Feasting With Fugitives

Elaine Howard

 

 

     

Urko felt like his mind was racing faster than his horse. Galloping at full speed,

trees, sky, the road all became a blur. The horse knew the way to headquarters, Urko’s

mind wasn’t focused on where he was going. The events of the previous evening and

early morning still lingered in his mind and he thought about them over and over.

Meeting Fidel, the smallest dog he ever saw, dinner with his niece and her crazy family.

He thought about the young human female who drew a portrait of him as a great general.

The female orangutan who was determined to be a soldier. Then in the wee hours of the

morning he follows Fidel into a spaceship and meets a projection of a gorilla female who

is also a general and is from the far distant future. So bizarre and unnerving, he wished

for once he could have a normal visit with his relatives like most apes. But it never was

for Urko, his family was eccentric and he wished for them to be normal, whatever

normal was. He liked order, they thrived on chaos. He was disciplined, they indulged

in their wants.

 

He definitely was not going to work today, ape headquarters would have to survive

one day without him. The work would fall behind, his subordinates were all idiots. But

today he couldn’t concentrate. Spending time with Elta his wife of four years was what

he needed. She is a librarian who worked afternoons and into the early evening. Urko

was very proud of his wife. She had recently written a textbook for students studying to

be librarians. He tried reading it but was fast asleep by the second page. Even though

the book sedated him, he repeatedly told Elta how proud he was of her accomplishment.

 

When he reached headquarters, he didn’t tie his horse but leaped off and ran inside. He quickly mumbled to his lieutenant he was taking the day off. “I won’t be in today…..family problem.  See you tomorrow!”

 

“Sir, is everything alright?”

 

“Nothing I can’t handle. I just need the day to ………straighten things out.” Urko fumbled for words. He knew he was doing a bad job of lying.

 

“But, General, if there is anything I can do to help! Must be pretty bad. You

never take any time off!”

 

At this point Urko just wanted to get out of there. “I can deal with the situation

today! I’ll be in tomorrow!”

 

“Okay, General. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

 

Urko ran out of headquarters and up onto his horse. He knew the rumors would be flying today about his taking time off. He was very nervous. Hopefully, no one saw him walk into the spaceship or even worse, riding along the road with the little dog in a pouch, connected to the saddle. If Zaius even heard any rumors of this, he didn’t know how he would explain it or if he should just flat out deny everything. Ever since he met the tiny dog, his life was full of conflict and surprises. It was unsettling to the strong general and overall he was unnerved. He urged his horse to go faster, he wanted to get home.

  

Urko arrived at his house just before ten in the morning. Elta was in the yard

bent over her flower garden. She smiled at her husband who leaped off his horse, ran

over to her, hugged and kissed her. “What brings you home so early?” Elta was surprised to see him.

 

“I am very tired and need a day off.”

 

“Are you feeling alright? You must be exhausted not to go to work.” They

walked with their arms around each other towards the front door. Elta continued talking.

“We have company today. You already know our guests.” Urko opened his front door

and let his wife walk in first. Coming in behind her, what he saw shocked and surprised

him. The weirdness of the day was continuing to go on. Burke, Virdon and Galen were

sitting in his living room.

 

His jaw dropped and he turned Elta around to make eye contact with her. “I

warned them dear! I told them I wouldn’t stand in your way if you shot them or whatever

action you decided to take.”

 

Urko was speechless but Virdon broke the silence. “General, we asked your

wife to let us speak with you here, we felt your home would be a better place to talk.”

Galen appeared to be petrified, Burke looked depressed and Virdon was relaxed and

ready for a discussion about their fate.

 

Urko stomped his foot. “If I didn’t find that dog, none of this would be happening!”

 

Elta stepped back from him. “What dog?”

 

Urko grunted. “I’ll explain later.” He glared at the three fugitives. “You have

quite a nerve….he pointed his finger at them…..coming into my house like this!”

 

Burke stood up. “Urko, we apologize for this intrusion but you know me by now.

You have been stuck with me before. What do we have to do to convince we mean no

harm!  His voice cracked.

