Jul 11, 2005

HR, 9

Harlequin awoke to a new smell and a stubbly human face staring down at him. The man smelled like rotten fruit and bad cologne; Harlequin later learned that this was the smell of cheap wine. The man wore ratty clothes that hung off him loosely; he had long stringy brown hair matted over his squinted face.

The man moved to poke at him but somehow missed and planted his finger in the grass. He tried again, this time getting Harlequin in the stomach and knocking the wind out him. Harlequin kicked his finger away, but sat still too bewildered to make a move.

"Some kind of dead mouse, I wonder," the man blurted. He had a uneven voice that wavered in and out of sentences. "Squirrel, maybe? Wonder if that Attila got him. Mean old brute killing stupid mouse-things..." His voice trailed off. He took his eyes off Harlequin to take in the sights around. Harlequin looked around, too, and noticed for the first time that his patch of grass extended into a large field, with a big tree on the far side, flowers everywhere and what looked like blackberry bushes all around. What a strange place to find in the middle of the city, he thought.

He found that the man was staring at him again, this time with a look of sad contemplation. The man scratched at his stubble and began again in his wild way:

"Nature's so cruel. Beautiful squirrel, cut down in the best of its life by that evil creature, that horrible, vicious cat. No justice there. It's true! Nothing but misery." The man sniffed and took several gulps from a cask he'd been holding at his side. He continued: "But I'm the good Steward. Yes, sir." He cast a fond look and brought his head close to Harlequin to whisper loudly. "Rest still, my furry child. I'll give you a proper decent Christian burial, like my daddy gave me."

With that he gave a mighty kick to the dusty ground at his feet: a cloud of dirt covered Harlequin and set him gagging and coughing. The man reared his foot back for another kick. Harlequin spluttered, looked straight up at the man and shouted "stop it!" at the top of his lungs.

The man jumped back violently, arms flailing, sending his cask flying, and falling heavily to the ground. After a moment of wide-eyed silence, he began to laugh hysterically.

"Of all the humans to meet, I get to meet you," Harlequin muttered to himself.

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