Judgmental Pooka

Prompt: A character adopts a dog (I made it a cat) from a shelter and unbeknownst to them (yeah, not so unbeknownst in this case), they have taken home an ancient and judgmental mythical creature (in this case, a pooka).

Who takes someone on a date to an animal shelter and then gets huffy when said someone leaves with an animal? I’d agreed to a Saturday afternoon with Shaun against my better judgement. In future I’m going to take more notice of my internal Ms Judgy-pants.

On the other hand, if I hadn’t talked myself into giving him a chance, into thinking he might grow on me, I’d have never ended up with the real Ms Judgy-pants and that would have been kind of sad.

So, yeah, I meet Shaun at the park and I’m thinking, yay, we’re doing a nice walk, maybe lunch in a café, maybe a picnic, except, you know, the weather’s shite and we really should skip directly to the café bit, or a pub, a pub would be really good.

But, no, he tried to go in for the big smooch, on the lips mind, at the start of a first date and I’m mentally smacking my nicer self over the head. I managed to dodge and got a wet kiss on the ear instead.

He got pouty over that one. Why the hell had I talked myself into this? And then, just as I think we’re heading to this really cute-looking café/bar/bookshop (hell yeah!), he turns hard right, we wander down a bunch of really not great back streets and end up at this building that’s trying to be a cheerful yellow but is losing the battle against London’s grime.

He puffed out his chest and said. “Girls are always so into puppies and shit, I thought we could take a look at some here. You know, then you can get all gooey and cooey over them.”

And then what? Did he hope I’d transfer the gooey and cooey to him? Euwey.

So he hauled the door open and marched straight through, didn’t even look to see if I was following. I’m all for equality and that, but I’m also kind of big on good manners, we were barely half an hour in and he was failing on all fronts.

I caught up just in time to have him tell the woman at the counter that his girlfriend wanted to take a look at cute fluffy things. Excuse me?

The woman took one look at me and pegged me for a complete soft touch. No other word for it. She came around the counter, all smiles and welcomes, then started on the third degree.

What kind of animals did I like? Ones that sort of liked me was a good start.

Had I ever had a pet before? The family dog and cats growing up.

What was my living arrangement? Apartment, older building, back garden, two small dogs in the building.

What was my lifestyle? Work, friends, eat, read, sleep, repeat.

She kept it up for a solid five minutes and not even Shaun could shut her down. At the end of it, she gave me a salesman’s smile and waved us both through a large door in the back wall of the room.

The large, soundproofed door in the wall. The cacophony when we walked through was nothing more or less than aural assault. At least I didn’t have to try and make conversation with Shaun.

The woman ushered us past cages, each with a dog bounding and barking and trying to get my attention, we zipped past at such a rate though, I barely registered them as more than blurs before she had me through a second door.

Sadly, the door swung shut before Shaun got through and it took him a while to find the release button.

It was quieter here, the woman said. “Those were the young ones. They’re all so eager and energetic, we generally throw families straight in there and come out with great matches.”

She gestured around the room we were now in. The much quieter room.

“This is for our senior animals. They’re a little worn down, poor darlings and need a bit of peace and quiet. I was wondering if you’d be interested in taking a look at any of our senior cats. A dog wouldn’t really suit your life, but a cat could be a wonderful addition.”

“I think bugalugs out there was only intending on a walk-around and walk out. I don’t know if he was planning on getting a pet at all.”

The woman waved a dismissive hand at the door. “He’d be an appalling pet owner. You, on the other hand, would be wonderful.”

At that, Shaun crashed through the door and stumbled up to us. He tried to put his arm around my shoulders, I stepped away.

I looked around at the cage-lined walls and, yes, I know I’m appallingly soft-hearted, but I figured it could hardly hurt, and at the least, the cats would get a nice bit of attention for the next little while.

“Alright, let’s take a look.”

Evading Shaun’s arm again, I started wandering around the room. Peering into cages, putting my hand up for kitties to sniff and rub against.

They were all so sweet, my heart went out to them, but they weren’t quite, I don’t know, mine?

I kept wandering, until I found myself peering into a cage at the very back of the room. The occupant of this cage, a large, fluffy, black cat, did not prowl to the front to be introduced. Instead, ‘Pooky’, Female, around 12 years old, found abandoned, lay across the back wall of her tiny space and dismissed me in a glance.

I laughed.

She looked back, rather clearly astounded at my temerity.

Shaun blundered up behind me. “Why do you keep hanging around these old things? The kittens and shit are through the next door and you can get all cuddly with them.”

He’d backed me into a corner so I held him off with a cold stare. “I like their dignity.”

I heard a throaty miaow near my ear, haughty Pooky had come to investigate. She stared Shaun up and down, then dismissed him and returned her attention to me.

I put my fingers up for her to sniff and was even permitted to slip one through the bars and rub her head.

She sat back, then strolled to the door, lifting her paw to the lock as if to open it.

The woman bustled forward, neatly cutting between me and Shaun.

“Oh, this is wonderful. It’s the first time Pooky’s taken notice of anyone. You simply have to hold her.”

She didn’t give me a chance to answer, I think that was sort of her standard sales process, just sweep people along and they’ll end up out the front with a new pet, all the required supplies and a vague sense of windblown awe.

She unlocked the cage and scooped Pooky out, plunking her into my arms before standing back to admire the picture we made.

Pooky looked indignant, then I suppose she decided to make the best of a bad situation. She fixed me with a golden-eyed gaze and dumped words straight into my mind.

This place is a dump. You will take me home and look after me.

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