not an archaeologist.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I snorted.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Hell if I know; I never went to college.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I started here over a decade ago, and I didn’t need a degree to deliver.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Or to manage.” With a paw resting on the wheel, I used

I saw her in the thick brush:

the other to locate my lemonade.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Why waste my time?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She ignored that remark.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“It’s really more than just digging.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m not into physical work; I’m an artist.

I saw her in the thick brush:

And I’m drawing the swamp.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“The whole thing?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna crossed her fingers and smiled.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s my plan.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I let that sit as I took a drink.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Sweetie, I think you’re gonna need a bigger canvas.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh, I know.

I saw her in the thick brush:

That’s why I’m only sketching it.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

That answer didn’t make much sense at all.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Probably a project organized by some academic dictator with no

I saw her in the thick brush:

regard for their students’ sanity.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I shook my head and turned back to the road.

I saw her in the thick brush:

As we rolled to the edge of the thicket, the sun scorched my eyes between

I saw her in the thick brush:

the shadows of palm tree trunks.

I saw her in the thick brush:

We put down our sun visors.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She still had her head down over her sketchpad, pencil in paw,

I saw her in the thick brush:

scribbling a couple pages ahead.

I saw her in the thick brush:

From the short wiggling of her fingers, it looked like she was writing something.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Taking notes?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her scribbling stopped.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“No.” Then she flipped back to her previous page, continuing to

I saw her in the thick brush:

work long strokes across the page.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I turned up the A/C until it jostled the pages and licenses

I saw her in the thick brush:

pinned to the dashboard.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Below the rearview, the wind shook a hanging picture of my husband.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Talkative one minute, one syllable answers the next.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I cleared my throat and tried another approach.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What’s your drawing have to do with a lost colony?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She suddenly reflected on that, as if my question flipped a switch in her

I saw her in the thick brush:

mind that pulled her away from her art.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Everything.

I saw her in the thick brush:

It’s just as much about them as those who took their place.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I snickered.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“City kids and their trailer parks?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna didn’t laugh.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s part of it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The land speaks its own language.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Profound,” I said.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I’m sure the academy will love it.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She continued as if I hadn’t spoken.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“It tells us—if shy of context—fragments of who they were and how that

I saw her in the thick brush:

identity shaped their home.

I saw her in the thick brush:

What we see now is all the evidence I have.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I grabbed my drink with a free paw and pored over that.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“And what does that tell you?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Nothing.

I saw her in the thick brush:

That’s why I’m sketching it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m turning to nature for my muse.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Huh.” I studied her bushy tail as it curled into her lap.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I hope that works out for you.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Thank you.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

A wooden sign pointed towards bordering towns, a marker

I saw her in the thick brush:

of the fringe of the swamp.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I stepped on the gas as I noticed the tree shadows lengthening.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The engine purred with the choir of bugs.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna cleared her throat.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“May I ask why you left town for someone else’s route?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“His wife was due in three days.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Some kids just can’t wait to get out of there.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh my.” Graphite swept across her page.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s generous of you.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Well, Mike’s been here a decade.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Lydia’s in my squash club.

I saw her in the thick brush:

It’s just another hour out of my day.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

The A/C blew the smell of her fur through the truck when she stretched

I saw her in the thick brush:

and peered back at the empty trunk.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You’re that close with your coworkers?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“We have the same routines, meet the same kinds of people;

I saw her in the thick brush:

just part of being a team.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That makes sense.” After chewing on her eraser, she turned back down to her book.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What about you?

I saw her in the thick brush:

Do you have kids?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I shook my head.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Well, I was a surrogate father for a friend who couldn’t

I saw her in the thick brush:

conceive with her husband.

I saw her in the thick brush:

It’s their job now.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Donating was the easy part.” I spun the wheel to turn into

I saw her in the thick brush:

the final stretch of the swamp.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“But for me?

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’d love to adopt someday.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna’s tail flicked.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Not have your own?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

A bit of a presumptuous question.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I laughed and nodded at the picture hanging from the rearview.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I’d have to ask my partner.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Something tells me he wouldn’t be able to carry one.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh!” Her eyes widened at the winking portrait of the T.

I saw her in the thick brush:

rex.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What’s his name?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Luiz.” I waved my paw between us and flashed my wedding ring in the sunlight.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Been married ten years.

