A Story by @Za
It was a brisk autumn afternoon as a small fluffy rummaged through ripped garbage bags for his lunch. Passersby marched on with their noses upturned, willfully ignorant of the poor fluffy’s suffering. Children would meet the candy red eyes of the small creature, asking their mothers to pet the animal as they were dragged away by the wrist. No one would pay any mind to a disgusting alley-dwelling fluffy.
No one but Phoebe.
School had just let out. Phoebe and her brother began their walk home, planning to stop by Beefjoint and pick up dinner. As the two approached the restaurant, Phoebe heard a violent rustling from the alley. Curious girl that she was, she decided to investigate.
“Remember, I want my burger plain. Not dressed where I have to pick it off, plain. Got it?” Phoebe nudged her brother, taking a short step into the alley. Her brother simply rolled his eyes and continued on. He was more than used to the weird antics of his dumb little sister by now.
“Hello?” Phoebe called to the seemingly-vacant alley. The echo of her voice was drowned out by the sounds of the city, but its presence was still felt. The rustling continued as fervently as ever. She made her way further in, looking all around to no avail. That was until she looked down.
“Dummeh baggie! Gib fwuffy nummies nao!” cried a small fluffy, attempting to rip the bag with its teeth. The fluffy was white with red stripes and a red mane. He was similar to a candy cane in a way. His most striking features, though, were three diagonal gash-like red stripes across his face. They stood in a stark, ugly contrast to the uniform stripes across the fluffy’s body. He looked up at Phoebe and squealed, running quickly beneath a dumpster to hide. Phoebe, unabashed, knelt down beside the dumpster and beckoned the fluffy.
“Hey, c’mere funny stripes. I ain’t gonna hurt you.”
The nickname evidently stuck.
“Nice wady nu huwt Funny Stwipes?” the fluffy asked cautiously. The girl shook her head and the fluffy shyly peeked out from beneath the dumpster. “Hewwo nice wady,” he said sweetly. Phoebe giggled.
“Most people call me Phoebe, but ‘nice lady’ works too,” she said, reaching down to pet the fluffy. Funny Stripes cooed, savoring the sensation of being scratched behind his ears. He peeked up curiously to see the woman who had spared him from violence. She was a pretty young woman, perhaps sixteen, with strawberry blonde pigtails. Her red-and-white hoodie reminded the fluffy of himself.
“Wai Feebee name fwuffy Funny Stwipes?” he asked curiously. Phoebe chuckled, ruffling the fluffy’s mane.
“Well, you’re kinda funny-looking,” she told him frankly. She ran a delicate hand through the fluffy’s candy-red mane. “I like your red stripes, though. They make you special.”
He nestled into her lap as she continued petting him, catching a glimpse up her sleeve.
“Funny Stwipes wike Feebee’s wed stwipes too!”
Phoebe sat thoughtfully for a moment before realizing where Funny Stripes’s eyes were pointing. She recoiled panickedly, instinctively holding her arms close to her chest. She was idle for a moment, trembling at the comment. No one had ever noticed before, and if they had they didn’t dare mention it. Her cheeks burned and tears crept into the corners of her eyes as she clutched her thumping heart. Only then did the dots connect.
“You… like them?” she asked, almost disgusted. She couldn’t hold it against the fluffy though. He was just naive. Funny Stripes nodded enthusiastically.
“Feebee wook wike Funny Stwipes!” he chirped, beaming up at her. Phoebe nearly smiled. “Feebee bown wif stwipies wike Funny Stwipes!” There went the smile.
“Oh, uh, n-no buddy,” she stammered, “I wasn’t, uh…” She squirmed thoughtfully, trying to understand the best way to explain this to a fluffy. “I put them there.”
“Wai?” the fluffy asked with confused eyes.
“To make myself feel better when I feel bad,” Phoebe sighed. Her eyes wandered away from the fluffy’s as unpleasant memories surfaced. She grimaced uncomfortably. The lifeless grey of the concrete ground was a suitable canvas for a memory of her last time cutting. Her throat tightened and she felt a spoonful of cafeteria mashed potatoes fight tooth-and-nail to come back up.
“Dat wowk?” Funny Stripes asked, reaching up to tug at her sleeve. She sighed in resignation.
“Not usually, nah.” She raised her sleeve slightly to allow the fluffy to observe her more closely. “See?” Funny Stripes eyed her forearm closely, as if confused. He considered her for a moment, eyes affixed on the scars.
“Am stwipies… boo-boos?” he asked, spitting the last word as if it was the most foul thing he had ever said. Phoebe couldn’t help but snicker.
“What did you think they were, doofus?” she laughed. “Crayon?” Funny Stripes puffed his cheeks and looked away.
“Mebbeh,” he grumbled. Phoebe’s laugh grew into a guffaw. The fluffy quickly poised another question. He gazed up at her with eyes that were upset and confused.
