It Started As A Vacation...

Chapter 3

"Rise and Shine!" Jennifer cheerily instructed. Wondering how in the world anyone could be cheerful before noon, I groggily complied.   Rolling over towards the direction of her voice, I saw that she was putting out a set of clothes for me.  Looking at them, I suddenly remembered that Matthew was going to take me to work with him today.  "Let's go freshen you up a bit for your big day." Jennifer said, heading across the hall to the bathroom.  Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I got up and followed her. 

As I came into the bathroom, Jennifer was beginning to run water in the bathtub.  "What's that for?  I had a bath last night!" I queried.  "You want to be neat and tidy when you meet the people at Matthew's office, don't you?"  She replied logically as I got undressed and into the tub.  While Jennifer began to shampoo my headfur, I began to ask her about Matthew's office.  "Have you been to Matthew's office?"  "A few times" Jennifer responded "Why?"  "I was just wondering." I replied "Are there a lot of people there?"  "Well, it's a big building, but his department is small and pretty much self contained." She answered.  "You ought to ask Matthew about that…" Finishing up, I got out of the tub, and Jennifer proceeded to dry my fur off. 

Going back to my room, I was a little surprised when Jennifer indicated that she wanted me to sit on the bed, instead of the changing table.  Ducking out of the room for a minute, she returned with a brush.  "What's that for?" I asked curiously.  "Brushing your fur silly." Jennifer replied, laughing, then began to brush out my fur.  The brush pulled a little, getting stuck in my fur on occasion.  "Hmm… We probably should have done this more often." Jennifer mused after smoothing one of the larger tangles. "You're fur is getting a bit wild."  After a while she finished up, and, putting down the brush, told me to "Hop up on the changing table." 

Jennifer changed me into a fresh diaper, and dressed me in the pants and green shirt that we had picked out last night.  Then, stepping back to examine her handiwork, she declared "That will do nicely."  Looking in the mirror, I had to admit that it did look pretty nice, though I would have really preferred a long sleeve shirt.  "What do you think?" Jennifer asked, seeing me examine my reflection in the mirror.  "About what?" I asked, being intentionally dense, then smiling innocently.  She just smiled back tolerantly, then rubbed me behind the ears.  "Come on, let's go have some breakfast."


"Good morning little guy."  Matthew greeted me as I sat down at the table.  He was neatly dressed in a business suit, and a bright blue tie.  Jennifer brought out a big plate of waffles, and sat down with us.  Then, as an afterthought, she came over and tied a napkin around my neck as a bib.  "To keep you from getting syrup on your nice new clothes." Jennifer said by way of an explanation.  Thus protected from the dangers of syrup drippage, I launched into my breakfast with enthusiasm, though doing my best to keep from making a mess.  I was pretty successful, Jennifer only had to wipe a little bit of syrup off of my muzzle, and I was ready to go. 

After finishing his coffee, Matthew got his briefcase, and we headed for the door.  "Bye mommy!" I yelled, exited to be going somewhere new.  "Good bye Nick.  Have a nice time!" Jennifer answered.  Matthew's car I noticed was quite a bit sportier than Jennifer's was.  (I guess that wolves must have midlife crises too, though I never thought about it before…)  On our way into town, we stayed on the road longer than we would have if we were going to the hospital or the mall.  Soon the scenery began to change, with more buildings appearing, and more cars.  I noticed though that it wasn't nearly as crowded as any of the cities I had ever been to before, none of the buildings were more than a few stories tall, and they tended to blend unobtrusively in with their surroundings.  There was also a lot more plants and trees than I usually expected to see in a city.  "This is the middle of downtown," Matthew commented, noticing me watching the scenery outside  "We like to keep things as natural as possible, so you won't find any big skyscrapers around here." 

"This is it." Matthew said, as we pulled into the parking lot in front of one of the buildings.  Going inside, we went through the lobby and up to a pair of elevators. "My office is on the top floor," Matthew explained "There's a great view of downtown from my window, I think you'll like it."  As the elevator doors opened, I took Matthew's hand a little apprehensively, and then we stepped inside.  The doors closed behind us, and Matthew was reaching out to select the floor.  Tugging on his shirtsleeve, I asked, "Can I push the button?"  Smiling, he nodded, and then watched with amusement as I stood up on my tiptoes to reach it.

