“So, when will the drink lose its effect?” Mike said, looking at the dozing moose.
Carl shrugged, his bulk straining the seams of his shirt. “No idea, Mikey.”
They were in Huxley’s reception room, along with two other guys. They were massive fluffmonsters – one was pale blue with white patches while the other was charcoal grey with white patches. Both were wearing matching wrestling singlets of red and yellow stripes that favorably showed off their builds.
Joe, on the other hand, was on a worn leather couch, curled up and deep asleep. He yawned, turned over, and muttered something about a plushie.
“He looks so cute,” the blue-furred guy said, reaching over to rub an antler. “We never had a moose here.”
The grey one nodded. “Especially with such a thick rump.” He grinned toothily at Mike’s dubious expression. “Have you seen Twitter, dude? He’s still getting hits.”
Mike sighed and shoved the question aside. “That might be true, Sirius, but the problem still remains. We have to wake Joe up.”
“Wha…?” Joe said, opening his eyes and loosely focusing on the ‘roo. “Oh hey,” he said, the words slurring thickly with sleep. “Think you can get a pillow or three?” He yawned again and closed his eyes. A moment later, his mouth opened with a loud buzzsaw of a snore.
“Oh hell!” Carl swore, covering his ears. He quickly got out of the room; the other three followed.
“The fuck is that?” Mike said after he shut the door. The action didn’t do much; the snore filtered through the thick wood and filled the hallway with noise. “I didn’t know moose snore this badly!”
“I didn’t know moose snored at all,” Sirius said, raising his eyebrows.
Huxley looked up at the ceiling before focusing on Mike.
“Let me get this straight,” he said over the muffled snoring that somehow got to the first floor. “You had Arc and Sirius move Joe to the sofa…”
“Yessir,” Mike said.
“You tried waking him up and failed…”
“And now you got him snoring for some reason!”
The blue-furred fluffmonster raised a hand. “I might add that Joe was awake for a few moments before snoring, sir.”
The bison sighed and took off his glasses. “Look,” he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose, “it doesn’t matter what happened. The question is how we stop it. We’re already opened, and we cannot have Joe continue making a disturbance.” He glared at Carl. “How much whiskey did you put in there?”
“Just the usual ‘mount,” Carl said. He was dry-washing his hands, a sure sign of nervousness. “I wasn’t expecting ‘im to sign off.”
Huxley sighed again. “Alright, you’re off the hook for now. Don’t give him anymore of your coffee.” Carl nodded. “That doesn’t explain how to wake him up.”
“I can help with that.”
Everyone turned to find Cindy, Huxley’s secretary, perched on a barstool and filing her claws. She was demurely dressed in black, her usual fluff of hair covered by a stylish piece of felt.
“When did you come in?” Huxley said.
“A woman has to have some mystery,” Cindy said, a smile hovering over her muzzle. “I received a call from the police,” she continued. “Apparently, Milhouse is out on bail.”
“Fuck,” Sirius swore. “I heard what happened last night. Are we going to deal with that crap again?”
“What I want to know is who paid the bail,” Mike said.
The bison waved for quiet. “We’ll deal with that later. As you were saying about Joe, Cindy?” Huxley said.
The tigress nodded. “I can wake him up quite quickly, but apparently, I need to get some earplugs.” She glanced at the ceiling. “I didn’t know moose could snore this loudly.”
“And now, the winner of the Annual Rock-A-Band contest,” the announcer grandly said. “Before The Sandwich!”
The crowd roared approval as Joe, Frankie, and Gail took to the stage. “Thank you,” the otter said, bowing and thumping on his bongos. “And now, Joe will do a naughty strip tease act, which he learned from Bar Jocks!” The crowd roared louder.
“Wait what?” Joe said before realizing all he was wearing was an overloaded speedo. “What’s going on?!”
“We just want to see you dance, moosie boy,” Sarge said, coming up to Joe. He flung a hand to the audience. “Listen to that crowd.”
“MOOSE!” they chanted. “MOOSE!”
“No, wait.” Joe said, backing away.
“MOOSE! MOOSE! MOOSE!” Everyone, it seemed, was saying it.
“No, don’t want to…”
Someone was shaking him awake. “Moose? Moose!”
Joe opened his eyes, focusing on a fluffy tigress he met the morning before. “Uh…hello” He yawned, but then he flinched hard and clasped a hand to his head. “Argh! My head!”
The tigress placed a cool hand on Joe’s forehead. “Hm. Nothing really. Just a slight warmth. Probably with the drink.” She pulled something out one of her ears and smiled at Joe. “How are you doing?”
“What happened?” Joe said. “All I remember was drinking coffee…”
“Yes, I suppose Carl would have to apologize about that,” Cindy said. She pulled something out of the other ear and showed them to Joe. “Earplugs,” she explained. “Fascinating how the guys are so brainless sometimes.”
Joe got into a sitting position and started to rub his temples. “What was in that cup?”
Cindy leaned back in the chair she was sitting in, a smile slowly forming. “Just equal parts of strong coffee and half whiskey. You have to ask for the brand, though.”
“That explains things, at least,” Joe said, trying to will the sledgehammer in his head to go away. “Me and whiskey do not mix. At all.” He noticed a large bucket near her, filled half-way with crushed ice. “Uhm, what was that for?”
“This?” Cindy said, grinning widely. “Just in case you did not wake up the first time.” She laughed at Joe’s expression, but it faded to a worried frown. “I got the call from the police. Apparently, Milhouse is out.”