“How Feebee get su saddies dat Feebee wan huwties?” he asked her. She felt herself sink and shy away. Where was she supposed to begin?
“Well, I…” she began. The fluffy seemed a little lost, but he was sitting at attention nonetheless. She had already lost her train of thought, if she had even had one to begin with. She repeated again, “I…” as if hoping to jumpstart her mind. All that came were tears. Tears born of of pent-up suffering and unimaginable emotion. She dug her nails into her thighs, narrowly avoiding drawing blood. Funny Stripes looked up at the girl, trying his best to sympathize. But he just couldn’t. He didn’t understand any of it.
“I’ve never had any real friends,” she gasped out between sobs. “No one likes me.” Just when she began to compose herself, she remembered the girls at the table beside her at lunch today. How they laughed at her for going back for a second tray.
“I have to go back for more food every day because my parents are broke jobless drug addict pieces of shit! My brother keeps all of the money from his job to spend on beer and weed! I never get to fucking eat!”
The girl pounded her fists into the dumpster time and time again. Funny Stripes didn’t move though. He just sat and listened.
“No one cares about me!” Phoebe yelled, punching the dumpster with all her might. It almost budged.
“Nobody wants to hang out with that weird chick whose parents are on meth and who always goes back for another plate like a little fucking pig!” She fell down from her knees to all fours, choking on her sadness. Tears and bloody knuckles stained the concrete.
“Nobody is even going to care about me until it’s too late,” she whispered. It was barely audible, but it was there. She was trembling, struggling to keep herself up.
“Funny Stwipes cawe.”
Phoebe clung to those words for dear life as she felt herself slipping. She fought to lift her head up, meeting the fluffy’s sugary-sweet gaze with her own tearful eyes.
“Feebee nee nummies. Wai cawe if oddah hoomans am meanies? Feebee nee nummies fow bestest happies, and fow gwowin big an stwong.”
“An Funny Stwipes nu fink it mattew if Feebee’s mummah and daddeh and bwuddah am meanies. Dat nu mean nuffin bout Feebee.”
Phoebe was too shaken to even respond. All she could do was continue hanging on the fluffy’s every word.
“Feebee come an make tawkies wif Funny Stwipes. Feebee gib Funny Stwipes nyu namesie. Feebee am Funny Stwipes nyu bestest fwen… an onwy fwen.”
“Funny Stwipes hab heawt huwties too. Nu hab mummah ow daddeh ow bwuddahs ow sissies ow housie ow nummies ow nuffin nu mowe. Funny Stwipes onwy hab twashie nummies an big metaw twashie thingie fow sweepin undew. But now Funny Stwipes hab Feebee too, wite?”
Phoebe’s eyes had were pooling with tears as the little fluffy looked up at her expectantly. Oh, how she wished she could just take him home. He was safer here than there, though. Sometimes she thought she’d be better off on the street than at home, too.
“Yeah, buddy. You’ll always have me,” she answered. “I promise.”
The two embraced as Phoebe began to cry again. Funny Stripes could no longer hold back his sadness either and wept into her shoulder as she cradled him. The two sat there, just enjoying each other’s company and letting their emotions run free. They didn’t notice the sneers or the pointing from passersby. They weren’t important.
“Hey dweeby, come on!”
It was her brother. He stood at the entrance of the alley, tapping his foot and eating loose fries from the bag. Phoebe quickly let the fluffy down and turned to face her brother. Funny Stripes squeaked meekly and scrambled back under the dumpster.
“I want my burger to still be warm when I get home,” he grumbled. Phoebe rushed over, snatching the bag away from her brother and opening the foil wrapping of her burger. As expected, full PLOT. What a bastard.
“Tyler, you dickhead, you did this on purpose!” she groaned. Tyler tried and failed to hide a grin.
“You feel like going in there and doing something about it, little miss ‘oh I’m too much of a pussy to talk to a stranger’?” he asked mockingly. Phoebe’s annoyance shrank away into shameful silence. “Didn’t think so. You already look like you’ve been crying. Let’s go, crybaby.” As Tyler turned and started walking away, Phoebe’s eyes glanced back to Funny Stripes. He was still hiding beneath the dumpster. She threw her unwanted burger toppings towards the dumpster. He quickly came out to nibble on the food and say goodbye to Phoebe. He gazed up at her, filled with gratitude and hope.
“Fank ou fow nu-twashie nummies, Feebee!” he exclaimed, slobbering all over due to a full mouth. “You am da nicest nice wady ebah!” Phoebe giggled and knelt down to ruffle his mane once more. He hugged her knee with an infantile coo. She felt so happy to have someone care about her for once, even if it was a fluffy. “Feebee come back next bwite-time?” he asked. When she had first come across him, she had no intentions of even being alive tomorrow. But now?
“Yeah buddy, I can’t wait.”