User:JonBuck/Changing America

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This story is a work in progress.

Readers! If you have any suggestions for what these comments should be for the blog posts, feel free to add them to the Discussion page. If they fit I'll make them story canon.

Changing America: A Paradise Story

Author: Jon Buck

March 15, 2010

"Lousy smarch weather!" Richard growled, shaking his fist at the storm. It couldn't decide if it wanted to snow or rain. The fedora-wearing tiger slowly maneuvered the '88 Jeep Grand Wagoneer that was their friend Mike Dane's wedding present. His new wife, Serena Sobel, looked worriedly out at the icy eastern Massachusetts weather. She was still in her red Chinese-style wedding dress and understandably didn't want to ruin it. Her grandmother had made it.

"I'm telling you we should've gone home first, husband-of-mine. You could've carried me over the threshold," the clouded leopardess said. "Through the dry garage."

The reception at Rooney's had gone late. It was full of bartenders, so Serena had gotten into an impromptu competition on who could make the best cocktails, both simple and complex. Liquor and catering provided by the owner of her workplace, the coyote Chuck Polinsky. She hadn't had any herself. At maybe 130 pounds, since her Change she'd lost most of her alcohol tolerance. She enjoyed a beer every now and again, but had sworn off the hard stuff. Even her beloved tequila.

"I know, my loving wife. I know. I just didn't want to waste any time," Rich said. He reached out with his free handpaw and stroked her near shoulder. "Don't worry. I'll stop under the portico at the hotel. I'm more worried about all this crap the Jeep's been painted with. I don't think I've ever seen so much soap and silly string."

The "Just Married" written in soap on the back window had washed off half an hour ago. The storm had worn away much of the decorations, leaving only a few sad streamers tied to the roof rack. The Grand Wagoneer's rebuilt V-8 growled harmoniously as Richard maneuvered the newly-"reFURbished" SUV on the icy evening roads in the Berkshires.

"Maybe we should've waited until June for our honeymoon," Serena said, examining her clipped, red-polished claws. "Or even May."

"Either I took the assignment now or my editor was going to give it to that pissant moron Alan Parks." He extended his sizable claws, baring his canine teeth. "Damn fool can't report his way out of a paper bag, let alone cover the Change on a national scale! How the hell did he dodge the last round of layoffs?"

"That's the guy who likes to use that laser pointer around you, isn't it?" Serena said.

Richard nodded. "That's him. If I'd had better self control the first time..."

"It was your first day back at work, honey. Besides, we're cats. Chasing and pouncing things is what we do."

The Bengal tiger snorted. "I hope he turns into a rabbit. Then he'll think twice."

The TomTom GPS stuck on the windshield lit up. "Turn right at the next stop light in two miles, then you'll be at your destination, fool!" Mr. T ordered. As they closed in, the furries felt the telltale tingle of entering the Lenox Bubble. A warning helpfully flashed on the GPS also. Some people still liked to avoid the Bubbles. Some furries still didn't want to expose themselves, and some humans wanted to avoid seeing them. Both groups were in the minority. Inexplicably, in Serena and her husband's view.

The Kemble Inn was a bed-and-breakfast built in 1881, and it didn't have a portico. Pulling his specially-fitted fedora over his ears, Richard flipped up the collar on his trench coat. He refused to use an umbrella, preferring the old-fashioned look from the old detective movies he loved so much. With the collar up, the only thing Serena could see were his ears and striped muzzle. He leaned over and licked her on the cheek. "Be right back, hon. Hold tight."

Serena carefully smoothed down the front of her slick scarlet wedding dress. There were pink roses embroidered by her grandmother down the front. It hugged her figure all the way down to her ankles, with a slashed skirt and bare shoulders. Her hair had been done up in an elaborate Chinese coif. Sure, she could have taken it off before they'd left Rooney's, but she was still hoping for her tiger to carry her over the threshold. "I hate spring," she muttered, folding her arms under her breasts. The Jeep's leather seats were covered in the couple's shed fur. Serena fished a lint brush out of her purse and ran it over her wedding dress.

Sleet pounded on the windows as she waited in the yellow sodium light for her new husband to return.

Separator f.png

Serena made a sour face over Richard's shoulder, looking at the laptop. "What I want to know is, who the hell came up with 'Furpocalypse'. What a ball of cheese."

"Every major newspaper has something like this, honey. Beside, you agreed to write from the 'female perspective' for this thing," Richard pointed out. He sighed and turned away from the laptop. "It was Alan, if you must know."

"Oh, ROB help us. He's not an editor, is he?"

"No. Just another contributor. They're keeping him in New England. This is going to be our first real entry, Serena darling. Any idea how you're going to start?"

There was one obvious topic. "How about fur and Chinese wedding dresses?"

Boston Globe Furpocalypse Blog

Introductions are in order, I guess. I'm Serena Sobel (nee Frost), and I'm a clouded leopards. My 'fursona' as some folks call it is based on a southeast Asian cat that isn't quite a big cat (like my husband is), and not really a small cat (like cougars or housecats). I can purr. My spots look "cloudy' in that they're rather large and irregular. I suppose I ended up one because my grandmother is from southern China. Anyway...

