Doctor Alexander nods politely when the Chu twins settle on stools on either side of him. He appreciates the strength in the slender fingers as they touch his shoulder in greeting, the claw prickles gently reminding him they could rip him stem to stern. Their muscles are not as subtle. There’s a few white streaks of scars marring that glossy fur, too. They don’t have to wear such tiny little clothes for propriety’s sake, they could walk in here naked. According to Hal’s stories, they’ve walked in here covered in blood, torn up, lame, and nobody said a word. People just scuffled around and dug up bandages and antiseptic for them. Hal says that bullet scores are fairly common. Just an little FYI for the doctor in the house, that’s all.
Alexander winces at a live harmonica note pushed its breaking point.
Kelli Chu snorts. “He ain’t gonna give Muddy Waters any run for his money, not with that harp.”
“Poor guy never met an off-note he didn’t like,” Kerri agrees, and chugs her beer.
“Oh hush, he thinks he’s bending notes,” says Kelli.
The Chu twins grin at him when he winces at a note so blue it’s almost purple. It’s interesting to see that he is being cut out of the herd like a springbok under their green-eyed regard. He takes it as a spooky sort of flattery on their part. Or just plain old boredom. Their round furry cat ears flick irritably at one awkward transition after another.
Kerri snorts. “Oh now we doing calypso?”
“You could cut a stump with that nasal Cajun whine,” Kelli says.
Alexander makes a face.
“Oooh, whassa matter baby, wuggums doesn’t like our sweet country music?” Kerri says.
Alexander says, “Oh, I just adore songs about wallowing happily in the results of child abuse, water contaminated by sewage, and the gun and tobacco industries. Have I left anything out?”
“Probably,” Kelli says. “I’d kill for a cigarette.”
“I’ve heard that about you,” Alexander says.
They both stare at him, and crack up.
“Education,” Kerri says. “Or lack of it.”
“Poor diet,” Kelli replies, clopping her canines together with a clashing noise. “Gawd, I wanna ciggie.”
“You’re quitting, remember?” Kerri reaches past Alexander and smacks her sister on the shoulder with an audible thump.
“Yeah, yeah,” Kelli says, scowling. “God, these guys don’t even belong in a garage. Total abuse of sheet rock.”
Alexander winces. “Is the drummer stoned?”
“You need to ask?” Kelli says, and bares her teeth at him. He has plenty of time to notice that she has healthy pink gums and her teeth have excellent deep roots. Her tongue papillae are only a little deeper than a regular human’s would be. Not enough to rasp meat off the bone in one swipe, like a leopard’s, in spite of the stories he’s heard.
Alexander holds out his hand, wiggles his fingers, and gives a shrug.
Kelli makes a sad little moue with her mouth, and Kerri signals for another beer for him. He notices the beer arrives immediately, too. He pays for the round. Alexander sips his beer. It has the benefit of being slightly colder than the humid air whiffled past them by the fan.
“Have I mentioned how much I hate badly done blues?” Doctor Alexander says.
Kerri makes a face, showing her long canines. “Is there such a thing? Can you ever define that sliding edge where bad starts?”
Alexander grunts. “Why is Nicky allowing this– experiment– when he has proper musicians like Rene and Tiny?”
“Oh, Nicky stiffed Tiny last time–“Kelli says.
“–and Rene twice before that–” Kerri growls.
“Those guys, they put up with too much shit,” Kelli agrees.
“So they ain’t gonna give up paying gigs for this dump,” Kerri says.
“Just when you think Nicky’s Bar can’t slide any further down the greased pole of pathetic bars…” Kelli shrugs.
“…then you visit the restroom!” Kerri makes another horrible face, wrinkling her muzzle.
“Is this where I’m supposed to say, ‘Oh, it really isn’t so bad since you two came in,'” Alexander says, with a sort of academic interest.
“No,” Kelli says sternly. Kerri giggles, and Kelli glares at her.
“Oh,” Alexander says. He shrugs. “I have to practice these things. I’m not very good at it.”
Kelli rolls her eyes. “On top of everything else, inept geeky flattery! Gaaawd!”
