Jul 28, 2005

HR, 26

Harlequin grimaced. He'd forgotten to provide the food. The crowd had assembled before him, oblivious to each other, all studying the chipmunk before them. Harlequin felt a little unnerved.

A leader must be above such things, he thought; he put on his resolute and courageous face. Jumping theatrically to the trunk of the tree, he hung over his audience, two paws clutching the bark and the others ready to accompany his speech.

"Friends, countrymen! My name is Harlequin, a humble chipmunk called to a greater service in this time of need. I have promised food, and I will fulfill that promise, but first, a matter of urgent importance to us all..." Harlequin trailed off as the birds of the audience began to wander away.

The pigeons and sparrows had very short attention spans and were ignoring Harlequin as they picked among the weeds for bugs. Harlequin was at a loss for words; he tried feebly to call them back to attention. Pegasus, who'd taken up roost in the tree with Harlequin as one of his "officers," sprung off her one leg into furious flight, dive-bombing the wayward birds with harsh squawks and blows from her beak and wings.

Angry bird-talk erupted, too fast for Harlequin to understand. After a few more jabs from Pegasus, the birds lined-up with rest heads cocked attentively. Pegasus returned to Harlequin's side.

"Thanks, Peg," he whispered. She preened importantly. Harlequin resumed with renewed confidence.

"It is my understanding that this field has long been under the cruel claw of Attila the Cat." At the mention of the name, the mice squeaked fearfully and looked about. "And this evil creature has been tolerated by the 'Pack' that claims to protect us, simply because he brings them creatures like ourselves for them to eat." Here there were a few exclamations of horror, and some nasty looks were directed Hubert's way.

"Friends, the cat is no more!" Harlequin thrust forth the claw for all of them to see. "We've been rid of his evil. Now, we're free to make this land our own, without the fear of death lurking in the grass!"

"And to celebrate this freedom, we shall have a feast in the alley. The finest Chinese food you've ever tasted! Follow me!"

Hopping down from the tree, Harlequin marched towards the alley, not bothering to look behind to see if the crowd followed. The squirrel, a skinny old thing who looked as if he could use the food, was the first to fall in step. The birds were next, under the fiere eye of Pegasus. The mice followed timidly behind, looking about as if they were unconvinced that death no longer lurked in the grass. The yellowjacket, a weak drone who'd exhausted himself on the flight over, rested amidst the furry folds on Hubert's back; Hubert brought up the rear guard.

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