I saw her in the thick brush:

He’s a pretty big filmmaker.

I saw her in the thick brush:

You ever seen Fortress Escape?

I saw her in the thick brush:

Snout Computer?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“No.” She stared back at me blankly.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Never heard of them.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I shrugged back to the road.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Well, they’re popular here.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Back the pencil went.

I saw her in the thick brush:

We sat in silence as we crossed a bridge to leave the swamp proper.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The robotic voice of the GPS woke me up as I turned past the stop

I saw her in the thick brush:

sign to pull onto Palmside Drive.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Sun at our backs, I glanced at Luna.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“So...why here?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Hm?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You could’ve picked a bigger city.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Or even a smaller one.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Hell—you’d find a million other lost colonies further

I saw her in the thick brush:

inland.” I stroked my whiskers.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You got family here?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“No, I’m living in residence at the university.

I saw her in the thick brush:

But for the city…” She brushed through her tail for a moment.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“My friend left for a neighbouring city for her thesis.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I almost followed, but I thought it wouldn’t be right for me

I saw her in the thick brush:

to stay that close to home.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I squinted at an upcoming traffic light.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I’m not sure I follow.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could live apart from my parents.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I picked Lowell because it shares the climate of cities I know, yet,

I saw her in the thick brush:

for being hardly two hours from the border...your culture’s so different.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Is it?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna dropped the sketchpad on her knees, page down.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“In every way.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Take your stores, for example.

I saw her in the thick brush:

There’s no clerk at the door.” She stretched out her feet.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“The buses have no leg room.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s not just a cultural thing.” I chuckled and recited a phrase

I saw her in the thick brush:

my dad used to tell me as a kid.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s called municipal incompetence.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her warm laugh was pleasant to hear.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“My sample size is small.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Is that an issue in your studies?” I perched my elbow on the window.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The truck fell silent at the light, apart from the ticking of the turn signal.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She spent a moment thinking that question over, as if it

I saw her in the thick brush:

meant the world’s importance.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Sometimes I’m afraid I can’t tell the full story; that the evidence isn’t

I saw her in the thick brush:

there and my curiosity will never be satisfied.” She tapped her paws together,

I saw her in the thick brush:

mimicking the rhythm of the ticker.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What about you?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

My gaze drifted from the window to her eyes in the mirror.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What about me?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You carry around so many letters.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Don’t you ever wonder what they say?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I frowned.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That’s never crossed my mind.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“How many love letters have you delivered without a thought in the world?

I saw her in the thick brush:

How many acceptance papers?” A smile pried at her lips.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“How many sperm donations?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

The joke hit me like a truck.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Had to set the gear to park to not rear-end the poor fellow in front.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Aha!

I saw her in the thick brush:

Hopefully they weren’t on Mike’s route!

I saw her in the thick brush:

But, y’know, you don’t think about what’s in the envelopes.

I saw her in the thick brush:

You just care about making it on time.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Right.” Luna shuffled her feet.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Speaking of making it on time, I was wondering if you could do something

I saw her in the thick brush:

else for me before we’re at my stop.

I saw her in the thick brush:

You see, I haven’t really gotten a chance to talk to many residents, so

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’d like to tape myself asking you a couple questions about the swamp.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I need some audio tracks for my project, and I’ve been

I saw her in the thick brush:

looking for original material.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Traffic slowed on the other side of the intersection as I thought about it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I don’t know if I’ll be helpful, but we could try.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

The traffic light turned green, letting us into the city with

I saw her in the thick brush:

the sun glowing angelic white on Luna’s fur from beyond the window.

I saw her in the thick brush:

From her pocket she produced a phone.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Eight-twenty-three,” she recited into the microphone, “Thursday, July six.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Interview five.” Luna glanced at me.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Riley the letter carrier.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Local postal service branch manager,” I corrected.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She snorted.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Riley the ‘that’.

I saw her in the thick brush:

To start off, did you grow up here?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Nope.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Moved here with my husband thirteen years ago.” I flipped up my sun visor.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She didn’t follow.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Have you ever visited the Lahe Swamp before today?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“We hiked out there a few times, me and Luiz.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“And did you know about the colony?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Never heard of it until today.

