Professional Responsibilities

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Maurice rubbed Jessica until she lay panting. Obedient, she rose, and then trotted off to a corner of the office, where she wrapped her tail over her nose. Maurice's ten o'clock had just rung.

Mrs. Shnizel kvetched through her first half hour, gnawing verbal chicken bones and imagined fat, and then jawed her remaining minutes with discourse about the sad state of herbs. Surreptitiously, Maurice regarded fingernails, both his, and, from a distance, Jessica's. His pet trembled slightly in her sleep.

Maurice inked in Shnizel for the following week. Five minutes later, Henry Pugtail rang around. Anxiety disorder from head to feet, Henry regarded Maurice, then Jessica, and then Maurice again. Henry made marks in the soft wood of Maurice's doorframe.

Forty-five minutes were used to coax Henry over the threshold. The last five were dedicated to a brief question and answer about Henry's late mother, a former patient of Maurice's. Henry, too, made another appointment.

Thereafter, Henry bolted, almost colliding with Mark Staid. Mark beat his wife. Mark ogled women. Mark sought Maurice not so much to amend his ways as to improve upon them.

Repeatedly, Maurice had wondered whether or not ordinary talk therapy remained appropriate for Mark. Today, he would reassess his choice of intervention based on Mark's narrative.

Jessica hadn't eaten in a week. Her scales glistened as she licked one paw and then another. Maurice smiled at his sated chimera. He realized anew why he had chosen his profession.

BIO: KJ Hannah Greenberg and her hibernaculum of sometimes rabid imaginary hedgehogs roam the verbal hinterlands. Sylvan creatures of questionable means, they fashion stories from leaves, shiny bugs and items best left beneath rocks. Some of the homes for their writing have included: AlienSkin Magazine, AntipodeanSF, Bards and Sages, Big Pulp, Morpheus Tales, Strange, Weird and Wonderful, Theaker's Quarterly Fiction, and The New Absurdist. When not disciplining her imaginary friends, Hannah serves as an associate editor for Bewildering Stories. She has also worked for Tangent Online as a literary critic.