Tom just wanted to go to work. He didn’t want their stares, didn’t want their happy laughs. He just...well. Work seemed like the thing to do, in his mind. That’s all.
The DART bus, packed shoulders to chestnuts and ass over teacups waited patiently as his large feet gingerly tapped each step. It wouldn’t do to trip; he’d done that before and it wasn’t pretty – the laughs and snickers had followed him to the university and it put him off for the rest of the day. Fortunately he didn’t trip today and the driver gave him a cursory nod; still, the driver had a different glint in his eye than other weekdays Tom had boarded. Sighing, Tom ignored him. The subject would come up – he knew it had to. But Tom hoped the question would come about later, when he was ready. When it made sense to answer.
Barging his way through, Tom made the people sardines pack further in and he swung his tail just so, avoiding an obese lady’s bag. He’d been accused of being a pickpocket with his tail, which bugged the shit out of him, but hey it was something else to shrug it off, along with the catcalls and jokes.
He wedged tight between someone in the back and took the last standing place near the rear of the bus. Clutching his briefcase close, he ignored the stares and whispers. Now wasn’t the time to say anything. Now was the time to think about all the papers he had to grade for Professor Kittredge. He could think about his chem experiment, so he could get his PhD. When he got that, he could go anywhere. He could finally get the hell out of Red State Te—
“Bet you’re real proud today, huh?”
Tom blinked, not sure if the man was speaking to him or not. He sized him up and tried not to sniff out his intentions, but he couldn’t have anyway; the bus was far too crowded and the closeness of the bodies and smells frustrated him.
“The election, boy! Bet you’re real proud of yourselves.”
Tom paused, unsure if the gentleman was angry. He didn’t seem angry; he was grinning – joking with him, maybe. But the man’s grin did not match Tom’s own instincts and senses. “I suppose,” Tom said slowly. He purposely spoke slowly. People understood him better and he hid his lisp when he spoke slowly. “I was surprised myself, actually.”
“Yeah. Who’da thought, huh? A mutie in the White House?” The man chuckled and a select few coughed, covering their chuckles. Most were annoyed, however, and gave Tom cursory pity stares.
God, he hated those stares.
He nibbled his bottom lip carefully and stopped short of shredding his lips with his fangs. He’d made holy hash of his lips when his gifts first became evident. “Yes,” he said again, slowly and carefully. “We have a mutant in the White House. Vice President, one step away from President.” His voice dripped sarcasm. “Why am I assuming you voted for the other guy?”
The gentleman’s eyes narrowed. “Damn right I voted for the other guy. Your guy didn’t have any experience. Doesn’t know one thing about the rights of everyone. Heard he’s actually one of them alien Skrull people, too. So you people got what you wanted, and real Americans got screwed, as usual.”
Enough, enough. That was it. Tom bent down and got his whiskers in the man’s face, not caring that his eyes, scary enough from far away, were creepy and could damage any peaceful strides “his people” had made if he chose to threaten people with them. Of course some on the bus shuffled back - probably think I’m gonna eat ‘em, Tom thought in his own vernacular. He’d learned to speak and act and behave like a non-mutant, but dammit his own mind was sacrosanct and he could behave however he damned well chose.
And right now, this guy was getting his Feral up. So be it. He wanted to see a “real” mutant behave like a mutant? He was gonna see it up close.
“What makes you think,” Tom growled softly, “that I voted for the mutant?”
The man stuttered and shrank back, realizing he’d pushed his boundaries. Someone on the bus turned to another man and whispered, and Tom’s “mutie” hearing picked up words like “police” and “gun.”
Great. Just what he needed. Another incident on the way to school—
“Ah, eh...nothin’ personal, man. I mean, you’re a—you’re—“
“Yeah. A mutant. Wow. They vote, don’t they?” Tom turned away from him and checked out the folks on the bus. Many smiled, some remained neutral and the same select few who’d laughed earlier looked frightened. He sniffed; someone either farted, or shit their pants.
“I voted, but not for the mutant!” He said it loud enough for everyone to hear, and many were shocked by his words. “Yes, I look like your pet kitty cat. And yes, I understand the irony ‘cause my name is ‘Tom.’ But the kitty cat did not vote for the mutant. The kitty voted for the Green party candidate, because he believes in the Green Party. Shit. Mutant don’t have nothin’ to do with it.” And he cursed again, because his tongue caught on his teeth and his lisp returned with his angered speech.
Hell with this, Tom thought. He’d call a taxi – he couldn’t take the closeness right now. He rang the bell on the bus, ready to get off at the next stop. The bus was quiet then, and no one spoke. They held their breaths until he got off, and Tom was glad for it. Sometimes people needed to be embarrassed to just “get it.”
“Yeah,” Tom said as he stepped from the bus. He shook his head with disgust as he dialed the cab company.
“God Bless Effing America.”