Jul 12, 2005

HR, 10

It was Harlequin's turn to poke. He jabbed at the man's shaking side.

"What's wrong with you?" he shouted over the laughter. The man refused to look at him and cackled on.

Frowning, Harlequin went to retrieve the cask the man had lost. It had landed spout first in the dirt, and its rose-colored liquid contents were rapidly turning the area to mud. Harlequin pulled it out with a loud slurp and shook the muck and the last droplets of the liquid from the cask, holding it as a distance as he scampered back to the man.

"I think this is yours," he said, holding it out. The man immediately ceased from his laughter and snatched it jealously from Harlequin's outstretched paws. He shook it violently over his open mouth and swore loudly when nothing came out. The many wrinkles in his face, upturned by his delirious laughter, sagged and his jaw fell open. His twinkling eyes retreated behind drooping lids. He let his arms fall limply to his sides; the cask's empty innards sounded as it hit the ground.

Harlequin was thoroughly puzzled. "What is the matter with you?" he asked.

The man looked at him blankly. He snorted in morose amusement.

"Everything. I'm an ugly, smelly old drunk." He looked at Harlequin despondently: "And I'm talking to a dead squirrel. Aren't hallucinations supposed to disappear? The booze is gone, go away."

"I'm not a squirrel, I'm a chipmunk. And I'm not a hallucination."

The man had moved his gaze to the ground and was playing half-heartedly with the long grass. Harlequin continued:

"What's your name? And why don't you live like other humans?"

The man sat up suddenly and lifted his countenance to the sky, his profile noble and defiant, if a little hairy. His voice got loud again.

"My name is Tony Clemenza, son of my father, and greatly admired of all men. The world is my adventure." He lost his balance and fell into an akward squat and his bravado evaporated. He shook his head sadly. "Go on, look at me. Homeless Tony Clemenza."

Harlequin tried a few more questions, but Homeless Tony Clemenza would only mumble responses, growing more and more flustered with Harlequin's persistence. Finally, he cut him off in mid-sentence.

"Listen, Hallucination. If you want to talk, fine. It's just I don't think it's healthy to talk to imaginary friends. And if I am going to be unhealthy, I'm going to need some medication. So, if you want to talk, take my bottle and fill it with alcohol. And then you can bring all your talking squirrel friends and we'll have a great old time. Deal?" Homeless Tony dropped the cask into Harlequin's paws and rolled over onto his side.

"Wait-" he began to protest.

"I can't hear you, you're not real," said Homeless Tony, covering his ears. He pretended to snore.

Harlequin stared at the cask, frustrated.

No comments: