In which a complicating factor returns, and our heroes discuss the nature and causes of literature.
In the end, Bodil had chosen not to stay the night. It was a choice Kurt had disturbingly little influence on, he realized. Of course, since her mother already thought they were lovers – and Bodil evidently kept up the facade to hide her lesbian secret – it would probably not have caused much reactions at home. But in the end she had not found it necessary. "Call me if the catboy comes out, OK?" was her parting words. She had homework of her own to do, after all, and unlike him she would have delayed it till the last possible moment even if she got it a week ago.
Prince had not transformed this night. It may be a bit early to say that there is a pattern, but it took two days last time too. He better be prepared for it on Tuesday then. This time he will definitely catch a picture on his camera mobile. That should once and for all end the suspicion of insanity. (Despite her protestations, that is what she implies, isn't it? You don't just see boys where there are actually cats unless you are pretty far gone.)
Just as bad as her suspicion of insanity is her thinly veiled allegations of homosexuality. Just because she is a lesbian doesn't mean everyone else is! Actually he sometimes feel like a lesbian in a man's body... but that's a joke, of course. Just because he isn't loudmouthed, aggressive and uncontrollably horny doesn't mean he is not a healthy man. He is just more used to thinking before he acts, is all. Then again, she is loudmouthed, aggressive and ... OK, probably not that, but she is pretty boyish and she actually is one of those. So there may generally be something in it. But not in his case. Yes, the boy Prince was kinda pretty in a way, but it was not like he was...
Kurt wakes up from his musings. He was walking through the long paneled corridors on his way to the heavily subsidized college cafeteria. He stops and turns automatically toward the sound.
"It really is you! Drowning boy!"
What are you doing here?"
"I study here, don't we all? Woo, I almost didn't recognize you with your clothes on!"
"You could say that a little less loudly, you know..."
"Tee hee hee! But seriously, it's funny that I never noticed you before!"
"Or the other way around. After all, you look slightly more mature than the average here. No offense intended."
"It is true too. I'm 27. You see, there was a baby the last time I was your age. So I kinda had a break from my studies until just recently."
"Ah. I didn't know."
"You couldn't see? I didn't get these mature proportions without some hormonal reconstruction, courtesy of my baby."
"Well, it sure doesn't seem to have hurt you."
"Tee hee! You are so polite and courteous. You sure you don't have a girlfriend?"
"I think that is proven beyond reasonable doubt."
"Then, would you go out with me?"
"Dating! You know, go out and eat somewhere not too expensive, talking about all the weirdness in our life so far, gazing into each other's eyes to see if there is anyone home. The usual thing."
"But what about the baby? It is still alive, right?"
"Yes, but he is not a baby anymore. My mom has him under control. And she is always nagging me to go out and find a nice guy."
"She probably things of someone with a job."
"Well, you will have that when you finish. And a well paid one, too, I bet."
"Probably, but that's still a couple years off."
"It's OK. We'll just be dating, you'll not be providing for me and little Alexander Hamilton."
"Uhm, this may not be polite and charming, but what about Hamilton senior?"
"Ha...? Oh, you mean that guy? No, Alexander Hamilton is the first name. The other guy was called Hansen. He was a guy who could disappear in a crowd, and eventually he did. I wouldn't have fallen for him if I had been more mature. Which I am now."
"Yes, you seem like a responsible woman, studying and working hard."
"I try my best to live a normal life and give my son a normal home. If such a thing exist in this day and age."
really respect that."
"Thank you! And don't worry, I am not looking specifically for a father figure for my son. Though you might not fare as badly as you imagine at that either. You look a lot more mature in your natural environment."
"As compared to drowning in a water slide, most things seem positively serene."
"Haha! So true. I was probably a bit hectic myself. So, how about tomorrow after school? Is five OK with you?"
"Huh? Yes, I guess I could do that."
"Great! It's a date! Tomorrow at five PM. Let's meet outside the railroad station, it is pretty central and has a big clock. And don't worry, I will not try to seduce you on our first date. You of course are free to try whatever you want." She winks, blows him a kiss and runs off.
Just like that.
Kurt is just the slightest bit worried that Prince may transform while he – Kurt – is at school. He is not overly worried, because the two previous transformations were both in the night. But as his statistics teacher would have pointed out, two data points is a bit on the meager side for accurate predictions. So it is with a trace of relief he hears the sound of the vacuum cleaner as he lets himself in. No matter what, Prince would not have touched that. But then he remembers who it must be, and the image of her with a vacuum cleaner fills him with renewed dread. He rushes in to minimize the property damage.
Bodil stands in front of the sofa, brandishing the vacuum threateningly. From under the sofa PawPrince glares back at her, hissing. "Bodil! What's this about?"
"Welcome home, Kurt! I am teaching the furry assassin here a lesson."
"Furry assassin, is it now?"
"I had barely locked myself in before he landed on me, claws out!"
"He was just guarding the home, since I don't have a dog."
"I would rather be attacked by a dog! They don't fly and they are not particularly stealthy."
"If I had a dog, you would be a mile away from here now with tooth marks in your ass."
"I doubt there is a canine in existence with jaws wide enough to take a bite of my ass."
