Writing

Overclassification (part 2)

Posted in fiction, serials, overclassification on 04 Sep 2017

233 paragraphs • 5722 words

Full story


The walk — or perhaps stumble — back to Dani’s apartment had been a rushed and urgent affair. After the coffeehouse and the spicy-sour-sweet tea, neither had wanted to go back out into the cold.

Still, they’d made it, and while both were freezing by the time the otter had latched the door behind her, neither were frozen.

Anne stood just inside the door, looking shy. Dani shrugged out of her peacoat and helped the ringtail out of her own to hang them both together by the door.

After a moment’s hesitation, Anne also shrugged her backpack off and propped it up against the wall right next to the door. Beneath her coat and pack, she was wearing a hoodie over a T-shirt that had obviously seen better days. The ringtail was smaller than Dani’s initial estimate; a few inches shorter than herself and slight almost to the point of waifish.

“So…”

Dani laughed, “Sorry, didn’t mean to space out like that. Pardon the mess.”

Anne tilted her head to the side and grinned, “Your place is kind of the opposite of a mess.”

“I sometimes get extra organized,” the otter demurred. “Make yourself comfortable, though.”

Anne nodded.

The silence grew weird.

“I, uh,” Dani straightened her shirt. “I don’t have anyone over all that much. Can I get you anything?”

Anne moved cautiously to sit on the couch, perched at the edge of the seat. “If you have any…I mean, I don’t want to trouble–” She shook her head and gave Dani a bashful smile. “Do you have any food I could have? I can work to pay you back.”

The otter straightened up and grinned, “Oh! Yes, sorry, and don’t worry about paying me back.”

Dani cooked in silence. It was well past dinnertime by now, so she didn’t feel too bad doing so. She usually cooked three portions anyway, and just wound up making one of her regular meals.

There was no getting around the strained tension in the apartment. Dani’s place was small and neat, and obviously built for one and organized tightly to that one’s specifications. She couldn’t afford much, loans being what they were, and yet she felt obnoxiously wealthy, with a homeless girl sitting on her couch.

She also felt obnoxiously awkward. It had been easy enough for her to help Anne out from the fountain to The Book and the Bean, and from there to her place, but now it was obvious that she really didn’t have anyone over all that much. Or ever.

She suspected that neither her nor Anne were all that good at engaging with others, and each had led to its own outcome. Dani had buried herself in school and work as an attempt to cope with a disordered mind that wanted everything else to be in order, one that didn’t really want others around. She was pretty sure that Anne wasn’t all that keen on being around folks either, though she couldn’t guess why.

Dani brought two plates piled high with pasta over to the couch where Anne had parked herself. “It’s not much, but it’ll be filling. Let me know if you need more, too. There’s a whole other serving still on the stove.”

“Thank you,” the ringtail said, whiskers and tail both bristled out at the opportunity for food. She seemed to be watching Dani for cues, but when the otter took a bite, she dug in. No prayers for either.

It was easy to tell that Anne was doing her best to keep from just wolfing the food down. She looked like she was focusing on forking up reasonable amounts of pasta and chewing thoroughly, but her hunger showed in her movements.

As predicted, she cleaned her plate.

“Thanks again,” she said, paws clutching at plate and fork. “For everything, I mean. I was colder than I thought out there. Fucking freezing.”

Dani set her plate down on her lap and nodded, “I thought you were a backpack at first, all bundled up like that.”

Anne laughed. “Kinda, yeah. Was hoping I could just conserve all my warmth under my jacket.”

“I think you’d probably need more than a jacket out in that level of cold, and it wasn’t even dark yet.”

“Fuck. Yeah.” The ringtail looked down at her plate for a moment, then shrugged. “Dunno what I would’ve done.”

“And Open Door was full?”

“I guess. Kinda.”

“‘Kinda’?”

Anne frowned at her plate.

“It was full, then,” Dani said quietly, trying to settle the matter before any of the ringtail’s obviously complicated emotions needed to be put in words. “Is there, er–another place with beds?”

“I dunno,” Anne mumbled. “I only just got here last week. Had been staying at Open Door.”

