When Sam had been a kid, his father had been obsessed with a t.v. show called Squareheads about a family of aliens that moved to Earth. The aliens did not understand humans. There were jokes. It was funny.
Sam did not believe in aliens, but he did believe in crazy people. He passed four crazy people every time he went to the grocery store.
Sam crossed his arms and leaned against the door, watching as Rulash snapped his fingers and the cat stopped urinating in the corner of its cage.
“What have you been doing to these animals?” asked Rulash—what sort of name is Rulash anyway?—“There is no sense of place whatsoever.”
“What do you mean by that?” Sam deadpanned. He felt like he had been asking that question, in that tone, often lately.
“Well, imagine if you live in transition all the time. You’d be peeing in corners too. You have to make this more of a home and less of a…” Rulash gestured vaguely at the shelter cages. “This.”
“This is a transition point. We are trying to find permanent homes for these animals. That’s how shelters work.”
“You’ve said that,” said Rulash. Then he left the room.
Sam rolled his eyes. He had found his new assistant some clothes and all he had determined was that Rulash was foreign and stranded here. Good with animals, but unfamiliar with shelters. He had tried to pry more information from his guest-assistant in the past two days, but Rulash had clammed up.
Clothes were an ongoing adventure. Rulash had worn the jeans for only two hours—Sam’s butter soft, Americana jeans that made anyone gorgeous—before dumping them on his desk and declaring them absurd. He had cycled through three piece suits, sweatpants, and exercise clothing before condescending to wear a t-shirt and cargo shorts from the back of his closet.
Sam had ground his teeth through the entire exercise because his wardrobe was a work of art. He had won awards for his taste in clothes: male and female fashion. There was a firm, downtown, that had told him the moment he wanted to leave the nonprofit business, he could buy clothes for people with more money than sense. Fashion sense.
Like this animal-whispering crazy man.
Sam hated him for looking as good as he did in them. Even the cargo shorts. He had told Rulash he’d wash his clothes the first time and show him how to use the machine. But he could not figure out what those blue pants were made of… leather-silk? Oh, and of course, there were no damned tags. So, dry clean.
But all the cats and dogs calmed the moment he entered the room, and the strange man helped a cat give birth with no more than an eye-roll. Well, he left the dirty rags and water for Sam to clean up, but he handled the birthing all himself.
“Do you want to go to the movies?” Sam called out. “I’m closing up shop for the day.”
Rulash walked back into the main shelter room. He crossed his arms. “Fine.”
Sam wondered if he knew what movies were. Anyway. He grabbed his jacket. “Cool, let’s go now. I want to see—”
“Aren’t you going to dress as a woman?”
Sam paused, indignant, and gestured at his, in his opinion, sharp outfit: white button down, black jeans, flash of white and brown leather shoes… “I don’t dress as a woman all the time, you know.” Sam shrugged, eager to change the subject. “We’re seeing Revenge of Metal Man. Sound good?”
“It makes no difference,” declared Rulash, as if he were king of the rock.
“Do you want a jacket?”
“Yes, that would be good, considering the temperatures in this weird city. Some trees would help here.”
Sam grabbed him a jacket off the back of his desk chair. They left, Sam locking up the shelter behind them.
Rulash never even noticed it was a girl’s jacket. Of course he wouldn’t. Uncultured weirdo.