New England winters aren't good for jungle cats like myself. My fur thickened up, but I still needed heavier clothing than, say, a deer would. I still needed a light jacket. At any rate, there are other blogs for furry clothing advice.

I'm here for the female perspective, but I've always been something of a tomboy. But I'll be with you through the Four Corners Tour the Globe has sent us on. Good to meet all of you.

Posted by Serenacat, March 15, 2010, 9:48 pm. (23 comments)

Serena smiled at Richard, then looked back at the screen. "I’m not a very good writer."

"You're doing fine. Our online content editor will clean it up before it's posted, Serena," Richard said.

The leopardess grimaced. "I think I'm done. I was going to start talking about what it took to get my dress to fit right, but..."

"We've had a long day. Write something after we meet the locals tomorrow." Richard stretched, his tongue going curly as he yawned. He had a very impressive set of teeth. Though he was a larger cat, Serena's own canines were almost as long as his. Fully two inches of flashing white enamel. Few wanted to be on the business end of their smiles. Though most people could still tell a friendly smile from an unfriendly snarl.

Okay, honey. Now is the time for Brooke's present. Serena rose out of the desk chair and zipped open one of her three suitcases. "Close your eyes, hon. I have a surprise for you and I don't want you to see it until I have it on."

Smiling like the proverbial cat who caught the canary, Richard stripped down to his fur and then sat down on the bed, hands folded in his lap, eyes closed. "Yes ma'am."

Brooke had given it to her a week before the wedding, wanting to ensure she could get herself into it without tearing the black lace that made her already interesting cloudy spots into more complex patterns. It took a few minutes to get everything arranged right. Just enough cleavage, just enough breast showing to tantalize. There was the possibility that this piece of lingerie wouldn't be wearable after tonight. But that was okay, if it got the effect she wanted.

When she opened the door her tiger's jaw dropped. His arousal filled the room. She sauntered over to him and sat down on his lap, draping her arms over her shoulders, a-purr. "So," she began, licking him on the nose. "What do you think?"

"I don't think I can ever call you Sean again after seeing you in that. You are a lovely, beautiful woman now."

"It's been six months. I've mourned the loss of my old self, Rachel. Same as you have. It's time to move on and be the man and woman we are now. Nobody we meet will ever know us differently anyway." Rachel stood up again. "Now, are you going to take this off me or not? My grandmother was very insistent that we have kids--cubs, kittens, whatever--before our first anniversary. She's the family matriarch and I'd hate to disappoint."

Richard stood up and carefully hooked his claws in the lace, then drew it down slowly, unzipping carefully it as if it concealed the greatest gift of all. "Don't worry, honey, I'll buy you a new one..."

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March 16

Lenox was the home of Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra had its world-famous pavilion. The building had one of the Old Furs, employed there since she Changed in 1995. There were only two hundred and fifty six furries in the world after that year. She also claimed to be one of the first transgendered, though her ghost had apparently gone female early on after she became pregnant. Serena was curious about how that had happened, but the middle-aged red shewolf wasn't very forthcoming about it on the Forums.

She and her bobcat husband were the confirmed longest furry married couple. "We're still waiting for the mass hysteria to set in," she said.

"I wish we had more time for a more detailed interview," Richard said.

"We've been over just about everything since the bubbles burst," Francine Ruiz said. "Here to dispute my claim about being a man? Everybody wants to talk to me about that. I hope the Globe is more tactful than the New York Times."

"Actually, we're here about your job as a sound engineer," Richard said. "You've made Tanglewood into something special."

Ruiz's eyes lit up. "That's the first time anyone's asked me about that. We're on the cusp of a massive change in the way we design acoustic spaces..."

The interview lasted almost two hours. Ruiz had a doctorate in acoustical engineering, but she knew how to explain things so laymen could understand them. But they still needed data. Instead of just a single ear-shape, there were dozens now. And movable ears also changes the equation. To say nothing of expanding hearing ranges and potentially variable decibel ranges for hearing damage.

By the time the couple left Tanglewood it was time for an early lunch. "I'd better turn this into a blog post before we leave. Thank God for 3G wireless. I don't have to worry about finding a Starbucks."

"Welcome to the twenty-first century," Serena said.

The tiger looked up from the netbook he used to take notes. "Would you mind driving the first leg? We have to make... let's see... I think we can get to Buffalo without stretching our endurance. We're supposed to be on our honeymoon, after all. Niagara Falls is supposed to be beautiful in the winter."

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Boston Globe Furpocalypse Blog

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

It might seem strange that a Tour of America makes a stop in Canada. But we have good reasons for this. Our neighbors to the north are very tightly wound into our economy, and they played an important role during the early years of the last decade getting of us together.

They also have a Furry Party--political party, that is. They started it as a joke a few years ago, but it turned into a major factor in their last election. So today I interviewed Winthrop Fitzgerald, a Mountie who traveled all over his country, getting in touch with suspected furs. The Globe Online will post the full interview in a day or two.