“Where’d you come from?”

“Out east a bit. Making my way out to Oregon, nice and slow. Was born here in Idaho, figured I’d get a good look at the state before fucking off.”

Dani laughed. “Fair enough. Never been out of state myself.”

Anne nodded, “I seen a few, but mostly saw a lot of brown. I wanna go west, see all that green they have there.”

“You, ah–” Dani hesitated, trying to think of the best way to ask. “Bussing? Hitching rides?”

“Mostly hitching. My…well, we came in with a guy who drives between towns once a week.”

Anne was loosening up with the food and warmth. Her speech coming more fluidly, and language less stiff and formal. There were things still being held back, but the otter figured it wasn’t really for her to know.

“So you landed here.” Dani stood and took Anne’s plate as the ringtail held it out to her. “Pretty cold time for hitching out west.”

“Yeah, it’s crazy out. Been through cold snaps before, but not stuck out like that.”

Dani stacked the plates in the sink, right where they belonged, and thought of Anne. Here was this sudden ringtail-shaped kink in her life. She felt confused and anxious and tense. She’d have work tomorrow, and this wasn’t how she’d picture’d her Sunday would go.

“Listen, I–”

Anne jolted upright. “It’s late, sorry. I can head out, I think there’s another shelter in town.”

Dani blinked away a moment of confusion and shook her head, whiskers bristling out in a grin. “I was going to suggest you stay here for the night.” She gestured to the couch and beanbag. “Plenty of space, and I don’t think either of us want to head out again.”

“Thank you,” Anne mumbled, ears pinned back. “That wasn’t what I was expecting, but thanks.”

The quiet that followed was broken by a giggle from Anne. “You know, you remind me of one of my mom’s friends.”

Wrong-footed, Dani tilted her head. “What?”

Anne stood from her spot on the couch and nodded. “She was a fox, not an otter, but she was kinda like you. Neat, you know?”

Dani laughed and nodded.

“Do you have any blankets for me? I’ll tell you while you look.”

Dani nodded and padded to the hallway by the bathroom, opening the cabinet there to hunt around. Sometimes, she’d fall asleep on the beanbag rather than her bed. She’d always wake up with a weird kink in her tail or with memories of strange dreams, so she’d been trying to avoid it, recently. Still, she had some blankets of various thickness that had cycled through there.

Anne continued her story as she followed along, trying to help where she could. “She was neat, like I said. She and her husband. Her husband would make things a little messy, but she’d put them in order. It was weird. Their place wasn’t super clean, they had a lot of stuff, it was just all organized”

Dani poked through the blankets, before giving up and just grabbing them all. It was cold, after all, might as well make sure her guest was comfortable. She stuffed the blankets into Anne’s outstretched arms before reaching back for the pillows on the shelf below.

“Anyway, they were super nice. But the guy, her husband, he got sick. Cancer or something. He passed away. Killed us all, you know? We all loved the guy. Mostly, though, it killed us to watch her. Her tail got all droopy and her fur would get matted and dirty, like she couldn’t be bothered to organize again.”

Dani wasn’t sure where the story was going. It didn’t sound like a flattering comparison to herself. Still, the ringtail seemed to be having a good time of it. She wasn’t so bristled out anymore, was loosening up. “Did she wind up getting organized again?” Dani asked.

“Oh, definitely! You know, you get sad and stuff, and then things slowly get…I dunno, not easier. They get more comfortable. You can live with them better, you know?”

“Yeah, I get that.”

“Anyway, they were super close, this couple. Two foxes who just couldn’t live without each other. We thought this gal was gonna kick it soon after her husband. You know how that goes?”

Dani nodded, setting the pillows down on the couch.

“Someone told me once that girls outlive their guys, though. If the guy dies, the girl will keep going, but if the girl dies, the guy’s not long after. So maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised she kept on going.”

There was a bit of a pause as Anne decided on the beanbag over the couch. It looked soft, she said, so she started piling blankets up on it.

“Anyway, poor fox. She gets her life back on track, gets her place all neat again, and starts lookin’ for another guy, you know? You can remember your loved ones, but you gotta have company, and all.

