Free Range

Free Range

by Tom Bont

Frank loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. “How long do you think they’re going to march?”

“Until they get hungry, of course,” Milford answered. “They’re hippies and fanatics. They live on each other’s couches until the sheets start smelling. Then they move on.”

Both men stared out the office window and down at the street where scores of people waved picket signs painted with naive slogans that preached the virtues of giving animals the same rights as human beings.

Frank’s favorite read, “Bite Me!” Yeah, I’m sure you’d like that, you moron. “They have no idea how dangerous these things are,” he grumbled. “The least little thing can set one off. You saw what Victor did to that electrician who was wiring up his cage.”

“Of course, I did,” Milford scoffed. “I defended you in court, remember?”

“Yeah, well she’s going to wish she’d died in there before it’s over.” Frank rubbed the back of his neck. “I just don’t understand it. Anyone in their right mind knows you can’t just turn an alpha predator loose where humans live.”

One of the picketers jumped up onto the hood of a rusty station wagon and talked into an electric bullhorn. “Victor is not an animal! Victor has rights!” It wasn’t long before the rest of the crowd picked up the chant.

Frank turned from the window and sat down behind his desk. “Not an animal? What is he then? It wasn’t too long ago that we were shooting them dead in the streets.”

Milford leaned on his cane and limped over to the wet bar. “We’ve eaten that apple.” He dropped ice cubes into two tumblers. “It’s called the Intelligent Wildlife Protection Act.”

“And I’ve done everything the Act requires,” Frank exclaimed. “Secure enclosure, plenty to eat, regular medical exams, television, blah, blah, blah.” He took the proffered highball from Milford and downed it in one swallow. “Mil, I paid good money for him, he’s well cared for, and now they want me to turn him loose! What has happened to this country? Where has the common sense gone?”

Milford sank down into the stuffed leather couch. “The Supreme Court feels it needs looking at. I’m not so sure they’re going to overturn it though.” He swished his drink around in his glass before taking a sip. “You heard my argument. There are too many precedents in our favor.”

“Maybe.” Frank grimaced. “I’m just glad that bleeding heart, Jackson, recused himself.”

Milford laughed. “We wouldn’t have stood an outhouse fly’s chance in a frog pond if he hadn’t. If there was ever a conflict of interest, that was it.”

“Yeah, well I’m sure he’s waiting on the outcome just like the rest of us. If that section of the Act falls, his daughter won’t have to live in that private zoo any longer. Like Victor and all the rest, she’ll be a federally protected, free-range werewolf.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Tom Bont
Tom Bont is a United States Navy veteran, has a degree in computer science from Louisiana Tech University, and lives in north Texas with his family where he owns a small software engineering company. Even after 24 years of marriage, he still spends as many hours as he can on the dance floor with his wife. He is the author of two self-published books and dozens of published essays and gaming articles. His work has appeared in various online magazines, in Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers from Eakin Press and in The MOON Magazine (coming April 2017).

14 thoughts on “Free Range

  1. Nice twist.

    The metaphor “an outhouse fly’s chance in a frog pond” sings, thought it defies understanding

    Maybe the snap at the end could be tightened: “If the Act is overturned, his daughter won’t live in a zoo. She, Victor and the others will be federally protected, free-range werewolves.”

    AGB

  2. Interesting story that led well to the ending. Original expressions such as “We’ve eaten that apple.” and “A outhouse fly’s change in a frog pond” kept the reading fresh where cliches would have bogged it down. I was curious as to what type of business this was and why they would keep a werewolf, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Enjoyed the read!

  3. Thought there might be a surprise at the end. Assumed the “animal” would be human. Half right!
    Nice job, good dialogue and entertaining.

  4. I wondered what kind of creature Frank kept. Werewolf didn’t occur. Interesting idea that someone would pay to own a werewolf, but I suppose it’s not much different than having a croc in the back yard.

    1. There will always be people with more money than brains. In an earlier draft, it was fashionable to keep your pet werewolf on an electrified leash as you walked around town. It failed my smell test for various reasons and turned into private zoos. Thanks for reading!

  5. Good economical but effective writing. I also expected the caged creatures would be humans. I would have found that more intriguing than werewolves.

Leave a Reply to Daniel Finkel Cancel reply