“Hi there! How’ve you been? It’s Lynn Goodwill – no – no, wait – please don’t hang up!”
Sometimes Fran wondered if Lynn could read her mind. Or if maybe she’d installed a secret camera in Fran’s veterinary surgical clinic which allowed her to see the way Fran’s finger was one inch and less than a second away from hitting the END CALL button.
“How did you get this number?” Fran asked instead. This was her private phone number. There was a receptionist at the front desk to take calls made on behalf of patients to the clinic…which, all things considered, was probably why Lynn never used it.
Lynn ignored the question. “I need you to look at Suzie’s big toe, Dr. Coppa. When’s your last appointment today? Can I bring her in after then?”
Fran tried not to groan. This was going to be a headache. She just knew it.
Three months ago, it’d been a feathered snake that needed delousing. (“He’s a coatl,” Lynn had said. “Isn’t that from Dungeons & Dragons?” Fran had asked. “What’s ‘Dungeons & Dragons’? You know dragons aren’t actually real, right?” Lynn had exclaimed. “Of course they’re not,” Fran had corrected herself immediately. “Oh good. I was worried about you there for a sec!”)
Three weeks ago, it’d been a dwarf plesiosaur with a really bad case of sunburn. (“She’s originally from Scotland. Higher latitude than Southern California, you know? She’s not used to how strong the sun is here,” Lynn had said. “Of course she’s not,” Fran had replied. “Her name is Nessie,” Lynn had said. “Of course it is,” Fran had replied.)
Fran glanced at her appointments book and sighed. That inevitable feeling of resignation was already setting in. “Okay, I’ll be free after 6 PM.” Fran paused, took a deep breath, and braced herself for the worst. “But please explain to me first – what kind of animal is Suzie?”
Suzie, as it turned out, was a bigfoot. A female juvenile of the species and, according to the self-described “professional cryptozoologist” Lynn Goodwill, DPhil (Oxon), approximately four years old.
“I had to reset the bone,” Fran explained to Lynn. “It’d healed all twisted. It’s a wonder she could walk on it at all.”
Lynn had noticed the problem initially while photographing little Suzie Bigfoot’s bigfooted tracks. Fran didn’t know how Lynn had managed to capture her and bring her in for treatment, and she didn’t ask. Really, she didn’t want to know; she was afraid the whole truth and nothing but the truth would make her head explode.
And really, to be perfectly honest, everything about Lynn made Fran’s head want to explode…and not in a good way. No, it wasn’t about how pretty and charismatic Lynn was. It wasn’t about that at all. It was about, you know, the other stuff. The animals.
“She’ll be coming out of the anesthesia in the next hour or so, if you’d like to be with her when she wakes up,” Fran continued.
“I’d like that, thank you. But…” Lynn hesitated. “…don’t you have somewhere you need to be?”
“Nah, I can catch up on invoices. Don’t worry about it.”
Fran tried not to pay too much attention to how Lynn sat down beside Suzie and held her hand and stroked the top of her head so tenderly. She seemed like such a caring person, and she was so beautiful! And she cared about animals…even if those animals were cryptids that made Lynn’s head want to explode. It was hard for a vet like Fran not to be moved by the scene.
Suzie’s injury required weeks of close post-surgical monitoring and several months more of concerted rehab. It was fortunate, all things considered, that Suzie was so young – the young could be remarkably resilient!
She was also fortunate to have Lynn in her proverbial corner.
Over the next three months, Fran never ceased to be amazed by Lynn’s patience and dedication when it came to caring for the young, temperamental, and often recalcitrant female bigfoot. Suzie might pout or show her teeth or flail her arms or shriek, but Lynn was completely unflappable. She always made certain Suzie was on time for her follow up appointments (invariably in the late evening after the regular patients were all safely out of the way and out of sight), and she saw to it that she kept to the rehab exercise regimen.
She’d make a good mom, Fran thought admirably. But Lynn didn’t have any children or a spouse – it seemed she’d decided to prioritize her cryptozoology career over finding love and/or starting a family – so Fran kept these thoughts to herself.
Suzie’s recovery, meanwhile, thanks in no small part to Lynn, proceeded without major complication, and after three months, Fran took one last x-ray of Suzie’s big toe and declared her fit to be released back into the wild.
“That’s fantastic!” Lynn enthused. Then, to Suzie: “Ready to head back north to your family?”
“‘North’?” Fran queried.
“Oregon. Largest bigfoot population in the lower 48. It’ll be nice to get back to the field.”
“Oh? So you’ll be staying for a while?”
Fran did her best to pretend she wasn’t disappointed. She’d been hoping for some quality time with Lynn…sans any animals, cryptid or otherwise. Now that clearly wasn’t going to happen. Work, in their respective, if notionally adjacent fields, would keep them apart.
“Don’t hang up.”
Fran would know that voice down her phone anywhere.
“Hi Fran! It’s Lynn Goodwill.”
“Yeah, I know,” Fran said as she reached awkwardly for her appointments book while balancing the phone between her shoulder and ear. “I’m completely booked up until 6 PM. After that should be fine. What kind of animal do you want to bring in this time?”
“Huh? What do you – oh, I wasn’t for calling for that.” There was a strange pause, and for a moment Fran wondered if the line had gone dead. “I just – I was just wondering if maybe you’d be interested in joining me on a fieldwork expedition to Florida? I want to take a survey of the ivory-billed woodpecker population, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in helping me assess the population’s overall health. And, you know. Florida. We could spend a week at the beach, or we could go to Disney World. Only if you’re interested,” Lynn hastened to add.
Fran blinked stupidly at the wall for a moment, dumbfounded. But she recovered quickly. “Lynn, aren’t ivory-billed woodpeckers extinct – no, never mind – don’t answer that question. Answer this one instead: Lynn, are you asking me out?”
“Oh my God, no – no, that’s not – not if you don’t want us to be – we can just—”
“It’s a date,” Fran interrupted, grinning. This was going to be the beginning of something very special. She just knew it.