Here’s the second part to Marlin. I’m using this time posting it here to reread what I’ve written and do small grammatical fixes on the master document. I usually don’t start editing until the story is done completely, but this has been helpful so far in catching the errors I made the first time around. Here goes:
“These scratch marks sting, but at least they’re clean now.”
Tum reached across the table and held out Marlin’s paw between his own, studying the rake marks between her arm fur.
He nodded slowly and began to reach for the nearest mark.
Marlin pulled her arm back.
“Don’t touch them! They’ll get dirty and I’ll have to wash them all over again.”
Tum shrugged, and shook his head apologetically.
Marlin smiled at him.
“Don’t worry about it, Tum. Mother should be back in two shakes of a whisker.”
“That I will,” responded Helena as she walked through the doorway carrying a small stack of white bandages, a bobbin of glowing blue thread, a piece of purple silk, and a pair of cloth shears.
She laid everything out on the table, and walked over to Marlin, and began inspecting her wounds closely.
Helena nodded approvingly.
“Looks like you did a good job cleaning them out. Now let me wrap them and they should heal up just fine.”
Marlin nodded, and held out her arms towards her mother, who sat at the table next to her and began to work with one of the bandages.
She made quick work of the first arm, wrapping the fabric neatly around Marlin’s arm, and pinning it closed with a bobby pin, and her other arm was soon too wrapped expertly with the soft linen cloth.
The job done, Helena turned to the young stoat.
“I think I have something that you may enjoy, if you’ll give me just a moment.”
Tum looked up at her expectantly and nodded, a grin crossing his brown and white face.
He and Marlin watched as Helena first cut a strip from the purple cloth and, laying it out on the table, gathered the faintly glowing gossamer thread and began to sew an intricate design along the fabric. They watched keenly interested as Helena worked quickly from one side to the other, wrapping circles around triangles, through squares and diamonds. She pulled the thread tight with her teeth, and cut it sharply in two with her shears, and knotted the final strand against itself.
She held the cloth up in front of her and satisfied with the work, stood up from the table.
Helena came around to where the stoat was sitting and motioned for him to lean forward.
“Here, let me get this around your neck.”
Tum did as he was obliged and leant forward.
Helena wrapped the cloth around his neck, and knotted it where the ends overlapped. She rotated the fabric until the sewn thread was sitting squarely on top of his scar.
Helena smiled up at him.
“Try speaking now, young stoat.”
Tum opened his mouth to speak.
In low raspy tones, words formed within him.
“—do you think it’ll work?” asked the stoat.
Surprised at the sound of his newly acquire voice, he cleared his throat.
Once again, he spoke.
“Oh, my goodness. I can talk. I can’t believe it! Who would have thought that a little old mute like me would be able to talk once again?”
Helena grinned up at him.
“My thread is imbued with blue magic. As long as that thread isn’t cut or damaged, you should be able to talk while it’s wrapped around your neck.”
Tum clapped his paws together
“I can’t honestly thank you enough!” he almost shouted from sheer excitement.
Helena smiled up at him and winked.
“You’re very welcome my young stoat. So, what’s your real name?”
He looked from Marlin to Helena and back again.
“My names not Tum. I was, and still am, very hungry. I was hoping to get fed for saving your daughter. My name is Joshua.”
Marlin squeaked back an embarrassed laugh.
“Oh deary me, I’m so sorry. I thought Tum was an odd name, but I didn’t want to judge.”
Helena walked over to the larder and turned towards the others.
“How about I make you something to eat and you can tell us about yourself. I’m sure that you’ve been wanting to talk for years.”
Joshua grinned widely, and nodded his head.
As her mother started making food, Marlin looked up at Joshua. She put her arm out, and grasped his paw with her own.
“How did you get such a nasty scar to begin with. From the size of it, I’d wager you’re lucky to be alive.”
Joshua squeezed her paw and nodded.
“That’s for sure. My father was the one that did that to me, when I was much younger.”
Marlin covered her mouth with her free paw in utter disbelief.
“Your father did that! For whatever reason could an animal do that to their own son?”
“He had too many mouths to feed, and instead of just kicking me out on the street, he took me somewhere secluded and tried to cut my throat. Luckily it cut the vocal cords. A lot of blood though. That much I remember.”
Helena clucked disapprovingly.
“That’s horrible. How did you heal the wound, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Joshua shook his head.
“No, I don’t mind. I was found by an older gypsy goat. She sewed my neck back together and let me stay with her in an old alleyway on the outskirts of town. She took care of me for a few years before she died one early morning.”
“Oh, how horrible.”
