From Enemy to Brethren: Part One
I was on my way to school with my younger sister Mimi when
he showed up. Mimi and I lived in the meadowland of Mystery Island and our path
to school took us through an old jungle path. Usually our thirty minute stroll
was pleasant and fun, but that was before he came along.
We were discussing math class and how Mimi's
teacher was such a pushover, when Mimi gave a sharp cry and skidded backwards
a few inches, as if someone had pulled the baby Xweetok's tail. We both whipped
around to look back.
Standing a few feet behind us and grinning maliciously
was a mutant Xweetok. I stared at it in horror, mentally comparing its sickening
appearance to my own. As a striped Xweetok, seeing one of my species as a ghastly
mutant offended me deeply. It still had Mimi's tail in its disgusting furless
"Hey," he said, his high nasal voice revealing
his gender. "Whatcha talking 'bout?"
Mimi jerked her tail out of his grip and glared
at him. "It's none of your business," she answered icily, speaking boldly for
a seven-year-old. "Come on, Bethany."
I nodded in agreement and we continued down the
path swishing our tails indignantly. I expected the mutant to slink off, but
to my annoyance he kept following us. At first we ignored him, hoping he'd eventually
leave us alone. But then he started throwing pebbles at us, and laughing every
time we stumbled. When he pulled Mimi's tail a second time, I lost all patience.
"Go ahead and run the rest of the way," I urged
Mimi as she massaged her tail meaningfully. "I'll get rid of him."
She gave me a grateful smile and skipped down
the path till she was out of sight. I turned to the mutant.
"Look," I said slowly and carefully, making my
words as clear as possible for the parasite, "Leave us alone. If you don't stop
pestering us I swear I will..."
"What?" he interrupted with a sneer, "beat me
"Ha! You nothin' but a snooty. Snootystripe!
Snootystripe!" he crowed, showing me sharp yellow teeth.
His voice, not to mention his grammar, was unbearable.
I longed to slug him. Yet I still had a tinge of patience. I began to turn away,
purposefully flicking my tail past his face. At that he grabbed my tail, running
his grubby naked claws through my silky clean fur.
That did it.
I kicked and shoved him away, but he only fought
back, grabbing at my mane and fur. I could smell his hot putrid breath as he
chuckled with glee. "Your fur is soft," he whispered.
With a shriek of rage I kicked dust up in his
disgusting face and managed to extricate myself from his grip. I dashed down
the road, kicking up as much dirt and rock as I could, so as to deter him. But
for once, he didn't follow me. I was in the school grounds and up the front
steps of the building when he called after me.
"Go ahead and run! You ain't seen the last of
Snootystripe; my new nickname.
He continued to bother me for the rest of the
day. During the classes, I'd see his bulging yellow eyes peering at me through
the windows, making rude faces at me. Once I tried to point him out to my teacher,
but the mutant would always duck out of sight whenever someone besides me looked
his way. I finally got permission to close the window shades, shutting him out
of my sight and thoughts until lunch time.
He nearly drove me crazy then. As my friend Xweethart,
a Xweetok like me only colored pink, and I sat under a tree near the edge of
the school grounds, the mutant came bounding up to the gate and called, "Hey
My body tensed but I pretended not to hear him.
He only called louder, "Ain't you gonna come
near me? Ain't I pretty enough? Hey, Snootystripe! Who's your friend?"
He rolled around on the grass behind the gate
laughing, and pointing at me and Xweethart.
Xweethart looked from the mutant to me, confused.
"Uh, Bethany, did he just call you Snootystripe?"
"No," I said flatly. "I don't know what you're
"Yeah, you do. You know I'm talking about that
retard over there." Xweethart jerked her thumb towards the parasitic mutant.
"Why's he got it in for you?"
"How should I know?" I answered crossly. "All
I know is that he decided to pick on me on our way to school this morning!"
"Well you'd better do something about him soon,"
my friend advised. "His teasing could be contagious."
As it turned out, Xweethart was right. Soon everybody
in the school often referred to me as "Snootystripe" and would drop me comments
like, "Where's your friend, Snootystripe?" and, "Seen your mutant around here,
It was beyond annoying, beyond teasing. It was
humiliating. I didn't think my social life could ever get worse.
The mutant continued to tease and pester me throughout
the week. Again and again I stopped myself from pummeling him to a pulp. It
wouldn't be that hard; he was a scrawny flea-bag, while I was trained daily
to improve strength and stamina. But each time I saw his ratty little face,
I was reminded of his disgusting claws and their never-relaxing grip. I wasn't
about to let him touch and infect me again.
On Friday, the last day of the school week to
my immense relief, the mutant gave me a strange surprise.
Mimi and I were positioned comfortably up in
the very tree which Xweethart and I'd sat under the first day I'd met that repulsive
mutant. The tree's limbs stretched out over the school gate, and Mimi kept nervously
looking down, as if expecting someone.
I bit viciously into my sandwich as I thought
of the mutant, as if every bite I took pained him greatly. I couldn't believe
all that he'd done to me! I had no idea why he enjoyed making my life so incredibly
Mimi only gazed at her food without an appetite.
She was the only one who'd sit with me now, and it wasn't even that encouraging.
I tried not to take my anger out on her, though sometimes it just came out.
Yet she stuck with me through it all. My gratitude was meaningful, but deep
inside me and couldn't seem to surface. I hadn't once told her my thanks for
The mutant hadn't shown up all day, and my sour
mood that'd claimed me all week was slowly ebbing away. I was just beginning
to imagine the glorious benefit of his absence, when Mimi shrieked with fright
and clung for dear life to her tree limb, which she'd somehow nearly fallen
"What happened?!" I cried as I helped her back
up. Then I looked down and knew the answer.