“Anyway, weirdest thing, though. There’s lots of foxes in the area and such, so she’s not hurtin’ as to selection, but she keeps turnin’ down loads of them. Says she’ll reject any who don’t look like her old husband. Isn’t that weird?”

Dani laughed and nodded. “Uh huh. Sixty five.”

Anne stopped fussing with the blankets and stared at Dani. “What? Sixty five?”

Dani nodded again and, with the cabinet door shut, moved to help Anne set up her bed. “Yeah. Number sixty five. The suitors. A woman proves her loyalty by only dating those who look like her dead husband.”

The ringtail plopped down on the edge of the beanbag. Dani sat on the other side. “What kinda craziness is that?”

“You can organize stories. Take folktales and boil them down to their essences. The core to that story is number sixty five on the list of, er…folktale essences. A story which proves a wife’s faithfulness by how she remembers her husband in every new guy she dates.” Dani realized she’d been rambling and gave an apologetic grin, “Sorry, I studied this in school.”

“Putting numbers to stories?” Anne laughed.

The otter grinned, “Kind of. We would look at a culture’s stories and see how the culture treated them. It would help us trace things back through history. That scale, the numbers, isn’t really used anymore, but we all memorized it.”

“You majored in story numberology?”

Dani laughed. “Well, folkloristics. Part of–”

“Story numberology.” Anne gave a firm nod, then winked to Dani, and they both laughed.

“Do you tell lots of stories, Anne?”

The ringtail shook her head. “My name isn’t Anne. It’s…hm.” She made a show of thinking up another, then grinned, “Alex. You can call me Alex.”

Dani tilted her head and frowned, “Well, okay. Going to take me a bit to unlearn ‘Anne’, then.”

Alex grinned, “It’ll do you good. And yeah, we tell stories a lot on the road. True ones. Made up ones. Ones that are a bit of both. It’s good to tell stories to friends, and even better to tell them to strangers.”

“How do you figure?”

“You didn’t laugh until I told that one, did you?”

Dani thought for a moment, then shrugged. “You got me there.”

Anne– Alex grinned and nodded, “See? It works. Your turn, though.”

“My turn?”

“Yeah, tell me a story.”

Dani froze. She knew stories. She knew tons of them. Each was stacked on a shelf, each had strings running from it to a list of motifs, each thoroughly cataloged.

And all of them suddenly inaccessible.

“I, uh–”

Alex shook her head and laughed. “It’s tough, don’t worry. I’m good at this. Gotta get through the days somehow. It’s only…what, eight? Just tell me something about you.”

Dani uncrossed her legs to get comfortable on the beanbag, leaning back against the couch where it was nearest, hips canted over to keep from resting solely on her tail. “About me? Hmm.”

Alex took her cue from the otter and stretched out on the beanbag. Dani felt strange emotions tugging at her. Here was someone she’d — literally — brought in from the cold, and now it felt like they were in the middle of a middle school sleepover.

“Doesn’t have to be you, I guess.” Alex stretched out, then sat up and took her hoodie off, as though that were a serious barrier between her and comfort. Her shirt said ‘Ladies is gender neutral’. “Mine wasn’t about me. Just it’s usually easier to talk about yourself.”

Dani nodded and smoothed her whiskers back thoughtfully, then shrugged. “I got caught stealing, once,” she began, and told the story of Miss Weaver and the card catalog.

Alex looked on thoughtfully, then nodded. “Clearly a three twenty eight.”

Dani snorted. “The treasures of a giant?”

“Well, okay, I made that up. It’s not wrong, is it?” Alex laughed. “You stole things from Miss Weaver.”

“Usually it’s something more important. Something you go out of your way to steal. Treasure and such.”

They both grinned. Alex shrugged, and began a simple grooming of herself, brushing through tan and white fur. It was soft-looking, almost downy, but certainly no protection against the cold. Not that Dani’s was any better. “There you were,” she said. “Concocting your secret plan to steal organization itself from the very lair of the beast, a treasure to keep for yourself.”

