Rulash was dedicated to his cause, Sam would concede that. When the self-proclaimed king was not cleaning up messes at the shelter or tending to the animals, he strolled around Willow’s neighborhood, hoping to run into his “one true love” in a “casual manner” so as to “start their relationship over.”
A week went by. Then two weeks went by, with Rulash coming in late and slumping into one of the lobby chairs to stare at the clock ticking on the wall. Tick-tock. A dog barked.
Sam stepped out of his purple heels and nudged them beneath the desk. He leaned over the register, looking at Rulash. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Rulash blinked, then continued staring at the clock.
“Let’s go out.”
Rulash didn’t move.
Sam fiddled with the ends of his wig. “I want to go out.” He walked around the desk, his purple dress winking in the cheap lighting, and he dragged Rulash to his feet. The man didn’t put up much resistance as Sam pulled him down the hall and thrust a sweater into his hands. When Rulash simply held it, Sam forced it over his head.
“Damn it, Rulash, this is such a pain with my nails on. Dress yourself.”
As Sam walked towards the door, the dogs started barking and Rulash put on the sweater. He paused beside one of the cages. “They’re saying Red’s sick. She’s not barking.”
Sam sighed, exasperated. “She’s a Shiba. They’re not noisy dogs. Come on.”
“There’s something wrong with her gut.”
“What makes you so certain? You never mess with Red.”
“I actually talk to them, as I’ve told you a dozen times…”
“I’ll take her to the vet,” Sam said, tugging on his heels. “Come on.”
Reluctant, Rulash followed him out the door. Sam dragged him to a bookstore, where he awkwardly flipped through magazines while Sam read poetry, twirling his hair about his finger. In the end, he bought a single chapbook, and Rulash did not really read a single magazine.
They got ice cream (matcha and Earl Grey), then root beer floats because Sam was scandalized that he had never tasted one. Sam was only scandalized when he dressed like a woman, reflected Rulash over his root beer float. That was as far as he got, though. The float was quite good.
Sam opened his poetry chapbook, and insisted that they take turns interpreting the poems. Most of the poetry was so muddled that Rulash did not understand what was going on anyway—Leggy’s people—and it wasn’t long before all objects were being compared to penises and Sam had fallen into a fit of giggles.
“Coffee,” he gasped. “I need coffee. Haha, I still have to finish the nonprofit forms, to submit tomorrow…”
Gliding out the door in his glittering heels, Rulash stumbled after him, laughing. “Or you could go to sleep like a slightly more sane person…”
Sam barreled into the coffee shop. Jazz tinkled from some nearby speakers, burnt sugar smell, espresso…
Rulash froze in the doorway, watching as the barista handed Willow a sack of coffee grounds. Sam stopped and looked back at Rulash, then followed his assistant’s line-of-sight to the girl.
“Ah,” said Sam.