When the doors opened again, we stepped out into a long, important looking hallway, with a marble floor, and wood paneled walls.  It was one of those places that made you want to whisper.  I felt relieved when we arrived at a door that Matthew cheerfully informed me was his office.  His office wasn't what I had been expecting.  Instead of being solemn and dignified, like the hallway, it was bright and cheerful, with thick carpets and a huge assortment of houseplants adorning every possible flat surface.  It instantly made me feel more comfortable.

Walking over to the big picture window that dominated the back wall, I discovered that Matthew hadn't been kidding about the view, it was great.  Looking out from the window, it seemed like I could watch the entire city go by below me.  Matthew came up behind me, and seeing my interest in the surrounding area, began to point out various places.  "There's the mall, and over to the left is the hospital you were at, and if you look way over in the distance, that little gray ribbon is the road that goes to our house."  After a while, I grew tired with looking at the view, and sat down in the big chair behind Matthew's desk.  "Well, well" Matthew joked, "Look who got a promotion!" 

"Let's go see if Sharon has any mail for me." Matthew said, heading for the door.  "Who's Sharon?" I inquired as I jumped up to follow him.  "She's my department's secretary.  I'll introduce you, then maybe we can look around this floor a little bit on the way back." We headed down to the foyer, where a cheetah who looked to be in her early twenties sat behind a desk, sorting a large pile of mail.  "Hey Sharon, did I get anything interesting today?"  Matthew asked.  "Always do" she replied, looking up from the pile of mail to hand Matthew a bundle of letters held together by a rubber band.  "Who's the handsome little foxy?" she asked, noticing me behind Matthew.  "I'm Nick" I answered her.  "It's nice to meet you, Nick.  Matthew's told us a lot about you."  "All good, of course." Matthew interjected, feigning an intense nervousness.  Acting deeply hurt, I pretended to shuffle away, until Sharon called me back and, with a smile, gave me a peppermint from a jar on her desk, at which point we continued on our way. 

"Let's take the long way back, and I'll show you around." Matthew declared.  Walking down an adjacent hallway, Matthew showed me into another room, furnished more casually than the others I had seen so far.  "This is the break room" he commented.  Inside was a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave, sink and most importantly, a coffee maker.  Along the other wall was a table and a pair of rather worn sofas.  Walking over to the kitchenette, Matthew grabbed a Styrofoam cup and poured himself some coffee.  "I want some coffee too" I requested.  "Coffee isn't good for little kits" he responded, leading me back out into the hallway.  "Besides, it'll be lunch time in a little bit anyway."  We continued down the hallway until Matthew stopped in front of another room.  "This is the mail room," he said, leading me inside.  It had the usual collection of postal meters, scales, and copiers.  A distinguished looking horse was running a large stack of copies at one of the machines.  "This is Mr. Equis" Matthew said, introducing me. "John, this is Nick, I believe I've mentioned him before…"  "Pleased to meet you" Mr. Equis replied, shaking hands with me solemnly. 

"So, how are you liking the office so far?" Mr. Equis asked me.  "Its big" I answered "But I thought that there would be more people around."  "Oh there are" he replied "It's just that people tend to be in their offices more in the mornings.  Wait until lunch time, and you'll get a much better idea of how many people work in our building." Just then his copies finished up, and gathering them up, he excused himself and disappeared down the hallway.

Continuing on with our tour, we came to a large set of double doors.  "This is our file room" Matthew explained as we went in.  My first thought was "God it's huge!" Rows of metal shelves filled with files spanned the room, running from the floor almost to the ceiling, and disappeared off into the distance.  Laughing at my somewhat awed expression; Matthew went on to explain "This room takes up most of the floor.  We keep all the company's records here.  Well, except for accounting, they have their own facilities in a different building…"  "I'm glad I don't have to keep up with all this." I commented idly as we walked down the rows of shelves.

As we walked further back into the room, it began to get pretty dusty.  Idly I began to draw in the thin layer of dust that covered the open parts of the shelves.  A crude stick figure with a tail became two, and then a third smaller one.  "Who are they?" Matthew inquired, noticing my drawings.  "The big one is you, and the smaller one is mommy." I responded, giggling a little.  "And the little one is you" Matthew finished.  As I nodded in agreement, he reached over my shoulder, and drew a smaller one next to me.  "You forgot Jake." He said in response to my curious look.  "Where is Jake anyway?" I mused out loud.  "Hmm?  Oh, you left him in my office" Matthew responded "Don't worry, after last time I'm keeping an eye on him for you.  It wouldn't do to have Jake run off again, now would it?"  Matthew answered, grinning. 


