Hair of the Dog
The problem with having a goat as a pet was that Eskel had a goat as a pet. It was usually wonderful, Lil Bleater was a menace and Eskel loved her for it. Alas, some days she was a little more than he bargained for. Visiting Geralt on the farm was always a delight, it was one of the few places Bleats could explore without a leash and Eskel knew she was safe.
All in all it was a great day, a rarity for the whole extended family to get together. Geralt had Yennefer and Jaskier with him, they were playing pass the parcel with Ciri, except whenever they unwrapped her, it was always a dirty nappy rather than a fun treat under her layers. How Eskel ended up with a family where both his brothers had two partners was a mystery, it was perhaps why he was still a bachelor with only Lil Bleater as his companion, Lambert and Geralt had soaked up all the appeal for themselves and left none for Eskel.
"Where are the Gremlins?" Eskel asked, looking around. The Gremlins were also known as Lambert, Aiden and Cahir. One at a time and they were manageable but the three together wreaked unknown havoc and destroyed an alarming number of clothes between them. If they ever wore safety pins through clothes, Eskel knew it wasn't for aesthetics at all.
"Last I heard they were heading for the barn. Cahir was going to see whether the new pony is ready to be worked yet." Somehow Geralt sounded resigned and they all knew that while the trio might have looked at the gelding, they were most definitely going to be making out or more in one of the empty stalls.
Rolling his eyes, Eskel nodded. "I'm not risking that. Tell them I said goodbye and that Lambert still owes me a drink next week, will you?" He clicked his tongue and watched as Lil Bleater blatantly ignored him in favour of hopping over puddles. Just because she was having too much fun and still full of energy despite a whole day of charging around didn't mean she got to keep going. Resigned to his fate of chasing his goat in order to get her home, Eskel lumbered off, trying to look like he wasn't approaching her with intent. Needless to say, it didn't work. With expert ease Lil Bleater avoided him, bounding just out of reach. Even worse, he brothers were watching and Eskel wanted to growl at them that they might as well help if they were going to watch. Thankfully he managed to grab his wayward goat, only for her to protest in the worst possible way, she threw herself onto the ground. Normally Eskel wouldn't mind but she chose to roll in a puddle, her white fur soaking in the muddy water and staining it.
Dripping goat firmly leashed, Eskel stared at her. She watched him unrepentantly for a moment before trying to nibble at her leash. Eskel had learned the hard way that he needed a metal chain leash for her, nothing else survived her incessant chomping. There was no way he could take her home like that, and hosing her down wasn't going to be much good as she's just drip more water in the car and make it smell even more of wet goat.
Thankfully he always had a towel or two in the boot so Eskel could pat her mildly dry but the puddle hadn't been simple mud and water, only heightening the stench. Thinking about his poor tub, Eskel knew he wouldn't be able to give Bleats a bath. The one time he had tried, he'd needed to buy a new shower curtain and invest in some repairs to the tub. Little goat hooves were not compatible with his bathroom. Stashing her in her travel crate, Eskel pulled his phone out and searched for possible solutions. The most sensible was a pet groomer, alas the three numbers he tried all refused to deal with a goat. Some days Eskel cursed himself for not having a more traditional pet.
"You trying to get a groomer?" Cahir sidled up to him, eyes glinting with the promise of mischief.
"Yeah, but it's not like anyone wants to bathe a goat." Not that Eskel was bitter. He didn't expect Cahir to laugh.
"You just haven't asked the right one. Come on, I'll introduce you to someone who'll help. Just follow my bike."
It was easier said than done. While Eskel had heard stories from Lambert about the strange love affair Cahir had with his bike, it was a whole different thing to see it. Having witnessed it, Eskel had to wonder whether there were four in that relationship rather than three as he'd originally thought.
Hair of the Dog looked like a bit of a shithole if Eskel was honest. It was out in a small industrial park near a village, wooden cladding faded and looking in desperate need of a paint. Helmet under his arm, Cahir barged in without a care for the sign that declared the place closed.
"Scales!" He hollered, impatiently holding the door open for Eskel. "Got you a client."
Not quite knowing what to expect, Eskel's eyes widened when a man larger than him appeared, scowling at Cahir.
"What did I tell you about my opening hours? And fucking hell what is that stench?"
Cahir leaned against the wall with a shit eating grin and gestured towards Eskel and Lil Bleater knowingly.
"That's a goat." It was possibly the dumbest thing anyone could have said.
"No, I'm a human called Eskel," Eskel shot back, a little irked.
The laugh was warm and genuine as the owner of the grooming parlour caught on. "Letho. Who's your stinky companion?"
Somehow Eskel found himself charmed by the fact Letho didn't baulk at the fact he was being presented with a goat. He even invited Eskel to stay and watch the whole process of washing and drying his pet. What struck Eskel was how gentle he was through it all, talking to Bleats as much as he talked to Eskel.
"Wouldn't have clocked you as a dog groomer," Eskel admitted while Lil Bleater was enjoying her second rinse.
"Didn't peg you as a goat owner."
"Touche. You like dogs?" Which was a ridiculous thing to ask, given that Letho's work involved a lot of dogs and possibly a few cats. However, Letho shook his head.
"They're alright. But I wouldn't own one."
Eskel squinted at Letho. "I can't really say I can picture you with a parrot."
Another laugh and Eskel found himself quite fond of the raw honesty in it. He waited patiently for an answer though.
"Tell you what-" Letho suggested, "-let me finish up with my last client and then I can show you, if you're interested. It's a snake."
"I only inspect trouser snakes on third date," Eskel said, peering around. "If I had known you'd had other clients, I would have happily waited."
The spray of water was playfully turned on him, barely missing him. "It's you, you numpty. I'm closed on Tuesdays, that's admin day." A soft flush spread across Eskel's cheeks at that and Letho continued, "If I put Gully down my trousers, I don't think she'd ever forgive me. And I don't think she'd fit. She's a reticulated python."
"As long as she doesn't eat Bleats, I think we're good." Eskel had no idea about snakes but, given the size of Letho, he could imagine him with a large snake, no pun intended.
In the silence that fell on them, Eskel looked around again with a frown. "Did Cahir go?"
That had Letho looking up too. He left Lil Bleater to dry, quite thrilled at the prospect of having a fluffy goat stepping out of the dryer soon, and wandered out into the reception area. On the desk was a note.
"You owe me a drink. Maybe two. We told you you'll like him."
Groaning, Letho threw the note away but not before Eskel saw.
"That sounded ominous."
"The Three Fucketeers have been trying to set me up for a while. I resisted. Guess they win."
Grinning, Eskel shrugged. "They don't have to know that, do they?"
That had Letho looking up too. He left Lil Bleater to dry, and wandered out into the reception area. On the desk was a note.ion out no matter how hidden. Which led Eskel to the conclusion that if he couldn't beat them, they could join them. It was very unlikely they'd want graphic details so, with great confidence, Eskel met Letho's rather large snake. And he met Gully too.