 

Galen watched in silence. Urko glared over at him. “This was their idea.” He

looked downwards then back at Urko. “The three of us are tired of running. We want to

talk, not fight. And my human friends have prepared a meal for you and your wife.”

  

Urko rolled his eyes upwards. “How did you know I would be home this early?”

 

Galen continued speaking. “We didn’t. We planned on waiting until you arrived

later in the day. These two humans are great cooks, even if you continue to disagree with us at least you’ll get a good meal today.” Urko felt uncomfortable in any social situation and he had no clue on how to deal with this. He was grateful his wife was there. And his fatigue was at such a high level he didn’t have the energy to fight the fugitives or even throw them out of his house. What was even weirder was the fact his wife let them in.

 

He could tell something else occupied her mind. She couldn’t have been thinking clearly. But compared to his recent encounter with a spaceship, dining with the fugitives he had been chasing was not nearly as strange.

    

Galen motioned everyone to the dining room. Urko kept a protective arm around

his wife.

 

Virdon was at no loss for words and was anxious to talk. “Congratulations,

General. Your wife is quite a talented writer.”

 

Urko relaxed slightly. “I agree with you there. She is a great librarian, as you can

tell from her university textbook….”

 

Elta cut him off. “He is referring to my new book, dear.”

 

Surprises were beginning to really aggravate Urko. His tone was sharp. “New book?! You wrote another library book?

 

“No, this time my novel was finally published.” Elta beamed. “The publishing

company is anticipating big sales.” She handed Urko a large, hardcover book. A female

gorilla’s face was on the cover. The title was “Reading in the Dark.”

 

Urko examined the book. He turned it over to read the reviews on the back. He then dropped the book and picked it up from the floor. The force shook the whole house and all three fugitives jumped. Urko couldn’t believe what he was reading. Librarian by day, expensive  prostitute at night. Valcry loved her job in the local library but when the sun set, a double life called her. Urko had to actually sit down, he felt weak. Dining with the fugitives was pale compared to this. His career was over. Once his colleagues and subordinates found out about this book, it would be over. Elta’s library book put  him to sleep but he knew this one would keep anyone awake until the end.

 

“Are you alright, Urko?” Burke seemed genuinely concerned.

 

“I’m fine!” Some relief came over him when he saw that Eltta used the pen name

of Serena. But he knew that in time, apes would discover who wrote the book.

 

Again thoughts raced in Urko’s head. He had no clue as to how to handle this.

Momentarily he forgot about the fugitives. Virdon and Galen brought food to the table.

Some sort of pie was placed in the center, followed by vegetables, bread and fruit. The

aroma was enticing. Urko felt his stomach growl and his hunger increased with the smell

of fresh coffee in the air.

 

Burke was anxious to chat. “So what happened to the Chihuahua?”

 

Urko’s eyes grew wide. “Excuse me?”

Burke asked the question again. “You were riding along the road, with a Chihuahua. You know, that very small dog you had.”

 

Urko became fascinated. “A what? A Chi….chihua ….hua?”

 

“Yes, that is the breed of dog you had. I had one before I landed here.”

 

Urko listened intently. “You owned a dog like that?”

 

Burke sipped some water. “We always had dogs when I was growing up. Usually large dogs like German Shepherds. After college when I got my first apartment, the landlord didn’t allow dogs. But Hercules was okay because he was so small. He could be a feisty little devil, chasing my cats around.”

 

All Urko could think of was pets having pets. Many apes had humans as pets. “I have never seen a dog so small.”

 

Burke enjoyed talking about the dog. “Chihuahuas originally came from a country called

Mexico. They are good apartment dogs because they are so small.” Urko had a hard

time visualizing a dangerous fugitive owning a Chihuahua. His sternness with Burke

faded to one of interest. The aroma of food filled his nostrils. He felt hunger taking over.

 

Urko sighed. He felt like everything in his world was crumbling. “What else

have you seen besides me riding with Fidel?” All three fugitives stared at Urko.

 

Virdon set a pitcher of water on the table. “The dog’s name is Fidel?”

 

Urko poured himself a glass of water. “It says so on his collar.” The fugitives

glanced at each other.

