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A Paw To Hold On To


by chocolateisamust

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"Mommy, is that thing alive?" I heard a high-pitched voice ask, arousing me from my slumber.

     "It is, honey, it's just sleeping," a deeper, but still high-pitched, voice replied. I cracked one eye open to see a young Usul girl and what appeared to be her mother standing over me.

     "Are you sure?" the little girl asked, staring wide-eyed at me.

     To ease her wondering, I growled loudly. The mother literally jumped three feet into the air.

     "Let's go, honey," the mother frantically said, pulling the little girl away by her hand. The girl stared at me, transfixed, as she was reluctantly pulled away.

     I stood up and stretched, trying to recover from that rude awakening.

     "I've got to stop sleeping on the side of the road," I mumbled to myself.

     I sighed, shaking specks of dust off of my fur. Children often were perplexed by my existence; they stared at me, my scrawny figure, and they wanted to know about me. They wanted to know who I was, to know what I was, and their parents were always so afraid. Afraid of me, when I wouldn't hurt a Mootix. Not even a Mootix…

     "Hey, you!" cried a seemingly wealthy Chia suddenly. "Get off the street! You're blocking pedestrians! Go find yourself a real job, a real home!" And then he tossed me a rusted Neopoint coin, with a sharp '10 NP' carved into the surface.

     I snatched the coin greedily and stared up at him, then sighed again and rose with effort to my feet. "I'm moving," I grumbled.

     Following the Chia's advice, I moved, but not to a home, of course. I moved like I did every day. I would usually move to a different part of Neopia Central, to a place where people did not know me. If I felt adventurous I would sometimes move to the rural areas outside the big city. Today I did not feel, adventurous. Today I felt tired and sore.

     I walked at the pace of someone fifty years older than me, like an old man almost. I might have been acting too much because coins up to 50 NP were tossed at me. I grabbed them all, though, never looking at who gave me the money, just greedily taking it.

     Greedy. I was always greedy. While I might never have hurt a Mootix, that did not stop greed from overpowering me. I took everything. Perchance, that was because I did not have anything else. I only had what pitying fellows gave me; I did not earn things for myself.

     Suddenly, I felt warm, small paws grasped around my tail. I froze and turned my head towards the clutching party gingerly. Standing there, leaning over the bushy, wispy fur of my tail, was a small yellow Kacheek. There was no adult accompanying the child; she was all alone, not a soul beside her, no mother or father to scold her for coming so close to the sinister façade I presented.

     I said to her in a gentle yet firm tone, "Let go of my tail."

     She stared up at me, brilliant blue eyes intent, and replied in a defiant manner, "Why should I?"

     "If you don't let go, I'll eat you up!" I shouted, accompanying this with a growl.

     The child just giggled and began swinging my tail from side to side, still giggling all the way. I finally just pulled away from her.

     "Leave me alone," I mumbled, walking away.

     I heard pattering feet behind me, and I could only figure that the footsteps belonged to the Kacheek. I turned around to confirm my suspicions, and confirmed they certainly were.

     "Look, kid, go away. Don't you have a mommy or a daddy or an owner that will want you home?"

     "I don't have anybody."

     "Where do you live?"

     The child pointed to the north, south, east, and west.

     "What is that supposed to mean?" I questioned.

     "I live wherever I want to," she sadly replied.

     I sighed, knowing that pity was soon going to make me take her in.

     "What's your name, kid?"

     "Larissa. What's yours?"

     "Kendall." I knew what I was going to say next I would regret, but I just had to say it. I might've been greedy, and a fairly bitter creature, but I wasn't cruel. So I said, "Larissa, would you like to live with me?"

     She shook her head back and forth, and her bristly fur wavered about in the thick summer air. "No," she told me, clinging back on to my tail.

     Irritated, I scowled and snapped, "If you don't want to live with me, then why are you following me? Why are you grabbing at me when I told you to go away?"

     Larissa shrugged, in a very passive manner, and said, "You seemed lonely. I never have liked to see other pets so lonely."

     "You're lonely yourself," I pointed out.

     Larissa smiled at me, letting go of my long Lupe fur. "No, I'm not lonely. I have a lot of friends."

     "Who are they?" I retorted, scrutinizing her thin face.