I saw her in the thick brush:

If your project is banking on this, I could drop you off at the museum.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Been there, obviously.” She tapped the pencil against her teeth.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Was Luiz born here?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Yeah.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Grew up about eight minutes from here.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“He learned quite a bit about the swamp growing up, I take it.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Probably.

I saw her in the thick brush:

You want my number?

I saw her in the thick brush:

I could ask him about it and talk later.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She glanced at his picture.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Maybe.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I still want to get through this, though.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Suit yourself.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Did he ever tell you about the area?” Luna watched another truck pass by.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“The giant trees with holes bored through their trunks?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“He said he used to play in them with his friends when they were kids.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Some hollows have ladders to the branches, which used to be shelter

I saw her in the thick brush:

for…” I trailed off at my realization.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Those are the ruins, aren’t they?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“According to most accounts.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Ones he probably heard about in school.

I saw her in the thick brush:

You said he grew up on the outskirts of the city, right?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Still had to walk a ways for schooling, if I recall.” I chuckled shortly.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That part always shocked me.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“That infrastructure was so dialed back.

I saw her in the thick brush:

My dad was born here, but he moved to Sully before I was born.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I was in school a little while later than Luiz, but the

I saw her in the thick brush:

buses I rode were years old.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“How much older is Luiz?

I saw her in the thick brush:

Is he much taller than you?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Twelve years.

I saw her in the thick brush:

And a couple feet.” My eyes drifted to my side window, watching the

I saw her in the thick brush:

palm trees and bushes speed by.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Wait, what does that have to do with anything?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I have a classmate studying height differences in marriages.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Even cross-species, partners tend to end up closer than their

I saw her in the thick brush:

averages.” She waved a paw.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“But I’ve got a friend back in Bernan who’s dating an older fellow too.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her parents aren’t too happy about it.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I know that noise.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“With the age gap?” Luna was staring out the window and

I saw her in the thick brush:

drawing again when I peeped over.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I couldn’t quite see her sketch, but it didn’t look like a landscape.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I don’t think Dad’s quite over it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

He never talked to me about romance after I came out.” I scratched my muzzle.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Mom thought homosexuality was evil.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Up until she died.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m so sorry.” She studied me with sympathetic eyes.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Even living in Sully?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Just because she lived there didn’t mean she fit in.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna’s ears drooped.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I caught it in the corner of my vision as I pulled up to a red light.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Did your dad side with her?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I scowled at her.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“What does this have to do with your lost colony again?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

That stopped her in her tracks.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her eyes fell back to her page.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Sorry.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I took a deep breath.

I saw her in the thick brush:

A pair of pedestrians walked by—two birds I didn’t recognize the pattern of.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Dad used to work in lumber with all those traditionalist macho types.

I saw her in the thick brush:

He was always hellbent on manning me up—teaching me to be like him.

I saw her in the thick brush:

More selfish than malicious.

I saw her in the thick brush:

We haven’t talked since Mom died.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna hesitated.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Ah.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m sorry.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I chuckled shortly.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You can stop apologizing, you know.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh.” She pursed lips that barely hid a smile.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I’m not sorry for that.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

With a smirk, I ran my fingers over the leather of the wheel.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Dad met Luiz once.

I saw her in the thick brush:

It was awkward, and I figured he felt threatened.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I think we wanted different things out of life, so I stopped returning his calls.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“There’s something to be said about found family,” Luna mused.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Not to make assumptions about your own lived experience, but you

I saw her in the thick brush:

shouldn’t have to put up with them just because they’re possums.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Right.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Nearing the towers downtown, Luna turned to me again.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“So, what was it like moving across the continent to stay here?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Well, I had Lou.

I saw her in the thick brush:

We met when I sat next to him at a film festival.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Business trip for him, day out for me and my friends.” A car came up on my rear.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I merged to let it pass.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“It’s funny.

I saw her in the thick brush:

It was raining so hard I almost stayed home that day.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I remember what kind of stuff I was worrying about when I brushed my

I saw her in the thick brush:

teeth and got dressed that morning.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Everything that turned out to be so meaningless packed into a day that

I saw her in the thick brush:

changed the trajectory of my life.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She smirked.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You called me the philosophical one.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Well, I asked him out before I left.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I was shooting a lot of shots then, since things hadn’t worked out with my last few

I saw her in the thick brush:

boyfriends.” I kept my eyes fixed on the road, carefully navigating the half-lane

I saw her in the thick brush:

left by cars parked on the side of it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“He didn’t even tell me about his growing fame until our third date.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Defense mechanism?” Luna spun around her pencil.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“There’s a lot of crazies trying to date fame.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I scoffed.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Oh, I’m crazy too!

