A New Sense of Belonging


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Scene Title A New Sense of Belonging
Synopsis Roxie introduces Joaquin to a couple new members of their little circle.
Date September 23, 2020

Roxie’s Trailer - Spring Creek Settler’s Park

“I got really fucking lucky with this place,” Roxie comments to her guest, settling with legs folded, setting a pitcher of what looks like red Koolaid between them on a picnic blanket in the middle of the diningroom. “It’s nothing fancy and pretty sure the last guy that lived here was a damn heavy smoker, but it’s home.” Meaning the problems didn’t outweigh the fact she has a roof over her head now.

“No more crashing on people's fucking couches or on the cold ass ground. Right boy?” Roxie aims at the dog rolls on his back next to her sleeping. “He fucking likes rubbing his face all over the carpet.”

Roxie’s new trailer in Settler’s Park was a small one bedroom. Enough for her and her companion. It was still mostly devoid of furniture. A messy mattress on brinks in the back and an old worn couch make up the big pieces. Which means there is no table and why Roxie had spread out the picnic blanket. The only table she did have was a tiny tv tray that was currently occupied by a rather lovely red maple bonsai tree.

“Don’t know if you saw the nice fucking view back there!” She motions over her shoulder at the back of the trailer. “It backs up to the beach, so when it’s really fucking hot I can open a window in the bedroom and let that sea breeze in.” Roxie can’t hide the pride and excitement of having her own home. “AND.. I don’t have to walk past all that many fucking places or talk to any-fucking-one when I want to take Goober down to the beach.” An ear on the pooch twitches at the sound of his name, but he doesn’t move.

“Anyway… fuck… I’m glad you were able to come here,” Roxie chatters on excitedly, offering her newest friend a rare bright smile. “Joaquin will be here soon. I can’t wait for you to fucking meet him. He’s like the nicest guy I’ve ever fucking met.” There is a glance at the door expectantly. “I think you’ll really like him,” she adds as an afterthought.

Sitting on the floor legs crossed like a pretzel, Nova adds her own offering to the trailer picnic — a bag of Cheetos and a flimsy tin of brownies, pulled from her backpack.

“I’m sort of jealous, honestly,” she says, looking out the window when Roxie mentions the beach. “My dorm room is tiny and I have to share it with the world’s snobbiest Barbie-wannabe. She literally sleeps with one of those satin sleep masks even when it’s pitch black in the room. It’s pink, of course, and says Queen on it, with a tiny crown on the Q.”

She opens the bag of Cheetos with a crinkle of the wrapper. “It’d be one thing if it was ironic, you know? But she definitely acts like she owns the place and has mistaken me for her personal serf. Not happening.”

Speaking of serfs and service. A further twitch from Goober's ears foretell the approach of the aforementioned Joaquin. The dog senses the latest arrival first and woofs an announcement before rising excitedly and galloping for the front door. Luckily for the new guest said front door is unlocked, and he enters without too much trouble despite balancing a couple giant, tantalizing New York pizza boxes and a 2-liter of cola along with a book bag. "Hey, Goob! Ok, yes, I'm here!" He first has the manuever around the bouncing canine tripping machine, using one foot to leverage weight against the door.

That should be enough to announce his presence, but Joaquin doesn't deny the women their greetings once he turns back to them. "Hey, hey. As promised, got the grub." The only trouble now is where to put it all. Items and feet shuffle forward, closely accompanied by the rest of him and the dog. "Oh hey too, earlier arrived friend. I'm Joaquin." No handshaking currently, given occupied statuses. He glances about to look for a place to offload the pizza, which leads him to the table. The maple bonsai sitting atop it gets a curious look, as if it were uncharacteristically present. “Should I… put the pizza down here?” he half-asks, half-considers aloud.

“Took you fucking long enough!” Roxie declares, but there is no malice, only a teasing grin. She motions Joaquin closer to the picnic blanket, so she can pluck them from his hand and set them on the blanket between here and Nova. “Just put the damn thing down here. It’s fine. Goober won’t fucking dare to get into it.”

The dog quickly stops trying to jump for the pizza, and after giving a shake, he returns to Roxie’s side. Goober looks up at Joaquin with a big puppy smile, tongue hanging out. “Been working on his listening skills.” Goober sneezes, but lies down and rests his head on his paws.

