THEN A PENGUIN WALKED IN #7
Dominick tried to follow. The two had moved off the lot and into the dumpster pen behind the Happy Hamburger.
The dumpster pen was where you could find the trash dumpster, that is if you were the sort of person who spent their idle time going out and looking for trash dumpsters. The pen itself was a tall privacy fence made up of vertical wooden planks. It surrounded an area about the size of two small busses parked side by side, but was open at the front for easy access to the dumpster by the city trash collectors. The Happy Hamburger’s dumpster, like most, was rusted with flaking green paint. Sitting next to the dumpster was a green and rusted grease trap where Dominick often visited to dispose of the used oil from the fryers each day. There’s never been a joy known in life like the glee one is able to experience when visiting a fast food grease trap. The smell alone was enough to cause the contents of one’s stomach to curdle and churn like a stormy sea of spoiled milk.
Dominick watched as the two penguins waddled between the dumpster and the grease trap and decided to go in after them, despite the smell of rancid beef that was all part of the Happy Hamburger dumpster pen experience. Yet, as he rounded the corner behind the dumpster, the penguins were gone.
Dominick scratched at his head, pondering for a moment if today was truly happening. A lizard man? Penguins? Pixies? Maybe he’d finally inhaled too much of the fumes from the cleaner fluid he employed each day to remove the caked-on grease from the front of the fryers. Possibly this was all a dream and he would wake up at any moment in the comfort of his bed. Then he looked at his arm where the lizard man had taken hold of him earlier. He could see the bruises forming there. He certainly wasn’t imagining those.
But still, Vivian and Harold seemed to have disappeared. He realized how long he’d been gone now on this quest of his to find more medium fry boxes and figured it would be best to get back to work. Otherwise, Mr. Finkleton was going to come looking for him. One thing you never wanted to do at the Happy Hamburger was make Mr. Finkleton do anything outside of his daily work activities. Never make a cop run, never invite a sales person into your home, and never make Mr. Finkleton come look for you. If you did any of the three, you weren’t going to be happy about it.
Dominick left the dumpster pen and made his way across the lot. After just a few steps he learned that despite the worry of incurring the wrath of Mr. Finkleton, Dominick wasn’t in any real hurry to return to work. He’d been privy to a much larger world in as little as ten minutes today, and that’s likely to shake most people. And as Dominick is most people, he felt more than a little shaky.
As he crossed the lot and reached the back door, Dominick sighed the kind of sigh that poets can only dream of sighing themselves as they wallow in a state of creative melancholy and gaze forlornly at the muse they will never attain. Then, as he was about to take the handle in hand and yank open the door, he heard a tiny voice from behind.
“Dominick Hanrahan,” the voice said. “Where are you going?”
Dominick turned to find a pair of, well . . . he wasn’t quite sure what they were behind him. They were about a foot long and looked a bit like elongated rats.
“Vivian?” Dominick said. “Harold?”
“Yes, Dominick Hanrahan,” said Harold, the one on the right. “It is us.”
“What are you supposed to be now?” Dominick asked.
The two odd looking creatures looked at each other for a moment before turning back.
“Why, we have each taken the form of the long nosed bandicoot,” Vivian said.
“The bandicoot?” Dominick almost laughed. “We don’t have bandicoots in Kansas either.” At least Dominick didn’t think so. In truth, Dominick wasn’t even sure just what a bandicoot was beyond being the star of a video game from the late 90’s.
“Look,” Harold said. “It doesn’t matter.”
Then Harold rose up onto his hind legs and Dominick suddenly knew what it was like to see a rodent look regal.
“You must come with us, Dominick Hanrahan,” Harold said. “Gund is nearing its most desperate hour and you are sorely needed.”
“Me? Gund? What the heck is a Gund?”
“Gund is our home,” said Vivian. “And you must go there with us now.”
“What?” Dominick took a step back. “Why?
“The fate of our people depends on you,” said Vivian.
“Now? I can’t go anywhere now; I’m supposed to be working. Mr. Finkleton is going to kill me when he finds out that I’ve left my post.”
“Worry not, young Hanrahan. Your Mr. Finkleton does not know that you are gone,” Harold said.
“Yes, our companion, Raymond, has taken your form and is posing as you as we speak,” Vivian said.
“Okay, you’re going to have to explain that,” Dominick said.
To be continued . . .