Jul 31, 2005

HR, 29

Harlequin looked up from his conference to see the crowd still waiting. He tried to swallow away the nervousness that tightened his throat.

"They're waiting for the human," whispered Hubert, leaning in close and accidentally slobbering on Harlequin's ear.

Harlequin managed a confident smile and whispered back worriedly: "I don't even have a plan yet! Pegasus, do you think you could run them trhough some combat maneuvers?"

Peg's eyes brightened and she nodded. She paraded in front of the recruits, demonstrating one-legged battle techniques as Harlequin and Hubert snuck out of the alley and into the field to where Homeless Tony lay snoring.

Harlequin chewed on his claw. The one brilliant plan to make everything work was stubbornly eluding him.

"I wish I could speak English," said Hubert wistfully. "I'd tell him what a mess alcohol makes of men. Hmmmmm... My poor old master never learned."

Harlequin jumped up in the air suddenly and did a cartwheel.

"Why that's just the thing!" he shouted, a little breathlessly. "If we both speak English, he'll have to believe I'm not a hallucination. After all, he's already seen you be a normal dog."

"But I can't speak English," protested Hubert.

"Nonsense! Simplest thing in the world... You just..." Harlequin tugged at his lip; he couldn't remember how he'd learned to speak it. It had com so naturally. And he'd never met another creature who could speak English; perhaps he was as strange as others had always said he was.

"It's at least worth a try. What shall we say... I know! No more alcohol! Try it like this."

Harlequin said "no more alcohol" in English, stretching out each word for Hubert to hear the difference.

Hubert chuckled sheepishly, but tried after some more coaxing. With a variety of growls, howls and groans, he imitated the noise. It came out like this: "rrrroo errrr erggooohoollll!"

Homeless Tony stirred under the awful noise, but remained asleep. Harlequin remained optimistic.

"That last part, where you howled, that sounded right. This time try howling the 'no' and the 'more.'"

A few more tries and Hubert had come up with "noooo moooorrrr arroooohoool."

"Much better! Now think of the 'alc' sound as a gulp: swallow." Hubert swallowed and heard his throat click. He grunted in recognition and eagerly sounded his best rendition yet. Harlequin hoped that the long 'r's and the slur only made it sound more like Homeless Tony. "That should do it," he said, crossing his claws. "Hubert, lick his face to get him up."

Hubert obliged and Homeless Tony sprang up with a splutter.

"Ahhh! It's the demon chipmunk again. Go away until I sleep you off. Get away, dog!" Homeless Tony was unnerved to have them both staring at and stared back at them for a moment. Harlequin caught Hubert's eye and nodded. They faced a suspicious Homeless Tony and recited their phrase together.

"Nggg mrr alcohoooo!" Hubert looked disappointed in himself. Homeless Tony backed away slowly, worried that the two animals were bleating in their death throes or something similar. "Again," said Harlequin.

"No more alcohol!" The words rang as clear as a bell. Hubert's own eyes widened in surprise; Homeless Tony's nearly jumped from their sockets. His mouth dropped and his tongue hung lifelessly from it. Suddenly he clasped his hands together and wildly swung them up to the sky.

"Alright, God!" he shouted. "I get the message! No more!"

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