Roxie shifts over to give Joaquin room to sit on the blanket, shifting herself close to the other girl. “Oh yeah… This is Nova. I told you about her,” Roxie almost looks like Goober does when he is proud of himself. “I fucking told her she should meet you. She doesn’t have a lot of friends yet.”

The dog bounding for the door makes Nova look that way, and she smiles before crunching into a Cheeto while Joaquin comes through, big blue eyes following his path into the trailer and to the table.

“Hello, later arrived friend bearing pizza,” she says jovially. “I’m also known as Nova, if E.A.F. is a little awkward to say, though I’ve definitely been called weirder things.”

She eyes Goober, reaching out to pet his scruffy fur when he rests his head on his paws. ‘I swear it’s like he understands everything we say,” she says. “My mom has a dachshund that is the dumbest damn dog I’ve ever met, one of those dappled ones with blue eyes? It’s so cute, but God, it’s a brick.” She leans over to croon to Goober, “Not like you, buddy.”

"Ay, you know how long you got to wait for pizza now? This stuff is hand-and-gravity stretched from scratch, you know?" counters Joaquin with a lopsided smile to the comment of keeping them waiting. He turns away from the occupied table to scoot to the center spread blanket. Lanky legs fold, dropping the young man to complete the circle. The pizza and cola set down at center, leads him to declare, "Picnic style it is. Let the ritual begin. Joking, of course, no actual ritual involved… mostly."

He shrugs off his bag to settle in. "And I don't know, L.A.F.B.P. is too much," he says with a laugh to Nova, "so let's just stick with Joaquin for now. I'm sure I'll earn other weirder names over time, too. Nice to meet you finally, Nova." He smiles with the sight of Goober and the new friend getting along. "I didn't have dogs growing up, but we did have a bodega cat." It's an admission he passes a semi-apologetic look to Goober for, knowing how the dog gets around the feline variety.

To Roxie, he turns and gestures to the pizza boxes. It's her trailer, her picnic party, her dibs. "Oh, right, you probably want these." He grabs the book bag behind him to pull out a plastic bag holding some waxy paper picnic cups and plates.

While Goober plays it cute with Nova, tail and butt wiggling at her cutesy talk, Roxie casts a small knowing look at Joaquin. They both have a fairly good idea why Goober listens so well. His admission gets a look, since this was news to her, but then she shrugs. “No judgement here. I wasn’t fucking allowed anything. Mom had such a fucking big pet peeve over hair on clothing. So those politicians that did, she’d fucking rag on them so hard….” She trails off as she realizes what she’s saying.

Brows lower in disapproval at herself. Instead, Roxie focuses on scooting forward and reaching to separate a piece from the box. Of course, then her buddy pulls out the important things.

“Dude… I totally, didn’t fucking think about those,” Roxie says with a sheepish grin. “What would I do if I didn’t have you around.” She motions for a plate.

“So… full disclosure, Nova,” Roxie says, still taking her first piece, plate or no. “He kinda does know what we’re fucking saying? At least, in terms of what he knows as a… you know… a fucking dog.” She takes a bite and talks around her food. “I think it’s kinda… a…. side effect of my ability? Just kinda fucking… translate it for him. Cause he always wants to know. According to Agent Ayers, I’m a fucking canine telepath. I can talk to and understand dogs,” that last bit offered as clarification.

Nova’s happy to keep scritching the dog’s ears and neck as she listens to both Joaquin and Roxie chatter. “I had a chinchilla once. Well. It was the teacher’s but we took care of it during winter break, and then the teacher was gone when we came back, so… Merry Christmas to me. I changed its name from Dilbert to Priscilla, because, come on.”

Priscilla the Chinchilla, people.

But then it’s confession time, and her eyes move from Goober’s to Roxie’s, brows lifting with curiosity and awe. “Canine telepathy — that’s amazing!” she says. “What does he say about me?” Her eyes narrow as she looks at the dog. “You better be nice or I won’t sneak you any pizza crust, doggo.”

