User:FelixSagittarius/At the Ranch Epilogue

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At the Ranch - Epilogue

Author: Felix Sagittarius
At the Ranch
Preceded by: At the Ranch Pt 9/9
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Tales from the Blind Pig story universe

By Felix Sagittarius 12/26/07

When we got to the truck, I asked Doc if he could take me by my old home. He laughed and said he'd expected me to ask, and handed me the house keys from the marking harness. I smiled and put them in my jacket pocket. I suddenly laughed - I had pockets again, and things to put in them! Doc dropped the ramp, and I realized I had a problem - as a centaur, I was too tall to fit! I laughed again, then told Doc the problem. He pointed out the obvious solution, and I slid the clothes off together over my head, like I'd done as a kid. I handed them to him and shifted back to horse. "Let me get the Talking Box off you before it gets damaged," he said, and I bowed my head so he could remove it. He put my clothes and the Talking Box in the cab with him, then climbed in and started the engine.

Half an hour later, we pulled up outside my home. Doc dropped the ramp, and I backed out. I shifted to centaur, then he brought me the clothes. I dressed, then we went up to the house.

The first thing I noticed was that the car was gone. Next was the somewhat overgrown state of the lawn, followed by the For Sale sign next door. I sighed. My elderly friend must have passed, and I didn't even know. I noted the realtor's name, and thought about talking to them about selling my home as well. We walked around the house, and I noticed the stirred up dirt around the end where they'd set the house back on the foundation. The ham antenna and tower were gone, probably to the great satisfaction of the local Codes people. Overall, the place looked to be in good shape.

I dug the key from me pocket as we came to the front door, then bent down to insert and twist it. The door opened easily, and I looked in. The stairs had been reset, and the broken plaster patched over and painted. I motioned to Doc to precede me, then carefully walked in. The carpet absorbed the blows of my shoes, but it was only in the entrance hall area. I went to the end of the carpet and looked around. The furniture was all gone, including a couple of pieces with family history. Those I'd miss, even if I couldn't sit in them any more.

The parlor was full of boxes, from where they'd packed my stuff. From what I could see, all my books were packed, and my other belongings, ready to transport for sale somewhere. I was really glad I'd been able to stop that! All my bow making gear, my arrow supplies, everything else was there, along with my ham set. I'd have to get someone to move it all to a storage locker for the time being. I asked Doc to look around upstairs, and I turned around and walked back out front. He came back after a bit, and told me it was stripped, too - everything gone. I walked around back and looked in the kitchen door - empty as well. I sighed. I couldn't live here, I needed some place on a slab, not with a basement, but it hurt. This had been my home for half a century, and it hurt to sell it. I retrieved the hidden keys, then walked back to the truck, ready to leave. Doc checked all the locks - the house was tight. I removed my clothes again, while he dropped the ramp, and I took a last look around. I sighed, then went to horse and climbed in. We drove away again, this time for good.

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We arrived at Doc's home, and after he let me out, I walked over to the kitchen window and looked in. Fortunately, his wife wasn't there, so I trotted back to the barn and Changed, then dressed again. Doc and I walked back to the porch, where he took a seat and I carefully lay down. We chatted a bit, about the life of the herd and such down on the Ranch. He was fascinated as to how a horse herd looked from the inside, and I was happy to explain. After a bit, I heard Martins car coming, so I got up and moved out of the way.

Martin grinned at me when he got out, then said, "You look much nicer, properly dressed!" We all laughed at that! Then Martin sat down and started pulling forms from his briefcase. "These are most of the documents from HHS freeing you on your own recognizance. There are still some being run through the bureaucracy, but they should be done within a week. You'll receive payment for your car, and such property as had been removed from the house and sold. The Department requires you to repay what they spent on fixing up the house as well. Your savings and checking accounts have been unfrozen and released to you, so you have operating funds available, All the documents in your safe deposit box will be returned as soon as possible, and the money from the insurance payment on the house damages are included in your savings."

"Mmm, I'll have to get down to the bank and reestablish my bonafides, I'd guess," I said. "Things have changed, and there may be problems. I don't know if my ATM cards will work, and I'll need new checks, since mine are packed somewhere. I'll need new Identity documents for this form, maybe a new Driver's license, and I'll have to speak with Social Security too. Oh, man this is a real mess!"