Posted by: Richard, March 18, 2:15 pm. (174 Comments)

"Can we please do something about that blog title?" Serena said irritably. After the complete disaster of visiting the Falls, where the spray had crusted them in ice even from a great distance, a warm Toronto hotel was very welcome.

"I'll try, really. But if I know Alan, he'll... well. He'll be Alan," Richard said. There was no Bubble as yet in this part of the city, making both of them more cranky than usual. "You know what? Let me get this interview off to my editor and I'll tell him we're taking a couple days off. No interviews. Just the occasional blog post, if we feel like it."

"Good! After what the border crossing people did to us I want to spend more time here."

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March 21

"No, Ma... where did you read that? Where? No, he doesn't have-- yes, I'm sure. I'm really sure he doesn't. I think I'd know. He's mostly human where it counts. No ba--yes, I'm sure Ma. Geez!" Richard's wife paused to listen in the daily call she received from her mother. The tiger turned one ear toward her. "Yes Mom. I'm really happy. About everything. I still have no complaints about being a woman." Her eyes filled with tears. "I know, Mom. I know. I'm happy I'm your daughter, too. We'll have a lot of fun together when you visit.

"Mom, we're almost to Chicago. Talk to you later. I love you too."

Serena grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. "That always gets me, Rich. Always. And she makes me feel so girly when she says... you know."

"I know, honey. I know. I cried manly tears, myself," Richard said. "It's beautiful when friends and family come around."

"Well, my Dad wasn't about to let Chuck give me away at my wedding. Frankly, I don't mind being my mother's daughter." Serena sniffled and blew her nose again. "I'm girling all over the place. How far to the hotel?"

"Fifteen miles or so," the tiger answered. "Are you okay?"

"I need a few minutes. Honestly, I have no idea where she reads most of this stuff," Serena replied. They drove on in silence for ten minutes. Serena's thoughts turned inwards, as they often did after talking with her mother. She folded her arms under her breasts and hugged them, as if to remind herself that yes, she was still female. Mr. T ordered a few more turns before Richard turned the voice off. She squeezed her breasts harder. "Don't worry, love. These are tears of joy."

"Your mother's trying to make up for lost time. Like me and my Dad when I changed sex," he said. " She's only accepted it for what? Five weeks? Humor her."

"You bet I will," she said. "She said I'm mommy's little girl. She actually said that! After what ROB did to those old family photos, that works for me.

"What's next on the docket? If you'd mentioned, I've forgotten about it. After that debacle in Detroit..." The leopardess grimaced. The Tour wasn't going well so far. Between bad weather and interviews Richard's editor said were boring and irrelevant, the tiger-reporter was getting antsy to find something more newsworthy. After their time off in Toronto, two wonderful days of feline loafing and sightseeing in the winter-clad city, their few hours in Motor City were pure Hell.

Richard smiled. "I've managed to arrange a meeting with a few more Old Furs. Chicago is Ground Zero where furrydom is concerned, you know. The entire city's one huge Bubble."

Location: Chicago, IL.

Detroit, Detroit. What can I say about fair Detroit? I feel nothing but contempt in my feline heart. My wife and I had only just checked into our hotel--with a $40 'furry surcharge' no less--when one of the other guests called the cops. Detroit is relatively Bubble-free. So whoever saw us must have a pair of those glasses that can see through the Veil.

No joke. The moron tried to get us arrested for "concealing deadly weapons". Serena and I spent about four hours arguing with this guy. Fortunately a couple of Detroit's Finest gave this first class moron a dressing down.

Unfortunately this isn't the first time this happened there. Facts are, some furs are using their bodies' natural weapons, and the rest of us are paying for it with fear and distrust like this. There's been a dozen deaths in gang wars here from bites and claws. And some idiots gotten some nasty surprises. There's nothing more shocking than a rabbit or deer packing heat while protecting their home from cocky burglars.

New bodies putting new twists on old problems. Still, Detroit can kiss my striped ass. Serena and I decided it wasn't worth the hassle, so we left for Chicago. We're going to meet the Old Furs there. A Globe exclusive! Stay tuned.

Posted by: Richard da Tiger, March 21, 5:08 pm. (22 comments)

I'm supposed to be writing from a woman's perspective. But you know what? After a few commenters outed me as a transgendered fur, the hell with it. I'm going to write from a me perspective. I am a real woman, no matter what anybody thinks. Therefore, whatever I write is a woman's perspective. Anyone who doesn’t think so can suck it. QED.

Posted by: Serena the Leopardess, March 21, 6:10 pm. (248 comments)

"Jesus Christ almighty," Serena swore. "I thought YouTube took that video down! They even got me saying 'do you think these tits aren't real'! Lordy..." The leopardess sighed as she read over the comments to her post. She had begun worrying that she'd never be able to leave her masculine past behind. "That's it. I'm going to stop accepting comments to my posts altogether. People just don't get it."

"One in a hundred will, at least," Richard said. "And who knows how many who've just changed sex, like I did nine years ago." He tapped the laptop's screen with the back of a claw. "The editor's probably going to delete that last sentence, love."