I saw her in the thick brush:

I just don’t care about fame.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

The sky glowed yellow above the concrete jungle.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Orange hues highlighted the tips of purple clouds marking a day fleeting.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Has it been a bit of an adjustment, then?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Yeah,” I said, staring at a billboard in the distance.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“But you face challenges in any relationship.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Thirteen years, though, right?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Doesn’t mean it’ll last forever.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna didn’t say anything.

I saw her in the thick brush:

After a moment of quiet, she looked at me wistfully.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Nothing lasts forever.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

It was a curious thing to say to someone nearly twice her age—not

I saw her in the thick brush:

that it even felt like I’d lived half my life since that age.

I saw her in the thick brush:

My parents always talked about that as an existential fear.

I saw her in the thick brush:

For our differences, there were some things I managed to inherit.

I saw her in the thick brush:

That thought gave me some butterflies.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I hadn’t talked to Dad in months.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Riley?” She had to repeat it before I heard it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I snapped out of my reverie.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Uh huh?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I think you missed a right.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

My eyes snapped down to the GPS screen.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Then up to the hospital in the distance.

I saw her in the thick brush:

God damn it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Thanks.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Got a little off-track.” I glanced over at her phone, still recording from her lap.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Speaking of...your interview.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I think I’ve talked more about myself than I have your subject.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna shook her head.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I asked you about yourself.

I saw her in the thick brush:

There’s only so much you can say about the land itself.

I saw her in the thick brush:

And what’s that worth out of context?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“The interview was worth a shot,” I offered.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“It’s worth something more to me.” She turned back down to her drawing.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You haven’t studied the swamp like I have, but your experience

I saw her in the thick brush:

of the structures built around it is valuable to me.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I sat waiting to turn back onto the correct path.

I saw her in the thick brush:

A group of pedestrians walked ahead at the light.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I wasn’t born here.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“But have those thirteen years felt incomplete?

I saw her in the thick brush:

You had to adapt here as an adult, rather than learn it from birth like

I saw her in the thick brush:

your husband.” Her pencil stopped moving.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You just might see the things lifelong residents are blind to.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Like what?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

She held my gaze, hauntingly still for a moment.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Finally, her eyes turned away and she shrugged under the

I saw her in the thick brush:

arms of her herb-scented cloak.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna’s silence remained as we drove upon ancient stone buildings that clashed with

I saw her in the thick brush:

the sleek modern towers in the distance.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I cornered into a busway on the fringe of her campus and pulled over.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Ding, dong!” I sang.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Riley Transit has reached the end of the line.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Thank you for riding with us and please do not charge the doors!”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“With jokes like that, I see why you want to be a dad,” Luna grumbled.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her phone camera snapped.

I saw her in the thick brush:

It was pointed down at her open sketchbook.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Quick paws ripped out the page and held it to me.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I blinked down at the sketched face of the possum.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Behind him stood a T.

I saw her in the thick brush:

rex resting a hand on his opposite shoulder.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna scratched the back of her neck.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I hope I captured his likeness.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Your picture of him is really small.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

There was a hopeful glimmer in my eye, matched by Luiz’s warm smile.

I saw her in the thick brush:

She drew me with my cap, funnily; I guess she couldn’t see me without it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Luna, this is incredible!

I saw her in the thick brush:

Wait a minute, let me take a picture...” I rummaged through my

I saw her in the thick brush:

pocket until her paw landed on my wrist.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I drew it for you to keep.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I have everything I need.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Except…” She held a blank contact entry out on her phone.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Could we exchange numbers?

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m still looking for leads and I’d love to talk to Luiz directly.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Or anyone you know who might be connected in any way—through

I saw her in the thick brush:

great-grandparents, even—to the people who lived in that swamp.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I took the phone from her.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“I’ll see what I can do.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

After swapping contact info, we shook paws.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna then stepped out onto the sidewalk and stood at the door.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Her smile glowed brighter than her cloak as she held her sketchbook

I saw her in the thick brush:

and nodded to me once more.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Thank you so much!