 

Galen who sat next to Urko, turned and faced him. “My human friends and I

decided to change our strategy…. And follow you for a change.”

 

Urko sipped more water and wished it was later in the day. He rarely drank

alcohol but a shot of whiskey right now was very inviting. Urko knew if they had been

following him, they saw the spaceship. He didn’t want to discuss it in front of Elta yet

but by the look in Virdon’s eyes, he knew that was probably the next topic of

conversation. Virdon moved his chair closer to the gorilla general, their faces were about

a foot apart. “You went into a spaceship. It was unlike any spacecraft Pete and I are

familiar with.”

 

Urko actually grinned at the blond haired man. “You wouldn’t be familiar with

it. The ship is from the future and the dog belongs to the captain.” All eyes were on

Urko. His wife made mental notes.

 

Silence hung in the air except for birds chirping outside. Urko reached for a

banana and a slice of bread. At this point he was so overwhelmed he didn’t care

anymore.

 

Galen focused intently on Urko. “You said the dog belonged to the captain?”

 

Urko ate the banana. “She told me that she sends the dog to various places. He

Wears some metal thing on his collar that records information.” It just dawned on him

that his evening with Ariana and the family was on the disk. The apes in the future

would have lots to laugh about at his expense.

 

Galen was surprised. “She? The captain is female?”

 

“A female gorilla.” Urko made the statement very matter of factly.

 

Burke was fascinated. “You don’t sound overly thrilled that a spaceship from the

future has a gorilla captain.” Urko chewed the bread and grunted. He didn’t want to

respond to the statement. “Sounds like apes are going to continue to rule.” Burke waited

for Urko to talk.

 

“When I went into the ship, the captain was not really there. Her image was

projected from a machine. She must live on an island, the image also showed the ocean

behind her and some giant fish leaping out of the water.”

 

“A whale dear?”

 

“No, it wasn’t a whale, I’ve seen whales. This creature was much smaller.”

 

“Probably was a dolphin.” Virdon was still facing Urko who alternated between

hunting and eating. Burke grinned to himself. When Urko wanted anyone else to talk, he forced information out of them. But getting information out of him was a major

challenge.

 

After another long silence, Galen finally spoke up. “So, General, we have a female gorilla who lives near water. Anything else?” Urko sipped some coffee and Burke

handed him a piece of pie. “Not much else to tell you.”

 

Virdon helped himself to a piece of the pie. “You don’t seem happy, Urko.

 

Obviously in the future apes still rule Earth. What bothers you more, a female captain or

the amount of water you saw? I’m confused.”

 

Urko stopped eating a slice of bread and glared at the blonde astronaut. “Apes

are in power, that is good. I’ve never really thought about the far distant future.”

 

Burke’s face reflected sadness. “So I guess it’s really over for the human race.”

 

Urko laughed. “Apparently, it’s not. My female friend warned me not to harm

any humans. Sounds like you are going to be well protected in the future.” All eyes were

on the general. His wife surveyed the room, observing everyone’s expression.

 

Burke stared at Urko. “What do you mean humans are protected?” Urko

devoured the slice of pie, reaching for more.

 

“This is good! Full of cheese. Who made it?!”

 

Burke’s eyebrows raised upwards. “I did. It’s called quiche.”

 

Urko put another bite in his mouth. “It’s called what?”

“Quiche, made with cheese and vegetables or whatever you want to put in it.”

 

Elta, you should write down the recipe.”

 

“Why, dear? I don’t cook.”

 

Burke returned to the subject at hand. “What about the future of humans?”

 

Urko poured himself more coffee. “According to this female, it sounds like your

species will be closely protected. My conversation with her was brief but I got the

distinct impression that if she knew what I have done to humans, I would not be around

for very long.”

 

Virdon gave a glance towards Galen, then spoke to Urko again. “Sounds like we

are going to be an endangered species and apes will try to protect us.” Urko made eye

contact with Virdon but said nothing. The thoughts in his head bounced around. His

wife was writing pornography, he was dining with the fugitives he had been chasing for

quite some time now and he recently entered a spaceship. He still missed Fidel and

wished the dog were here now, at least the conversation would be focused on something

pleasant. If Zaius found out about any of this, Urko knew he would become a fugitive.

