Mittermud’s father, Slapstrack, zipped up the young grick’s tattered coat and adjusted his baseball cap to better hide his face. Their wide noses and giant eyes didn’t blend well with human features.
“You have to learn to bring back food, lad, but this is a serious and dangerous thing. Remember everything I told you about men and their ways, but most of all don’t forget—you’re untouchable.”
Mittermud nodded, scared but determined.
“Mind yourself, and you will come through without tragedy.”
Mittermud nodded to his father and slipped from the alleyway onto the sidewalk between a sizable gap between walkers. He unzipped his coat so he could move better. The gricks could never work among the humans, so they stole most of what they ate, and the farmers market across the street was Mittermud’s objective for his first time out by himself.
The walkers closed in on him, so he stepped into the street, about to dash across, but the crowd was too thick on the other side, and several cars came too fast down the street. He hopped back on the sidewalk, panicked at the nearness of people, and slipped into a stairway going down to a basement pub.
“What are you up to, kid?” A man in a blue pinstripe suit, his power tie dangling unknotted on each side, leaned on the railing at the top.
“None o’ yo’ business,” said Mittermud.
“We’ll see about that.” The man took the first step down.
“Stay away!” screamed Mittermud. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” He yanked at the pub door and scrambled in, dodging tables and chairs to get to the back. He ran past the bathrooms down the hall and found a back door, which he busted through into an alley.
He knew every alley in the city. Very few people went through them, and most had excellent hiding places and means of escape. Just down this one was a broken window he could slip through. He hastened that way, but the man in the suit opened the door from the pub, scanning until he locked onto Mittermud.
“Hey, wait!” The man said. “Are you homeless?”
Mittermud dashed to the target window to find it had been replaced. He gritted his teeth and squawked. “Don’t follow me,” he said. “Stay away.”
“I can help you,” said the man.
“No you can’t.” Mittermud backed away and turned into a sprint.
Several goombah’s came out a back door and lit cigarettes. He burst his speed to run by them, but one caught sight of him.
“Hey there, little cannoli.” A husky one tapped his buddies and spread out to intercept. “Where are you hurrying off to?”
“Don’t touch me!” Mittermud slid on the greasy pavement and stopped. He turned and ran back, but the man in the suit came steadily his way.
“Move!” screamed Mittermud. “Get out of my way!” He dashed down one side, watching for the man to charge his direction, intending to zig to the other side and sneak by him.
The man lunged, Mittermud zigged, but the man pivoted like an expert running back and snatched a corner of his coat.
“No! Don’t touch me.” He slipped out of the coat and bolted, but it had slowed him down enough for the man to race after Mittermud and seize the back of his shirt.
“No!” said Mittermud.
The man grabbed his arm.
“No!” Mittermud yanked his arm away and got loose, then spun and fell on his ass. He looked up at the man, who stood perfectly still, his clothing hanging loose on a lifeless body like stone.
Mittermud groaned and flew down the alley in hopes to pocket enough fruits and vegetables from the farmers market to make up for—if only a little—the tragedy he’d brought upon that poor man.