Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Nine. Listen to the audio version at Nobilis Erotica here!
Luke was released from the hospital after thirty-nine stitches, a dizzying amount of medication, and a blood transfusion. He took one look at his truck, with the back window shattered and the seats soaked with blood, and called for a tow. Sally drove him to his house in her car.
Orson and August were on the porch when they arrived, and Orson came down to meet them. “Your chickens are fine,” he said as Luke got out of the car, wincing with every movement. “Apparently chupacabras don’t like fowl.”
Luke nodded. “And the rest?” He saw a freshly turned patch of earth beside the porch and for a terrible moment imagined Sootie down in the hole, still and dead. He breathed out, realizing the hole was too small for a dog.
“You lost a kid,” Orson said. “That spotted doeling. Sorry about that.”
Luke scowled. “Damn. She would’ve brought a good price too.”
“We haven’t found Sootie or the other goats.”
Luke nodded. “No news is good news,” he said, though he secretly didn’t think so.
Sally wanted him to go inside, but Luke insisted on walking the perimeter of his property, calling for his dog. It hurt the longer he walked, and he was a good way away from the house when he realized he was going to have to sit down and rest before he tried to go back. He was angry about that, angry about Saul and the doeling, angry about everything. He shook his horns and sent a fresh wave of agony down his back. Breathing hard, he sat and waited for the pain to pass. Sally helped him get to his feet when he was ready.
On a whim, he put two fingers in his mouth and whistled loud. He waited. He was about to turn back toward the house when he heard a distant bark.
Hope rose like a tide in Luke’s chest. He whistled again and again as the barking grew closer. The four missing goats came over a rise and down a tiny path little more than a rabbit run, and behind them, Sootie.
Luke fell to his knees and cried out in relief. Sootie ran up to him, and Sally stopped her before she bowled over her injured master. He hugged his dog, rubbed her fur, and buried his nose in her neck. “Oh God, you stink!” he said, but he didn’t care. He hadn’t realized how much he loved her, how much it would have hurt to have lost her.
When they got back to the house, Luke called in to work. His boss was miffed at his absence but quickly changed his tune to disbelief, then astonishment, at the puma attack tale that Luke spun. He insisted on sending someone over with some food (presumably also to see if Luke was telling the truth). He also added the very comforting comment, “Wow, at least you didn’t get hurt at work!”
Sitting at the kitchen table, Luke bitched about having to lose two weeks of work. Finally August, who had not yet seemed to notice the barely concealed looks of dislike Luke kept giving him, said, “Look, I know it’s lost money, but at least you get a vacation of sorts, right?”
Luke gave him an openly baleful glare. “Do you have any idea how close to the edge most of us are out here? I just lost not only two weeks of work but also an expensive, well trained dog and a doeling that would have netted a couple of hundred dollars. I have to come up with my insurance deductible plus twenty percent of the hospital bill. I almost refused the transfusion because I knew how much it would cost. Thank God I have insurance at all! When I find that chupacabra, the first thing I’m gonna do is punch his lights out. The second thing I’m gonna do is take his wallet.”
August chuckled but stopped when no one else laughed. With a furrowed brow he said, “Isn’t there someone in the local myth-community who could help you out with some of it? Up in New York we all share the burden of something like this.”
Luke huffed. “Blood from a stone, man. No one else has anything to give. I go broke, I lose the place, I might could find a couch to land on.”
“You would have a couch,” Sally and Orson said as one, looking offended.
“What I’m trying to say is,” Luke said, “all of us are constantly at the point of losing it all. It’s a party when someone’s caught up on their mortgage. Tax season rolls around it’s like Christmas, because no one here makes enough to pay income tax. We get those checks and suddenly the world’s a little brighter, the wolf a little farther from the door.”