"I know that. But I still get a lot of satisfaction out of writing it." She growled at the screen. "I feel like I'm in the mob. Every time I want to leave my past behind, someone brings it up again. Yes! I was a man! Let it go! I have!"

"You've dealt with it on an individual level, hon. Society at large hasn't even begun to digest it," Richard pointed out. "Can I make a suggestion?"

The clouded leopardess gave her husband a Look. "What?"

"If anyone asks, just say yes, and so what? Emphasize the cat, not the boobs."

"That's what I've been trying to do!" Serena fumed. One of her more recent blog posts had been centered around her sense of smell. Sensory changes were the source of a lot of poetry--horrible and some very good--in the furry community. Hearing, sight, taste, almost everything was better. Though in some fully nocturnal types there was a tendency towards color blindness. And there was the dolphins' echolocation. "I don't have your journalism training! I'm a bartender!"

"So? How many bloggers do? You're doing fine. Let's go meet and greet."

Each city had its own distinctive smell. In Boston Serena swore she could smell a rank sweetness coming from the streets downtown, where even several layers of concrete couldn't cover the Molasses Flood of 1919. If you got anywhere near Long Wharf and Fauniel Hall the cooking odors of Quincy Market filled the air from a few dozen different eateries. The only thing the couple had smelled in Detroit was the antiseptic sting in a Hampton Inn.

Chicago smelled like the lakefront and car exhaust, among less pleasant human smells. Today was the first day of Spring, and it was a balmy twenty degrees. Serena and her husband walked the brightly-lit street towards the pizza place where the Old Furs had invited them. There were a lot of other furs on the street. The newlyweds had never seen so many in one place. But since it was Ground Zero and the Chicago Bubble was twenty miles wide, perhaps it was to be expected.

"I'm glad I have paws instead of hooves," Serena commented as she watched a whitetail couple try to navigate the icy sidewalk wearing a pair of heavy ice-shoes. She wore pawboots, herself. Fur or not, winter was no time to go barefoot. "Still, I wonder what it's like to be a deer."

"The way things are going you could get your wish any day now," Richard said. There had been at least a hundred thousand out-of-phase furry and gender changes since August. He hugged her close from the side. "I'd love you no matter what, spotty."

Even if I became a man again? Serena thought. After the last six months that would be weird. The Globe had interviewed a couple of gender-unstable furs since they were outed. Certain feminist and conservative groups were all over them. Among the very rare human gender-changers who had come forward, various research institutions were salivating over studying them. A flame war had broken out among the commenters on the Furpocalypse blog since her last post. "I'm not going to let myself be used for someone else's agenda," she muttered.

"Yeah. They can suck it," Richard said. Shockingly, the online editor had left that phrase in. "Nobody messes with my wife. Grrr. Snarl."

Serena laughed as they entered the restaurant. "Wait, is that alfalfa I smell?"

"Only place in the Midwest you can get an alfalfa and oats pizza," the equine hostess said. She was a palomino, and about a foot taller than the clouded leopardess. The tag on her uniform said First Mare (1990). "But I still enjoy pepperoni on occasion. Are you Richard and Serena?"

"That's us," Richard said, showing his press credential. "So, this is the place where the first two met?"

"Yep! Unfortunately Number One doesn't show up very much these days. She's rather put-upon from the media, so she went on retreat," the mare continued. "Wish I could, but this place would go to hell without me. The other thirty are over in the party room in back, waiting for you."

The other thirty were sitting at two long tables, and had a fairly narrow range of species: Eight foxes, seven horses, four cougars, two skunks, four deer, and two raccoons. Most of them were in the mid- or late-40s. A few had changed young. Two of them--one of the deer, and one skunk--had been eight and ten at the time. A red fox sitting at the head of one table stood up. "The Sobels I assume. Please, take your seats. It's hard enough to get so many of us together, even after the tearing of the Veil. We Old Furs are still rather skittish about these things."

"Old habits die hard, Ray," the mare behind them said. She walked over and sat with the other horses at the opposite end of the table from the fox. "I'm just sorry Teri couldn't be here tonight. Aren't you, Number Two?"

The fox's expression hardened, but he didn't rise to the bait. "Ah, yes. My relationship with Number One. Subject of much rumor and speculation."

Someone threw a balled-up napkin at him. "We know you don't like talking about her, Ray."

"Well, she's not here to speak for herself," Ray said to the napkin-thrower, one of the deer.

"You were married?" Richard asked, taking out his notepad.

"No, but it sure felt like we were. She was already married when she Changed. For two years we were pretty inseparable. Why, I met her the day I Changed in this very establishment, over at the bar." He gestured at the pub area. "Not that we didn't try and make it work. But in the end her husband and I did not get along. So I thought bowing out was a good idea. We still see each other, but since vixens have a notorious reputation, she lays low. Especially now."

Richard nodded, noting that down. Serena had taken a seat opposite him. The tables were segregated by gender rather than species. The looks the others gave her betrayed that they likely knew her origins. The woman next to her, a doe, looked at her appraisingly. She must have sensed the cat's nervousness. "I don't bite," the doe said. "What a wonderful coat. I've met leopards, but never one of you."