"True, but there are established procedures for it now," Martin said. "A lot of the problems the first Changed faced have been used to set precedence, so you'll have it easier that they did."

"Well, that's a relief," I said. "I can start tending to them tomorrow, and get a large number of other things started too. I'm going to have to see about finding another home, too. Large enough to be comfortable for this body, with a solid floor. I can make changes as needed, but, mmm, it'll need to be on some acreage too. I need grass in my diet, as well as hay and horse chow. Doc, can you put me up while I'm getting my life back together?"

"Certainly," he replied. "And I might know of a place like you described, as well. I'll give you directions tomorrow, as its not too far away."

"Thanks, Doc, I really appreciate the help and support you've given all through this," I said. 'Oh, yes. One further bit of unfinished business. Do you have the phone number of the Ranch? I need to speak with the Manager."

"Yes, I do," he said. He took out his cell and dialed, then handed it to me.

The phone rang several times, then a secretary picked up. "Fair Pastures SCABS Hostel, how may I help you?" she chirped happily, the face in the screen that of a pretty lady.

"Good day, Ma'am," I replied. "I need to speak with Mr. Karnes, the Director, please."

"One moment, I'll see if he's in. May I say who's calling?" she asked.

"James Maxwell," I replied. "I have very important news for him."

"Let me see," she said, then the phone went to gentle 'hold' music and abstract images.

"Mr. Maxwell, this is Mr. Karnes. How may I help you?" he said. The face was of the Director I knew, but in color.

"Sir, this is James Maxwell, a former patient of yours. I'm calling to let you know I won't be returning to your facility, and to thank you for your help and aid in making my time there so much easier."

"James Maxwell? James, the bay stallion? How are you talking? Is this some kind of joke?" he said, plainly puzzled. "You are most certainly not a horse, from this picture!"

"Yes sir, this is him. I found out how to become a centaur a number of weeks ago. I showed the court today that I could do so, and they have released me from the care of HHS. I'll hand the phone to my friend, so you can see me as I now am." I handed the phone to Doc, who walked off several paces, and showed my entire body to the Director, then brought the phone back and handed it to me. "As you saw, I am now a centaur."

"Well!" he said in a somewhat stunned voice. "So you are! I hate to loose you. You were a major help here, and will certainly be missed. Remember, please, if you need us, we will always be happy to welcome you back. Is there anything else I can do for you?" he asked, clearly ending the call.

"Yes sir, there is. I need to speak with Pastor Svenson. Can you take this phone down to him for me? Please?" I said.

"You two are brothers, right? And you're not going to be seeing him again." he mused. "In that case, I'll do it. He should hear it from you. Let me put this on hold, and I'll be back when I get down there."

"Thank you deeply," I replied, and the phone went to soft music and pictures of the Ranch.

It took a while, but eventually the image of the Director reappeared. "I'm here, and I've summoned Pastor Svenson - ah, here he comes. If you want to speak with him, I can hold the phone up to his ear."

"Please, sir, that would be best," I said. I could hear and see a large part of the herd coming up behind him as well, then a rustle of hair, and a view of a white ear appeared.

"Brother," I said, "I am free. I went to court this morning, and when they saw, HHS let me go. Show him."

I heard a snort, then a strangled gasp from the Director, as Pastor Svenson, followed by the herd, went to centaur, followed by Homeric laughter as they saw the expression on the Director's face. Pastor Svenson reached down and picked the phone out of his frozen hand, then said, "Thank you, my brother, and I hope to meet you face to face some day. You have freed us all, and you have our gratitude. Farewell for now. God bless you and keep you."

The phone went blank. I handed it back to Doc, then laughed softly. For all of us, the future was open, again.

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Scene: A small church, in southern Missouri.

"Reverend Benson, I think you should see this. I taped it while you were at the rally."

"What is it," a deep voice replies, irritated.

"This was on TV from Kansas City this morning. I taped it, since the person involved was a SCAB."

A few minutes of tape of the procedures of a court hearing, then...

"Well! A centaur! That's unusual, and he's free, too. A Servant of Satan, obviously. Find him and have a chastisement squad pay him a visit. A reinforced one, four people."

"Reverend, as you command, so it shall be done."