Chapter 8: Burning questions

On education, princes, frogs and grilled cheese sandwiches.

It is not quite a nightmare, but it is certainly not a dream come true. Some vague unease makes Kurt wake up earlier than normal. He opens his eyes and sees a happily sleeping face one the pillow. This time at least he knows that it is Prince, his cat turned boy, so does not quite panic. Also, Kurt is not a homophobe; after all, his best friend is lesbian. But it is still a bit creepy. And unexpected.

He was so sure that the transformation from cat to boy only happened every other morning. Since it either did not happen yesterday or was "deflated" as Bodil loves to call it, he thought he had this day off. Far from locking the door, he had let PawPrince in as usual. He kind of regrets that now, but most of all he is confused. If not every other day, then when? Is it on certain weekdays? Certain days of the month? There is a lot he does not know about werecats, he realizes.

Kurt tries to quietly sneak out of bed, but of course Prince is instantly awake. And his first greeting is, as you might expect: "Breakfast?"

Kurt sighs. "First put on some clothes." But of course Prince still needs a little help with the PJs, it being only his third time with clothes. Then they move on to breakfast. Renewed attempts to teach the art of using the spoon. In all fairness, the catboy shows considerable interest in learning to eat like a human. It's just that it does not quite look human when he does it. The deliberate way in which he moves the spoonful of food in front of his face, then latches on to it with his mouth. But Kurt does not comment on it. The fact that the catboy is even trying is the best he can hope for. Practice makes perfect. Whether Kurt really wants that much practice to happen is another matter. All things considered, he still thinks Prince would be better off staying a cat. Certainly Kurt would be better off that way.

"No, you can't follow me to college."

"But I am human now!"

"It is not enough to be human to go to college. You have to be a student."

"How do I do that?"

"It is not something you can just decide to do. In order to become a student at the college, you first have to successfully complete high school. And before you even get into high school, you have to spend years learning all manners of things about the human world. First you have to learn to read and write and do numbers. Then you have to learn about the country we live in, and the rest of the world. You have to learn about human history, going back thousands of years. You have to learn about things so small that we cannot see them, and the stars in the skies that are so far away that we can never reach them. All this and much, much more you have to learn before you can go to high school, where humans go when they look your age."


"And we don't even know if other people except Bodil have the power to change you back to cat form. It doesn't do much good for you to go to high school, or even grade school, and then suddenly become a cat. Most people would get very excited about that, and they would take you away to a place where you don't know anybody, and do strange and unpleasant things to you, and I would not be able to stop them. That's why we can't let anybody see you. As far as I know, you are the only cat who transforms into a boy. That's why people would be very upset if they found out."



In a timely fit of inspiration, Kurt also makes sure Prince knows how to remove the pajamas bottom in case he needs to go to the litter box. In fact, he tries to explain the working of the water closet, but he is not at all convinced that the boy is going to use it. He looks rather skeptical. Also, it is not one of the things he has seen Kurt do. Kurt is rather secretive about such things, even toward his cat. He is rather glad now that he has shown that much modesty in front of his pet.

Only after arriving at the college does he remember that he forgot to take a photograph.


There's a lot of lab work, so Kurt is rather later than average home. It is no surprise then that Bodil beat him to it. There is a distinct smell of smoke in the house, but since the house is still standing and Bodil is acting nonchalant, it is probably not burning right now. So first things first: "How is Prince?"

"Pissy as usual. Ungrateful wretch. After all what I've done for him..."

The pajamas bottom and top are lying in two different places. Kurt cleans the litter box, which is rather loaded. PawPrince meows at him, but Kurt has no idea what the other is trying to say, if anything at all. It is hard enough to understand the Prince when he is nominally speaking English.

"Now, about the smoke."

"Since you were late, I though I would make you something tasty."

"I don't know what to say. I'm glad you're essentially unharmed."

"Huh. I was just a little bit unlucky. The cat distracted me."

"The snake tempted me, and I ate. Worst excuse in history, except perhaps 'The idiot in the car in front of me suddenly braked'."

"By all means have fun at my expense if that can make you feel better about your own inadequacies."

"What inadequacies would that be?"

"Do you seriously want to know?"

"I am seriously curious about whether we see the same things as inadequacies."

