Jul 7, 2005

HR, 5

Round the long row of shops was a long, dirty alley, the ill-kept store backs and dumpsters on one side and a high cement wall on the other. The only decorations were faded attempts at graffiti. With the sun set, as it had just done, the alley could be considered scary by some, but not by Harlequin. Humans, good or evil, would have little to do with him, he thought sadly.

With that thought, he raised his nose and ambled forward, searching for the scent of foos amongst the rank smells of the back alley. Before his nose could decipher anything, he saw a black dumpster with a red dragon painted on the sign. Sure enough, it smelled strongly of all varieties of Chinese cuisine when he came within dependable sniffing distance.

Set with food at long last, Harlequin whispered a quick blessing and called upon his waning energy to scramble up the side and onto the closed lid. He saw out of the corner of his eye an opening and a slight hint of movement, but he was not easily distracted. He immediately ran to the gap between the metal side and the plastic paneling of the lid, and dove through the crack. Rather, he tried. His hips caught painfully on the edges of the lid and side and he was suspended over pitch-black expanse smelling of broccoli beef. Grunt and squirm as he might, he remained stuck.

He was not as athletic as most chipmunks. He'd always preferred study and conversation to wild frolicing in the trees. Now that he could not contort his way back out of the dumpster he began to regret that. He thought with horror how terrible it would be to starve to death just inches from his favorite foods. He waved his tail about in panic.

A faint scratching echoed off the unseen walls of the dumpster. Harlequin froze. Something was outside. The scratching again sounded, coming from higher up the side. He heard a light bump above him and felt pressure on the lid squeeze him tighter at the hips. He wondered, could it be human? No, too small. A bird? Perhaps, but why would a bird try to climb up instead of flying? It must, he reasoned be something four-legged, with - he stiffened as a soft touch with small sharp points stroked his tail- claws.

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