W walked through the dark briskly, trying not to step on cracks. He'd only been a wolf for three days and was still trying to get used to the legs and their odd bone structure. His back was hurting. It felt weird walking on his toes. His claws scratched the surface of the sidewalk with every step and all he could think about was Randall Pepperkorn scratching his nails on the chalkboard in third grade. He wanted to puke.
Three a.m. was no time to be wandering the streets. Sure, it was a Monday night - or Tuesday morning to be exact - and most folks were in bed. He could see one living room light on up the block about three houses. Otherwise, everything was dark.
"Where ya at U?" he muttered under his breath.
The unicorn had disappeared four blocks back and W was pissed. They were supposed to be doing this job together and U was jacking off somewhere.
A voice cut through the dark from between two houses on W's right. It was a soft Pfffft. He stopped mid-step and peered through the dark toward where he heard the sound. There he was, a white steed with a solitaire horn on his head and a tufted beard that flowed from his chin like a white cloud. W turned and traipsed across somebody's lawn toward U.
"Where'd you go?"
He hated to be shushed. Who the fuck did U think he was? They were supposed to be equal partners.
Partnership was a vague term. To W it sounded like a way of saying that he and U had no authority while K enjoyed calling all the shots. K had made it clear to the two of them that they were under his tutelage and they were not to call him Roo. They had to stick to the code: W for Wolf, U for Unicorn, and K for Kangaroo. They didn't know anyone else in this racket and it was probably just as well. W hated it as it was. He just wanted to go back to being a boring accountant.
"I found a way in," U whispered. W stared blankly. "You know, the warehouse."
"I thought we were breaking into somebody's home."
"Uh-uh." U's voice came out gravelly. "Follow me."
"This job sucks."
"Chill out," U said over his shoulder. "You've only been doing it three days. It gets better after a week."
"So you say."
"You just need to think about what a great opportunity this is. I mean, most people stuck in a wolf's body would kill for a job like this."
"I liked crunching numbers."
"Shit. No one likes crunching numbers. This is far more exciting and far more rewarding."
"Well, I do make more money. But I miss my wife."
"Yeah, I know. My little kitten was the sweetest thing. I think about her every day."
"Hey, can't we just take a little side trip and peek in the windows, get a glimpse of our lovely ladies one more time? You know, like a fond memory, or something?"
"That's strictly forbidden. You know K covered that in orientation."
"Yeah. I just thought you'd be a bud and go along."
"Can't afford it, my friend. I need this job now that I'm on all fours. It was great being an attorney and all, but no one's going to hire a unicorn to sue their pharmaceutical company. Besides, technically, I should be reporting you. Consider it 'going along' that I don't."
U stopped. W suddenly realized they had maneuvered between two sets of houses, crossed a street, strolled through an alley, and ended up on a darker lane with a big warehouse staring him in the face. A fence around the warehouse made it look secure. He wondered how they'd get inside.
"Follow me," U ordered.
W felt like sinking his wolf fangs into U's ass. As an accountant for a large oil company, he'd enjoyed being the giver of orders. He was the department manager who answered only to three people above him. None of them ever said follow me. He followed U around the back of the warehouse where a black bag sat on the ground beside a gate locked shut with a chain and a padlock.
"Right where K said it would be," U chuckled. "Most reliable boss I've ever had."
"Whatever you say," W said, kneeling. He was about to stick his wolf paws on the bag's handle when U's voice cut in.
"Hold a minute. You're not wearing gloves."
"Gloves? I'm a wolf."
"You'll still leave paw prints. Allow me."
W smirked and rose to his feet again. He watched intently as U lowered his head and fumbled with the bag with his lips. Crossing his front legs across his chest, W watched in amazement as U unzipped the bag with his unicorn teeth. Then he nuzzled his nose into the bag and pulled out a pair of chain cutters.
"Bravo, bravo," W applauded. "I'm impressed."
"But don't your lips leave prints?"
"When have you ever known a police department take somebody's lip prints?"
W thought about it. U had a point. That didn't usually happen. U dropped the chain cutters on the ground.
"I can only hold them for so long. Now it's your turn. Cut the chain."
"What about paw prints?"
"Look, I can't cut a chain with my mouth. It's not physically possible. Do you wanna get paid for this job or not?"
"Okay, okay," W said, frustrated. He grabbed the chain cutters and slid them on the chain, pushing the handles together until the chain snapped. U quickly pushed the gate open with his nose and trampled through.
"Hurry! We've got to move fast," U said, running toward the warehouse. W dropped the chain cutters and ran after him, tripping over his feet. Damn wolf legs, he said inside his head. He hated his new body. When U reached a wooden door on the side of the aluminum building he raised his front hoofs into the air and pushed them against the door, forcing it open. Without missing a step, he rushed into the door and ran into the warehouse. W stumbled after clumsily.
A few minutes later they ran from the warehouse with the loot they'd been sent in to steal. U clasped a bag of clanking tools between his teeth as he hoofed up the gravel in the parking lot while W hugged two similar bags between his arms. They carried as much as they could on their own. When they passed through the open gate where they had left the bag, W noticed the bag and the chain cutters were both gone. Someone had removed them. He followed U into a clop of trees outside the gate and they ran at least a hundred yards into a dark clearing somewhere in the middle of the woods. W stopped in the clearing and dropped his bags, out of breath.
"Geez, I need to quit smoking," he wheezed, his front paws on his knees.
U dropped his bag. It clanked. "Told ya," he said, laughing.
U lay on the ground and folded his legs up under his belly, resting his chin on his front forelegs.
"Wha- what, are, you doing?" W asked nervously. "Shouldn't we be running? I know I heard an alarm."
"Relax," U chuckled. "Now we wait."
W scratched his head and took a knee. After a minute of silence he got the courage to speak again.
"What happened to the bag?"
"Don't worry about that," U chided. "K has it taken care of. Let's get some sleep."
Allen Taylor is the publisher/owner of Garden Gnome Publications and editor of the Garden of Eden anthology, a digital-only
anthology of speculative fiction set in the legendary garden. His
fiction and poetry have appeared online and in print for more than 20