There once was a groundhog named Gloria. She had an internet date over lunch at The Watering Hole, the hippest drinks establishment in town. Most animals had to wait in line to get a sip at the Hole. Her date was with a horse named Jack and they had met on Mating Call, an app where animals swipe up or down based on potential suitor’s photos.
Cautiously, she opened the door of the bar and poked her black nose and snout into the establishment. She saw a giraffe, a cobra, a macaw, an opossum, and a donkey. No horse - she left.
There once was an emu named Emilia. She also had an internet date from Mating Call at The Watering Hole. She stalked through the restaurant-slash-bar looking for her horse named Jack. Her head and lengthy neck led her body, moving with a bob through the tables. She didn’t find a horse; she found a donkey with a sunflower.
The profile said Jack was a palomino and sixteen hands tall. Instead, he was grey with a few wandering hairs of brown and only ten hands tall. He had a smirk to his white mouth and a foreleg looped around the back of his chair. His causal lean highlighted his portly belly.
“You’re not a horse.”
“But I am Jack,” the donkey brayed.
Emilia did not sit down. “Why should I give you the time of day if you start off with a lie?”
“I’ll pay for your food.”
Emilia sat down.
“What do you do?” Jack asked.
She told him that she worked in investment banking. She told him that she worked very long hours, so it was nice to get a break from the office and go on a date. She asked him what he did.
Jack swirled his midday jack and coke. He had ordered it by telling the waiter that he wanted his namesake and gave an affected wink. Emilia did not order a drink. She had an important meeting after this.
Jack leaned across the table and whispered, “I’m actually not allowed to say what I do. Contractually.”
Emilia gave him a piercing look.
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Sure.” She shrugged.
“I’m actually a spy for the National Animal Relations Board.”
Emilia let slip a small squawk of laughter.
He didn’t hear it. “I’m only in town for a few weeks, tracking down this guy who’s leading an illegal turtle racing ring. It would be amazing to have someone show me the sights while I’m here.” Jack lifted his jack and coke between his two hooves and took a sip.
Her feathers were ruffled and puffed. “Why did you say you were a horse on your profile?”
“Animals tend to undervalue donkeys due to species prejudice. I mean, can you imagine the hits you would get if you said you were an ostrich instead of an emu? When animals think of an ostrich, they think of show girls. When animals think of a horse, they think of a stallion.”
Emilia’s feathers went full puff. She doubled in size. “Excuse me?! An emu is a respectable, regal bird. I would never pretend I am an ostrich. They are harlots.” She stood up and left The Watering Hole before her crickets a la king had arrived.
There once was an iguana named Indie. When she entered The Watering Hole, she was fifteen feet long instead of three. Her scales were a deep emerald green instead of pale chalk. She had no beard, no oblong spikes along her crest. Instead she had hard spikes that dotted the back of her hide, and a flat, wide nose, and a jaw that could break bones. There once was an alligator named Andie who said on her dating profile that she was an iguana named Indie.
She was unsurprised to find that Jack was a donkey. “OMG, I should’ve seen it! You’re a jackass. Of course, Jack would be a jackass.”
“It’s actually a family name.”
“I get it. If you knew how many Allies were in my family, whew. Both girls and boys. I’m just happy to be named Andie!”
“Your name isn’t Indie?”
“No, that was just a typo that stuck.” Her laugh was low and gravelly. Each time she laughed, the other tables looked at them out of the corner’s of their eyes, fur or feathers spiked.
Jack gave his laugh, like a foghorn with its hees and haws. “Same thing happened to me with the horse thing!”
“So what do you do, Jack?”
“I’m an investigator for the Animal Relations Board and only in town for the next couple of weeks.”
“And you need someone to show you around?”
It was a little awkward after his order of a hay salad, she ordered rare chevaline. She shrugged her left shoulder and said, “Well, you ain’t a horse, so figured I didn’t need to hold back.” Besides that, the conversation was good. Both of them had spent some time in the South and talked a mean streak about the similarities and differences between country and blues. Andie offered to go on some sight seeing dates, maybe the River Crossing.
“You know, if you want, we could go back to my place. I’m sure it’s tiring being in a hotel every night.”
“Oh, I’m not -” Jack stopped himself, nearly blowing his love ‘em and leave ‘em cover story “ - I’m not going to say no to such a wonderful offer!”
Andie smiled, her jaw wide showing her pointed teeth.
Jack paid the bill and they walked down the street.
“I’m just around the corner,” Andie said. “This is a short cut.” She took him into a dark, swampy alley. Moss grew on the brick. Trash, in and out of cans, lined the walls.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on this street before,” Jack said softly under his breath. His hooves splashed forward. He walked in ankle deep water that became deeper with every step.
“Really? All of the locals use it.” Andie put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Her claws scratched his hide.
“Whew, that’s a tough grip you have there.”
The water was deep enough that Andie swam. She tightened her claw further, causing blood to run from his shoulder down his leg into the murky water. “You have no idea.”
She opened her jaw and grabbed his back-right leg, shaking him until he lost his footing. He brayed for help and his mouth filled with water. His leg was in agony and he could feel himself being pulled deeper and deeper into the alley, into deeper and deeper water. Andie shook him back and forth, knocking his head against the right side and then the left side wall. His vision blurred and darkened. His head throbbed. He thought only of how much he hurt.
The water was bottomless. His neck extended so he could still breathe. She pulled him further and his head slipped under the water.
Jack was never seen at The Watering Hole or paired on the Mating Call app again.
If you are a liar, then only liars will play with you.