Chapter 3: Crooked

The school bell chimes into life. Each classmate grabs their bag before darting haphazardly to the door, including Teagan, glancing at the glowering Ms Hayflower as she rushes past the desk. The pupils push, shove and barge carelessly to get out. A sudden almighty squeal echoes through the corridors. She clutches her crooked tail in pain after the door rebounds, Urso, standing behind her smirks, insincerely responding with:

“Oh, I’m so so sorry… It was a total accident, I was pushed.”

Unconvinced, her blood begins to boil, her little hands clench. She tries taking deep breaths to calm down, but her anger bubbles over and she launches her fist straight into Urso’s left cheekbone. Urso clutches his face in pain, the few other classmates left behind call for Ms Hayflower, who screams at Teagan, demanding she heads to the headmaster’s office immediately. Tail still clasped in her hands and her head hung low, she legs her way through the corridors as fast as she possibly can, which is difficult when the corridor resembles a tin of sardines. She makes it to the main doors and across the fields and makes her slow walk home. It’s dark, it’s starting to spit, a sea of umbrellas rise, they ebb and flow with every step. Teagan carries on swimming against the crowd, raindrops hitching a free ride in her hair and clothes. The white streetlights flicker into life, glittering off the water, lighting her path home. At the edge, she passes through the gate in the chain link fence, her soft feet meeting the grass; her lungs and senses, the caressing fragrance of petrichor. This moment of bliss was not to last. A tall, ghost-white buck rat in a deep red suit approaches, his bright fire-red hair freshly cut and brushed back. 43 years old and in good shape.

“Uh… Hi Daddy,” said Teagan.

“I’ve had a call from your teacher today, talking back, spreading lies, beating up your classmates and refusing to see your headmaster…” her father says.

“Hey, she’s the one spreading lies!” Teagan yells in disgust, “Urso slammed the door on my tail! It’s crooked! What if it deglov-”

“Shut up Teagan, just… Go home,” he says, rubbing his eyes and shaking his head, “I just can’t deal with your crap tonight,” and with an exhausted sigh, he walks away.

Teagan stomps off, tugging her hair in anger, walking past her two-tier static to an airstream caravan just beyond it. After a firm knock on the door, she is met by a black mole, a perfect white coat around his portly body.

“Hello Miss McCarthy, what can I do for you this evening?” greets Dr Hood with a pleasant smile.

“Urso trapped my tail in the door again…” said Teagan, gently rubbing the sore kink in her tail. “It’s going purple…” sorrowfully, she gazes down at the ground, her mind drifts off, going over what happened earlier that day. Dr Hood watches her, after a few seconds of silence, he reaches out his hand.

“Come on in then,” he says, a hint of sadness in his smile.

Inside, the caravan is immaculate and clean, there are small drawers and cupboards of varying sizes running the entire length, and a silver padded examination table at both ends, each with their own curtain, operating lamp and a little metal table. It has everything a doctor could need for tending to illnesses and injuries. Teagan takes a seat on one of the tables while Dr Hood puts on his glasses and a pair of thin white gloves, he then begins the examination. Teagan just sits there, twiddling her thumbs, staring down at her feet in silence.

“So… Uh… Have you seen Alroy since you got home?” he asks.

“Yeah… Daddy wasn’t too happy, ” she mumbles.

“More trouble at school?” he says.

“Mmm Hmm…” Teagan replies with a gentle nod, not even turning to look at the doctor.

“Don’t you tell your teachers?” he says, dabbing the broken skin on her tail with an antiseptic cotton bud.

“They won’t listen, I’m the bad one,” She says, flinching with each dab.

“You’re not, you’re really not,” he says, applying a tight bandage to the wound, “you’ll find someone who sees you for you. There, you’re all done.”

“Thanks,” She says, giving Dr Hood a hug. He hugs back and pats her softly on the head.

“You look tired, go get your tea and have a good sleep,” he says, smiling once again. He opens the door and they wish each other a good night.

Teagan walks home and cooks up a large pan of vegetable soup, some for now, some for freezing to have another day. Home safe, and a full tummy, she heads up to her room asking for the day to end. It doesn’t take long for her to drift off to sleep, which is good because she won’t be getting much sleep tonight.