"Well, first and foremost your inability to form lasting, mutually interdependent intimate relationships."

"Said the kettle, or was that pot?"

"I'm not the one who is 19. And besides, I could get a boyfriend anytime I wanted. I just have other priorities."

"To put it mildly."

"I am not the one who lacks all social skills. Not that I hold it against you. With your heritage, and the secret you have been hiding..."

Kurt steps back as if he had touched static. Could she after all have seen something before Prince transformed? The cat used to get stuck in the PJs, if he was still in there when she came in, that might be enough to give him away. When he first told her about Prince, he had thought he wanted her to believe. Now he realizes that he probably doesn't. She is not like him, thinking first and speaking later, if at all. She will say anything that comes to mind to anyone who will listen.

"If this is about Prince, I think we should just drop it."

"It is not about Prince, and you know it. Oh, that reminds me. I have something for you."

She disappears momentarily and returns with a slim paperback. On the front, two slender beautiful boys with long blond hair are kissing each other passionately. The title reads "Death before love".

"Another boy-love book?"

"Another? Sugar High School wasn't really shounen-ai. Sure, the two boys loved each other but it was a very chaste love. Also there was a female love interest as well."

"I take it that this is more to the point, judging from the cover."

"It is still a romance. It is just more dedicated boy love. And the title is ironic, by the way. You see, the main character is a teenage boy who dies, but instead of going to Heaven or that other place, he goes to an alternate world. It turns out he is originally from there, and belongs to a race of magic users."

"Gay magic users."

"Not particularly, it is just that they don't have the hang-ups about gender that some people here have. The only thing that counts to them is the true love, which is for life and beyond. It is very touching."

"I am sure they are touching a lot."

"I think you should read it. You could learn something. Not to mention that it is a good book in its own right, with lots of magic and fantasy stuff that you like. There are even ghosts, lots of them. Magical ghosts."

The sad truth is of course that having a book recommended by Bodil is worse than not having it recommended at all. She has some seriously weird tastes, even for a lesbian. Why would lesbians be interested in boy love, after all? Wouldn't they be interested in girl love?

"Seriously, romance is romantic, no matter what gender involved. The way Tengen courts Arvid, or should I say Enver, it is no wonder he would eventually melt his heart even if he wasn't interested in boys when they met."

"Huh. That's not very realistic."

"How would you know?"

"So if a boy courted you, you might decide to love him?"

"You don't know until you have tried!"

"I take it that was the general 'you', as in 'one', 'people'."

"Well, obviously. It is not like you, as in Kurt Wiik, would ever court anyone. I'm not even sure you would know how to do it if your life depended on it."

"Luckily it doesn't."

"Or your sanity."

"OK, that was just mean."
"Tee hee."

"Tee hee? What was that? More importantly, who are you and what have you done to the real Bodil?"

"See? You really are clueless. A giggle means 'I am just a small and weak and harmless girl, I couldn't hurt you even if I tried'. It is part of the instinctive signal repertoire of our species."

"It is also just plain wrong, because you stand a good chance at beating me in a fair fight and you jolly well know it. I may be taller and more massive, but you are more energetic and much faster."

"See, that's exactly the kind of cold and calculating mindset that causes you to end up alone with a cat. If you let it continue, you will end your life accompanied only by robots."

Like his father, but she does not say that out loud. At least she is that much considerate. Of course, his father turned out to have an amazing capacity to fall tragically in love when he finally met someone who accepted him for who he was. Kurt can't help but wonder if he is the same, deep down?

"Now that I think about it, Lisa giggled a few times when we were eating out yesterday. I guess I noticed because I'm not used to it, since you never do."

"It is a bad sign."

"How is it bad when she does it but not when you do?"

"I only did because you accused me of being mean. If a girl giggles for no good reason, or laughs at things that are barely funny, it means she is trying to seduce you."

"I find that hard to imagine."

"She is toying with your feelings to get your sperm and child support, Kurt. Don't let her fool you!"

"Looking like her, why would she need me? There is bound to be hundreds of men in the city who would be all too happy to insperminate her."

"So? As long as a woman has at least one each of eyes, arms, legs and boobs, there will always be men lining up for her." Bodil ponders a moment. "Actually, I think only the boobie is strictly necessary."

