The porcupine stretched lazily across the tree-branch, his tiny porcupine feet dangling into the warm, spring air.
He was tired, like usual after Moonridge. His life was rough, being stared at and poked and prodded for a living. Humans just didn’t understand how tired a porcupine could get.
Through the fence the porcupine saw them. They were talking and laughing. The porcupine rolled his eyes and thought the same thing he's thought every year since he first saw the two of them:
Guys. Get a room, will ya?
"Wow, that was totally cool, wasn’t it?" Garret said as he bounced on his heels. "I mean, it’s cool every year," Garrett continued, "But this year there was like – so many people, right?"
"Lots of people, yeah." Richard dug into his pocket for his car keys. Moonridge this year was fine, like Garrett said, but man, Richard was tired and had just about had it for the day. Now he had to go home by himself – Lori was away for the weekend with the kids – and try and find something to heat up for dinner. Maybe he'd just order a pizza.
"So, uh…" Garrett kicked a rock across the parking lot. When he looked up at Richard he smiled slowly and Richard smiled back. "You want to go get something to eat?"
Richard took a deep breath. The thing was, he really did want to get some food, and Garrett was a really nice guy. It was just – sometimes when Garrett came over – well – Richard sometimes had a hard time getting the guy to leave.
"I’m not sure, Garrett," Richard said. He clicked the button on his keychain and the car alarm beeped as it disengaged itself. "I was thinking of maybe just heading home—"
"Yeah, but oh, hey. Lori's away, right?" Garrett was still walking behind him, right on the back of Richard’s heels. "I mean, what, are you gonna do, go home and eat by yourself? You might as well have some company, right?"
Richard leaned against the passenger side of the car and crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah, but the last time you came over, Garrett—"
"I swear, Rich,” Garrett held his hands palms up. "I swear this time I'll leave right after the pizza.
Richard raised an eyebrow and stared. "That's what you said last time, yet there you were after the pizza, digging around in your bag for your copy ofDemon Under Glass."
"No way!" Garrett dropped his head and kicked his foot. "Well, I mean, all right. Maybe I did that last time, but it totally won't happen again."
Richard stared at him but he knew he was going to let him come over. Poor guy probably had nothing else to do anyway. "Uh huh. And why won't it happen again?" Richard asked.
Garrett grinned and held his hands out. "No movie! I, uh, didn't bring anything this time because I took the bus here," he finished, sheepishly.
"So if I had said no you'd be, what?" Richard asked. "Hitching a ride home or something right now?"
"Nah," Garrett answered. He shoved Richard to the side and opened the passenger door before climbing in. "I have a bus pass."
Richard took a deep breath and counted to ten. "What about Ken? Won't he wonder where you are?"
"Nope," Garrett said, slamming the door. "He's having a party tonight. I, uh, wasn't invited."
Richard bristled. "But you live there, Garrett! He has no right to—"
"Oh, don’t worry, it’s fine," Garret told him. Richard shook his head and walked around the car to the driver side. "I don’t like his parties much anyway. His wives give me the creeps," Garret said him on a whisper, leaving over as Richard climbed into the car. "And I have to be honest—"
Richard waited. When it was obvious Garrett wasn't going to tell him whatever was on his mind without some prodding, Richard rolled his hand in the air. "Yeah?"
"Dude. Wiseguy is a terrible show."
Richard blinked. "We were on the Sentinel."
"Rich," Garrett said, seriously. "I know. Now come on. We're gonna have a great time." Garrett grinned and patted him on the shoulder. Richard rolled his eyes and started the car.
The pizza was gone (mostly gone, and what wasn’t finished Richard had already bagged up and given to Garrett to take home) and Richard was tired. He had called Garrett a cab and they were standing by the door waiting for it to get there.
"So, hey," Garrett said, sidling closer to Richard. Richard took a step back and crossed his arms over his chest. "How about we play something on the Playstation or something," Garrett finished.
Richard took a deep breath. "No."
"Rich, I know I said I didn't bring it," Garrett said, reaching into his back pocket, "But I happen to have like, a quick, burnt copy of Demon Under—"
"Oh my god – no!" Richard whipped the door open shook his head. "Garrett, I asked you and you lied and told me—"
"Now wait a minute, Rich," Garrett said, waving the disc around. "I think I maybe said that I wouldn’t make you watch it, but I would never say I didn’t have it with me."
Richard ground his teeth together and prayed for the cab to get there soon. "Yes," he told Garrett firmly, "You did."
"No way!" Garrett ran a hand through his hair. "I mean, I don’t think that's what I said, and really – if all you wanted to maybe watch were the outtakes or something—"
Head lights glowed from outside and Richard silently thanked God that the cab was there. "Out," he said, pushing open the door and leaning into Garrett with his chest.
Garrett stumbled a little and fell out onto the stoop. "But, Rich, just like, fifteen more minutes! Ten even! The party might not even be over at home, and then I'll—"
"Out. Out! I'll see you soon, Garrett," Richard said, trying to pull the door shut. The cab was beeping its horn and Garrett had wedged his body into the doorway of Richard's house.
"Seriously, Richard!" Garrett was grinning and gasping and Richard had to finally put a hand on the top of his head and push him out the door. "I'll stay like, one more hour. That’s it! We can watch some of the movie and then I'll—"
"Goodbye, Garrett," Richard told him, finally breaking free and shutting the door firmly. He threw the lock just as he saw Garrett reaching for the handle again through the window. "I'll see you soon," Richard called through the door with a wave.
Garrett frowned slightly and nodded. "Yeah, okay." He started down the steps, then turned around and grinned again. "You’re doing Moonridge again next year, right?"
Richard sighed. "Yes, I am."
"Well all right," Garrett said with a smile and a wave. "I guess I’ll see you then!"
He bounded down the steps and into the cab, and Richard sighed in relief as the cab drove away. One more year till he saw Garrett again, and next time, he'd have to remember to check the guy's pockets first.
The penguin waddled from behind his rock and was blinded by cameras flashing. Since when did people care about penguins at this thing?
The sign over his head said Moonridge and just outside of the cage were two men standing closer than any two men the penguin had ever seen.
"See, I told you this year would be great!" the little one was saying excitedly.
The bigger guy sighed. “Yes, you did.”
"So, hey. Rich. Do you maybe want to get something to eat or—"
"No movie!" Rich said, shaking a finger at the little guy.
The two of them wandered off, bickering the whole way. The penguin waddled to the front of the cage and flapped his arms. Even though the sun was shining he was freezing.
Too bad no one thought to bring him a sweater.