Precious Cargo



All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.

Precious Cargo is copyright The Silver Coyote
2003



Bad Dreams

She had been a sweet, happy young fur when he had first met her in high school. A canid of unclear mixed ancestry, she looked mostly like a Beagle, but there were so many other breeds in her background it was hard to tell. She had been pretty, with medium brown fur and shoulder length dark brown hair. Her green eyes had been the first thing that attracted him. She was short, five foot one, with a great figure and a fabulous smile. They had married quite young, against the advice of virtually everyone who knew them. For the first three or four years everything had been wonderful. But then the changes came, and neither of them was equipped to deal with them. Life stopped being "happily ever after" and started to become hard work, and she buckled under the stress of everyday living. As she began to fall, he was totally unequipped to help her.

He had been awake all night again, unable to sleep, waiting. She wasn't scheduled to work, he didn't know where she was, and he hadn't seen her in two and a half days. Now, as dawn approached, he could hear her car turning into the street one block away. He lay there in their bed in the dark, staring at the ceiling. What would she say this time? He wondered if her excuses or explanations would be any different tonight than from those countless others he'd already heard.

He heard her get out of the car and lock it. Her steps were halting, no... stumbling across the lawn to the front porch. She was probably drunk. He heard her fumbling with her keys, trying to figure out which one unlocked their own front door. After listening for what seemed like several minutes to the scratching noises her key of choice was making as it slid near and around the keyway, he got up. Grabbing a robe and putting it on as he walked, he went and unlocked the front door for her.

She said nothing as she walked through the doorway and past him. He shut the door behind her and locked it. She reeked of cigarette smoke, although she did not smoke herself. Dumping her purse and jacket on the sofa she proceeded directly to the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. He heard tap water running into a glass.

He sat in a chair in the front room and waited for her. What else was there to do? He knew where this conversation would end before it even started, but they would have it, none the less. What else could they do? They were past pretending everything was all right. They were past mutual respect. She was beyond the truth. Their marriage was devolving and disintegrating before his eyes, and he didn't know how to fix it or even how to start to get it back.

Presently she sat down on the sofa opposite him in the dark room. Still they had said nothing to each other. He could smell the scents of others on her. It was not becoming. He could also smell the booze on her breath from across the room. Even in the dark she looked like Hell. Her brown fur, once clean and lustrous, was filthy and disarrayed, her brown hair stringy and greasy looking. Her dirty clothes looked rumpled and "slept in". It suddenly occurred to him that he had never seen these clothes on her before.

"Where have you been?" he opened.

"Work."

"I called Methodist. You haven't been there in a week."

"The registry sent me someplace else."

"Where?"

"A private residence. No uniform required."

He sighed quietly and sat back in his chair. "Sandy, yesterday afternoon the mailfur brought our Visa bill. There was five thousand dollars of cash advances on it, dated from the weekend you were supposed to be working at Greater El Monte. How'd those get there?"

"How would I know?" While attempting to sound like she had no knowledge of the situation at paw and therefor little interest in this line of questioning, he could sense the anger building in her by the tightness of her voice and the speed with which she replied.

"Our checking account is overdrawn." He paused, looking at her. She would not meet his gaze. "According to the bank, you've written several checks for cash at our branch totaling over twenty five hundred dollars in the past month. What's that all about?"

The anger he had sensed suddenly boiled over. "Why are you always accusing me of doing something bad?" she spat at him. "We need money to run our home. I need money to live on. Why is it my fault that you're a piss poor money manager?" She glared at him.

"Sandy, what's wrong? Look at what you're doing to yourself! You're killing us financially, you stay out for days at a time in those card clubs, hanging around with God knows who..."

"What I do is my business!" she yelled at him. "Leave me alone!" She rose from the sofa and stomped into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Lesson # 1
It takes two to make a marriage work


He was recovering from a back injury. They were in their new home, not yet a year old. It was mid-morning on a Saturday.

She'd only been home a few hours, having arrived about breakfast time. She had made polite conversation with him at the kitchen table for a few minutes as he sipped coffee, and had then wandered off towards the back of the house where their bedroom was. He'd assumed she was going to sleep. He didn't remember her having to go anywhere, but suddenly from the living room he saw her walking towards the front door. She had an overnight bag in one paw and a bowling ball bag in the other. She was dressed for a party.