I saw her in the thick brush:

This means a lot to me, Riley!”

I saw her in the thick brush:

I started to wave at her.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Then a thought that bugged me from the moment I saw her resurfaced.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Y’know, you remind me of someone.”

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Who?”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Hesitation caught up with my pursuit.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’d sound like a total jackass if she took it wrong.

I saw her in the thick brush:

On second thought, I just shook my head.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Nevermind.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Just a memory.” My fingers found the brim of my cap.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“You have a good night.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’ll be sure to get back!”

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luna vanished into the parking lot as I tapped off the GPS and

I saw her in the thick brush:

turned back onto familiar roads.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I didn’t see much of the city on the way back to the office.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I was far too preoccupied by the decision Luna prodded me back towards

I saw her in the thick brush:

to drive with more than simple reflex.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The muscle memory was so ingrained into me that even in dreams I often

I saw her in the thick brush:

found myself driving these streets.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I told everyone I could navigate downtown with my eyes closed.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Something about Luna made me forget that.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I sipped my drink, tasting nothing but the last couple drops sitting at the bottom.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The thought wouldn’t leave my mind as long as I let it foster.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Luiz was waiting for me at home, and I wanted to do this without him there.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I knew he would ask if I had to retreat to another room.

I saw her in the thick brush:

On a quieter avenue, a couple blocks down from the postal office,

I saw her in the thick brush:

I pulled over beside the curb.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I fished around for my phone, opened the contact list and

I saw her in the thick brush:

scrolled past Luna’s entry.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Names flew under my thumb, years whizzing by, until I finally

I saw her in the thick brush:

loomed upon a long-unused number.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Headlining his profile was a contact photo at least a decade old.

I saw her in the thick brush:

There he stood, an aging woodpecker, grinning tall and proud with

I saw her in the thick brush:

his possum wife in his arms.

I saw her in the thick brush:

My thumb hovered over the call button.

I saw her in the thick brush:

With a deep breath, I took the plunge and pressed the phone to my ear.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The sun was gone from view, leaving behind a vista of millions

I saw her in the thick brush:

of colours over the city sky.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I slouched back in my seat, watching traffic pile up at the

I saw her in the thick brush:

light as the phone rang in my paw.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The second ring followed.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The third ring felt as long as a lifetime.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The fourth ring inhabited its own eternity.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I knew it.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I let go of my held breath and sat up straight.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Why did I think he’d still pick up after this long?

I saw her in the thick brush:

During the fifth ring, I prepared to hang up before it sent me to voicemail.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Instead, the ring cut out.

I saw her in the thick brush:

My mouth went dry.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I must’ve registered the old landline, because the line crackled a little.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The signal travelled a continent to reach me, but it seemed as

I saw her in the thick brush:

though he were lightyears away.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Riley?” His voice, a familiar whistle, sounded frail, yet hopeful, like a

I saw her in the thick brush:

man finding an oasis in the desert.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Guilt panged in my chest.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The intersection light turned green, prompting a mass

I saw her in the thick brush:

migration of traffic ahead.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I waited until I could muster up the courage to speak.

I saw her in the thick brush:

What could I even say?

I saw her in the thick brush:

I peeked down at Luna’s sketch.

I saw her in the thick brush:

The confident possum wore a wordless smile.

I saw her in the thick brush:

His partner, too, spoke only from his eyes.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Yet, with not a word on the page, the drawing read like a letter long

I saw her in the thick brush:

sealed from the back of the mail truck.

I saw her in the thick brush:

Sitting open, it told me exactly what to say.

I saw her in the thick brush:

“Hey, Dad.

I saw her in the thick brush:

I’m in your hometown.”

Khaki QOD:

This was.

Khaki QOD:

I'm in your hometown by duke ferret.

Khaki QOD:

Read for you by Rob MacWolf.

Khaki QOD:

Where Wolf hitchhiker.

Khaki QOD:

You can find more stories on the web at the voicemail dog, or find the

About the Podcast

Show artwork for The Voice of Dog
The Voice of Dog
Furry stories to warm the ol' cockles, read for you by Khaki, your faithful fireside companion. If you have a story that would suit the show, you can get in touch with @khakidoggy on Twitter and Telegram, and khakidoggy@me.com by e-mail.

About your host

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Khaki