"So why would she want to seduce me? Can't it be that she genuinely likes me?"

"She is ten year older than you! Of course she does not think of you that way."

"8 years."

"That's the same. No, she wants your money and your good genes."

"I have good genes?"

Bodil turns away, and for a moment he would have said she blushed, though she might just be angry. She would probably not blush, since she is batting for the rainbow team. "You're smart and you have a healthy body, OK? What more would a woman be looking for in a sperm donor? It's not like she is going to find a guy with wings no manner how long she searches."

"That still leaves us with the question of why she is the only girl who has ever shown that kind of interest."

"Because most girls want a boy they can live with. Which means he has to show some empathy, a minimum of social skills, preferably a sense of humor. And above all, he must be interested in them. Girls want to be loved. Is that really so hard to understand?"

"Are you saying that girls just passively go around waiting for some guy to fall in love with them?"

"Actually almost all of them already have a boyfriend. Which is because normal boys do fall in love, given the chance."

"Right. They would probably do that."

Or perhaps they are just in it for the sex, but he won't say that to Bodil. From what he has picked up, sex is a pretty big deal. It certainly feels good in his dreams, but of course those are few and very short. He better not think about those now, anyway.

Kurt wanders into the kitchen and immediately notices two heavily carbonized grilled cheese sandwiches, unfit for human or feline consumption. Sighing, he puts them in the compost bin and goes about making the real thing. He is beginning to grow hungry himself, and Bodil probably more so.

Bodil certainly digs in. Then again, she is almost always hungry, except when she has just eaten. It is a miracle she isn't fat, except a little in the more gender-specific places. She must have an awesome metabolism. It probably has something to do with how she cannot be still for half a second without at least vibrating in place, more commonly moving restlessly about.

'Girls want to be loved. Is that really so hard to understand?' That was what she said. He looks at her. No matter how you look at it, she is a girl too. Even though she likes girls instead of boys. No, that just means that it is so much harder for her to find someone who will return her love. If it seems a mystery to him that a man and a woman can find each other in the first place, how much harder must it be when less than one in twenty of your preferred gender would even consider you if they were free and desperately single.

"You are thinking something weird again, aren't you? I can see it, you know."

"It was nothing."

"Like Dr Pepper it wasn't."

"Well, it was kinda personal."

"Something perverse again, then."

"What do you mean, again?"

"So it was something perverse. I know you too well, you see."

"Actually I was merely thinking about how hard it must be to find someone who loves you when most of them wouldn't even consider you if they were single and desperate, because you are the wrong gender."

"See, that's why you need all the help you can get. Starting with the excellent book I brought with me."

"I wasn't thinking about me."

"Well, you should think about yourself. It's not like anybody else will, except me... since we are friends from way back."

"Yes, thank goodness I have you. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Me neither." She pauses for effect. "I don't know what you'd do without me, either."

"I guess I'd have to make my own sandwiches."

"And dispel your own hallucinations."

That reminds him. She has a point, much as he hates to admit it, except Prince is much more than a hallucination. "By the way, he transformed today again. It seems it is not necessarily every other day."

"That's bad."

"Well, I can live with it, but I have to admit I like him better as a cat."

"Actually I wouldn't mind meeting this dream boy of yours. Too bad that won't ever happen."

"Oh, he looks good, but once he opens his mouth, you realize he's still just an animal."

"You could say that about a lot of boys."

"Or girls."

"Well, the animal part is more pronounced in the males, I'd say."

"Of course you would think so."

"You'd think the two of us would have much the same view on the genders, actually."

"Now that you mention it..."

"But back to the matter at hand, or paw. Should I sleep over here?"

"No, that's not necessary. I just lock my door so he can't get in. I can deal with him otherwise, but the idea of him in bed with me creeps me out."

"Are you sure that is the verb you are looking for?"

Oops, he came across as a homophobe again. He has to be more careful about what he says. "I mean, it's just not for me, OK? Besides, he's a cat for Pete's sake!"

"Well, there is always that. Although I'm sure there are many who would prefer their frogs to turn into princes before the kiss instead of after!"

"Actually, I would never kiss..."

Their conversation is broken by his cell phone ringing.