"Why, thank you. Can I ask a question? I'm not a reporter, but..."

"Oh? What do you do for a living?" the cougaress behind the doe asked.

"I tend bar. Anyway... when did the first transgender show up?"

"That would be me," a female voice behind Serena said. One of the mares raised her hand. She was a chestnut beauty with a white stripe down her nose. "Never did flip back and forth. You don't know how hard life can get trying to hide something like that. I was doing construction back then. I breathed a sigh of relief I didn't lose any strength. But by God's ears, until the Veil finally made my ghost match my real sex a few years ago, it was pure Hell."

"Why would that be? I'd think it'd make it easier to get on with your life as normal," Serena said.

"Says a woman who never had to deal with people talking to your tits 'cause they thought that's where your face was. And, missy, I'm a woman. A straight woman like you are now. In the beginning the Veil was so strong it was more like a strait jacket. If you want, we can chat about it later. New girls like yourself have it damned easy."

It was clear nobody was going to care what Serena's original sex was. Not with the chestnut mare. The leopardess fished her netbook out of her purse and booted it up. "Okay. Then let's stick with the regular old girly stuff. Like..." Serena fumbled for something feminine.

"How about dealing with the rutting season?" the doe suggested. "Or breeding seasons in general. Or maybe something less squicky, like fur styling?"

The Linux-based netbook finished booting and Serena started the word processor. "Honestly, I think I was trying too hard to be feminine on the Globe blog. It gave me away."

"I know. I read that post of yours before I came over here, Serena," the doe said. "The fact is that you're going to absorb a lot of stereotypically feminine behaviors. I was Heather's--the mare's--big sister through her adjustment. For the longest time people just thought she'd been a closeted gay man."

Since they had begun on this train of thought, Serena decided to let the conversation flow where it may. The pizzas came, were devoured, and the plates removed. The newlyweds didn't get to speak with everyone, but after talking with Heather for almost two hours--and two in the morning--Serena left the pizza place mollified and more self confident. She also had pages and pages of messy notes.

"I have no idea how I'm going to turn this into something coherent for the blog," Serena said after they'd returned to the hotel.

"You really looked like you were enjoying yourself tonight," Richard said. "Don't worry about your notes, honestly. You're not supposed to be writing a column like I am."

"After talking with Heather, I honestly couldn't give a shit if I'm outed. She tried to out herself for almost a decade. Doing everything she could to break the Veil and be the woman she'd become. I have it easy," Serena said. There were few notes from that conversation, unfortunately. She had been so into it her notepad program had sat unused. "What's up for tomorrow?"

"Well, once I've blogged when we get up, we get to sightsee. My deadlines are pretty loose, thankfully." The tiger started taking off his clothes. The bed had already been stripped of covers by the hotel staff. Richard posed languidly on it, laying on his side. "Why don't we try to make your grandmother happy, hmm?"

Since my honeymooning colleagues are taking a three-day hiatus, I thought I'd finally add my two cents. What I can't understand is how everybody can be so calm about the human race going extinct. I could wake up and look just like Richard's wife tomorrow, for all I know. And the prospect doesn't bother me. I ought to be scared out of my wits. Instead, and I hesitate to write this, I'm rather envious of my feline colleagues. But.. It. Makes. No. Sense. That I should feel this way. So I have to wonder if I'm being manipulated.

Call it God's Will if you want. That's what the Pope, the Mormons, and the Baptists are saying. I don't have any other explanation for why things are going so smoothly, even in parts of the world where furries would be hunted down and killed. Oh, there are problems. I pity anyone who becomes a woman, a pig, or a dog in the Islamic world. And this is roiling the entire Hindu world since it's wrecking their ideas about reincarnation.

The only thing I can think about these days is what kind of furry I'll end up, whether I'll be a man or a woman. It's just... inexplicably exciting.

I'm being sent to cover the Sandrick Hearings in Washington. So this blog is essentially a two furry show from here on out.

Posted by: Alan Parks (the lonely human), March 22, 6:35 a.m. (15 comments)

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March 26

"Aw, hell," Richard cursed. The post actually explained his behavior towards them. He was envious. "Who knows who they're going to replace Alan with. And this happened days ago!"

"Why would they need to?" Serena asked as she dressed in front of the hotel mirror. The weather in Bismark was even worse than in Chicago. The mercury hovered around ten degrees, with wind chill below zero. Serena tied her long hair back into a ponytail, then put on a jacket over her long sleeved shirt. "Tell me why we're going out in this crappy weather again? It isn't fit for a caribou outside."

"Funny you should say that," the tiger continued, putting on his trench coat, but not his fedora. It would easily blow away in this frigid wind. "Got word on a comment thread there's a couple of arctic furs who like to play chess, no matter the temperature. Thought we'd stroll down to the Capitol and say hello."

Serena pulled a hat on. She hated wearing them, since they muffled her sense of hearing. "Okay, hon. I'll do it for you."

