They started streaming in about an hour before dusk, men and women from all walks of life. The two businessmen greeted the porter and installed themselves in the library behind identical copies of the Wall Street Journal. The tired lady in scrubs gave him a quiet smile and went upstairs to her little bedroom. Each had a pleasant word for the plainly dressed old man who opened the door for them, down to the little old woman who patted his arm and scuttled inside just as the sun dropped below the horizon.
Once all the members were in, he bolted the club’s door and went to check on the werenudibranch. He was already sitting in the warm, saltwater pool in the side room. “All set, sir?” the porter asked.
“Yes, no problems. You won’t have to tip me into the water tonight.” Occasionally the moon had taken the poor creature unawares, and the porter liked to be on hand lest he asphyxiate in the air.
“And what are you reading tonight?” he asked, nodding to the tiny, Braille book set in the corner of the pool.
“It’s still War and Peace.” He adjusted himself in the bath with a sigh. “Ah, here comes the moon. I’m so glad that I’m a tropical spe—” his voice stopped as his body blurred and shrank. The porter peered into the water. The colorful creature was already groping its way to were the book waited. He didn’t need to hear the rest of the usual spiel: I’m so glad that I’m a tropical species. Waiting in a bath of ice water would be ghastly.
The nudibranch had the most awkward position: in danger of death when he changed, and isolated from his fellow creature after it. Most of the weres were more sociable.
Well, they could be more sociable, thought the porter, going back out into the library. The two identical copies of the Wall Street Journal still blocked the view of the occupants of the two chairs, but the pants and shoes had been replaced the feet of an opossum in one and a racoon in the other. The werelark had already flown up to her perch and turned a page of the detective story on the rack in front of her as the porter passed.
He stood aside in the doorway to let the werearmadillo enter. “Evenin’, porter,” it muttered around a ham sandwich as it waddled back towards its usual chair. “Almost out of ham in the kitchen.”
“I’ll see to it, sir.”
The library was quiet. The game room across the hall was, too, so the werevole and wereshrew must have finished their monthly argument about reproducing the exact state of their game on the human sized table on the tiny one next to it. He peeked in. They were playing amicably, and the clique of sea creatures—the wereotter, the werepenguin, and the weresealion—hadn’t apparently moved from their game of poker when the change took them. The penguin picked a card from the rack in front of it with the beak and tossed it into the middle of the table as the porter closed the door and turned to the back of the house.
The kitchen was a more festive place. The beaproned werewombat was standing on a stool at the stove, flipping hotcakes while the rest chattered around the table. “Hey, porter,” the werewombat called. “We’re almost out of—”
“—ham,” the porter finished for him. “I’ll take care of it, sir. Oh dear, is the werekoala already high?” He peered up into the corner of the kitchen where a grey form clutched a rafter and chewed slowly.
“I think he was high on something else before he changed,” the werebeaver noted from the table. “Hey, are those hotcakes done yet?”
“Hold your horses,” the werewombat told him as the porter ducked out.
He tiptoed up the stairs and peered into the bedroom. The werehare was settled in her nest, her nose wiggling occasionally in her sleep. He closed the door silently and descended to the basement.
“Hey, porter,” the weremuskox called as the stairs creaked under the man. “I like the new alfalfa. Where’d you get it?”
“It was recommended by the manager of the feed store over on eastside.”
“Huh, have to go get some for my horses. Everyone all set upstairs?”
“Yes, sir, everyone appears to be settled.”
“Great. And they’ve got a MASH marathon on tonight, starting in half an hour.”
“Excellent, sir. I bid you a good night, then.” He heard the creature unmute the television as he climbed back up the stairs and settled into his little office by the door. He put his feet up and picked up his book and prepared to let the hours slide by.
The did not. From the screeching that sounded out in the hall about half an hour later he was afraid that the werekoala had succumbed to violent hallucinations and was trying to slaughter the refrigerator again. The last time it had happened, the creature had fallen asleep in the eucalyptus bin, and the porter had had to pump its stomach while the werewombat and werebeaver made unhelpful suggestions.
This time the werehare was racing down the stares, another hare in pursuit. The porter deftly scooped up the interloper by its ears while the werehare dived behind his legs. “I do not believe you are a member of this club, sir,” the porter said to the hare he held aloft.
“Don’t bother,” called the wereracoon from the crowd of creatures who had come in to see the excitement. “It’s not a were. Someone let an animal in, unless the lady here decided to try a little something new.”
“I did not!” cried the werehare from behind the porter.
“Oh come on, honey, nothing wrong with it,” the wereopossum said from beside the wereracoon.
“Ladies and gentleman, perhaps we could have this discussion another time,” the porter suggested to the animals around him. “Perhaps someone could tell me how this animal came to be in the club?”
“I think it’s my fault,” the wereotter said sheepishly. “I heard a scratching at the door, saw the hare, and thought that she—” He gestured at the werehare. “—was running late.”
“I see. Well, no harm done, I suppose,” said the porter.
“It tried to mount me!” the werehare cried, scandalized.
“Why’d you stop it?” asked the wereracoon.
“That will do, I think,” said the porter. “Perhaps someone could make her a snack and a cup of tea while I show this beast the door?”
“Fine idea,” said the werewombat. “Come on, love, there’s hotcakes fresh off the griddle. Or they were fresh before all this broke out.” He patted her with one clawed paw. “We’ll get some food in you and send you off to bed again. Can’t have you overtired for work tomorrow.”
The other began to disperse back to their places as the porter marched towards the front door with the struggling hare dangling from his hand. Perhaps I can get through tonight without any more excitement, he thought as he tossed the hare bodily into the night, then closed and bolted the door of the Club for Idle Lycanthropes.