Heading back into the hallway, Matthew decided it was time to return to his office.  "Come on kiddo, its about time I go and get some things done.  I'm a lawyer, not a tour guide, you know."  "Okay" I laughed.  After returning to his office, I got Jake and snuggled into one of the large padded chairs in front of his desk and watched as Matthew began to open his mail.  He would open a letter, spend a long time reading it, and then write out a response or type out an e-mail.  Obviously, it didn't take too long for this to lose my attention, and I soon discovered that my chair was one of the kinds that can spin around.  By the time Matthew had finished his real mail and started in on checking his e-mail, I was happily amusing myself with this new piece of indoor playground equipment.

Looking up from his computer, Matthew realized what Nick was up to.  Reaching over the desk and latching onto the chair in mid spin, he commented "Let's find something else to do shall we?  You're going to make yourself sick doing that."  "Too late" I groaned, looking a little green, even through my fur.  "I think I'm going to lie down for a while now…" With that, I promptly curled up on the carpet with Jake, in the hopes that the room would be nice enough to quit spinning around long enough for me to get off.

After about twenty minutes or so, the powers that be must have felt that I had been properly chastised, and I slowly started to feel better.  Seeing that Matthew was still busy, and not feeling up to another ride on the chair, I grabbed a pen and a notepad off of his desk, and began drawing again.  This one turned out to be a map of sorts, with our house, the mall, the park, and anywhere else I could remember drawn in.  Admiring my handiwork, I decided that it needed labels for the places. (I've never been particularly good at drawing, and some of the pictures were a little less than clear…) 

Looking over Nick's shoulder, Matthew saw him scribbling intently under the pictures in his drawing.  "What are you up to?" He asked with interest.  "I'm writing names down."  Looking at the scribbles, Matthew replied indulgently "Very nice."  "No, I'm serious.  Here look." I said, sensing his incredulous tone.  Looking at the offered drawing again, Matthew still failed to recognize the scribbles as writing, but chose to humor Nick.  "I see what you mean now." He laughed, handing back the drawing. "I'm just not used to your writing, that's all."

Taking the drawing back, I came to a rather obvious conclusion.  If I needed to learn their writing, why did I assume that they would automatically be able to understand mine?  Which led me to wonder why we could understand each other's spoken languages.  Trying to find a logical explanation for this, I began to confuse myself, and eventually decided that it was something that I needn't worry about until I was older.  With that resolved for the moment, I happily resumed my drawing.


Some time later, as I was completing a rather good (in my opinion) sketch of Jake, Matthew pushed aside the mound of papers on his desk and declared "I don't know about you, but I'M ready to eat!" "Yay!"  I answered gleefully, then remembering that we didn't bring any food with us this morning, "What are we going to eat?"  "I thought we could go out for fast food" Matthew answered, putting on his suit jacket, and opening the door.  "Where's the restaurant?" I queried as I followed him out the door.  "I didn't see any restaurants when we drove here."  "It's just down the street a bit, we can walk there in a few minutes." He explained as we rode the elevator downstairs.  "People here aren't big on large billboards or neon signs like you are used to.  I'm not surprised that you didn't notice it."  When I thought about it, there was a distinct lack of billboards and other clutter here, which, I quickly decided, was a refreshing change.

Walking back out of the lobby, I saw that the sidewalks were a lot busier than they had been in the morning.  People were bustling back and forth on their lunch breaks, creating a scene of polite chaos.  Growing a bit nervous with all the people around, I grabbed onto Matthew's paw for support.  Squeezing my paw back reassuringly, Matthew led the way through the throngs of people.  After a minute or two, we came to a plaza type place, set back from the street.  A half a dozen different restaurants surrounded an open square filled with picnic tables. In the center a large fountain bubbled merrily. 