"I believe they aim for the soft nether part, the same that is used for pinching. Not that I have tried, of course."
"You really are a pervert after all! Are all you ass boys like that, or is it just you?"
"What? I told you I haven't ever tried."
"But even thinking about it is ecchi! No normal person would think about such a thing."
"If you ever grow up to get a job in office or retail, you will be surprised by the number of men who will more than think about pinching a pretty backside."
"Oh, I'm not talking about the pinching. It's the biting that gets to me. What kind of man goes around thinking about biting the soft parts of someone's butt?"
"What? I was talking about the dogs, not me. I've never bitten someone's butt in my life."
"But you were thinking about it, right?"
"Could you at least turn off the vacuum so we don't have to shout about this topic?"
A bit later, they have eaten dinner from Kurt's leftovers and the dessert cheesecake Bodil brought with her from home. Bodil, who has the amazing appetite of youth, is sprawling on the sofa. Because, let us face it, none of the chairs are up to sprawling, and the floor is paneled, not very comfortable. Kurt does not particularly mind: Sprawling girls may not be as cute as kittens or as pretty as rainbows, but they make a good compromise. That's when Bodil suddenly notices something:
"Sugar High School!" She picks up herself and then the book.
"Yes, you left it behind, presumably from my edutainment."
"Now that you mention it... So, did you read it yet?"
"Well, in a manner of speaking."
"In what manner of speaking did you read it? Inquiring minds need to know!"
"Well, I read the first few chapters and then I peeked at the end..."
"WHAT?! You peeked at the end?"
"Just a little bit..."
"That's absolutely forbidden! It is a crime against literature! How could you do such a dastardly thing against an innocent book?!"
"Hey now! A little peeking never hurt anyone!"
"It does, and someone who has been admitted into tertiary education -- evidently by mistake, in your case -- should have known better!"
"It's not like the book will ever know, and neither will the author."
be too sure of that... who knows the connection between a writer and
his writing? After all, a book is not just some crafted good: It is
a child of the human spirit, conceived in love and born in pain. Far
more than a mere collection of words, it is the essence of the human
soul, given form, to be shared: A part of the great chain of
creation, a trickle-down of creativity that starts with the Supreme
Creator, the Prime Mover and First Cause, and continues down through
the planes of reality, giving shape and life and meaning to ever new
"Woah. And here I thought writing books was just a job."
"Well, don't think that anymore! Show some respect!"
Kurt has to smile: Bodil is clutching the book protectively, as if it really was a living being rather than just a collection of words. Still, he doesn't concede guilt that easily:
"But what if the ending sucked? Then I would have been cheated out of my precious time, which I could have used to set bullies on fire in City of Heroes!"
"If the ending was bad, you would have known long before, because the book would have been bad too."
"That is simply not true. Take Philip Jose Farmer, for instance, a famous science-fiction writer of the 20th century. His books often opened with an amazing idea, so grand and luminous that you would think: 'Why did I never think of this? Why did no one else ever think of this?' But after a while, you would start to notice how disturbing it was. When there were 6 pages left, you would ask yourself: 'How in the world is he going to wrap it all up in 6 pages?' And then he doesn't. It just ends, as if his deadline was due, or if he had met his appointed word count."
"Word count? What a horrible word! How could anyone even think of such a thing? A book is a child of the human spirit..."
"...conceived in love and born in pain..."
"...and you don't cut your baby's feet off to make it fit in the crib!"
"Well, I told you he is a kind of disturbing writer."
"Not to mention padding a book with irrelevant dialog or details that have no bearing on the story at all. Can you imagine adding cardboard to a meal to reach the required quantity?"
"Actually I have McDonald's suspected of doing something like that. I can't help but notice that their hamburgers taste half like meat and half like cardboard, compared to Burger King. Now that's what I call a meaty taste."
"What has this got to do with books at all?"
"It's called padding. You add bland, boring, worthless or worse than worthless stuff, and people buy it like crazy and come back for more."
"I don't really think you can compare supernatural romance novels with burgers."
"Why not? Body and soul both need food, after all."
The truth is that Kurt doesn't have many books of his own, if you don't count textbooks. The house has a decent library from his mother and grandmother, but he hasn't bough many himself. He is more likely to rent a DVD, or download anime, or play computer games. It is certainly not that he isn't literate; he does quite well at college, as he also did in high school. It is more that "reading" and "fun" don't seem related at all. The odd exception is there, such as Godpole – and look what it has brought him! If not for it, he would probably not have blurted out the whole "my cat is an alien and changes into a boy" thing, and could have continued to live a reasonably normal life. Well, as normal as it gets when your cat occasionally becomes a young boy.
"You know, this book should be even more relevant to you now than when I brought it here", Bodil muses.
"How so? Is there something about transforming cats there? Or even dogs?"
"Of course not! I'm talking about the boy love."
"That's totally not relevant! And there was way too much of it, even though it was very chaste and all. I was much more interested in the miracles, but they were few and far between."