His heart sank as soon as he saw her, the warning alarms going off in his head. He knew exactly what she was doing, although he didn't know where or with who. All the clues were there, Hell he could even smell the anticipation on her! The late night phone calls that lasted for hours, the spur of the moment double back shifts she never seemed to get paid for, strange colognes on her clothing and fur; all the pieces of the puzzle fit if only he would look. She had bags under her eyes most of the time from lack of sleep. When she did sleep it was usually in the middle of the day.

"Where are you going?" he asked quietly, knowing in his heart that whatever she offered would be an out and out lie.

"I'm going bowling with the girls." She replied as she headed for the door.

"Wait," he called after her, rising slowly and painfully from the sofa he had been reclined on. Surprisingly, she stopped in the entryway and half turned, looking at him.

"What?"

"Stay with me." He walked slowly across the front room towards her.

"Why?" She smiled in a not altogether friendly manner, a look of pity in her eyes. "You're fine. You'll be back to work in a week or two." She looked impatient.

"Where are you going?" he asked again, trying to look her in the eyes as he took her by the arm.

She avoided his eyes. "I told you, I'm going bowling with the girls from work. We do this every week." She shook off his light grip on her arm, turning once again towards the door, turning away.

"But I want to spend some time with you. You just got home a little while ago..." He continued to stare at her, but she would not look at his face.

"I explained that to you," she said, turning towards him. The irritation had become evident in her voice, "I had to work another double back shift. I've been doing this with the girls for a month or more. Now I'm going." She began to turn away.

He reached out and took her gently by the arm again, turning her to him. "Sandy, I want you to stay with me. Please? Just be with me. Can't you bowl some other time? Just stay with me and we can talk."

"I've got nothing to say to you," she said calmly, finally looking him in the eye. She turned and opened the door.

"Sandy! Please! Don't go!" The emotion was thick in his voice. In some distant corner of his own mind he pitied himself the way he sounded, and that corner was nauseated by the way he pleaded.

"Good bye," she said with finality, walking out across their front porch and towards her new car in the driveway.

"Sandy!" He stood there, unable to think of anything to say or do. As her car backed into the street and then accelerated away he slowly shut the door.

He must have stood there for several minutes in the entryway before he realized that he was sobbing. He turned and walked through the hallway to their bedroom. Positioning himself slowly and painfully on the bed, he lay there and cried for the first time, and last, over a lost love. Although it felt like he spent the rest of his life on that bed as his heart slowly ripped itself apart, it lasted only the better part of an hour. It was the darkest day of his life.

Lesson # 2
Where love and trust and commitment exist, hearts will never be broken.


They were out to dinner at their favorite restaurant. He was feeling better about them as a couple. They had made some progress towards reconciliation. She was staying home more often, now that he had returned to work. He was recovering well from his surgery.

The evening meal started with innocent enough conversation, shared along with a bottle of wine and some good steaks. But as they ate and she drank she steered the topic around to one of her favorite subjects, her perceived persecution at the paws of he and their parents.

"I'm just sick of everyone telling me what to do, where to go, when to be there. Everybody else knows what's best for me, they think. But nobody ever bothers to ask me what I want! Nobody cares about my needs." She took a large sip of her wine. "I'm tired of the futility of it all," she said dejectedly.

Joe tried to sound soothing, even though he could recite this litany himself. He'd heard it that often. "It's not futile, honey. We're going to make this work. We can make the payments and keep the house and cars, we'll be OK after the first year." They had borrowed a significant amount of money from his parents to pay off her gambling debts, and he was now repaying his parents a rather sizeable amount of his monthly pay.

"I don't have a gambling problem, you know. I've stopped doing that." She played with the food on her plate with a fork, and took another good sized sip of her wine.

"OK," he replied, not believing her in the slightest but trying to sound supportive. The monthly bills from the half dozen credit cards she had convinced him otherwise. They no longer had a common checking account. All his money went towards the home and the cars and the loan payments, he had no idea where her money went. He hadn't seen a paycheck of hers in a couple of years, and she rarely offered to assist with financial obligations.