I was intent on getting a better look at the fountain, but Matthew steered me across the courtyard and into one of the restaurants before I could run off.  Inside it was a typical fast food place, the only difference being in the menu.  While some things were recognizable, there were enough selections I didn't recognize to make ordering a challenge.  (Not being able to read the words that went with the pictures didn't help much either.)  Remembering the alfalfa ice cream from the other day I (wisely) decided to solicit some opinions on the food front.  "Umm, Matthew?"  I asked, pulling on his shirtsleeve. "What should I get?  I don't recognize a lot of this stuff."   "Hmm?" He responded, somewhat distracted by making his own selections.  "Get the kit's meal, that should be fine." 

After a couple of minute's wait, it was our turn to order.  Behind the counter was a teenage porcupine.  "I'll have a number two combo." Matthew said.  "And how about you little guy?  What would you like?" She directed to me.  "I'll have a kit's meal please"  "What kind?" She queried, pointing to a picture menu on the counter, which must have had ten different ones on it.  Confused, I looked to Matthew for help.  "A hamburger one will do nicely, I think." 

Matthew paid her, and a short time later our food arrived.  Taking my bag, I politely told her "Thank you Miss…?" trailing off as I remembered I couldn't read her nametag.  "My name's Lindesfarne" She responded, realizing my plight.  "I'm Nick" I said a little shyly, taking my bag from her.  "Enjoy your lunch, Nick" she said, grinning at me as I followed Matthew outside.  As we stepped back out into the sunlight, Matthew asked "So, where do you want to sit?"  "Can we sit by the fountain?" I asked excitedly.  "Sure" Matthew laughed "Whatever you want."


Finding an empty table near the fountain, we sat down and began to dig into our lunches.  Mine came in a brightly colored cardboard carton, with pictures of cartoon characters on the sides.  "I haven't had one of these in a while…" I thought to myself ruefully as I spread out the contents of my lunch on the table.  As well as the typical fast food fare, my meal included the requisite prize found in all kids meals, regardless of one's location.  This one happened to be a little blue toy car.  "Vroom Vroom." I joked, pushing it across the table towards Matthew.  He reached out and caught the car just as it was going to slide off the table.  "Nice car." Matthew said seriously as he flicked it back across the table to me.  "I'll trade you" I replied with equal seriousness.  "As tempting an offer as that is, I'm afraid I'll have to pass." He kidded. 

Returning my attentions to my food, I ate my hamburger and got most of the way through the French fries before I got full.  Matthew wasn't done yet, having more food than I did (not to mention eating at a much more reasonable pace).  I tried to be good, honestly I did.  That lasted, being generous, probably two minutes. 

Looking up from his meal, Matthew noticed that Nick was trying to feed Jake his left over French fries.  "Umm, what are you doing?" Matthew asked, watching curiously from across the table.  "I'm feeding Jake lunch." The little kit replied, in a tone that made it clear that he thought this should be obvious.  "Just for my curiosity, why?" "Because he might be hungry." Nick answered; growing a bit exasperated by adults that just couldn't understand the obvious.  "I don't think that's a good idea" Matthew answered slowly, trying to think of an appropriate way to extract them from the situation.  "Fast food isn't good for animals, and the fries might make Jake sick."  "Oh," I answered thoughtfully "You're probably right." Taking into consideration this new revelation, it was decided that Jake should be permanently removed from these kinds of high calorie diets. 


Finishing up with lunch, we threw out our trash and headed back to Matthew's office briefly to retrieve my drawings and then headed back home.  Jennifer wasn't home yet, so Matthew set me up watching Disney's The Fox and the Hound, then went upstairs to change clothes.  I was a little tired from being up so late last night, and after a few minutes I ended up just kind of drifting in my thoughts.  Eventually I started reminiscing about my old life.  I began to think what the people I used to know would be doing right now.  I wonder if they miss me.  With a start, I suddenly realized that they all must think I was dead.  Sniffing a little, I curled up and hugged Jake.

"You look distressed little one." Matthew commented, coming into the room and sitting down on the couch.  "Do you want to talk about it."  "I was just thinking about my old life." I sighed, giving him a sad little smile, then snuggling into his arms.  "Are you having second thoughts about staying?" He asked quietly.  "No" I said slowly, looking for the right words to express the complexity of my feelings  "I was never really happy in my old life. Here with you and Jennifer, I've got a sense of well being that I never used to have.  I don't regret staying, it's just that it's a little hard sometimes."  "Change always is." Matthew said, hugging me.  "Now, why don't we finish the movie?"