By the time they left the winds had calmed down, leaving only a light snowfall. It was actually quite pretty, and would have been better if Bismarck's on Capitol Building wasn't one of the ugliest concrete block structures Serena had ever seen. It made Boston's brutalist City Hall look like a work of art by comparison.

There was two feet of dry snow on the ground. The wind had blown it into interesting hollows and drifts around streetlights, newspaper boxes, and fence posts. "Just who are we looking for?"

"There they are. Under those pine trees. On the picnic bench," Richard said.

On the bench sat a broad-shouldered caribou, obviously male having a stubby velvet-covered set of growing antlers. Unmelted snow rested on his shoulders as he considered the chessboard in front of him, resting his muzzle in one hand with his elbow on the table. His opponent was a white fluffball, only visible because he or she was sitting with the tree trunk directly behind, and black eyes and nose. "Still your move, Sam," a bored female voice said when the arctic vixen opened her mouth.

"I'm still thinking, Rosie," he said gruffly, his breath steaming out of his nostrils.

"You see the Sandrick Hearings this morning?" the vixen replied. "The man should be tossed out on his ear! We were doing well enough on our own without the government sticking their noses where it didn't belong."

"Funny I'd hear something like that coming from the mouth of someone who voted for Rand. Twice," Sam said absently, his mind on something else. He gave her an arch look. "Besides, isn't Sandrick a Republican anyway? One of yours?"

"I'm a Goldwater Republican. I don't know what Sandrick is and don't care. Don't know enough about him. And Rand was never one of mine. I held my nose and voted for whoever stunk the least, same as you," Rosie scoffed. "Here I thought you'd have applauded me for voting a woman into office. You're always prattling to me about feminism."

"Not that woman," the caribou retorted. "But you're dead to rights on voting for who stank the least. I voted for Burke in '04. With this nose 'o mine I could smell his stench all the way from Washington."

"I hope you end up a woman yourself! It'd make you easier on the eyes if nothing else." The vixen's eyes finally rose off the chessboard. "We have company, Sam. Well, don't just stand there gawking!" she yelled. "Stripes and spots, eh?"

"Richard Sobel, Boston Globe," the tiger said as they approached. "I was told to mention the name Marsha to you."

"Sobel, huh? You Jewish?" the vixen asked.

"Had to cut earholes in my yarmulke," Richard said, smiling but not baring his teeth. He put his arm over the clouded leopardess' shoulders. "This is Serena, my wife."

The caribou snorted. "Marsha."

"She's your sister," the arctic vixen pointed out.

"She's always been a gossip. Can't say it got any better once she got her own dainty set of antlers," Sam said. He turned his head and regarded the two cats warily. "And it seems she thinks we're newsworthy. All the way from Boston, huh? Long way to fly just to interview a couple crotchety old coots. Have a seat."

"Thanks. We appreciate it," Richard said, taking a seat on the caribou's side after scraping off a couple inches of snow from the seat. "Aren't you cold?"

"Cold? Are you kidding? It's nearly ten degrees out! It's sweltering!" Sam scoffed.

Richard explained what they were doing here, in a nutshell. "I think your sister's a regular commenter on the newspaper's furry blog."

"She does read those things," Sam confirmed. "A lot. 'Specially since she went furry last August."

"How long have you been changed?" Richard asked.

"Both of us since ought-four," the vixen said. She looked at the chessboard, where there were few pieces left. "Are you going to make a move or not, Sam?"

"Nag, nag, nag. You should've been a mare, Rosie," Sam grumbled. He moved a pawn and clicked the chess clock. "Check."

"Check? Check? That can't be..." she took some canned air out of her purse and used it to clear the snow-dusted chessboard. "I suppose it is." She peered at the chessboard for about fifteen seconds and moved a knight, taking a bishop. "Check."

Sam didn't hesitate. He moved his remaining bishop into position. "Checkmate, my dear vixen. As the younger generation would say, game over."

Serena expected a bloodthirsty snarl from Rosie. What she got was a hands-on-her-hips glare. "I'll get you next time, Sam."

Boston Globe Changing America Blog

Location: Missoula, MT.

With my human colleague off to Washington to watch the politicians grill the badger Congressman, we've decided to rename this blog. This is not an apocalypse, no matter what people say. We're simply changing. For better or for worse, time will tell. But it's certainly not the end of all things.

Well... I did just read that Disney is doing a live action remake of their animated Robin Hood. Dreamworks says that the sequel to Kung Fu Panda will be live action with the characters' voices dubbed in, and CGI for the birds and others. I only mention this in passing, mind you.

Our next entry will be from Seattle.

Posted by: Richard da Tiger, March 27, 12:22 pm (85 comments)

I'm reopening comments on my posts, but moderated only.

We met a couple of furs the other day that, in my mind, should be at each other's throat. They were about as politically opposite as you can get. But they're not. I made a point of asking Rosie why not. This is what she said: "And lose the best chess opponent in North Dakota? Are you mad, woman?"

I've never been this far west before. We're going over the Rockies in early Spring, which is no cakewalk. I'm looking forward to Seattle, which I've heard called the Boston of the west coast.