 

The two astronauts and their chimp companion were looking at Urko, sad and

tired. He could see the weariness in their faces. The meal was fabulous, he was

enjoying it tremendously. The gorilla general was amazed at how well they could

cook. Especially Burke and this cheese pie thing. Maybe Burke should stay and be

his cook. The thought bothered him a little. There were never humans in his house

until now. And Elta had let them in. He thought he married a quiet librarian but he

realized he didn’t know who she was. It was about time he got to know his wife.

Retirement sounded like a great idea. Good food, raising horses and dogs and

discovering the female who married him.

 

Urko broke the silence this time. “If I am not chasing you, my lieutenant, who’ll

replace me will. He’ll have to, to prove himself.”

 

Elta dropped her jaw. “Replace you? You’re leaving the army? Nice of you to

discuss it with me!” Urko didn’t raise his voice. “We’ll discuss it, after we talk about

your new book.” Elta grunted and picked up her fork.

 

Virdon became slightly excited. “You are going to stop chasing us?”

 

“Maybe…..probably…yes. I see no point in pursuing you now. You are no threat

to ape civilization. But others will not feel the same way I do. And the spaceship I

entered and you witnessed will remain a secret. No one else is to know about this,

especially Zaius. He will react with fear and order all of us executed. Take my advice

and keep quiet.” Urko’s eyes kept going back to Burke which made the dark haired

astronaut nervous. Elta didn’t cook and Urko rarely had time to prepare a meal, Burke’s

culinary skills would be needed. This could also explain his presence in the house.

Virdon could tend to the horses and maybe Galen could be his wife’s editor. She

probably would be writing more books, she had already written two in less than a

year. Urko’s inner turmoil was beginning to subside. He started eating a bowl of

fruit still glancing occasionally at Burke.

 

A knock was heard at the front door. Eltta opened it and a familiar voice was

heard. Urko’s eyes grew wide as Eltta escorted Urko’s niece Ariana and her human

companion Sonia into the dining area. Urko leaped up from the table to hug Ariana and

then actually put his arm around Sonia. The shy human kept her eyes cast downward

and handed Urko several drawings. Some were of Fidel, some were of Urko, two of

them were of Urko and Fidel. The artistic abilities of the young human female con-

tinued to amaze Urko. “Uncle, I have a problem. Sonia here wants to live with you.

We finally figured out why she keeps giving you her drawings.”

 

Urko raised his eyes. “What’s one more.

 

Ariana was confused. “One more? I don’t understand? Don’t tell me YOU have

humans living with you!?”

 

Urko grumbled under his breath. “Not yet, I’ll explain later.

 

Ariana shook her head in disbelief. “Well, Sonia was raised by gorillas, an older

couple who have passed on. You remind her of the husband. Sometimes I think Sonia

thinks she is a gorilla.”

 

Elta piped in. “Her drawings are marvelous and we have plenty of room in this

big house."

 

Again silence hung in the air until Urko thought outloud and repeated his earlier

statement. “I suppose one more won’t matter!”

 

Burke was quick to respond. “One more…..one more human?”

 

Urko turned to face Burke. He spoke sharply. “Yes, one more human. You said

you were tired of running. Here’s your chance. Stay here and be my cook!

 

Burke’s eyes grew wide. “What about Zaius and Galen and Alan?!” Burke found

himself babbling and not making any sense.

 

“I’ll figure something out, but for now the three of you can stay here. I need a

cook and someone to take care of my horses and the dogs I’ll be purchasing soon.”

 

Elta felt excited about this new change in her husband. “Sonia can help me

redecorate out place. Ariana nodded in agreement.

 

Elta briefly excused her manners and introduced Ariana and Sonia to the three

fugitives. Urko observed everyone closely and was surprised to see that Ariana didn’t

know the fugitives. He always thought she might be hiding them somewhere but he

could tell by her facial expression she had never met them.

 

Virdon stepped closer to Urko. “Alright, General. No argument from me. We’ll

stay and help you. But do you think we can hide here?”