Jennifer arrived home just as the movie ended.  "Hello everyone!" she said flopping down on the couch with Matthew and I.  "So, how did you like Matthew's office?"  "It was fun" I replied excitedly "I met some people, and saw the file room, and then we went to a restaurant for lunch, and there was a big fountain too."  "Why don't you show her your pictures?"  Matthew reminded me.  "Oh yeah!"  I said, running to the kitchen table and bringing them back.  Sitting back down, I began to go through the pictures.  "This is Jake, and this is all of us, and this is our house…" Jennifer looked appreciatively at my drawings as I handed them over, then when I reached the last one, she went to the kitchen and she hung them up on the refrigerator.

"Well, I've got to be getting back to work." Matthew stated, walking back to the door with me in tow.  "Bye!" I yelled as he left, waving until he drove off.  "Come on Nick," Jennifer said, closing the door "I'm sure you need a change by now, and then it's naptime."  "Naptime?" I complained loudly "I never had naptime before!"  "Yes, but you never stayed up as late as you did last night either." She answered in a no nonsense tone, leading me upstairs for a fresh diaper. 

Hopping up on the changing table, I watched as Jennifer dug out the necessary materials, as well as a sleeper.  "Do I really have to take a nap?" I asked as she was wiping down my diaper area "Can't we just watch TV or something?"  "I'm afraid not," Jennifer replied, looking for the tube of diaper cream. "Besides, you really will feel better after a little rest."  After threading my tail through the tail hole, she taped up the diaper and then helped me down from the table.  "There, all clean!" she smiled, as I put on the sleeper.  "Now, how about that nap?" 

Sighing, I shuffled over and climbed into bed.  Handing me Jake, Jennifer tucked me in, then said, "Okay, now.  I'll be back in an hour or so to check on you."  And with that she headed downstairs, closing the door behind her.  Lying in bed, I was growing a bit grouchy.  "Stupid nap.  How am I supposed to sleep when it's daylight out?" I thought to myself.  "I don't need a nap, I feel perfectly fine."  The realization that my current attitude only helped to justify Jennifer's newly implemented nap policy didn't do much to help my mood much either.  Despite my best efforts otherwise, eventually, I did drift off to sleep.


Upon waking up, I had to admit that I felt much better.  "It's funny how sometimes you don't realize how tired you are until you get some rest." I thought to myself, standing up to go find Jennifer.  Looking around, I noticed that Jake was missing.  After kicking through the blankets a bit, I came to the conclusion that I had left him in the living room. 

Going downstairs, I found Jennifer sitting in the dining room, reading the mail.  "Well, look who's up." Jennifer said "Feel better after your nap?"  "Uh huh." I nodded.  "I thought so." She commented  "You were looking pretty run down there earlier, and now you're all bright eyed and bushy tailed."   "My tail's always bushy." I said, somewhat confused.  "It's an expression" Jennifer laughed as I tried to look over my shoulder at the part in question. 

"Do you know where Jake went?" I asked Jennifer, remembering the problem of the moment.  "Hmm? Oh, I'm washing him, he was getting a little scruffy lately." She answered absentmindedly, still reading the mail.  "He should be done in the dryer in a couple of minutes." "Okay" I replied, climbing up into the seat next to Jennifer's.  "What's all that stuff?" I asked, looking over her shoulder at the stack of mail.  "Probably just about the same stuff you used to get: bills, junk mail, catalogs, things like that." She answered, flipping through the pile.  "Do you ever get anything interesting?" I queried, pawing through the papers.  "Every now and then we'll get a letter from friends or family, usually a couple of times a week."  "Ah…" I nodded, not really paying attention any more. 

Looking at her watch, Jennifer decided that Jake was probably done in the dryer, so we headed out to the laundry room.  I hadn't been in there before.  It was a smaller room, mostly filled by the washer and dryer, but also with a closet-thing that I assumed had the hot water heater.  The walls had cheery yellow wallpaper, and the whole place had a pleasant smell, kind of like a cross between warm blankets and laundry soap.  Walking over to the dryer, Jennifer opened the door and pulled out Jake.  "Here you are," she said, handing him to me "Just finished!  He's all nice and fluffy now too!"  Taking him, I found that he was still warm from the dryer.  "He's warm." I smiled, hugging him.  I had forgotten how nice a stuffed animal fresh from the dryer felt.  Sometimes the simple things can be the nicest.