There he was, hopping up and down with glee as
Mimi protectively lifted her tail out of his reach; the mutant.
"Is your cute wittle baby sister afwaid of heights?"
he called in a mocking baby voice.
"Go away!" I hissed, throwing my sandwich down
at him. It landed with a splat at his feet, making him laugh.
"Don't she need her diaper changed?" he guffawed.
Mimi's face blushed to a deep scarlet and she
buried her head in her paws. I was too enraged to speak. With a snarl I scampered
along our branch, until I found a good-sized stick among the tangled twigs.
I wrenched it from the tree limb and aimed it towards the mutant. I didn't expect
to hit him, and he'd probably laugh harder. But that's not what happened.
His malicious grin vanished and his eyes widened.
He backed away several steps. "Stop! Don't!" he screeched. And before I could
register what had happened, he'd dashed back into the jungle, bald tail between
I watched him go, dumbfounded. All I'd done was
threaten him with a stick. Mimi stared at me in bewilderment. "I guess you've
seen the last of him," she remarked.
I had to smile at that. She was right. I wouldn't
be bothered by that little rat anymore. Not now that I knew his weakness.
My weekend passed by in peace, and my sour mood
left altogether. I didn't see a sign of that rat, not even a glimpse of his
bald tail. As next Monday drew nearer however, I began to dread his presence
again. What if I hadn't frightened him after all? What if he'd seen something
happen that had nothing to do with me, and had just happened to be spooked around
the time I'd lifted the stick?
But my fears subsided as the first day of the
school week dawned, and my walk down the path was completely free of mutants.
He didn't show up at school either, nor during class or recess and lunch. I
couldn't believe my turn of luck! I'd finally gotten rid of him!
And then, as school ended and hundreds of students
streamed from the building, Xweethart came up by my side and whispered softly,
"Looks like he decided to come after all."
I froze and turned slowly to gaze in the direction
she was indicating.
The mutant Xweetok that'd so far avoided me in
the past few days, long enough to convince me that he was gone for good, was
sitting right outside the school gate. My heart sank. Would he ever leave me
And yet as I gazed, something struck me as different.
The mutant rat's triumphant and gleeful attitude was gone. He was just sitting
there with his back to me, head bent low, tail wrapped around his legs. It looked
so depressing, and so out of character, that for the first time I felt a jolt
of pity for the little beast. And before I knew what I was doing, I'd stood
up and had begun to walk slowly towards him.
He looked up as I neared the gate, and I saw
that his face was streaked with tears. My pity increased, and suddenly the thought
of touching him, comforting him, didn't seem so horrible.
"What's wrong?" I asked softly.
"Like you'd care," he sniffled.
"But I do," I countered. I did? I cared for this
parasite? That didn't seem right, and yet the words had come out.
He gave me a surprised glance. "Why?"
I couldn't answer that.
After a minute, he looked away again, squeezing
his bald tail with two grubby paws. I decided to coax something out of him.
"What's your name?" I asked, realizing that in all the time I'd known him, I'd
never taken the trouble to find out.
"Don't have no name," he muttered. "My owner
calls me Rat."
He paused for a moment before continuing, "Don't
have no kinfolk neither. I just have me. And there ain't nothin' special about
"You said you had an owner," I pointed out. There
was a tightness in my throat that I couldn't explain.
"Owner?" he repeated. He looked back at me, a
sudden fierceness in his voice. "What kinda owner leaves me alone and starvin'
in some old beat up house? What kinda owner is always kickin' and shovin' me
all the time? What kinda owner takes up a stick and hits me anytime he wanna!?
You never live through that, huh?!"
Rat's voice rose higher and more passionate as
he spoke, tears of hate leaking out of his swollen eyes. I let out a restrained
sob of my own, and realized that my cheeks were wet, wet with tears.
So I wasn't the only one who hated and was revolted
by Rat for who and what he was. His life was full of more misery than I could
ever imagine. And I'd made it worse, doing my best to reject him and chase him
away. I remembered that time when I'd taken up a stick myself, fully intent
on beating him just like his owner would. I shuddered.
"I'm sorry, Rat," I said, "I didn't know."
"I don't stand it," Rat said stubbornly. "I runs
away, I done and went wild! He won't beat me up no more." Then his face fell.
"But I'se a scaredy. I done and ran away from you."
"You should've seen it coming," I replied crossly.
"Why did you have to pester me like that? Did you seriously think I'd stand
He gave me a sheepish look. "How else is I supposed
to get attention then?"
He had a point. "You got attention alright,"
I grumbled. "You got bad attention."
He scowled and looked down at his claws, "I deserves
bad attention," he muttered darkly. "I'se a mutant, a rat."
He gave me a sharp look. "You wanna be near a
rat?" he snapped.
"I wouldn't mind," I answered quietly. "I know
you're not really a rat."
He stared at me, "I is too!" he shouted. "I ain't
never gonna stop being a rat!"
He turned on his heel and began to shuffle away,
slapping the ground with his tail. I just heard the words, "I ain't never gonna
be starry," issue from his mouth, before he slunk off into the jungle once more.
On my way home that day, my mind was whirring
I never thought I'd have anything but scorn and
disgust for Rat. And now all I could think about was how I wished to do something
for him. It was plain that it wasn't just the way he'd been treated that bothered
him. He was ashamed of his appearance, subdued to think that he deserved "bad
So he didn't think he'd ever be starry. I smiled.
I could do something for Rat, something big. Maybe thanks to me, his chances
of changing color weren't so slim.
To be continued...