Dani laughed and urged Alex on with a gesture.

“You saw the giant before you, the symbol of the system, of all things more powerful than wee little Dani. You snuck…uh, not up the beanstalk. You snuck around the counter, and there you saw it. The golden pack of catalog cards. ‘From these,’ you thought. ‘I can rule over all of my toys. Each will have a number.’”

“I did, too.” Dani thumped her tail against the ground. “With an iron fist. I was a dictator.”

It was Alex’s turn to laugh. “Alright. And so then you did it. You reached for your goal, and you took it in your hand. You were caught! Poor Dani, at the whim of a giant! Little did the giant know, you’d learn to master all of her organizational powers and unseat her!”

Dani made as if to buff her claws, “And I did. Though Miss Weaver is still on the Library board here. I see her whenever we do archival work for them.”

“You grew up here?”

“Yeah. Born here, did my undergrad here, and came back after grad school.”

Alex looked around the apartment, “You went to grad school and you live like this?”

Dani rolled her eyes. “I owe more in student loans than this building is worth, I think.”

“Yeowch.”

“Yeah. Yeowch.”

The chatter continued between the two for another few hours. By the time Dani looked up, it was nearly ten.

This was a surprising feeling, this talking the hours away. She had gone into the weekend filled with gloom, her mind unable to provide her with anything but static. A noise of delineated things, a sound of overclassification.

And now here she was, chatting away like a kid again with, of all people, a homeless girl she’d rescued from the cold snap.

There were problems to be sorted, of course. Dani basically trusted Anne/Alex. There was nothing for the ringtail to steal. She could take the TV, which would suck. She could take the DVDs and would probably be doing Dani a favor. This was no Les Miserables. Or maybe it was to a fault. If Alex was going to steal anything, Dani would forgive her. What use had she for the things she kept?

Either way, they ought to find Alex something a little more permanent. Dani could certainly help with warmer clothing, as she had offered, and she certainly had no qualms in hosting the poor girl longer, if it left her feeling this good by the end of the night. Would it even be okay to ask her to stay?

Maybe what they had to sort out was how much each of them would get from this.

They yawned themselves to sleep, that night, and once Alex had dozed off, Dani wafted back into her bedroom. Tonight, I’ll dream of 035.028.000 (person, stranger, important in a positive way).

She didn’t remember her dreams.


Dani’s alarm went off too early on Monday. It was the same six AM as every other weekday, but getting up proved harder.

She silenced the alarm and sat up in bed, groggy. She had a kink in her tail. Not an auspicious start to the week. The cold, the soreness, the weekend.

It took a few minutes for her brain to unfog enough to remember that Alex — or was it Anne? — had claimed her beanbag the night before.

Well, okay. The cold, the soreness, the weekend, and the homeless girl camped out in her living room.

Dani groaned. She’d not thought this through well enough yesterday. She had work, she couldn’t do that and help out a homeless girl. She’d either have to call out from work or find a place where Alex to stay. Maybe both.

The otter levered herself up out of bed, stretching longly and trying to work the kink out of her tail. Tweaked it over the weekend, perhaps, or just slept on it funny. Made it hard to walk without wobbling.

She tugged her phone from its charger on her desk and swiped a pad across it to unlock the screen.

Two new voice messages. One from late last night, one from an hour ago.

“Hi Dani, this is Erin. I got a call from facilities saying that they were having problems with the steam plant. You’re usually first in, can you check on things first thing and call out to others if there are any problems in the building? Thanks a million.”

Dani furrowed her brow and skipped to the second message.

”–all employees and students. There will be an inclement weather closure on Monday the 30th of January. This closure affects all employees and students. There will be an inclement weather closure on–”

The furrowed brow turned into an outright frown. Still standing in the middle of her cold room, she pulled up the university website on her phone. Right at the top of the page in bold, red text, an announcement.

Inclement weather closure
Monday, January 30, 2017

On Sunday evening, a boiler in central heating ceased working. The back-up boiler was brought online, but cannot heat all campus buildings to a safe temperature. Crews are working to replace the boiler.
Temperatures have reached -30, stay inside and keep warm.”

