By The Prophet
Michael Blake was sitting in front of the large television, half-listening to the narration of a science documentary, as Donna Simkin entered the room behind him. She watched him for a long moment, thinking how handsome he looked in the freshly-pressed tuxedo, and how sweet sitting carefully on the edge of the seat to keep from rumpling the garment. Donna knew that Michael was as nervous about this evening as she was, but for her sake he was doing his best to hide it. Nevertheless, when he cast an idle glance towards the stair and saw her standing in the doorway, he started.
"How long have you been there?" He asked.
"Not long," Donna replied. "You ready?" Michael gave her a mock frown, having been waiting half-an-hour for her to finish dressing. The look on his face as he took in her outfit made the effort worthwhile.
"You look great," he told her, and she smiled. Michael turned and hit the standby on the remote, zapping the image of a sabre-toothed cat into static and darkness.
"What you watching?" Donna asked, curiously.
"Oh, nothing. Just some crank." They went out into the driveway, and Michael unlocked the car. Donna stood, looking up at the sky. The night was fresh, but not cold, and even in LA the air was clear enough of cloud, smoke and light for a beautiful starscape to stretch above them.
"Let's walk," Donna said. "We've plenty of time, and its a beautiful night." Michael frowned, concerned.
"Better not," he said. "The streets aren't safe at night, and I wouldn't want anything to happen to you."
"Oh nonsense," Donna scoffed, slipping her arms around his waist. "You'll look after me, and it's only a couple of blocks. Please." She turned big, pleading eyes on his, and Michael laughed.
"Stop that," he chided. "You'll strain something." She took his arm with a delighted grin, knowing that the argument was won. Michael locked the car again, and they set off. They made an odd couple walking together. Some men found Donna's height intimidating, but Michael did not mind at all. It was one of the things she loved about him.
They had not walked far when Michael started talking about the documentary.
"They'll put any old trash on the TV these days. This one was saying that dinosaurs might not be extinct."
"That was a smilodon, not a dinosaur," Donna pointed out.
"Well, whatever. The guy was suggesting that things don't just go extinct; that if there wasn't a clear reason, then they were probably still around. Total claptrap of course; insisting on evidence that something isn't there instead of producing proof that it is."
"Oh, absolutely," Donna agreed, diplomatically. She had learned that it was pointless to argue such things with Michael. He was a very sweet and reasonable man in most ways, but he nonetheless had certain unshakeable opinions on scientific method. He said the stubborness came from his father, which did not make Donna any less nervous about this evening.
"I mean; what does he expect?" Michael continued, a little heatedly. "Herds of mammoths in the LA sewers?"
"The alligators would eat them," Donna agreed, straight-faced. Michael chuckled, his mood lightening.
"You're awful," he told her, stretching to kiss her cheek.
"Spare some change, man?" Michael turned to look at the big, homeless guy who had accosted them. "Jus' for a cup a coffee?" Donna looked the guy over, feeling an intense kinship. Tonight she was wearing a stunning, designer dress, carefully tailored to her figure, that really brought out the highlights in her eyes, but not so long ago, she had been the ragged figure asking strangers for handouts to keep her going for another night.
Also not long ago, the guy would have got nothing from Michael, whose father had also imparted to him an abiding notion that the homeless were all where they deserved to be. Meeting Donna had changed that, and Michael handed him a ten dollar bill.
"Thanks, man," the mammoth said, his voice a little muffled, from holding the note in his trunk. "You're OK." Michael nodded, politely, and he and Donna walked on.
"I mean, what does he think?" Michael asked, rhetorically. "That no one would notice?"
"Well; this is LA, remember," Donna teased.
"Do you take anythign I say seriously?" Michael asked, lightly.
"Only the stuff that matters," she replied, snuggling againt his arm.
"What am I going to do with you?"
"Marry me and live happily ever after. Assuming I survive dinner with your parents," she added, nervously.
"Oh, don't worry. They'll fall in love with you, just like I..."
"Por favor senor." Michael turned again, this time to be faced by the father of a homeless family; a mother and three children stood behind him.. Speaking Spanish, they had probably just come up from Mexico; Donna had heard that Mexico City was worse even than LA for the homeless. Michael looked at the children, sadly, quite failing to note the hard, earth-breaking claws of the father glyptodont as he pressed a twenty into his palm.
"Gracias, senor. Muchos gracias."
"There's a shelter," Michael said. "Three blocks that way." He motioned with his hand, and gestured 'three'. The father seemed to understand. "It's a good place. They'll put you up for the night." The father nodded his thanks again, and his offspring echoed the sentiment.
"Not wishing to turn into my father," Michael said, watching the armadillo-like quintet move slowly away towards the shelter. "But three children seems a lot for a poor family." Donna rubbed his arm, fondly, knowing that he was not being judgemental; just worrying for the children.
"I think they were triplets," she said, then to take his mind off it: "You really think your parents will like me? I worry that your Dad will think I'm gold-digging."
"Trust me. It'll be fine. They don't bite," he promised. Donna smiled, somewhat reassured.
They got to the restaurant late, which was not a promising start. Michael's parents watched Donna like a hawk as she pushed aside her chair and settled on her haunches by the table, looking as though they expected her to start lapping the soup from the bowl, or eating the pasta with her fingers. She shrank into herself under their scrutiny, but if either of them really noticed that their son's fiancee was a half-tonne sabre-toothed cat, then they must have been too polite to say anything.