Grupp ran fast. We were out of town in a flash and coming up on an abandoned farm. He stopped at the dirt track that ran up to the house and dropped me on my feet.
The roof of the house was collapsed and the fields were overgrown. I walked up the weedy drive to the barn. Grupp went ahead of me and pushed in the barn doors. They landed inside the barn with a mighty bang and kicked up a puff of dust as large as the barn.
“Good place,” Grupp said.
“It does have a roof,” I said, trying to be optimistic.
“Nice beds,” Grupp said, walking into a stall.
“Ah, um,” was my only reply because I had looked at his face.
I fainted. I had planned to say, “Holy shit!”, but the words never passed my lips. I fainted because his face was covered in blood and his beard dripped blood. One of the long fangs on his bottom jaw had a strip of hide hanging from it.
I woke up because Grupp’s large index finger kept poking my cheek. With each poke he repeated, “Nice Lady?”
I did not open my eyes. “What on earth is all over your face?”
“Good heaven’s! What did you eat?” He did say he didn’t eat humans.
“We need water.”
“Uh?” Grup said.
“Can you find a pond?”
“Find pond!” Grupp shouted and I heard him charge out of the barn.
I opened my eyes and stood up. When I went to brush the dirt from my dress, I almost fainted again. Grupp had slathered his beard across me and I felt gobbets of flesh in a trail starting on my back, over my shoulder and across my breasts. I put my gloved hands behind my back.
“I will not vomit. I will not…”
I heard Grupp’s thundering footsteps approaching the barn, and focused my eyes on the barn floor.
He took my hand between his thumb and forefinger and led me down a path, through some trees, and to creek. The path went along the creek and ended at a pond. There was a jutting rock with a tree and a rope with a knot in the end hung from the tree. I smiled. It was a swimming hole!
Now it was a Grupp bath tub. I walked to the end of the rock, removed my gloves, and pulled out two bars of soap from my sack and held one in each hand.
“Grupp no bath.”
“I thought not. I will take… Oooh!” I said, looking into the pond. “Did you see it!”
Grupp ran to the edge of the rock and looked into the water. “What?”
“It was a giant orange fish! It was beautiful! Are you sure you can’t see it?”
He teetered on the edge. I backed up, ran, and plowed into him. We toppled over the edge and splashed into the water.
I swam to the surface and looked for Grupp. He stood in the water up to his chin.
“But you’re not sinking.”
I swam to him and and climbed up onto his shoulders.
I vigorously rubbed the soap across his large head. His hair was as coarse as a brillo pad.
“No, Nice Lady bath. Grupp holds her,” I said. I did quickly suds myself up, dress and all. Lord knows I needed it.
Grupp put his forefinger to his lips and made some growling noises. It seemed that he was thinking.
“Grupp hold Nice Lady. Soap on Grupp strange.”
“I imagine so!”
I worked the soap into his hair, or maybe I should say head-mat. I finally hit skull.
“Nice Lady’s fingers!” Grupp said in surprise.
“Yes dear. Now you do it to your head.”
He put his hand on his head-mat as I teetered on his shoulders.
“Why? Not bath.”
“Not bath. The soap is in there now, may as well scrub it out.”
He wrapped one paw around my leg to steady me and vigorously worked the fat fingers from his other hand into his head-mat. It was not pretty.
I tapped his hand holding me and he released me. I dove into the water. I had to get away from the sight of that mat coming loose and the gray color of the soap suds.
When I surfaced, he had both hands on his head and said, “Soap not out!”
“Take a deep breath and hold your nose.” I pantomimed the actions for him and he followed. “Under water.”
He disappeared with a splash and the water became turbulent. Soap suds bubbled forth and brought with them chunks of hair. Ew! I swam farther away.
Grupp resurfaced and a tidal wave rocked me. I managed to shoo away his icky mats.
“Yes.” His hair was long and hung limply to his shoulders. I could see every bump and crenelation on his skull. Poor Grupp.
I still held the soap and swam and rubbed his beard with the bars.
He put me on the shore, scrubbed his beard as he had his head and rinsed in the pond. Well, he was a quick learner! Now, how to get him to scrub the rest of his body?
His beard wasn’t any longer, or shorter, but it did not house half the forest anymore. I looked at his face. Ugh, how could he still have that… thing… hanging from his fang?
“Grupp dear, you have a, uh… hanging from um…” I mimicked the location and he reached up to his fang.
“Oh, food.” He picked it out and ate it.
I turned away to avoid vomiting and saw that the pond had an oily film coating it.
“Grupp be dry.”
I heard Grupp move vigorously and was splattered with water and wet hair. Ick. I picked the strands off and dropped them into the pond. I saw a fish swim to the surface and look at me. It turned belly up. As I surveyed the pond, I saw fish rising all across it.
“Oh dear!” Grupp said in my voice.
When I laughed, he said, “Good heavens!” just as I do.
He chuckled and I guffawed. “That’s an unexpected talent,” I said when I had caught my breath.
“Yes. I had no idea you’d be so toxic,” I said looking at the pond.
“Grupp, you are a great warrior,” I said, pointing to the pond. “Look at all the fish you killed!”
“Food!” he shouted and splashed into the water.