“I guess that solves that,” Dani mumbled.

Remembering her guest, she slipped on a loose pair of pants before heading out to the kitchen and living room. Alex was a lump of clothes and blankets on the beanbag, the only visible part of her being the tip of her tail peeking out from beneath two layers of blankets.

It was cold, Dani thought, and checked on her thermostat. She bumped it up a few degrees, wary of the outcome if it got too low. Hot water baseboard heaters were nice and all, but the last thing she wanted was for one of them to freeze and for the pipe to burst.

She set about making the quietest cup of tea she could manage, waddling around the kitchen as best she could with the ache in her tail. She was normally a coffee drinker, but that’d wake the ringtail in the living room. Tea would do fine, though, if she didn’t have to race into work.

Alex grumbled from beneath the covers at the sound of the water boiling in the electric kettle, but, as far as Dani could tell, kept on sleeping.

The otter spent the next few hours holed up in her bedroom, sipping her way through a mug of tea as she poked through news and stories on her phone, before pulling down the book of folklore classifications.

Her life was in disarray, she knew. Alex had thrown a wrench into things, into her neat little life and her neat little apartment. It brushed up against all sorts of weird desires to keep both life and home organized.

Not that the bassarisk had been a problem. She’d set her backpack down where backpacks go, she’d given Dani her plate when she was done, had used the bathroom once or twice. She had, in fact, not budged from her spot on the beanbag otherwise.

And yet this all felt like some intrusion.

Perhaps it was the way in which Dani approached it. Perhaps it wasn’t Alex at all, and it was all just on her. She was the one who had taken Alex in. She was the one who was stuck thinking about this. For Alex it was nothing, she could keep clean and to herself. It was Dani who was having a hard time classifying things.

She realized she was doing the same with her book as she did with her movies. Her eyes scanned over the words in the thin workbook, but none of the text made it further into her mind. She covered each line, recognizing letters, before turning the page.

I should just put it up, she thought, feeling grumpy. I’m not getting anything out of it. I could take a nap.

She shook her head to shake wandering thoughts into a sense of order, and turned back to the index of folklore motifs.

Maybe she could come up with a story to tell Alex.


The silence — or at least quiet snores — from the living room slowly morphed into soft rustlings, and then from there to audible yawns and the sound of padding feet heading to the bathroom.

Dani levered herself quietly out of bed and snuck into the kitchen before Alex could make it back out of the bathroom.

“Coffee?” Dani asked when Alex stumbled back to the beanbag. The ringtail sat down heavily on the cushion, looking mussed up from her night’s sleep.

“Nngh. Mmhm.”

The otter nodded and flicked a switch on the little countertop espresso machine, then set the grinder to run for two shots worth of coffee grounds. The tea had helped, of course, but she suspected the coffee would help all the more.

“You’re chipper,” Alex grumbled.

Dani nodded. “Been up a few hours already. Dad always used to get us up early for the sunrise. He said it wouldn’t rise without us kids. Someone had to be there to see it.”

The otter finished pulling one shot of espresso, and walked it over to the ringtail on the couch. “Let me know if you need milk or anything.”

Alex shook her head, sipped gratefully at the bitter coffee.

“Anyway, one day we all got sick. One of those bouts of the flu that catches the whole house at once.” Dani tamped down the grounds in the portafilter, using the tamp to brush the grounds off the rim. She paused to lick a finger and sweep up a scattering of grounds that had missed the used-grounds container she built the shot over and wound up on the counter, flicking the gritty coffee back into the container.

“We all slept in to–” She leaned back to look at the clock on the microwave. “Until about ten thirty. We were all so surprised when we saw the sun had risen without us.”

Alex laughed as Dani pulled her own shot. “Oh yeah? And which number is that?”

Dani leaned back against the counter, wincing at the strain in her tail and clutching her little demitasse in her paws. “You got me. One hundred fourteen.”

The ringtail held onto her empty cup with one hand and leaned back onto the other, grinning up to the otter. “I’ll give your delivery an eight out of ten, but the story needs work. Did you rehearse it?”