“Already?” The news appeared not to affect the moose at all. “That’s a relief.”
Cindy raised an eyebrow. “Why are you saying that?”
Joe hesitated before answering. “I have no hard feelings for him. We hashed a few things out last night, and I actually pity the guy a bit.” He shrugged, the action causing him to wince again and dig his fingers harder into the temples. “Ouch.”
The tigress patted Joe’s broad shoulder. “Let me get you something for that.” After she tipped the ice into the bathroom sink, she rummaged around the room a bit and came back with a bottle of water and three tablets. “Here.”
Joe looked at the pills suspiciously.
“No need for that, Moose,” Cindy said. “It’s just common ibuprofen.” Joe nodded slowly and took them.
“Now, I suggest you rest for a bit while the medicine kicks in,” she said. She turned slightly to the sound of the door opening. “Ah, there you are.”
“Yes, here I am,” Huxley said, coming in. He was followed by Mike and other two guys dressed in skin-tight striped singlets. “Glad to see you doing fine for now,” he said to Joe, who gave him a half-hearted salute. Mike returned the salute, grinning.
“And how are you doing?” one of them said, sitting next to Joe. He was blue-furred with patches of white. “We heard what happened yesterday. How was your first day?”
“Give us all the details, dude,” the other said, sitting on the other side. He was grayish-black where the other was blue. “Is it true that Sarge flirted with you?”
“Guys,” Mike said warningly. “He’s still groggy. Cut him some slack.”
“Not only that,” Cindy said, who was back at her desk. “He’s hung over.”
The other four looked at the moose in surprise. Joe shrugged slightly. “Me and whiskey don’t mix.”
“Apparently,” Huxley said. “Mike, please let Carl know what happened,” he continued. “Also, a cup of regular coffee, please?” He stressed the adjective slightly.
“Gotcha,” Mike said. “I’ll be back.”
“So,” Huxley said when Mike left, “how are you feeling?”
“Better,” Joe said. “I’m not tired anymore.”
The blue-furred guy chuckled and gave Joe a sideways snug. “That’s the spirit!”
Joe looked at him. “And you are…?”
He smiled broadly. “I’m Arc, fluffmonster number one.” He pointed to the other. “And he’s Sirius, fluffmonster number two.”
“I thought I was number one and you, two,” Sirius said.
“It depends on who you ask,” Arc explained to Joe, giving him another playful snug. “We should have been here yesterday, but we were out of town.”
Sirius nodded. “We were supposed to be the bouncers,” he said. He lifted his arms into a heavy flex. “Mil could never get past us two.”
“We usually pick him up and place him a bit away,” Arc said.
Joe nodded, gently leaning into Arc’s embrace. “What time is it?”
Huxley looked at his watch. “Eleven a.m.,” he said. “We were supposed to have you stay for a lesson in serving, but I think we should put that off until tomorrow.” He pulled out a card from his pocket. “Before the Sandwich?”
Joe smiled, feeling another hand starting to rub his back and still another rub his belly. “It was Gail’s idea. We needed a catchy name, and then when we were eating, he and Mister Bear got to talking—“
“Ah, he’s a ‘friend’ of mine,” Joe said, the quotes slipping around like gearwork. “It’s complicated. Anyway, he and Gail were talking, and they were tossing ideas around, and the name came up.”
“I see.” He looked up to find Arc and Sirius extremely close to Joe, giving the moose a two-way snug. “Now, if you two could stop groping Joe…?”
“Yeah, guys,” Joe said, yawning. “I’m starting to get drowsy from all the belly rubs you’re giving me.”
The two quickly separated, and Huxley looked slightly alarmed. “Eh?” Joe said.
“You were snoring,” Arc said.
“Oh…” Joe’s face slowly turned red. “I didn’t cause any…interruptions?”
“Nothing that didn’t need earplugs,” Cindy cheerfully called from across the room.
Joe blushed harder. “I am so sorry, sir,” he babbled. “It won’t happen again.”
Huxley raised a pacifying hand. “It is alright. First time for everything, and all that.” The door opened to have Mike carrying a small carafe and a smaller cup, both he placed on Cindy’s desk. “But for now, I suggest you get home and get another nap done. You’re on shift tonight, so make sure you do your best.”
Joe nodded. “Yessir.” He rose, paused, and then turned to Arc and Sirius. “And to answer your question, guys, not only Sarge flirted with me, but his husband did also.” He grinned at their looks of surprise and went to Mike. “I need my bike back.”
The ‘roo looked at Joe critically. “You’re alright from the hangover?”
“Thanks to this lady,” he said, motioning to Cindy. “My head is much better.”
“I’m glad of that, Moose,” she said. She smiled. “Keep away from the whiskey bottle, please?”
“Yeah, I will,” he will, smiling back.
“So, what now?” Mike said as he got the bike out of his car.
“I’m going to take another nap, and I’ll be back later for another shift,” Joe said, taking the vehicle and getting on it. He shifted his bag across his shoulder. “Uhm…was I really snoring that bad?”
Mike nodded. “I didn’t know moose could snore that loudly.”
Joe grimaced. “Tell me about it. The curse of a bachelor, I guess.”
Joe shrugged. “Eh, it’s complicated.”
“Gotcha.” Mike extended a hand. “I’ll see you tonight, then.”
Joe took the hand and shook it. “Tonight.”