Dead bodies were heavy.
Kai had learned this first hand from years of hunting. Dragging a deer carcass through the woods was no picnic, but it was also fruitless. There was nowhere to store all that meat when you lived in a shoddy old cabin in the woods. That, and the job of skinning an entire stag was a royal pain in the ass.
Rather than hauling around roadkill, he’d opted for robbing a grocery store instead. Now at eighteen, Kai was legally an adult, which made theft a lot riskier…and a lot more fun. None of that juvie crap.
There was no shortage of deer where he’d settled, but the grocery store selection was paltry. Forget the big chains; Black Hollow, he’d learned, only sported local shops the size of mouse turds. Still, the town was quiet enough that sneaking around was easy. The buildings were prehistoric, and most lacked security. A turtle dragging dynamite could have broken in without getting caught.
Besides, Kai was pretty sure old Gus wouldn’t miss a few cans of tuna and a bag of roasted peanuts. The produce had been put out back for the garbage truck, so those were free game, but Kai wasn’t much for watery tree organs. Not thick enough on the calories. Instead, he nabbed a sack of potatoes to go with the tuna and peanuts. It was heavier and harder to run away with, but knowing the ins and outs of the town’s alleyways took care of that problem. Either way, no one was petty enough to start shit over a root vegetable, but Kai was hungry enough to rip out a few jugulars for a pound of spuds. Potatoes were handy: easy to store, tasted decent, and didn’t spoil quickly. Best of all, they were simple to cook; a campfire and a few sharp sticks was all he needed to make some starchy shish kebobs. That, or they could be boiled.
Kicking the shoddy cabin door open, Kai dropped the sack of potatoes from his shoulder with a loud thud. As he stepped inside, he caught a whiff of something musky, followed by a crinkling sound coming from the cupboards in his one-room shack. The pantry was open, and something was rustling around inside, digging through what was left of his dried apricots.
“Fuck, seriously?” He stalked over to the offending storage space.
Inside, he could see the bushy, ringed tail of a fat raccoon rummaging through his rations. He glared at the little invader, wondering if there were any good ways to cook raccoon meat.
The fluffy critter whirled around, staring at him with giant, shiny ink-black pools as she fiddled with the morsel in her paws and nibbled away without a care in the world. Kai sure as hell hoped the furry fuck didn’t have rabies, but the raccoon just stared at him, seemingly unbothered. She didn’t look rabid; on the contrary, she looked a little too comfortable for a wild animal. Without warning, she jumped down on the countertop and stood up on her hind legs, releasing a high-pitched trill that sounded more like a mocking cackle.
“Cheeky little shit,” Kai growled, approaching slowly. The raccoon didn’t budge, chilling on the countertop as though it were her throne. Kai pried the peanuts from his hoodie pouch. Tearing the bag open, he grabbed a fistful of the salty legumes and chucked them in his mouth. The vermin watched, her nose wiggling expectantly as she leaned over the edge of the countertop, front paws bracing on the lip.
For whatever reason, Kai felt compelled. There was some part of him that related to the damn raccoon—breaking into other people’s homes, stealing anything he could carry, scavenging for food and just barely getting by. Maybe they weren’t all that different. Opening his hand, Kai reached out to the fluffy pest colonizing his kitchen, palm up. With lightning speed, a scrawny little arm shot out and snatched the peanut. The racoon quickly tossed it in her mouth, chewing frantically with a crunch, crunch, crunch that was oddly…. endearing? Kai couldn’t remember the last time he found anything endearing.
Well, the thing clearly didn’t have rabies, but she probably had worms. Sighing, Kai pulled the tuna cans from his rucksack and shooed the raccoon away. “Move it, Worm.”
He arranged them in the cupboard, giving the furball a warning glare. Grabbing an empty plastic Tupperware he’d dug out of someone’s garbage, he poured in half the peanuts, then slid the make-shift bowl towards his new companion.
Sealing the bag, he put it away next to the tuna, then wrapped a rubber band around the knobs of the cupboard doors to deter any pests from further rummaging. He watched as Worm hoarded a couple of peanuts, then pushed the container under the table in a poor attempt to hide her new stash.
Shrugging off the racoon’s presence, Kai threw himself down onto his mattress, rolled to the side, and faced the wall, ignoring the rustling noises from the countertop. As he closed his eyes, there was a light scratching against the floor, the raccoon’s nails click-clacking against the wooden boards as she approached. The mattress dipped with her weight, her claws getting stuck in the quilts as she fidgeted behind him. The hairs on the back of Kai’s neck rose as the furry bastard brushed up against him, kneading the mattress like a cat before plopping down and curling into a ball.
Shifting uncomfortably, Kai rolled over and looked down at the raccoon nestled against his abdomen. She looked far too content for his liking.
“You’re really not my type, Worm.”
The raccoon released a shrill chortle, unbothered as a low growl rumbled in the back of Kai’s throat.
No such luck; she remained undeterred. Sighing in resignation, Kai reached over and groped for his bottle of whisky. Alcohol was the solution to everything—even a house invasion by a flirtatious raccoon.
“Please don’t get pregnant,” he muttered as he took a swig. “I really don’t have enough peanuts for a litter of trash pandas.”
Fuck. How deprived of human contact had he become to resort to speaking with a dozing raccoon? Dropping the half-empty whisky bottle, Kai reached for his quilts and pulled them up over his torso, ignoring the furball now snuggled against his side. His arm dropped to the mattress, and he allowed his fingers to wriggle around in the raccoon’s coarse fur. She didn’t move or react, comfortable with their unusual proximity. He wondered how many times she’d snuck into his cabin when he wasn’t around. It was hard to tell with the number of animals nearby, their scents intermingling in an indiscernible smorgasbord. Perhaps the raccoon had been breaking and entering in since she was a pup and had grown accustomed to Kai’s presence. He wasn’t sure how she’d become tame enough to sidle up to him for warmth otherwise. For whatever reason, she’d grown to trust him, and now, he didn’t have the heart to be rid of her.
What were a few extra peanuts, anyway?