“A little,” Dani admitted, ears and whiskers both canted back in embarrassment. “Was it that obvious?”

“To me, yeah. But I live off stories. You get a feel for truth, lies, and the right mix, you tell enough stories. You can hear when one’s being told on the spot.”

“What about mine didn’t work?”

The ringtail shrugged and leaned forward to hand over her cup when the otter held out her paw. “Your truth-to-lie ratio was good. Lemme guess,” she said, tilting her head. “You got up with your dad, but don’t have any siblings.”

Dani laughed. “Yeah, that’s it. How’d you guess?”

“The way you talked about your mom last night, about stealing office supplies.” Alex shook her head. “It wasn’t that, though. Like I said, that was good. The, uh…what’s it. How much the story means…”

“Consequence?”

“Yeah, it was inconsequential to a good level. You tell a story, and if you’re trying to weave one, you don’t make it too consequential. You told me a true story last night; those can be consequential. A tale should make you care enough to laugh or cry, but not much more.”

Dani thought for a moment. “When we’d talk about folktales, we’d talk about what tied them to one culture versus another, even if they’d share a common core. That feels pretty consequential.”

“I guess a little.” The ringtail shrugged and stood up once more. “But you’re not imparting deep wisdom. They’re all just stories, still. They gotta be light, inconsequential — and yours was — but they also gotta be, um…spontaneous.”

“Extemporaneous, maybe?”

“That’s it. They gotta be on the spot. Yours was just too rehearsed.”

Dani grinned and shrugged, “I’m not sure if I could do that.”

“It’s not for everyone. You–” She paused for a moment, thinking before continuing. “You’re too organized. Too OCD to pull a story out of thin air like that. Hey, can I grab a shower? I know you’re probably sick of me, but I really need one.”

The OCD comment had caught Dani off her guard. She had so many thoughts, countless words, about how she was or wasn’t that. She didn’t have the F42 required for F42-dom. All of those had disappeared, as they always did at time of need.

She just nodded and waved Alex into the bathroom.


“So, it’s gotten down to negative thirty. I know I was going to offer to help you get more layers, but I think it’s too cold for even that.”

Alex nodded and kept quiet. She looked as though she were preparing to be kicked out.

Dani hastened to clarify, “I don’t even want to go out to the car. Plus, my tail hurts too bad to do much more than sit around. You alright just staying in until things warm up this afternoon? I can get you to Open Door or another place if you don’t want to.”

The relief was writ plain on the ringtail’s face. She nodded. “Yeah, that’d be good. I don’t want to go out either. Really don’t want to go to Open Door. Can I, uh…can I help out any? I don’t have much to pay with, but I can do work or whatever.”

“There’s not really much to be done, I don’t think.” Her expression softened. “You’re just welcome to say until things warm up, Alex.”

“Amy.”

Dani blinked.

“You can call me Amy today,” the ringtail grinned.

“First Anne, then Alex, now Amy?” Dani laughed.

“A real name holds power, right?”

The otter thought for a moment, then nodded. “Five hundred, yeah.”

Alex–er, Amy rolled her eyes. “They really did include everything in that catalog, didn’t they?”

Dani nodded as she waddled over to the couch. “Yep. Five hundred is a trickster who will be defeated by someone knowing his true name. Fuck,” she interrupted herself. “How the hell did I fuck up my tail? I don’t think I did anything to it yesterday.”

“Well, it is big.”

Dani laughed, changing trajectory to the beanbag and laying down on her front. “Yeah, it is. Still, I didn’t think I could sprain a tail.”

“Well, doesn’t that just make us a pair? I don’t have the clothing to go outside, and you can hardly walk.”

“Guess it was good fortune, then.”

“Does your catalog of tales have anything to say about this? Is three hundred and eighty a story about an injured person being stuck with someone who can’t go out in the cold?”

The otter shrugged. “I don’t think so, no. And there isn’t a three eighty. They’re all organized into a hierarchy, and they leave some numbers unassigned so that they can add to them later on.”

Amy grinned. “How do you even know all this?”