Posted by: Serena the Leopardess, March 27, 12:31 pm. (3 comments)

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March 28

"I can't believe it's taken us almost two weeks to get here," Richard said. His claws had worn gouges into the leather-covered steering wheel. Though Mike had accounted for their claws, clipped or not hours and hours of one or the other being behind the wheel had worn it out. From the frustration in her husband's voice, it wasn't the only thing wearing out. "We're going to have to speed it up a little. We were given six weeks."

"Which means we still have a month left. Don't fret," Serena said. The most common cause of their delays had been the weather, which was completely beyond their control anyway. But her husband's editor had been on his back for going too slow. They weren't going to spend more time in Seattle than they needed to get a few important interviews done. Provided the people they wanted to interview weren't out of town at the Sandrick Hearings.

Serena opened her netbook and looked at the names and hoped-for interview dates. Mostly tomorrow morning and afternoon before they started heading south to San Diego. Dr. Bryce Clay, polar bear, subject of investigation for HIPAA regulations. Dr. Edward Frasier, "Doc Marten" in the furry community and longtime Known before the Veil came down. And Judge Wilhelm Pickford, bighorn sheep, one of the earlier Changed in higher positions of government.

"We're really cutting it close here. We don't have much time to sightsee," Serena said.

"There's a decent Bubble on the waterfront. I got us a room. Kinda expensive with the surcharge, but at least we'll have a nice view of the Sound," Richard replied. He patted his new wife on her shoulder. "Don't worry. I'll make up for it on the drive southwards."


The tiger smiled. "We're going right down US 101, then through Monterey and Big Sur. It's going to be spectacular."

Boston Globe Changing America Blog

Interview: Dr. Edward Frasier

"Doc Marten" Edward Frasier is perhaps one of the most well-known (and Known) members of the Changed community. His daughter, now a student at Reed College, originally Changed in 2003. It took a couple years for him to bust the Veil himself, but afterwards he turned his rather amazing artistic talents towards furry portraits, as well as those of the Gender Changed after 2007 so they knew what their new ghosts looked like.

Instead of writing a column on the interview the Globe is having me put the transcript up here. Read it all below the cut.

Posted by: Richard da Tiger, March 29, 10:20 a.m.
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The last time Serena had seen her husband this angry was just after his interview with Chuck Polinsky in September. He never had told her why he'd gotten so pissed off. The Veil had torn just then and they'd suddenly had other worries. "What's wrong, Richard?" she asked. It was her turn to drive as they returned to the hotel.

"I had over twenty more questions I wanted to ask him! I barely got any of the information I'd hoped for." He growled. "This entire trip has been one disappointment after another! If I can't get that interview with Dr. Clay..."

Serena shot him a worried look. "If you can't, what happens? Would they actually fire you?"

The tiger sighed. "To be honest, I'm not sure. But the possibility exists, so..."

With a twelve percent nationwide unemployment rate, it always paid to be cautious these days. Especially in the newspaper business, where cutbacks continued across the board. "Should you give Dr. Clay a call, just to make sure he's still amenable?"

The clouded leopardess sighed. "Are you going to call him or what?" "I will, hon. Don't push me," Richard grumbled with half a growl. He scrolled through his notes and dialed Dr. Clay's office in Everett with a stylus.

Serena looked at her new husband out of the corner of her orange eye. Richard was normally very easygoing, but the stress of this trip and the general ill health of the industry he worked in had put a growing amount of stress on him. Every few months there was a new round of layoffs, to the point where half of the cubicles at the newspaper were now empty. Tigers, being rather solitary to begin with, made the emptying _Boston Globe_ feel more comfortable. More space for him, the apex predator.

Polar bears were also apex predators. This was going to be an interesting meeting.

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Dr. Clay and his wife made a stunning pair. He, with his shock-white fur, and she, an exotic scimitar oryx who was nearly as blinding white. She had obviously shortened and blunted her horns, with a bare foot rising over her head in a gentle backwards arc. Their children had Changed the previous August. Both son and daughter were oryx, much to their father's chagrin.

"Thank you for agreeing to meet us, Dr. Clay," Richard said, doffing his signature fedora. "My wife and I are happy to meet you." "Likewise," the polar bear said as they shook hands, orange-black to white. They grasped each other's handpaw a little tight, testing one another, standing nearly eye-to-eye. They had met in front of the building. Clay assured him that his staff had all left for the evening. The odors surrounding the door contained the densest mixture of various furries Serena had even smelled. It was far worse than the hospital.

"I apologize for the stink," Dr. Bryce Clay said as he invited them inside. "It's just the way this place is."

"I don't smell a lot of human odors," Richard observed.

"To be honest, after we were outed last September all my human patients abandoned me," the polar bear said bitterly. He took a seat in one of the large waiting room chairs, his wife next to him. She didn't seem nervous. "What did you want to start with? The insurance mess? If you saw the hearings the only thing keeping the furry medical specialists afloat right now is a kludged-together emergency healthcare bill. I'm conservative enough that I don't like it one bit. But it's the only thing keeping me afloat right now."