Heading back to the living room, Jennifer made an announcement.  "I have to go back out and run some errands, so I got someone to come over and watch you while I'm gone."  "Watch me?" I asked quizzically, "Why can't I go with you?"  "Because" Jennifer answered, ruffling my headfur "its going to be long and boring, and you'd be much better off here."  "Now don't worry," she continued "Erica is very nice, I'm sure you two will get along just fine."  "I guess." I said unenthusiastically, obviously not pleased with the arrangements. 


About a half-hour later the doorbell rang.  "That must be Erica." Jennifer said, getting up to answer the door.  I followed behind, curious about this Erica person.  Jennifer had already gotten the door by the time I had gotten there, and was ushering inside an otter.  She was younger than Jennifer, probably nineteen or twenty, and wore jeans and a T-shirt.  "Nick, this is Erica" Jennifer introduced.  "Hi!" Erica said, crouching down so she was at my level.  "Hello" I said quietly, a little shy around strangers.  "I'll be gone until around five." Jennifer told Erica, getting her purse and stepping outside.  "Be good Nick!  I'll see you this evening."  Then, closing the door, she was gone.

"Well, I guess it's just us now." She said, looking at me.  I meanwhile was doing my best to hide behind Jake.  For some reason, I felt a little scared being around strangers without Jennifer and Matthew.  "It's okay Nick, I won't bite!" She said, laughing at her own joke.  Apparently I was more obviously nervous than I thought.  Laughing with her, I began to loosen up a little bit, maybe this wouldn't be too bad after all, she certainly seemed friendly enough.

"So, what do you want to do this afternoon?" Erica queried.  "I don't know." I answered "What do you want to do?"  "Well how about going swimming?" Erica suggested then added as an afterthought "Do you know how to swim?"  "I used to" I responded slowly "but I don't know if I still can."  "I'll bet you can, some things you never forget, like riding a bike!"  We headed up to my room, where Erica began to pick through my dresser, looking for a bathing suit.  Not finding one, we eventually settled on a baggy pair of cotton shorts. 

"Now just wait here a minute while I change." Erica instructed, ducking into the bathroom, to emerge a few minutes later wearing a pair of cutoff shorts over a blue swimsuit.   She looked really pretty, and I caught myself staring at her a bit.  "Okay now, ready to go?"

After checking that the front door had latched, we started walking across the field by the house, then through the woods.  "Where are we going, I thought we were going to drive." I questioned.  "There's a nice little lake through the woods a ways" Erica responded, leading the way.  "I like the woods" I commented, making idle conversation "But last time I was in the woods by the park I got lost, and Mommy was really mad at me."  Seeing Erica look at me curiously, I began to relate my previous adventures in the woods, ending with Bruno returning me to Jennifer.  "You shouldn't go into the woods alone," she commented "they are a big place for a little kit like you to be wandering around in without an adult."  "I know" I answered a bit abashed.

A little bit later we arrived at the edge of a shimmering blue lake.  It was a really nice place, shaded by the treeline, and with water so clear I could see all the way to the bottom.  "Well, here we are." Erica said cheerfully, then stripped off her shorts and waded into the water.  Taking a running start, I dived in after her.

As soon as my body hit the water I realized my mistake.  It was cold!  Splashing around a bit, I did my best to jump back out, but reconsidered as I began to adjust to the temperature.  Soon I was doggie paddling around comfortably.  Standing in the water, I stopped for a minute and absorbed the new sensations, the mud on the bottom squishing around my feet, the water plants brushing me as they drifted in the current.  Suddenly I felt something moving around my legs.  Looking down I saw a school of small fish darting through the water.

Looking over, Erica saw Nick staring intently at something in the water, his tail darting rapidly from side to side.  Then suddenly he lunged at something under the water, only to come back up empty handed.  "What are you up to Nick?" she asked, moving over to him.  "I'm trying to catch a fish!" he responded, sounding a bit frustrated "but they move too quickly."  "Oh like this?" Erica asked playfully, her paw darting rapidly into the water, to emerge with a silvery fish.  Laughing at Nick's look of amazement, she released the fish back into the lake. 