Joaquin tilts his head, his amusement breaking through with a smile for Priscilla the Chinchilla. A short bout of curious concern rises for the mention of a disappeared teacher. "Huh. Wonder what happened," he says with the passing out of plates around.

It's short lived concern, just long enough to be distantly polite on the topic before it shifts back to their present company. "And me, I'm not slice - er, I don't have any power. But, we first met because of this guy," Joaquin remarks with a light scritching between Goober's ears. "He showed up at the botanica back door one day, actually kinda close to Thanksgiving wasn't it? And anyway, long story short, figured out Roxie and I know some mutual friends, and got Goober and her reunited, which is good. Did Agent Ayers say anything about, like… can you hear all dogs? Or just ones you know?" He shrugs, not knowing exactly how it works either.

“That’s a perfect fucking name,” Roxie says with a laugh, though Goober doesn’t seem to get it and gives a big huffing sigh.

The plate is just stared at for a moment, before Roxie realizes she is supposed to put the slice on it, doing so sheepishly as she chews and thinks how to answer the questions aimed at her. The first one is easy though. “Goober really fucking likes you. Says your belly scratches are the best. He thinks you're pretty fucking kind and damn nice and…” He looks at Goober, who’s gaze shifts to his person. “You sure?” The dog's tail gives a wag and he wuffs with a small growl at the end, Roxie’s cheeks flush a bit and she looks uncertain.. but…

“Okay… Well, he thinks we could be damn good friends… or pack as he fucking calls it.” And yes, Goober looks at Nova with a wagg of his tail. “Joaquin is pack,” Roxie gives him a crooked and almost shy smile before taking another bite of pizza to cover it up. “And so far, Goober is fucking good at picking people.”

On the subject of hearing all dogs, Roxie glances at the tree occupying the small TV tray. “Not sure if I can hear all dogs, like wolves and stuff. I haven’t been able to test it… it’s… hard to explain. I can hear dogs, but it’s like…” Another bite is consumed as she rolls the concept around in her head. “ I can hear’em but I don’t fucking know what they are fucking saying right away. It’s like they have accents, some really fucking heavy. Goober has no accent, but like….. Bonnie over there.”

At this moment, Roxie points at the tree with a half eaten piece of pizza.

“When I first heard her, I really had to fucking concentrate on what she was fucking telling me, but now… since Agent Ayer’s gave her to me, she’s gotten a lot clearer to understand. Which is good, cause… she’s really fucking lonely stuck as a fucking tree.”

Nova’s brows draw together and she suddenly looks like she might burst into sentimental tears at Goober’s little monologue about how amazing she is, as told by Roxie.

“Oh, my God, Goober!” she cries out, bending down to kiss his face, then burying her face against his neck. It’s possible she does shed a few tears into his reddish coat, but no one but Goober will ever know.

And Roxie, because he might tell her.

“That’s amazing. I’m so jealous,” she says softly, and when she looks up, there is a little dark cloud that passes across her expression, similar to the first time she and Roxie met, those little flashes of anger the other young woman had seen in the otherwise cheerful spirit. “I’m not slice either — is that what you folks call it here? We called it neg. But, well, long story. I wasn’t neg but now I am, so, fun times.”

There’s more to process, and she looks at the tree and back to Roxie. “You talk to trees too?” Her head tilts. “Ayers — I know him. SESA, right?”

There is a pleased look from Roxie at Nova’s reaction. She hadn’t been lying, Goober liked the girl, hence his happiness and wiggling when she shows him some love.

“Naw, I can't talk to any fucking trees, you’re crazy,” Roxie says with a laugh, turning her attention to the others and the happy hound “Do real trees have any real feelings or thoughts? I dunno.”

The crust from Roxie's slice is tossed at Goober once he’s free of Nova’s affections, it’s quickly snapped out of mid-air. “No. That tree? Is actually a fuckin’ dog - I call her Bonnie, she likes it. Agent Ayers hopes to get her changed back soon.”

Realizing they know about the poor tree-bound pup’s circumstances, so Roxie snags herself a second slice and declares, “I guess it’s fucking story time! How I got her is a pretty fucking wild story.”

As she settles down to tell the story, where Goober is clearly the hero, Roxie feels something she hasn’t felt since she was little.

A feeling of belonging…

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