The Dinner Guest

Elaine Howard

 

 

 

Urko trotted on his horse to his nieceís house. He had been putting off the dinner

 

invitation for months but he knew he had to dine with her and her family sometime. He

 

didnít like being around them because he found them disgustingly happy. They were always

 

laughing and participating in festivities. Even worse, they allowed humans to live in the house

 

with them. He didnít care if they owned humans for labor but these humans were allowed to

 

participate in the constant festivities and they ate their meals with the family. The house

 

made him feel uncomfortable and this was a trip of familial duty.

 

 

Usually he rode his horse at a gallop but today he reluctantly trotted along. Urko sighed heavily

 

when something caught his eye by the side of the road. He pulled on the reins and even his horse

 

stopped to gaze at the creature staring back. A Chihuahua sat by the side of the road returning

 

Urkoís gaze. The dog had large black eyes and pointed ears. His color was tan with few brown

 

spots on his body. He wagged his tail repeatedly.

 

 

The horse and dog put their noses together, Urko pulled back on the horse. He wasnít sure what

 

this creature was until the dog let out a bark. "Oh, youíre some sort of canine. A small one at that,

 

very small. Go back to your home!"Urko attempted to give the dog an order but the dog

 

didnít move. Time was pressing on and he knew he had to get going to his nieceís house.

 

 

Urko couldnít be too late. He decided to move along. The horse trotted about one

 

hundred yards down the road and Urko turned around. The dog was following him

 

even though at his size he couldnít keep up. He didnít feel comfortable leaving the tiny

 

creature, yet didnít really want to do anything about a lost dog at this hour. Usually

 

wealthy apes had small dogs like this one so he was sure it was someoneís pampered pet.

 

The owner might be so grateful if he returned the animal a reward might be given.

 

 

This was an appealing thought to Urko. He grunted to himself and got off his horse. He

 

picked upthe dog who had caught up to him and put him in a pouch attached to the saddle.

 

The dog fit except for his head sticking out. Urko hoped and prayed he would not be seen

 

riding along with this creature. If anyone thought he rode around with a little dog, he

 

would be a joke. He knew his niece and her family would have a good time with this

 

for days. They would laugh about the general in the family and his prissy little dog.

 

 

When he rode up to his nieceís house it was almost dark. He could hear

 

talking and laughing. His niece Ariana always invited friends and neighbors to get-

 

togethers. Urko didnít share her fondness for social occasions. An aroma of vegetable

 

stew hung in the air and the dogís nose was pointed upward. Urko grunted again and

 

the door to the house opened.

 

 

"Urko!" Ariana ran towards him, arms opened wide, followed by her husband, three children, a

 

female orangutan and a female human. All made a mad dash towards Urko, each giving him a hug

 

except for the female human who started to take his horse to the barn. The dog barked profusely

 

and started to jump out of the pouch.

 

 

Everyone ran to the little dog who loved all the attention. "Who is this? You finally got a pet!I told

 

you, you needed a pet!"Ariana was delighted. Her three children took turns petting and holding the

 

dog. The female orangutan grinned while the female human led the horse into the barn.

 

 

"I do not have any new pets!This creature was sitting by the side of the road. Iím sure his owner is wondering where he is. He has a collar and that shiny thing on it."

 

 

Arianaís husband Boris couldnít help himself. "Expecting a generous award?"

 

 

Urko gave him a dirty look but said nothing.

 

 

Ariana put her arm around Urko. "Iím so glad to see you Uncle, it is so rare we get to visit. You

 

remember my friend Desiree."The female orangutan smiled at Urko. Urko mumbled yes

 

and forced himself to be civil. He was too tired from chasing the renegade humans

 

Virdon and Burke and their chimp friend Galen to put up with this. A hot meal and a

 

good nightís sleep would do him good so he would be able to continue the chase in the

 

morning.

 

 

The Chihuahua was a big hit. "Whatís this on his collar?" asked Ariana's daughter.

 

"Must be his name. Feeeedaaal, Feedal."She pronounced it slowly.

 

 

Her mother interrupted her. "Fidel, his name is Fidel."The dog recognized his name and wagged

 

his tail, looking directly at Ariana. "Letís get inside and eat. Iím starving."

 

 

Boris motioned for everyone to come inside the house. Darkness was falling fast.

 

Ariana still had her arm around Urko who was finally beginning to relax a little.

 

The three gorilla children took turns passing Fidel around who was basking in all the

 

attention. Boris spoke to Urko. "Still chasing the two humans and the chimp?"

 

 

Urko gave him an angry glance. "Yes, they are in this area, possibly in the next village."

 

 

Ariana interrupted. "Letís not talk about business."

 

 

Urko was glad to get off the subject, knowing his nieceís fondness for humans, he didnít want to

 

get into a discussion about human rights. He did notice that only one human was present in the

 

house. "Ariana,where are your other humans?"

