Last night, I woke up one night to the clanking and banging of a madman, or so it sounded. It turned out to be Rassmussen packing for a trip. Packing meant throwing anything that wasn’t going with him about the room at random, regardless of its value, ownership, or fragile state. Fortunately, I had learned months ago to limit items in his room to garage sale finds and whatever he dragged home.
“Where are you going?”
“I can’t allow you to leave without knowing where you are going and when you are returning. I have responsibilities, you know. There are laws against such things.” I had no idea what I meant. He isn’t a child, and although I refer to him as a pet, his ability to reason, speak, and take care of his own needs makes him more of a . . . well . . . he is not really a pet so the leash laws wouldn’t count either.
Rassmussen sighed in exasperation. He has lived with me long enough to know I will have an answer, one way or another. Then he threw up his hands, flexed his wings, and turned to me. “If you must know, I am going on spring break. I’ll be back in seven nights, eight if it rains.”
“Where are you going?”
“I can’t tell you.”
His eyes twinkled. His mouth turned up in an impish grin and the little dickens threw my own ploy back at me. “I can’t tell you. There are laws against such things.”
We argued. He balked. I reverted to the one surefire trick to get my way. I cried, loudly and with as much animation as I could muster, which isn’t much, I admit, but it was enough.
“Fine. Stop your wailing, and I’ll tell you, but must swear to tell no one.” With my agreement, he waddle to his chair, wiggled around until he’d found the proper fit into his custom-made butt crease, and continued, “A gargoyle has a special time of the decade when they must . . . do private things. It is a natural process but requires . . . privacy. I’m going to a family nest, so to speak, in the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. There, I will take care of these . . . private things. And, when I am done, I’ll come home.”
I waited for him to continue, but apparently he felt his explanation actually clarified the situation rather than throwing it into even deeper shadows. As it stood, there was nothing to tell anyone.
We stared at one another until, I swear, he blushed. I never knew it possible, but his entire face turned from a gray-brown to a rosy-brown, from chin to ears and furrowed brow.
“Fine! If you must know, once a decade, a gargoyle sheds his skin like some foul-smelling reptile. We go to our family nest, scrape, pull, and peel, until the old skin and fur are gone and our new skin is allowed to breathe. We call it spring break because, during this process, we also lose our humanity. We revert to vile creatures who slobber, grunt, scratch our asses, and pick our noses. Manners be damned. And I won’t have you see me thus.
“Now, leave me alone, woman!”
Speechless, I floated back to my bed, trying to piece the puzzle together. Why did this time of the decade make his slobbering, grunting, scratching, and picking any different than any other time? Only a gargoyle would see a difference.