 

Urko responded quickly. “I am not going to retire immediately, it would be too

suspicious. We’ll come up with a plan and for now, no one will suspect you are here. It

is in your best interests to stay out of sight, we don’t get many visitors, only occasionally.

My niece Ariana is quite skilled at hiding fugitives, she has been doing it for years.” He

put his arm around Ariana. The two men and the chimp stared in disbelief. It seemed so

inconceivable that Urko would have a relative who hid humans and protected them.

 

Elta enjoyed the whole scenario. It was much better than any fiction she could

come up with. Another knock was heard at the door. Urko growled this time. “We are

having too much company today, I am exhausted!”

 

Elta answered the door. “Dr Zaius! What brings you here!” Urko quickly

escorted everyone into a back room and then returned to the front room. He could feel

anger welling up inside him.

 

Zaius acted nervous and lost. “General…..when you didn’t show up for work…I

was concerned. You never miss work….is there anything I can do?” Urko wasn’t

buying the act. He knew Zaius was here out of curiosity because he never took time off

and he didn’t like him in his house either!

 

“We are resolving a …….situation, there was no need for you to come here!”

 

“I know, General. But I figured you must have had a major emergency. It’s been

years since you have taken time off.”

Urko was furious. He was entitled to a day off without having to explain himself.

Then Zaius changed the subject when he caught Sonia’s drawings lying on the

coffee table. “Oh look, it’s a picture of those weird little dogs. My granddaughter raises

them and sells them.

 

Urko spoke before he could stop himself. “We’ll take six!”

 

Elta intervened. “Now dear, we talked about one or maybe two.”

 

Zaius was taken aback. “You’re kidding aren’t you?

 

Again, Urko’s mouth shot off before he could stop himself. “They are

great watchdogs and they require little food!” Elta grabbed Urko’s arm in hopes of

preventing him from possibly injuring Zaius.

 

“I know they are great watchdogs, it’s amazing I have any feet left. Every time I

visit my granddaughter’s kennel, I get bitten!”

 

A voice came from the back room. “At least they have good taste!”

 

“Who’s that?!”

 

Elta nervously covered up. “It was me, I meant only apes with exquisite taste

would have such a noble breed of canine.” Urko was ready to punch Zaius or a wall

out.

 

Zaius finally got the hint and headed for the door. “I’ll tell my granddaughter to

expect you, bring a fat wallet. Those creatures are not cheap and I don’t think they

ever stop barking.”

 

Urko followed the orangutan to the door, I’ll see you tomorrow early in the

morning. Thank you for your concern” he stated through gritted teeth.

 

Urko and Eltta waited until Zaius rode off and was out of site. They motioned

for their new household to come out. Ariana said good-bye to Sonia and she would see

her soon. The fugitives cleaned up the kitchen and put away the dishes. Eltta showed

them the rooms they would be sleeping in. Sonia and Urko sat in the living room and

again Urko admired her artwork.

 

**

 

Two female gorillas and two female humans sat in lounge chairs on the deck of

a yacht drinking wine and eating cheese. Fidel sat in the middle of the four females,

anxiously waiting for a treat. His tail rarely stopped wagging. One of the gorillas threw

him a piece of cheese and sipped her wine. “So my great grandmother ten times over or

my ancestor from several centuries ago was quite a lively character. I always wondered

about her since her picture still hangs in my father’s house.” One of the female humans

spoke to her in sign language that studying genealogy is fascinating and she should con

tinue to explore her family history. The gorilla took another sip of wine. “I don’t know,

I don’t know if I even want to know more. That character she invited for dinner… what’s his name? Urk… Urko? No personality and such an old fart.” She shook her head.

 

The other gorilla spoke up. “All the more reason to further study your family

history. You thought you came from a long line of artists but this general is in the

picture and I am willing to bet he is quite a warrior.”

 

The other gorilla frowned. “The time travel device is for scientific study not

personal use."

 

A smile came across the second human female’s face. “It’s my device and I’ll

use it however I want.” Fidel gave out a bark which produced another piece of cheese

given to him. The four females laughed and continued drinking their wine.