Joe’s feet swung four inches off the ground as he sat on the park bench, watching the people scurry by. The oak tree above him was blocking most of the rain, but then a large drop landed on his paper bag, shocking him out of his daze. He brushed it away with his yellow rubber glove.
“‘ello, sir,” came a voice from behind, to which Joe did not respond. He put another wedge of peanut brittle in his mouth and chewed loudly, as if to drown out all other noises.
“‘ello, sir,” said the voice again, this time from the other shoulder. Joe set his jaw and watched a young mother push a pram through the park. A toy kitten with fluffy white fur peeked out from beside the baby. Joe held his breath at the sight.
“‘ello again, sir,” said the voice, and this time there was no ignoring it. The squirrel was sitting on his lap.
“Hello Galapogous,” Joe sighed, closing up his bag. “You found me.”
Galapogous shot quick glances left and right, then edged forward, rubbing his little hands together like he was trying to put out a fire.
“Yes I did, sir. Yes I did. ‘ow are you doin’ today, sir, if I may ask, sir?”
Joe looked away, took a long, steady breath.
“I think you know,” he said.
“Izzit the ‘puter still, then? The ‘puter bein’ the issue?”
“Yes, still,” snapped Joe. “It’s only been two hours, you fur-bound terrorist!”
Galapogous nodded over and over again, twitched his head to the side and sighed as loudly as his little lungs could manage.
“Right you are, sir. Right you are. And as a matter of fact, on that related topic, I want to make a correspondence with you about—”
“Oh no,” Joe said. “If I see his scrawny little face again, I’ll punch it in. You keep him away from me.”
Joe got up, holding his bag tight, and started down the path, trying to ignore the little squirrel bouncing along beside him.
“‘owwas I supposed t’know he’d go diggin’ in the ‘puter, sir? I mean really. Thass just not done, is it? Totally unexpected!”
“You know what he’s like. There’s a reason they call him Mad Jeffy.”
“Iss not ‘is Tourette’s then?”
Joe said nothing, just kept walking through the rain, until he came to an abrupt stop beneath the big maple near the fountain. There was something blocking his way.
“Motherfucker!” spat Mad Jeffy, checking under a rock.
“Hello, Jeffy,” Joe said.
“Piss pang butthole!” Jeffy said. “Have you seen any raisins?”
“No, Jeffy, but more to the point: have you seen any raisins?”
The ferret looked up at him, eyes squinting and teeth bared. He was begging to be kicked like a football, but Joe was not that kind of person. Yet.
“How do you mean?” Jeffy asked.
“Well, what I’m asking is when exactly did you previously came across raisins hiding inside a computer? Does it happen often? Is it a natural place to expect them? Or are you completely deranged, perhaps?”
Jeffy stared at him ominously.
“No need t’answer that, Jeffy m’boy,” said Galapogous nervously. “C’mon there, sir, let’s keep walkin’, right?”
“My cat,” Joe said suddenly. “Killed herself today.”
Neither animal spoke.
“Do want to know why she killed herself?” Joe continued. “Would you like to know?”
“Shitfaced bollocks-dropper,” Jeffy said. “Sure.”
Joe knelt down close to the ferret, eyes narrow and hand squeezing the life out of the peanut brittle.
“She missed her keyboard cat.”
The ferret did what ferrets consider shrugging.
“Fuckin’-A,” he said.
“She missed her keyboard cat, and because you destroyed my computer, I couldn’t show it to her, and she became despondent, and she killed herself.”
Galapogous shuffled his feet, swished his tail.
“‘ow’d she do it, sir?” asked the squirrel.
“‘ow’d she off ‘erself? As a matter’o curiosity.”
“While I was doing dishes, she climbed onto the stove and lit herself on fire.”
“That explains the gloves, then,” nodded Galapogous.
“Yes it does,” said Joe.
“Buggerfuck tit falls,” added Jeffy.
“That’s just nasty, it is, sir,” said Galapogous. “You alright, sir? That’s some pretty heavy stuff t’be—”
Joe caught the squirrel by the neck and lifted him off the ground, squeezing his fist tighter and tighter.
“Do I look all right to you?” he growled.
Galapogous would have replied, had he had any air.
“I was happy, you know! I had a life! I was just coming to grips with the idea that I could talk to animals, and then you two went and ruined it for me!”
Galapogous’s arms stopped moving with quite so much force, and his eyes started to slide closed.
“Pussbugger!” screamed Jeffy, leaping at Joe. He latched onto the hand holding Galapogous and bit savagely into the closest finger. Joe shrieked in agony and dropped the both of them, pulling his hand close and checking the bloodied hole in shock.
“You little beast!” he shouted at the ferret, and prepared to kick him into traffic.
Jeffy grinned savagely, but then his expression changed with a start. He gasped, lurched, and toppled to his side. He was choking… something yellow was stuck in his throat!
Joe smiled at the hole in his yellow rubber glove, standing over the ferret as it drowned in its own failed heroics.
“I hope they have raisins in Hell,” he grinned. “For the Devil’s sake.”
Jeffy stopped moving, spread limply in a puddle as the rain kept pouring. Galapogous stumbled towards his friend, rubbing his eyes.
“What ‘appened?” he asked.
“He bit off more than he could chew,” said Joe.
“Oh,” nodded Galapogous. “You alright, then?”
Joe looked down at his furry companion, closed his rubbered fist, and let out a deep breath. The autumn air was vicious and refreshing.
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “I’m all right. In fact, I may just be happy again.”
And he was. Until he discovered he could talk to animal ghosts, too.