August still looked skeptical. “But there are programs–”
Luke stood, his expression stormy. “Don’t you come in my house and tell me about how there’s help out there, how the government can come in and give me someone else’s money. I ain’t takin’ someone else’s money. Just because it comes from Washington doesn’t make it free, or right. Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. This pitiful little wreck of a house, these old, worn clothes, that torn-up truck? It’s fuckin’ mine. Ain’t no one given me anything, and I didn’t need anyone but myself to get where I am. So fuckin’ smoke that,” he snarled and stomped off to his bedroom. He would have slammed the door, but there wasn’t a door, just a curtain hung on a length of twine. Still, he did his best to snap it sharply across the doorway.
Through the thin fabric, Luke saw August turn toward Sally and Orson. “Does his accent always get that thick when he gets mad?” he heard August whisper.
“He’s a loon,” August said.
Sally closed the few steps between them and slapped August across the face. “Don’t you dare speak about him,” she warned. “He’s one of the best there is.”
August bowed his head in acquiescence and left them in peace.
Luke wasn’t entirely right when he said that it was all on him. Sally came to the house every few days to gather ripe vegetables and took them back to her parents’ house, where her mother would exclaim how fine they were and insist on paying Luke more for them than she would pay at Walmart, which was the standard by which she priced all things. Orson found a trailer somewhere and hauled the goats and chickens down to Wilson’s. He and Luke’s father buried Saul by the side of the soapberry tree. When Luke’s mother saw the bloodstains in the truck she cried all over again. Then she and one of her more stoic friends got after the truck with a steam cleaner and its very bulky attachments. Orson found a back window for the truck at a junkyard in San Antonio. He also found a man who knew how to install truck windows and happened to need his kitchen repainted. The scratches in the top of the truck would have to stay, though Orson painted over them with some highly unattractive rust preventative. Luke was touched beyond words when they gave him back his truck, fixed as well as it could be for thirty-seven dollars.
He spent three weeks, not two, on various couches before he returned to work. It turned out that back injuries made every movement hurt, even when that movement ought to have nothing to do with his back. He found to his puzzled amusement that he was told where to go rather than having to search for a safe harbor himself. The myth-folk seemed to have decided that the best way to keep their resident satyr safe was to pass him around. Should the chupacabra come looking for him, it would at least have a long way to walk before it caught up to where Luke actually was. Luke liked to think that as damaged as the beast must have been, it wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.
Luke decided early on that the best houses were the ones with women in them. When men lived alone, they made do. When they lived with women, they still made do, but the women made it look good. Women, as the gatherers to men’s hunters, seemed to produce the most amazing finds. He was at Sally’s house, being served his own vegetables by her mother, when Sally came in with a big grin. “Luke!” she said. “You’ll never guess! No, I’m positive, you never really would guess. Stop guessing! OK, really, shut up. I found you a bedroom door!”
Luke clapped his mouth shut. She was right, he would never have guessed that.
“I took the measurements of the doorframe last time I was up there and kept them in this notebook I got in the glove box of the car. So I was driving home and saw this perfectly good door out by the street. So I stopped and measured it–yes, with the tape measure in the glove box–and it’s like a quarter inch tall, but you can shave it down, right? Great! I’ll go get it.”
Luke hobbled out to the porch and watched, amazed, as Sally pulled a door with a hole kicked through it out of her car’s hatchback.
“Daddy, can you fix this?” she called to Wilson, who had joined Luke on the porch.
“I figure so,” he said with a laugh.
Luke shook his head, amazed. “Sal, you went dumpster diving for me! Why didn’t you just say how you felt, baby?”
Wilson clapped Luke on the shoulder. “I don’t want no illegitimate grandkids,” he said before going back into the house.
Luke stared after him. “Shouldn’t it be, like, illegal for you to even say things like that?” he said. But he smiled to himself.
* * *
About the author: Julie Cox is the author of Chasing Tail and numerous short stories in Circlet Press erotica anthologies. She lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere.
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Satyr Luke’s comfortable routine is thrown into disarray when he becomes the target of enemies who won’t hesitate to hurt his friends to get to him. Struggling to save his town—and to sort out his feelings for his friend Sally—Luke faces the adventure of a lifetime in Julie Cox’s Capricious.
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