"You and my dad and your mom are just trying to run my life for me. I need my space! You need to just relax and let me be me. Stop telling me what to do and where to go all the time!" She looked exasperated.

"OK," he replied again, not knowing what else to say. He'd heard the "I need my space" speech more times than he could remember.

She refilled her wine glass, ignoring his empty one. She continued to ignore her food for the most part, but was slowly putting away the bottle.

"Sandy, I've tried every way I can to help you. We took you to that counselor your dad knows. You wanted to go." She snorted at that, but he pressed on. "I've hung in with your gambling problems, and the booze, and the lies, and all that. I still want to make this work. We can make this work, if only you'll meet me halfway on some of this stuff."

She ignored him. Inside, deep in her own tortured soul, she resented and hated the fur she was married to. What had seemed like absolutely the right move at age eighteen had, by age twenty five, become a disaster of biblical proportions in her estimation. The fur she had married was a zero, a dud. He tried to control her every move and thought, just like her father had. And his mother, with her money and family, supported them both in these efforts to contain and direct her life. She hated them all.

"You're just trying to cage me," she snarled quietly, a very mean expression suddenly appearing on her face. Her ears were laid back on her head, the tips of her fangs visible as she spoke. "I've found someone else who'll let me be free, to live the way I want," she blurted out.

Joe was stunned, not so much by her confession but by the casual manner in which she threw it on the table between them. Truth be known, he'd suspected as much for over a year now. He sat back, dinner suddenly and completely forgotten, not knowing what to say or do. After almost a full minute of dead silence passed between them, he asked "What are you saying?"

"Didn't you hear me?" she demanded loudly. "I've found someone better than you!" Heads at the adjacent tables turned to look at them. Still he didn't react. His mind was almost totally blank.

"You're pitiful," she growled thickly. In a corner of his mind he suddenly realized she was drunk from the wine. "You've just been told you're second rate, and you're not even fur enough to do anything about it."

"What should I do?" He honestly had no idea. She just glared at him.

Strangely, there was no pain for him then. Too much had gone between them, there was no love left to lose. They had agreed to "separate" for a few months to let things between them cool down. But within just a few days of his moving out her boyfriend had moved in to their house. Joe had called his own home one morning to ask Sandy about a point of financial obligation, as he was still making all the mortgage and utility payments, even though he wasn't living there. The answering machine that he had recently purchased picked up with a new message in which his wife and her new live-in lover addressed each other as "sweetheart" and advised the caller that they were too busy "playing" to answer the phone. Would the caller please leave a message?

He had hung up. He filed for divorce the next day. Thankfully, she didn't contest it.

Lesson # 3
When the vows are broken, it's good money after bad to hang on to the marriage.


All this was in his dream that night, dredged up from the depths of the walled off part of his soul. The innocent, nave young fur who had earnestly believed in "happily ever after" died that day in the restaurant, and a cold, bitter, cynical fur moved in to live amongst what was left of his shattered hopes and dreams.

Oddly enough he did come away from it with a positive attitude of sorts. He had learned those three lessons. They had been hammered through his chest and chiseled in the stone of his heart, always there, like God's Commandments to Moses.

For almost two years he had kept the rage and the pain bottled up inside of him. He recovered physically, but the scars from the psychic wars he had fought ran deep and had healed ever so slowly.

He had few outlets. One of his methods of dealing with the madness within was taking long road trips across the country, which soothed his wanderlust. He also worked diligently with his firearms. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine what he visualized as he looked down the iron sights of whatever pistol was at paw, or squinted at the crosshairs on one of his scoped rifles. He got to the point where he could fire his 30-30 lever action rifle from the hip and get within a few inches of the bulls eye at a hundred feet. He spent hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of rounds practicing to get there.

Then, one day, the Angel materialized in his life. And she managed to tear down most of those walls, to reveal the good, honest, committed fur behind them. And while he still subconsciously maintained those walls around all those unpleasant memories in the shell of the young fur's heart, his Angel had brought forth from the remains a new fur, and those walled up memories were fading with the years. His heart beat again, blood coursed through his frozen veins, and he loved again. Passionately, completely, without question or reason. Annie, his Angel, was truly the center of his world.

He was very fortunate, also, in that he rarely if ever remembered his dreams.





To Chapter Thirteen: Morning's Delight.

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