The reporter put his iPhone down on the table and had it start to record the interview. "I understand they want you to get a Veterinarian license as well?"

"This is on the record now?" his wife asked. Her voice had a trace of a Middle Eastern accent. "I prefer not to be included. Perhaps your wife and myself could go elsewhere so you men can get down to business?"

"I don't mind stepping out," Serena said. After the tense trip in the Jeep, for the first time Serena wanted a little time to herself. Even if it felt like she was being an old stereotype. Letting the men work while the women went elsewhere.

"We should go get some take out," the oryx suggested. "It's dinnertime anyway. And I need to go pick up the kids from the sitter." She gave Serena a Look. "That is, if Serena doesn't mind. After reading the blog I know this is new to her."

"You don't have to let her interview you, Jenny," Dr. Clay said.

"I won't, not formally," she replied. "But if some of our conversations end up on their blog, I don't object to that." She gestured for Serena to follow. "Come. Our children can get very cranky if I don't pick them up promptly. And if you haven't spent any time with children since you became a woman, you can write about that on your blog."

Interview: Dr. Bryce Clay

Dr. Bryce Clay is a controversial figure in the furry and medical community, mainly for an incident in 2006 where he killed a burglar in his home in self defense. Before then he considered his condition a delusion, like so many of us did. Only meeting Judge Pickford and a few other Changed convinced him otherwise.

Read it all below the cut.

Posted by: Richard da Tiger, March 30, 9:530 p.m. (65 comments)
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"I started reading your blog when Bryce told me you were coming to interview," Jennifer Clay said as they left the office again. Her horns had been docked far enough that she didn't need to bend her neck to avoid the roof in their minivan. The scimitar oryx wore a short plain brown dress, her cloven hooves clattering on the blacktop. The color matched the light brown patches between her horns and on the bridge of her muzzle. "Nobody has any manners these days."

"I'm not exactly Emily Post either, Mrs. Clay," Serena replied. She looked up at the slate-gray sky. It had started to drizzle again. The air smelled damp and clammy. The clouded leopardess shut the Toyota Sienna's passenger door. "Is this normal weather?"

"Pretty much, yes," Jenny replied. She didn't have to turn her head much to see behind her as she backed out of the parking space. "You get used to the gloom after a few years. We don't get nearly the amount of snow you do. I prefer San Diego, frankly."

"I'm sure," Serena said politely. There was something else on the white oryx's mind, she could see it in Jenny's eye. It was on the minds of everyone she met. There was simply no escaping it, no matter how much she wanted to. "Go ahead and ask."

"Do you cats really sleep sixteen hours? I've read some strange things on the hoofer forums."

Serena opened her mouth to discuss something feminine, but flicked her ears. "Um... actually, I don't sleep any longer than I used to. But I can doze off just about anywhere, anytime, if I'm bored enough."

"Catnapping," Jenny said.

"Pretty much."

They sat in awkward silence for fifteen minutes, Serena looking at the unfamiliar evergreen landscape, Jenny focusing on the road ahead with her widely-spaced eyes. Despite the trimmed horns, the headliner over her head showed evidence of tearing and repair. "Almost there," Mrs. Clay said. "Have you really thought about having children? I can't imagine what it's like... though I'm trying."

"I'm a woman, right? We have babies," Serena replied laconically. This was hardly the first time that subject had come up. One of the comment threads on the blog had centered around it. "I have a womb and everything. It's not as jarring as you think. It must be the hormones."

Jenny nodded slightly, suddenly uncomfortable. "Could be. We're almost at the furry daycare, and you're a stranger, so if you don't mind staying in the minivan until I introduce you. They're eight and six, and only got their horns last August."

Children tended to take the Change much more in stride than adults. Even the cases where there were gender changes involved, supposedly. It wasn't something Serena was comfortable investigating.

It was getting dark by the time she exited. During that time, about ten minutes, a number of other furry parents came by to pick up their own children. Diversity, Serena thought. There were always some political elements who stridently believed it was a strength. Now humanity had more than it knew what to do with.

The white oryx came out with her children in tow. They looked at her with bright, curious, and fearless expressions. They were both girls and had different markings on their faces than their mother. Their horns were also blunted. Freshly, from the raw surfaces. I'm a married woman, Serena thought. I get to bear the cubs. I mean, children.

Okay. Well-trodden path or not, maybe I need to ponder this issue a little more closely. The clouded leopardess smiled amiably at Jenny and her children, not baring her teeth.

"The kids want McDonald's for dinner, Serena. Do you mind?" Mrs. Clay said.

"Sounds good. They have a menu suitable for us kitties now," Serena said.

Aside from the stop at the fast food place, the ride back was uncomfortably silent.

Womanly Musings

I've been a woman for six months and change. From day one I never thought of it as a big deal. I was more concerned about the cat. But I think I've got a handle on the cat now.

So now I have to deal with the fact I have a womb.

Some navel gazing, so to speak.

Posted by: Serena the Leopardess, March 30, 10:18 p.m. (158 comments)