 

 

"Visiting here and there."

 

 

Urko could tell she was brushing the subject aside. The orangutan and Boris brought the food to

 

the table. Fidelís nose was still pointed in the air and was wagging his tail. A small bowl of

 

vegetable broth was poured for him and he enthusiasticly lapped it up. Then he sat up

 

and begged. The female human gave him some carrots and he crunched away. Everyone

 

sat at the table and ate, even the female human.

 

 

Urko felt tired and wasnít up to making much conversation. Fortunately, he didnít have to. Fidel was

 

the center of attention.

 

 

"Heís so small and whatís this?" Ariana had him in her lap. A silver disk about half a

 

centimeter hung from his collar. Urko chewed some carrots. "Looks like some sort of jewelry. He

 

probably belongs to a female and wandered off.. Never saw a dog so small.

 

Very strange."Ariana scratched his ears. "Oh youíre not so strange, youíre cute and

 

little."Fidel gave out a sigh. "How are you going to find his owner, Urko?""Theyíll

 

be looking for him, Iím sure."

 

 

Urko felt fatigue setting in and forced himself to respond to Arianaís question. He was fond of

 

Ariana, he just wished she wasnít so different from him. She didnít take life too seriously while he

 

wanted order and saw threats to their existence such as the human population.

 

 

Boris offered Urko a glass of wine but he declined. He got up and poured himself a glass of water.

 

When he returned to the table a bowl of fruit was put in front of him by Ariana who was carrying

 

Fidel around.

 

 

Then Urko noticed that Sonia, the human female, was drawing. "Can I see that?"

 

Obediently she handed her pad of paper to Urko. It was Fidel, with his large bug eyes,

 

pointed ears and tail straight up. Urko just grunted and handed it back to her. She didnít

 

make eye contact with him, she was deathly afraid of him.

 

 

Urko finally forced himself to talk some more. "So, are the boys thinking about

 

when they will be joining my army?"

 

 

Both sons responded in unison, loudly. "No way!" "Absolutely not!""I am going to be an artist!" "And

 

I am going to publish books!"

 

 

Fidel got excited and started barking. Sonia held him now and he quieted down. Urko

 

continued. "No one in my family wants to be a soldier. This is embarrassing. You say

 

you are going to be an artist, yet she is the only one drawing!"He pointed to Sonia.

 

 

The female orangutan who sat across from him spoke firmly. "I want to join your army!

 

Why canít I join?I am a weapons expert."

 

 

Urko glared at her. "No female soldiers!But I will keep that in mind, you being a weapons expert."

 

 

The orangutan continued. "I am disciplined and can follow orders and Iíve also beat up a few gorillas

 

in my time!"

 

 

"Iíll make note of that."Urko brushed her off. He wanted to change the subject. "How is the

 

dog doing?Is he getting tired?I have an early day tomorrow and plan on being off

 

before sunrise."

 

 

"The guest room is prepared for you, Uncle. But do you have to leave so

 

soon?We never get to see you."Someone muttered thank the Lawgiver under their breath.

 

 

Urko heard it but was too tired to continue any more arguing. "My work keeps me busy.

 

Someone has to protect ape civilization. I would like to retire to bed, donít keep the

 

dog up too late and stop feeding him so much. I donít want him to be sick."Urko

 

got up from the table and headed for the guest room. One of Arianaís sons made a face at Urko

 

behind his back. Ariana gave him a threatening look. Boris cleaned the table and dishes while Fidel continued to be doted on.

 

 

When Urko woke up at four am, he went to the bathroom and then out to the kitchen where Fidel

 

was sleeping on a bright red satin pillow with gold trim. The little dog

 

raised his head slightly and looked at Urko as if he couldnít believe Urko was up at that

 

hour. Urko attempted to make as little noise as possible, he didnít want anyone up, he

 

had done his duty visiting the relatives. Fidel yawned and put his head back down.

 

 

Urko gulped down two bananas and an orange and then picked up Fidel, who still was

 

very sleepy. He held him with one hand, the dog leaning against him as if he refused to

 

wake up. When Urko came out of the house, Sonia was standing there with his horse and

 

another drawing. She turned the pad of paper around, it was a drawing of Urko. He was

 

stunned by it, the portrait was excellent. He looked at Sonia in puzzlement and she gazed

 

back at him meekly then cast her eyes downward. He took the reins from her, put Fidel in

 

the pouch and mumbled thanks to the human female. He was thinking how he was over-

 

due to have his portrait hung at Army Headquarters, he had been a general for quite some

 

time now. It entered his mind that this female should do the portrait but he quickly put

 

the idea out of his mind.