“I went to school for it.”

“And they made you memorize it or something?”

Dani rested her chin on her folded arms, a motion to conceal some embarrassment. “They didn’t make me. I did because it was fun.”

The ringtail stared in disbelief, then motioned for her to continue.

“I really like organizing things, and–”

“I could tell.”

Dani smirked, then continued. “–and I like the way things can be categorized while still retaining the things that make them unique. Like, the five hundred from earlier? That’s a vague classification that can be applied to many stories, which are all different from each other.”

“Sorta like putting things in a box, then?”

“I guess. Or writing them down on a sheet of paper with a specific heading, then putting that sheet in a folder, which is put in another folder. At the very top, you give rules for how to get to what you need.”

Amy looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. “Makes sense, then.”

“What does?”

“Your inability to be, uh…extemporaneous. You can’t pull things out of thin air, ‘cause you’re rifling through a catalog.”

Dani stayed silent.

“I mean that in the best of ways!”

Dani shifted over onto her side enough to look at Amy more directly, trying to look as kind as possible. She had no idea how to take this being told that she was uninventive.

“Well, listen,” Amy continued. “You have OCD, right?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been told I don’t.”

“But, like…look at you. Everything about you is based around order, around the need for things to be in their place, all classified.”

“Well, sure,” Dani demurred. “But OCD requires anxiety that I don’t have. You have to feel anxiety about things that you obsess over, and you have to have the compulsion required to fix them. I don’t have those. I just classify things. That’s just what I do.”

Amy looked thoroughly sorry for having brought the topic up. All the same, she persevered. “Okay, well, maybe not OCD, but my ma, she told me that there’s all these disorders around anxiety, and each has a personality disorder to go with it.” Her voice was fast, as thought she were rushing to fill a hole she were digging herself into. “Maybe you have that? Obsessive-Compulsive, uh…personality disorder?”

Dani reached out a paw to rest on Amy’s. None of this was too terribly surprising, it was all stuff that made sense. Still, Amy looked as though she had talked herself into a tizzy. The ringtail looked absolutely panicked. “Maybe,” she allowed. “What does this version entail?”

Amy took the hint from Dani’s paw on her own. She smiled bashfully and made a show of calming down. “They, well,” she straightened up, organizing her thoughts. “They are like the regular dis–er, they’re like the regular ones, but without the anxiety. The life is as ordered, order is the obsession, but without, uh…without the anxiety.”

The otter thought it over, spending a few seconds grooming her whiskers back. “I guess that makes sense. It’s something that isn’t eating me alive, but it’s still a big part of me.”

Amy nodded, turning her paw up to let Dani’s paw slip into her own, resting the her free paw on top of it. “I really do mean that in the best way.”

Dani laughed and rolled onto her side, letting her aching tail rest against the side of the beanbag, taking some of the weight off. “No, I get that. It really does make sense. I saw someone about it years ago, on an old girlfriend’s suggestion.”

Amy tilted her head, though whether at the ‘girlfriend’ part or the ‘seeing someone about chronic neatness’ part, she couldn’t tell.

“My doctor said it wasn’t OCD, just part of my personality. Not something I felt bad about, something I felt good about. My ex still thought I was crazy, though.”

Amy patted at the otter’s paw in her own, then gave it a little pet, brushing fur that was already straight all the straighter. “Can I confess?”

Dani laughed. “Of course. I’m no priest, though.”

“I didn’t think so” Amy laughed. “Anyway, I guess I saw how neat you were, and that’s why I’ve told you so many names. Just add a little disorder to your life.”

“None of them real?”

“Of course not.” The ringtail grinned as mischievously as she could. “I can’t tell you that, remember?”

Dani laughed. “Right. Five hundred.”

“How many of those classifications are there, anyway?”

The otter started counting mentally, then perked up. “In the bedroom, there’s a book on the bed. I was reading it after yesterday. That should have the catalog in it. Go grab that.”

“Uh, me?”

“Yeah, you.” Dani laughed, “My tail hurts too much. I’m laying down and you’re sitting. I’m older than you. Just because.”

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