User:Eirik/Change of Seasons

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Change of Seasons

Author: Eirik

"There is just something wrong", Jeff mumbled, "With it being this cold and *sunny*."

He tugged at his fleece scarf again, pulling it higher on his neck. Adjusting his overcoat, he tried to keep in a little more body heat as he walked down the street. Looking into the fierce blue sky, not marred by so much as a hint of a cloud, he shivered.

"If God had wanted man to live in weather like this, he wouldn't have started us out in central Africa.", he grumbled to no one in particular. He tucked his gloved hands into his coat pockets to try and get the wool warmed up a little, but it didn't work. The outer layers of the coat were icy cold to the touch, and so were the pockets.

Rounding the edge if a building, he felt a numbing wind tunneling down the street, intensified by the cold concrete and steel of the city. Feeling his nose freeze up, he ducked through the door of a small cafe'.

The warmth was wonderful. It wasn't hot inside, but it was more than fifty degrees warmer than it was outside. Jeff felt his nasal passages run a little as the heat penetrated his skin.

"Welcome, welcome!" came the happy voice from behind the small counter. Jeff smiled involuntarily as his eyes found the kindly old woman standing there. "Can I get you anything?"

He hadn't intended on stopping in anywhere, save to warm up a moment, but the smell of fresh coffee and pastry filled the air. He nodded as he slipped off his scarf and coat, laying them on the stool next to him. "Actually a cup of coffee sounds good. What do you have that's sweet and hot?"

She smiled as she set the cup down in front of him. "Well, sugar, I've got some wonderful turnovers, and I just pulled an apple pie out of the oven not fifteen minutes ago. It should be perfect."

"That sounds great. I'll take a slice." She smiled wider and disappeared into the kitchen. He took the opportunity to look around the small restaurant. At the moment, he was the only patron, hardly odd at 3 in the afternoon even in a city. It was cheaply, but tastefully, furnished. Six booths along one wall and a few tables scattered around the rest of the place. The walls were once painted white, probably Navaho from the slightly yellowed tinge, but they could certainly use another coat. The old tile floor was meticulously maintained, but itself showed years of wear.

Jeff's eyes were most drawn to the prints that hung from the walls. There were a few landscapes, and even a pair of cityscapes, one showing New York at night, another Los Angeles during the day. But far more impressive were the wildlife pictures. There were seven on the walls, each showing a different animal. After a moment, Jeff realized that all were North American animals: an Alaskan grizzly, a bald eagle in flight, a red wolf, and a whitetail deer among others. They were impressive pictures. Most looked almost posed, but the settings were generally wild. Looking at another, a silhouette of a horse on a bluff at sunset, he realized that he'd seen the photo before, the other day at a poster shop he was browsing through.

"Here you go, young man.", he heard as the woman came out of the kitchen carrying a very large piece of apple pie. His mouth started to water as he sat down. She nodded her head toward the pictures on the wall. "I see you were admiring my handiwork."

He looked at her with a little surprise. "You took those?"

She nodded, "Oh, not all of them. I don't do cityscapes. But the landscapes and the animals are all mine. It's something of a hobby."

He took a bite of the pie, savoring the taste of hot cinnamon in his mouth. "They are very good. In fact, I swear I've seen that horse shot in a store."

Her smile broadened. "Oh, wonderful! The studio rep said that that one would be out soon, but I haven't seen it. Where did you find it?"

"Poster Prints over in Parker Center."

She poured herself a cup of coffee and leaned against the counter. "I'll have to run over their later. Actually, all of the picture you see here have been made into posters or prints of some sort. I've got a number of them that aren't up. These are just my favorites. Well, those and the ones in my office in back."

"How do you take photos like that?" he asked, indicating the grizzly. It was reared on it's hind legs, but didn't seem angry. The picture also looked like it was done at close range.

She smiled a little cryptically. "It comes from knowing the animal, I guess. Would you like to see some of my other pictures?"

Jeff smiled again. He liked this lady. She reminded him of his late Aunt Esther. She had all the same genuine warmth that Esther did. "I'd love too. I'm not keeping you from anything, though?"

"What? All these customers?" she said with a giggle as she swept an arm across the empty seats. "No, I'd be delighted to show you."

He stood from the stool carrying his pie with him as she led him through the meticulously kept kitchen. The smells of food were strong here, and good. Jeff made a mental note to start coming in here. If the food tasted half as good as it smelled. . .

She stepped through a small door and Jeff followed her into the office in the back. It was cramped, barely enough room for the desk and worn sofa that were in here, but the walls were covered in 8 x 10 pictures. About a quarter of them were landscapes, but the rest were animals. Each was an impressive as the ones hanging in the front.

"Have a seat." She said. "I don't get that many people interested in my pictures."

He sat and pointed at her with his fork. "You are a fantastic photographer. Why do you run the restaurant?"

"Oh, I have my reasons." She said with another cryptic smile. "Why don't I show you my portfolio. I've got it out in my car in the alley out back. Wait here." She didn't give him a chance to respond, but hustled out of the room.

Jeff smiled again as he shook his head. He finished off the pie and set the plate on her desk. His eyes wandered around the room a little, taking in the photos. After a couple of minutes, he started feeling warmer, more relaxed, like he was wrapped in a thick blanket. His eyelids started getting a little heavy. With no reason to fight it, he simply let the sudden exhaustion take him.

He woke some time later to the feeling of someone lightly scratching him on the head. Still very groggy, he looked through half opened eyes as the smiling woman. "Oh, good, you're awake." she said as she started running her hands through the fur on his back. "I must say that you look perfect! I've been trying to get a subject with just the right coloration for years, with no luck. Would you like to see?"

Jeff felt a little confused, but only from the feeling of fatigue that was slowly draining from his system. She picked him up and set him on the desk where she had a small makeup mirror.

Staring back at him from the glass was a face with black and white markings, the two black patches around his eyes almost touched, but were held apart by a thin line of gray. He twisted his tail into the air and noted almost academically that it was striped black and brown.

He had to admit, even as tired as he was, that he made a handsome raccoon.

Feeling oddly calm, he sighed and looked at the lady. She started petting him, and he felt himself start to fall asleep again. "Don't worry, you'll be energetic again in no time. I can change you back after we shoot the pictures, if you want."

He looked at her questioningly though half closed eyes. She nodded, "Some of my subjects decide to remain as they are. I take care of some of them. A few wanted to go wild, and I let them. But we can talk about that later. Right now, you can sleep on the couch." She set him back on the worn sofa and he instinctively curled his tail around his nose.

For the first time in weeks, he felt warm again.