"Well, they were supposed to be. It is first and foremost a romance novel, not some kind of high fantasy with wizards and sorcerers. Although I had to say that it seems like a nicer world to live in than our own. To know without doubt that there is some higher power, an invisible force of goodness that surrounds us and which is always able to overcome all evil... that sounds really nice."
"Yes, I liked that part too. I wish he had written more about it, and about the alternative technology in that time line. But that's the kind of guy I am. I'm not very interested in people who look at each other and feel a lot, and then nothing happens until the very end."
"It is called falling in love, Kurt. Have you really never ever experienced it?"
"Never have and hopefully never will. Look at what it did to my parents."
"Well, at least it caused them to have you. Although I guess something had happened, at that time."
"That is a safe bet. I'm thinking about how they are unable to live together because they would never get anything else done as long as they had each other. That sounds more like a drug addict or something to me."
"I guess it can be very similar. Except it doesn't slowly kill your body and your brain cells."
"It is probably more a question of degree and time. Most people don't stay in love for years and years."
"Perhaps not, but some do. It is definitely possible."
"I don't think that's the same kind of love. I think those are people who are willing to keep loving even if it doesn't always feel good."
Bodil settles down with the book, re-reading it seemingly from the start. Why one would do that after knowing the end is beyond Kurt, but then again he has other things to do. There is no end to the text books he has to read, and even a smart guy like him has to read them several times. He does not read every word the first time, of course, just skims the headlines and graphs and illustrations and things that are highlighted. This works amazingly well to give him a good idea about what the book tries to say. The second time, he reads it quickly, asking himself questions after each paragraph and writing down keywords. Later when he needs to refresh the learning, he will do so with just the notes rather than the book itself. He has followed this routine since high school, and it works quite well.
Eventually Bodil returns from the world of supernatural romance and is hungry. Kurt fetches some pizza from the freezer and heats it in the microwave, enough for them both.
"If he follows the same pattern as so far, Prince should transform into a boy early next morning while I sleep. I can't say I look forward to it. Last time he..." Kurt stops. This is definitely not going to help his cause if he tells it. "Let us just say his bedside manners leave some room for improvement."
"Do you want me to sleep over?"
"Huh? No! Of course not!" He can actually feel his face grow hot. Why is this?
"Don't panic, it's not like anything could happen."
"Right. But what would people think?"
"Remember, my mom already thinks we're doing it. I got new condoms again, by the way, want some?"
"What should I use them for?"
"That's my line! Perhaps they can be blown like balloons?"
"PawPrince would probably explode them immediately."
"He is welcome to it."
"Vengefulness does not become you."
"Really? It feels very natural."
"You're afraid that the neighbors would see me sneak in here in the afternoon and leave the next morning."
"Well, that's what neighbors do."
"They probably already think you are humping my ass each afternoon."
"Civilized people use expressions like 'make sweet love to'."
"Actually I'm sure if you ever get around to doing it, you'll make sweet love to someone. That's just the kind of guy you are. But I am equally certain that the neighbors think we're humping like canines in heat. People always see the things in others that they can't accept in themselves."
"Never the less, staying the night would really make it official for the neighbors."
"Ask me if I care. But I suppose you may have to borrow sugar sometime, so I'll be back tomorrow instead."
"Actually, don't bother to come over tomorrow afternoon. I'll be going out."
"Going out? What? With someone? Tell me! Tell me!"
"You remember Lisa the Lifeguard from Waterland?"
"Of course I do."
"Turns out she is going to STFU as well. I met her by accident, and she asked me out tomorrow afternoon."
"You're not going out with her?"
"Well, just because she asked me."
"Kurt, Kurt! This is exactly why you get in trouble. You never say no, you never stand up for yourself."
"I thought you wanted me to get out of the house, away from the cat, and meet people!"
"Meet boys, not girls! She probably wants you to have unprotected sex with you so she can milk you for child support. She does not strike me as the kind of person who would seriously study at a technical college. You, on the other hand, are going to have a well-paid job waiting for you the day you walk out of the marble halls of learning. Well, she is in for a surprise when she tries to seduce you!"
"I am not sure who of you have me the most wrong, but you are quite right that I'm not going to engage in child production at the first opportunity. Listen, her mother wants her to get out more, and you want me to get out more. The only person who will be unhappy about this is PawPrince, and I'll set out food for him in the unlikely case that he is not in his human form when I leave."
"Don't worry, I'll be over to deflate him. But I really don't think you should be so concerned about what people think and want and expect."
"Says the girl who lets her own mother believe I am... making sweet love to her each afternoon."
"I already told her we were just friends, but she won't listen."
"What if you told her the truth? That you don't do it with any boys?"
kinda goes without saying if I don't do it with you." She
suddenly catches herself and actually blushes. "Don't get me
wrong, it's not like you are sexy or anything! It's just that when
I'm hanging out with you so much, it's not like I have time for boys.
Besides it's too early, and..."
"You don't need to explain to me, remember? I know I'm not sexy to you, and I don't really want to contemplate what I would have to do to be that."
"Actually..." she stops herself. "Actually I should get going now. Have fun with the sexy blonde tomorrow, then!"
"Uh, thank you."
'I will understand girls' Kurt thinks, 'the day I'm wearing a bra. Who needs aliens?'