Glen soaked the dirty rag in water, then started rubbing his sweat soaked face, letting the water dribble through the short hairs between his eyes. It helped to wash the salt out, but didn't do much to cool him off. Nothing seemed to cool him off in this weather. He reached down to his water jug and went to fill it.
"Damn it, Glen! What the hell are you doing?"
Glen was too tired to be startled. He turned slowly. "Barry, it's too hot to argue. Let me get cooled off..."
The lizard morphs eyes narrowed. "I'm not paying you to sit around and drink my water. I've got customers set to go and you're not even in norm form, much less harnessed!" His yellow eyes glinted in the hazy light. Barry was a stickler for the schedule.
Glen resisted the urge to slug the lizard. He hadn't even had time to have a drink since he stripped off the harness after the last run, his fourth of the day. It didn't bother Barry, though. In this heat, after all, the cold blooded carriage horse driver was comfortable while Glen had a rather heavy fur coat to deal with. "I just took a load up Beacon Hill and back! If you want to book these runs so close together, then you should get another horse!"
The lizard got right in his equine employees face, eyes glinting angrily. "I can do it in a minute! There are fifty college students vying for this job."
Glen rolled his eyes. The simple fact was his boss wasn't all that far off. Despite the fact that the mercury was bursting the thermometers and the air was so thick with humidity you could drink it, anyone with a vaguely equine norm form was applying for these jobs in droves. They paid well for what was usually not much work. The carriage drivers saved a fortune, too, not having to buy a horse and pay for its care. Glen gulped down half the lukewarm water in his bottle and set it aside. "Fine, lets go."
He walked over to the carriage, stripped off his shorts, and shifted to his very well muscled Percheron norm. For Glen, pulling the cart was a breeze and he truthfully loved to do it. Boston was one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and with the ban on all but necessary delivery trucks in the downtown still in effect after over 50 years, it was a delight to walk through. But on days like this...
Barry slipped the harness on easily with a well practiced motion. The driver had owned the carriage since long before the Change, and was used to putting this on in a hurry even with a protesting animal. Glen might have given him a hard time if his brain didn't feel like it was wrapped in wet, hot cotton. He blinked his eyes a few times and shook his head to help wake him slightly.
He felt the cart wobble behind him as his the lizard morph climbed in, then flipped the reigns slightly. It was somewhat anachronistic, Glen knew the route in his sleep at this point, but it was part of the old time charm of the carriage ride to let the driver look the part. Despite the heat, Barry was dressed in a heavy suit modeled on the old colonial clothing. He even carried a small whip as a prop. Glen glanced back to see the passengers, a couple of avian morphs each of species he didn't recognize, though one looked a lot like a tern. Between them, they were holding two cameras, a map and a Japanese-English translating computer. They barely made the carriage springs squeak as they climbed in. Much easier than the elephant morph last week, mused Glen. At least then, it had been cooler.
The reigns were flipped, and the Percheron started up instantly. He knew the route: Up past the old State House, down to the Common then up Beacon Hill to the new State house, finishing with a run by the waterfront and back to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. A long trip, longer than most of the carriages did in fact, but that was why Barry paid so well. Most equine morphs balked at pulling a carriage anyway, finding it demeaning, much less for a couple of miles.
Glen was reminded of how hot it was the moment that he started up the first low hill. The bulk of the carriage and its passengers should have been nothing, it usually was, but it felt heavy and got heavier with each step. He tried to ignore it, falling into a rhythmic pace as he passed the tiny brick circle that marked the Boston Massacre site. The street started to slope down a little, and Glen changed his pace to keep the small cart from pushing him into slipping. The heat rose off the pavement in waves, the buildings blocking any breeze from the sea or land. The sweat began to cover his hide, but the air was too damp for it to evaporate. It just stuck to him like a sticky blanket, making him feel all the hotter.
He began to feel dizzy.
He tried to ignore it. He could finish this tour and then just beg off before he got sick. He knew he could do it!
His head was swimming.
It wasn't that far!
He missed a step and clipped a hoof on a cobblestone.
He looked up the length of Beacon Hill, smelling a whiff of water from the nearby duck pond that sent his lips quivering. I've pulled heavier loads up bigger hills than this! he shouted to himself.
He missed another step, then stopped, exhausted. He couldn't even think about taking another step. His breath came in and out quick and ragged. He had a hard enough time staying on all fours!
Barry reacted instantly. "Go! Go!" he yelled, waving the whip about. He stood in his seat and whipped it forward, catching Glen lightly on the rump. "Move it!"
Glen looked disbelieving at the raging carriage driver, his passengers perched behind him in shock. He whipped me! he thought slowly, The bastard whipped me!
With a tired sigh, Glen willed back his morphic form. He glared at Barry. "That's it. I quit."
Barry's eyes got steely. "You can't quit, you'll never work in this town again!"
Glen fumbled with the harness, getting it off after a couple of false attempts, then turned, smiled weakly, then grabbed Barry by the collar and hoisted him up. "Get yourself another horse. Life is too damn short and it's too damn hot to put up with this crap." The lizard morph struggled, but even as exhausted as he was, Glen was still built like a skyscraper. "I'm going to go get a long drink of water now. You're going to refund these nice folks money," he said jutting his chin at the two tourists, "Then you're going to drag this cart back yourself." He looked at the two shocked tourists. "Sorry you had to see this."
The two Japanese tourists glanced nervously at each other, then back at him. "Hot?" asked one in a hesitant female toned voice.
Glen nodded as he set Barry on the ground. The shaken driver leaned heavily against the side of the carriage. "Very."
The woman's eyes glinted a little. "Want water?" she asked.
Cocking his head curiously, Glen nodded. "Please. I'd really appreciate it. I'd appreciate a shower right about now, too," he added with a slight mumble.
The woman's eyes lit up, literally, and suddenly Barry was being soaked from a stream of water falling out of nowhere. The lizard jumped as his suit was soaked through to the scales, but the water followed him as he raced for cover under a tree. It only stopped when the woman turned to Glen with bright eyes. "You?"
Glen laughed and held his arms out as the stream of cold water fell from nowhere and washed over his body.
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