Beware Of The…

Teddy Tag

"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

― Dr. Seuss


As the moon slid out from behind a cloud to illuminate the darkened street corner, two lone figures ducked down a narrow alleyway.

"This way." Herby waved at the large hulk of a man to follow him farther down the alley. "Up here, "he pointed to the fire escape, "We'll be safe up here for the night."

The two climbed up the rickety, iron structure to the rooftop. "Wait here." The old vagabond disappeared around a brick corner.

The hulking man whimpered loudly.

"Sheesh…miss me already, do yeah?" A bout of laughter filled the air. "Just hold on there, Bubalouie. I'm coming right back in a giff."

Herby came out from around the corner carrying a bundle of old newspapers. "Just amazin', Herby quipped. "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes." He handed the bundle of newspapers to the giant man. "Hold these," he said, peeling one at a time off the pile, opening the sheet up, giving it a little shake, and then spreading the papers out like a blanket on the tar-covered roof. "Haven't had me a friend in years. Ghost of a chance me happening across you. Good thing too. I never thought being a medic in that damned, God forsaken, bullshit war would come in handy in this here real world." Herby stood, proudly looking at the Giant man. "I know you're not one hundred and ten percent," he said wincing at the giant man's burns and bloody gauze-wrapped arm and leg, "And I really don't like you being out here in the cool night air, but ain't no shelters out there for mongrels like us, Bub," Herby said matter-of-factly. "Sides that, we can't let them find us. Got to keep movin' spot to spot."

The giant man shuddered, looking bewildered at Herby.

"'Them' is anyone who don't look like us, you see?" the old man tried to explain.

The giant man grunted, unable to take his eyes off Herby.

Not bothered by his new friend's lack of words or wide-eyed stares, Herby continued. "'Course you probably already know that." Herby took another sheet of newspaper from the bundle the giant was holding, snapped it in the wind and spread it on top of the others. "Now you should know…I'm no drug addict, or drunk, and I ain't no beggar neither. I fend for myself… you see? Came back from the damned, God forsaken, bullshit war this way. " He shrugged. "What happened to you? Orphaned in a storm? Raised by a money-hungry circus ringmaster? Both?"

The giant man shuffled uneasily in place.

"Yup. You're right." Herby nodded. "Guess we don't needs to be cluttering up our friendship with our damned, God forsaken, bullshit history and ruined souls," he said, shaking his head.

The giant man wrapped his arms around himself and hugged tight.

"If'n it makes you feel any better, I think I'm way uglier than you," Herby chuckled loudly.

The giant man grunted in reply, his tummy rumbling.

Herby frowned. "We'll find us something to eat in the morning. Only I'm not sure if'n I should be feeding you baby formula or fifty pounds of rare beef." He eyed the dirty state the giant man was in. "We'll get you clean-shaven too," he added as an afterthought. "You'll be lost in a sea of homeless faces just like the rest of us street folk in no time." Herby's frown deepened as he looked upon the man's swollen, fleshy, ape-like face. "Well, maybe we might have to add an oversized hoodie to your get-up."

The giant whimpered, his chest rising and falling in a struggling way, reaching a hand over to rub at his injured shoulder.

"So... talk is cheap," Herby rubbed his hands together in anticipation, "Up here is like our own personal space. We'll be safe. Go ahead and lie down." He waved a hand over the newspaper bed.

The giant man didn't move, looking troubled as a tear rolled down his wrinkled, burnt cheek.

"It's okay. I'll show yeah. 'S not so bad." Herby hobbled over and very slowly lay on his back upon the newspapers, folding his hands over his stomach and staring up at the star-filled sky. "See those tiny specks of light?" He pointed a crooked finger upward. "They're like a billion-light-some-years away and still we can see them with our naked eyes." He turned to look at the giant of a man who still didn't make a move to lie down. "Well," Herby chuckled lightly, "Three naked eyes in your case."

The giant man's gaze never left Herby's.

Herby smiled up at his new found friend, and patted the ground next to him. "Come on now. Lie down. Rest."

The big man finally giving in to his exhaustion and fear, lumbered over and lay beside Herby, he too was staring up at the night sky.

"That's it." Herby studied the silent giant beside him sadly. "You ever wonder what lies beyond them there stars? Beyond this endlessly cold, cruel world?"

The giant man beside him said nothing, just kept staring upward, fingers fiddling with each other nervously.

Herby shook his head. "I ain't done much good in this life. Nope. I'm a nobody. A hermit with a face my mother couldn't even love, and I don't know what your story is. How you got to be how you are. But… well…way I figure it, two ugly faces is better than one. Right?"

The giant man's hands laced in prayer.

"You stick with me, okay, Bub? There's bunches of bad people out there. Bunches of good people out there too, but they're afraid of different. Stare at different… even if they don't want to. So we hide and scavenge and survive in the shadows best we can. We are not one of them anymore, understand?"

The Giant man shivered.

"Don't you fret none. I am not going to be the one who lets you die." Herby reached over and laid his hand over the top of the giant man's praying hands and gave a squeeze. "I'm going to take care of you. From now on I am your buddy and you are mine."

"Mine." The giant man smiled up at the sky, nodding his head in acceptance his eyes twinkling brighter than the Milky Way.

The end