 

 

The sun was getting higher, signaling the arrival of daylight. Urko ordered his

 

horse at a gallop and went down the road from Arianaís house. Fifteen minutes into

 

his journey, Fidel began barking profusely. Urko repeatedly yelled at him to shut up with

 

no success. Fidel managed to jump out of the pouch, fortunately landing in some bushes

 

which cushioned his fall. He scrambled down the bushes and ran off. Urko watched him

 

and was shocked by what he saw. A dome shaped spaceship was by the side of the road

 

where Fidel had been. A silver door opened and Fidel ran inside. Urko was stunned, he

 

didnít know what to do. After hesitating a few seconds, he ran in after Fidel thinking

 

he could retrieve him but stopped in his tracks a few feet inside the door.

 

 

Computers and multicolored lights were all over the place. Urko had no clue as to what anything

 

was. Fidel stood in front of a triangular shaped machine and barked. A holographic image

 

appeared which startled Urko. He didnít move. The image was a female gorilla in a silver

 

uniform with blue trim. She spoke with authority. "Well, there you are Fidel. We were

 

worried. Put the chip in the computer."Fidel with his right paw clicked the silver disk

 

off his collar, put it in his mouth and then placed it in a slot in the computer. "I canít

 

wait to evaluate the data. And who might you be, sir?"

 

 

Urkoís eyes widened and he cleared his throat. "General Urko."

 

"How interesting! Iím General Misha!"

 

Urko couldnít believe what he heard. "YouÖ.youíre a general?In an army?!"

 

"Yes, but my main profession is time travel."She smiled at him. "Here on my island, my duties as a

 

general are not needed very often so I am able to pursue my interest in time travel. I am

 

particularly interested in our simian past. Fidel was gone quite awhile, I usually only

 

let him stay two hours at the most."

 

 

Urko found all this unbelievable. He stopped his hand from hitting his side out

 

of nervousness. He continued asking more questions, blurting out "How far in your

 

past am I?"

 

 

"Roughly five thousand years, give or take a century. Unfortunately my

 

coordinates are not that accurate."

 

 

"Who rules your world?"

 

 

Misha was puzzled by the question. "Beg pardon?"

 

 

"Do apes dominate your civilization?"

 

 

"I guess you could say simians are the dominate species on the planet but we have thousands of

 

aliens who live here also."

 

 

Urkoís breathing grew faster and he forced himself to relax. "What about

 

humans?"

 

 

The female gorilla grew serious. "What about them?"

 

 

Urko was lost for words momentarily but managed to continue speaking. "What place do humans

 

have in your world?"Anxiety filled him as he waited for an answer.

 

 

"They are an endangered species, closely guarded and protected. My main duty as general is to

 

see that no harm comes to a human. You would never harm a human, would you?"

 

 

All Urko could do was shake his head and grunt, his eyes facing downward. He knew he was doing

 

a bad job of lying.

 

 

"I have to get back to work, thank you for taking care of Fidel. I wish you well and hope we meet

 

again someday." The holographic image disappeared and Urko took this as his cue to exit the

 

spacecraft. After a last look at Fidel who wagged his tail, he quickly walked out.

 

 

The door closed and Urko got back on his horse. The spaceship quietly vanished and Urko

 

watched the area for a few minutes and then pulled on the reins, instructing his horse back to the

 

road.

 

 

Many thoughts were in his head. This is why he tried to avoid going to Arianaís

 

house, something unusual always happened, although this time took top prize. He didnít

 

know what to do. He certainly couldnít tell anyone about this, but who would believe

 

him anyways. Maybe his wife would believe his story but he doubted Zaius would.

 

 

Was he wasting time chasing the human fugitives Virdon, Burke and the chimp Galen?If

 

apes were going to rule well into the future, should so much energy be spent hunting

 

them down. He would have to continue to pursue them, but maybe with not such great

 

effort.

 

 

And the female soldiers, both the gorilla and orangutan bothered him. Females

 

shouldnít be soldiers. He would have arrested the orangutan for the way she spoke to

 

him but she was Arianaís friend.

 

 

Even more amazing to him was that the female general had time to pursue other interests. His

 

work consumed him and involved many hours each week. It also concerned him that humans

 

apparently were very important to the apes in the future. They will be well protected. Mishaís serious

 

face when discussing humans was still clear in his mind. More food for thought.

 

 

He felt conflicted, he still saw humans as a threat but he also thought of the female human who

 

could draw. He liked her work.

 

 

Turmoil was consuming his insides. But the worst thought that ran through his mind was that he

 

missed Fidel. This greatly bothered him. Warriors do not have cute, little dogs. Fidel was only gone

 

now for a few minutes and Urko felt this big void in his life. It was a feeling that was way too

 

uncomfortable for him.

 

 

Urko directed his horse towards the road. He was exhausted and now planned to take

 

the day off, something he hadnít done in years. It was not a day to concentrate on work,

 

 

He would spend the day with his wife. In his mind, he went over and over how he would

 

suggest to her they get a dog.

 

 

 

(continued in 'Feasting With Fugitives')