“Well, if you wanted to make the whole experience even more dreadful, I could ask you to dance. I mean, both of you, and very badly. I’d do my best to make it very embarrassingly bad, if you like.”
Kelli makes a gagging noise, slapping her sister past him, and Kerri bursts into laughter. It doesn’t matter, the sound is covered by the triumphant screech at the end of the band’s first set.
“C’mon, you flatterer, I’ll give you a fucking dance,” Kelli says, grabbing his arm, and they drag him outside.
“Oh yes, fresh air, I remember it now,” Alexander says. “Peace and quiet. It’s a shock, but I’ll be brave.”
Kerri is laughing again.
Kelli growls, leaning into a truck. “God, there’s nowhere closer than town for anything else to do.”
“Watch a movie? TV?” Alexander suggests, although it’s a rare practice for him. “Sorry, my set is making wavy lines at me. I think it might be the cable feed.”
“Oh fucking hell,” Kelli grumbles. “I fucking hocked our last decent screen–” she swears.
Kerri points a thumb at her sister, and confides, “She threw our crummy little TV out the screen door last week.”
“Why?” Alexander asks.
Kelli growls, shaking her fists at the sky. “Do you know what they’ve done to Alcide on True Blood? How could any decent wolf ever—“
“C’mon, you don’t even like wolves,” Kerri says. She turns to Alexander. “Well, you know how we do production and editing work. They keep firing people we know, all over the area, doing this absurd overnight out-sourcing.”
“They had Hindi cusswords coming in on their feed and they didn’t even catch it in time!” Kelli snarls.
“Her editing standards are just too high.”
“What does it mean to be a fucking pro when assholes like that–”
“And don’t ask if we could get Nicky to put the sports on his big screen,” Kerri says, sadly. She reaches out and fiddles with a button on Alexander’s shirt.
“Just don’t even fucking bother asking Nicky, he only watches those idiots, that fucking Grunter and Potato Head,” Kelli snaps, pointing warningly at Alexander.
Alexander smiles. “I’d bet any of those single guys in there would let you watch sports with them. You’d just have to behave and not eat their spleen when their team won instead.”
“Like I’d stoop to eating their stinking spleens!” Kelli snarls, dropping her sandal and kicking the truck’s front tire with her bare toes. Clawed toes. The tire gives a sad little pooting noise, and then hisses steadily.
Alexander blinks at the license plate on the truck. Nickysbar.
“Feel better?” Alexander asks.
“Yeah, goddammit!” Kelli says. She kicks the rear tire, with the same results. At the tire, she shouts, “Your damn lazy family is letting your tire inflation go too low, asshole! It don’t puncture if you keep it at the right inflation! Last time you let Tangerine get stuck out there in some hellbilly hole with the tires cut to ribbons onna rocks, and it took me three weeks to get over the damn wolf bites we took getting her outta there in one piece, you lazy piece a’ shite!” She punctures another tire.
“Is she angry like this all the time?” Alexander asks.
“No, just when we get stiffed for a coupla jobs in a row,” Kerri says. The shirt button comes off in her hand. Boy, the Chu twins are just as destructive as everybody says, but Kerri looks down at it like she’s about to cry. “Can’t make the rent, we gotta move again.”
“You two hungry?” Alexander asks, and pets the back of Kerri’s hand, taking the button from her. “I think I’ve got some rather elderly frozen venison steaks and some croppie fillets that Hal gave me. You can make me happy by taking my annoying tv away and do whatever you like with it. Make a fish tank out of it or something. I have no idea what kind it is or anything. It’s about, oh, this big.” He holds out his hands.
The green eyes stare at him. Kelli leans into him then, with a sigh, and Kerri comes up and smacks his jaw lightly, very lightly, with her hand. She growls at him, “You’re way too nice.”
“Don’t tell,” Alexander says solemnly. “Can’t help you on the broken screen door.”
“Okay,” Kerri says.
“The steaks have to be defrosted, you know.”
“We’ll wait,” Kerri says.
Alexander smiles. “Good.”