"How did you do that?"  I asked, mystified by her feat.  "Otters are good fishermen" she shrugged, then resumed her swimming.  Giving up on the fish for the moment, I watched Erica swim for a while.  She was really graceful in the water, effortlessly gliding in and out of the patches of plants.  About the best I could manage on the other paw was a sort of awkward dog paddle.  I had fun though, and sooner than I would have liked Erica was waving to me from the shore, indicating it was time to go.

"Did you have a good time?" Erica asked as we walked back to the house.  "Uh-huh." I nodded "I like swimming!"  "Well, you are a pretty good swimmer for a kit your age…" She commented, letting us in the house. "Now go straight to the bathroom to dry off." Admonished Erica "Your mom won't be too happy if we drip water all over your house!"


On the way up the stairs to the bathroom, I began to realize just how much water fur holds, and was relieved when I got on to the tile and didn't have to worry about dripping water all over the place.  Sitting down on the edge of the bathtub, I watched Erica begin to dig through the cabinets in search of towels.  Finding them, she sat down next to me and began to vigorously dry off my fur.  She had me a close approximation to dry in short order, then turned her attention back to the cabinets.  "Where does Jennifer keep your diapers?"  Erica asked me, her head still buried in the cabinets. 

"In the drawer there" I answered a bit nervously; not sure I liked the direction the conversation was headed in.  "Ah." She muttered, finding the drawer in question.  Then, after gathering up all the necessary supplies, she headed towards my room, motioning me to follow her.  Feeling a little uncomfortable with the situation, I slowly followed her.  "Hop up on the table." Erica instructed as I entered the room.

"I can do it myself."  I said, crossing my arms and refusing to get on the table.  "Oh really?" Erica said good humoredly.  "Uh huh." I answered, trying my best to look stubborn.  Sensing my modesty induced apprehension, she decided to compromise.  "I'll let you change yourself, but when you are done I'm going to check, and if you didn't do it right I'll have to re-do it for you, okay?"  Deciding that this was an acceptable compromise I readily agreed, and, leaving the diapers on the changing table, Erica left the room. 

I had never changed a diaper in my life, but then how hard could it possibly be?  Taking one of the diapers, I stripped off my wet shorts and sat down on the floor to quickly discover that changing one's self is much more difficult than I had previously assumed.  I started out by sitting down in the middle of the diaper, but then I couldn't see to thread my tail through the tail-hole.  So then I tried threading my tail through the tail-hole first, which worked pretty well, except that I couldn't see to fasten the tapes.  Finally after a couple of minutes, I got those dealt with in what I assumed was the right way. (Not being able to see what I was doing, I really wasn't sure…)  After I got the tail hole fastened, I sat down and fastened up the sides.  Just as I was finishing, Erica knocked on the door.  "Time's up!"

Coming back into the room, Erica took one look at me and started laughing so hard she had to sit down.  After a couple of minutes she got control of herself.  "Oh, gee.  I'm going to have to fix that!" "What's so funny?" I asked, a bit annoyed at her.  Grinning broadly, Erica led me into the bathroom, and lifted me up onto the counter by the sink so I could see myself in the mirror.  "Okay, you have a point." I sighed as we returned to my room.

"All right, hop on up." Erica said with mock sternness.  I complied, then sat on the table pouting as she retrieved the supplies from the floor.  "Now what's the big deal?" Erica commented, glancing over at me "Jennifer changes you all the time, doesn't she?"  "That's different." I asserted.  "Oh, and why is that?" she responded, putting her hands on her hips.   "Because she wouldn't have been my age in my old life!" I blurted out, somewhat frazzled at this point.  Sighing, Erica looked me in the eyes and bluntly pointed out "I've got two younger brothers, and I baby-sit.  There is absolutely nothing there I've not seen before.  Now we can either sit here arguing until your parents get home and it becomes irrelevant, or you can just get it over with."  Being beaten down by her logic, I gave in.  "Resistance is futile." I smiled sardonically.  "I'm glad you feel that way." She quipped.

Giving her credit, Erica did her best to change me with the minimum amount of embarrassment, though by the time she was done, I'm certain I was blushing enough that you could see it through my fur.  "There." Erica stated, fixing the last tapes "All done.  Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"  And I had to admit, it really could have been a lot worse. 

"Now, I've got some homework that I need to get done." Erica began "and if you are a good boy and give me some peace and quiet, I'll make you a special treat when I'm done."  "What kind of treat?" I asked curiously.  "You'll just have to wait and see" She teased, tapping me on the nose.