     "Well… I don't know their names. But there are a lot of them, I can assure you that. There's the sky, and the clouds, and the dust bunnies that hide under the benches in the park. There's also the leaves of the trees, the flowers on the bushes -"

     I interrupted the child, "Those aren't friends; those are items. So, as I said, you're lonely yourself."

     Larissa laughed at my response, her eyes glittering with amusement. "Just because they don't talk to me, and because they don't walk around and yell at me like you and other pets do, doesn't mean they aren't my friends. In fact, I reckon them to be better friends than anything living could be. They always listen to me, and they never leave me when I want them to be there. You can't say that about a lot of things in life, you know."

     "Oh, I certainly know." My voice was ice cold.

     However, Larissa did not seem to notice my hostility. She blathered on, "The sky is an especially good friend. It's always there, always watching me. It follows me wherever I go, and never is mean to me. That's a good friend, isn't it, Kendall? Isn't that a good friend?"

     I stared up at the sky, pondering this child's strange statement. A few white clouds rolled along, and the sun shone brightly. Blue covered the rest, making it seem like a painting.

     "Yes," I decided, "the sky is a very good friend."

     "Would you like it to be your friend, too?" Larissa eagerly asked.

     "I would like that very much. Will you ask it for me?" Although I found the whole conversation quite pointless, feelings deep in my heart forced me to go along with the nonsense.

     "Of course! Sky, will you be Kendall's friend?" Larissa paused, obviously listening to the "response" of the sky. "Sky says he will be your friend," she said after a few moments.

     "The Sky is a he? How can you tell?"

     "Sky is neither a he nor a she. It's really both, like the mother and father of Neopia, you might say."

     I smiled at her softly and said, "I see, Larissa, and I am very happy that the Sky has agreed to be my friend." Then I changed the subject slightly by saying, "I am also happy that the Sky is your friend; I am happy that the Sun is your friend, and that everything else is your friend too. But… you're young, Larissa. Don't you need shelter? The Sky cannot give you shelter."

     "It can give me more shelter than you could," Larissa informed me solemnly. "The Sky stretches over me, and it is like a roof. You do not have a roof, do you, Kendall?"

     I sighed, gazing into Larissa's vivid eyes. They looked back at me, narrowed with question. I replied to the child, "I do not have a roof… but I provide more safety than the Sky. I am homeless like you, just like you."

     Larissa nodded and confirmed her previous words. She said, "Yes, just like me. You do not have a roof, Kendall. Neither do I. The Sky is a roof, in a way, yet the Sky still is not the type of roof others have over their heads. The Sky is more of a nonexistent roof; it is definitely there, yet it goes on forever. It is a vortex of color, never-ending."

     I didn't know what to say, so I had to think for a moment before replying, "Would you like to be under the roof of the Sky with somebody else though, Larissa? Don't you ever get lonely, even with all of your friends? Aren't there ever times you want somebody to talk back? Aren't there ever times you want to hold on to a paw, a real paw? There have to be times like that, Larissa. Something would be terribly wrong if you never had times like that."

     Larissa sighed. "Yes, there are times," she admitted quietly, staring down at the ground below. "There certainly are times like that, Kendall, but I get through them. You must have times like that too, right? They are difficult, but as I said, I get through them. I always get through them."

     "But what if you didn't have those types of times?" I challenged. "What if you had somebody there, a warm paw to hold on to?"

     "I would like that," she stated plainly.

     "I could give you that," I said. "I may not have a roof beside the Sky, but I have a paw to hold on to. I have ears to listen, a mouth to speak."

     "I cannot accept your offer," Larissa told me. "I cannot be such a burden to you."

     "You would not be a burden."

     "You say that now. Many have said that. I have accepted all of their words as truth, but their words never turn out to be truth. Everything is lies, in the end. Everybody tells lies, in the end. Everybody tells lies except my friends, my Sky and Cloud and Flower friends."

     "I do not tell lies. I never have a reason to lie."

     Sharply, Larissa turned her head away from me. "I am sorry; I never should've followed you, Kendall. I must be going now. I don't need a paw to hold on to."

     "Everybody does…"

     "Everybody except me," Larissa finished.

     Then, head hung low, she marched away. I could've chased after her, could've called after her, could've tried to convince her to stay. But I didn't. I let her walk off, and I watched her soon blend into the heavy passing summer crowd. Soon she was gone, another body amongst many.

     She admitted she didn't need a paw to hold on to.

     But I did.

The End

 
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