Grabbing Jake off of my bed, I followed Erica back downstairs and into the dining room, where she sat down at the table and began to dig through a backpack I hadn't noticed before.  Hopping up on the chair across from her, I watched Erica extract a large pile of books, papers, and other miscellaneous school supplies from her backpack.  Remembering my experiences with school and homework in the not so distant past, I shook my head sympathetically.  "That sure is a lot of stuff." I commented idly.  "Uh-huh" Erica replied without really paying attention.  Deciding that it would probably be better not to bother her, I rested my head on Jake and watched her for a while, then when I lost interest in that, grabbed one of the books she wasn't using at the time, and began to thumb through it, looking at the pictures.

I quickly determined that I had grabbed her geography book.  Flipping through the maps, I began to get a better understanding of the world I had found myself in.  Apparently, the landmasses were completely different from my world.  Instead of the familiar continents and oceans, instead an arrangement of three main continents and a collection of island networks looked up at me from the pages.  Which brought up an interesting question.  "Hey Erica?  Where are we?" I asked, indicating the pages open before me.  "Hmm?  Oh, we're right about here." She answered, pointing in the general direction of the mid-latitude region of one of the continents.  My question answered, I resumed thumbing through the book.  After a time I lost interest in the book, and, seeing that Erica was totally engrossed in her work, I headed out into the living room.

Lying down on the couch, hugging Jake, I watched the dust motes drift around lazily in the sunbeams that filtered in through the curtains.  Slowly I could feel my eyelids growing heavier, until before I knew it, I was sleeping peacefully.

I woke up some time later.  Sitting up and yawning a little, I smelled something good wafting in from the kitchen.  Getting up, I padded in to investigate.  "We went swimming, then the little dear spent most of the afternoon napping on the sofa."  It was Erica's voice; someone must have come home while I was asleep.  Walking through the entryway into the dining room, I saw Jennifer and Erica talking by the table.  Sensing me enter, Jennifer turned around and motioned me over.  "Well hello sleepyhead!  Did you have a fun afternoon?"  "Yep." I nodded, looking in the direction of the kitchen.  "I've got to be going now," Erica said, picking up her backpack, and heading towards the door "but I'll see you later, okay?"  I nodded again, following her. "Bye, Erica!" I waved.   Ruffling my headfur, she headed down the driveway.

"Dinner is going to be ready in a couple of minutes," Jennifer told me.  Then, sniffing the air "But I think somebody needs a change first!"   After the necessary procedures were completed, Jennifer and I headed back to the dining room.  Matthew was already there, bringing dinner out to the table when we arrived.  Sitting down to a heaping serving of mashed potatoes, I ate my dinner quietly, listening to Jennifer and Matthew discuss their day.  "What's the matter little one?"  Matthew laughed "This is the quietest it's been since you arrived!"  "I'm a little tired." I said, punctuating it with a yawn.  "Really?" said Jennifer, looking a bit credulous.  She must have been remembering Erica's report of my nap.  "I suppose you had a busy day, didn't you?"  Matthew reasoned.  "You ought to go to bed early today, so you'll be well rested tomorrow." 

"Why?" I asked as we got up from the table and headed upstairs for my bath "What's going on tomorrow?"  "Oh, we were going to introduce you to someone you might like." Jennifer replied mysteriously.  My ears perking up, I then began to cross examine her through my bath, but try as I might, that was all she was going to tell me.  Growing exasperated, I finally decided to let them keep their secret, and dropped the subject for the night. 

"There," Jennifer said as she began toweling off my fur "all nice and clean!"  "Uh huh." I yawned, wrapping myself up in the fluffy, oversized towel, already beginning to fall asleep.  "Come on," she said, picking me up and carrying me down the hall "let's get you to bed."  Depositing me on the changing table in my room, Jennifer quickly put me in a new diaper, then set out a clean pair of pajamas. 

Donning the pajamas, I slowly climbed into bed.  "Sweet Dreams Nick." Jennifer whispered as she closed the door quietly.  As I lay there in the dark, Jake's fur tickling my nose, I thought back on the day.  I saw Matthew's office, and met Erica.  I went swimming and tried out a restaurant here for the first time.  All in all it was a very full day.  Sighing with contentment, I snuggled up to Jake and slowly drifted off to sleep.

To Be Continued...