Joshua turned to her.
“It wasn’t too bad for her. She went in her sleep and just didn’t wake up. Not a bad way to go in this town.”
Marlin and Helena nodded as he continued in the low raspy voice the magic enchantment provided.
“I’ve been on my own since. Just sort of wandering the town looking for safe places to stay and for the occasional meal.”
Marlin got up from the table and walked up to her mother. She leaned into her large furry ear, and began whispering. Helena nodded.
“We’ll talk with your father about it once he gets home.”
Satisfied, Marlin went back to the table and sat back down.
“What did you ask her?” asked Joshua, curiously.
Marlin shook her head.
“Never you mind. I’ll tell you later, once father gets home.”
Joshua shrugged, and smiled.
Helena brought over a small assortment of buns and plain bread spread with slivers of cheese, and laid them out before the two young animals.
Joshua looked up to her expectantly.
“You mean I get to eat all this? This is enough for three stoats, and a small bunny.”
Helena nodded and smiled.
“It’s the least I can do for your help in rescuing my daughter. I’m sure that if it hadn’t been for you that she would have faired much worse than just a few scratches and bruises.”
Joshua beamed up at her from the table.
“It wasn’t any bother. How was four on one a fair fight?”
“That plank you brought with you seemed to even it out pretty quickly.”
Helena looked alarmed.
“You had a plank?”
“I had to get them off of her as quickly as possible, before they did any real damage.”
“Well—I’m glad you were there with that plank. You saved her life, not just her lunch money.”
Joshua smiled and looked down at his plate of food.
“I surely can’t eat all of this. Would you like some miss?” offering the food to Helena.
She shook her head.
“No dear, that’s for you. Why don’t you two eat your lunch and then go out for a bit and explore the town together?”
Marlin looked up at Joshua with a gleam in her eye.
“I’m sure we could get up to all sorts of hi-jinx together if we were to hang out for a while. Plus I want to make sure we’re back here once dad gets home.”
Helena smiled at her daughter and nodded.
“That sounds like a plan to me.”
Joshua picked up a piece of bread, layered with a fine yellow cheese, and bit into it.
He sputtered as he tried to talk around his mouthful.
Helena eyed him approvingly.
“Careful dear. You’ll have difficulty talking around food with that spell. Slow down and try again.”
Joshua did as he was told, slowing his chewing and attempting to talk after swallowing most of it.
“I’d be happy to take you to my home today, if you wouldn’t mind it.”
Marlin looked unabashedly curious.
“That sounds like a wonderful idea. I’ve never been to an urchins home before.”
Joshua laughed. It came out as a low growling shudder.
“Urchin? Me? No.”
Marlin laughed as well.
“Well what would you call yourself?”
Joshua thought for a moment before responding, taking another large bite of his bread.
“I’ve always been fond of the term gutter punk, myself.”
Marlin blinked twice with a blank expression on her face. Her whiskers twitched.
“Err—well, gutter punk it will be, I suppose.”
Helena gasped in shocked realization.
“Dear me, I’ve left everyone in the store by their lonesome. I’d better get back there before folks start leaving without paying for things.”
“You’d better hurry mother.”
Helena ran from the room, without another word.
Joshua turned to watch her go, and then faced Marlin once again.
“Your mother is a wonderful lady.”
“Fathers pretty wonderful himself. How about we finish this as quickly as we can and then you can show me where you live.”
They began to eagerly wolf down their food until both plates were laid bare.
Their meal done, the two new friends cleared the dishes, placing them in the sink, and made their way back to the storefront where they found Marlin’s mother helping out a long line of grumpy customers.
“Oh I am sorry for the wait. Bit of a family emergency I’m afraid.”
The hare that stood in front of her beat her foot on the ground impatiently, clearly not used to waiting so long to buy what she wanted.
Marlin waved as she left, clearly revealing the bandages on her arms to the impatient hare before turning towards the door.
The hares moods changed completely.
“Oh it’s no bother. Family and all. I’ll just take these won’t I? Lovely silks you’ve gotten.”
Helena both nodded at the hare, and smiled at Marlin as she and Joshua left. As the bell tinkered as the door closed behind them Helena called out. “Don’t be too late, back before dark!”
Marlin shouted back at the closed door.
“Sure thing mother.”
She turned to Joshua.
“Okay, let’s get going to your place. I’m beyond curious as to how you live.”
They walked for the better part of an hour before coming to a series of warehouses straddling the sky. Joshua walked to a fenced off area and, checking his surroundings, popped a fence post up and outwards, revealing a secret entrance to the side of the warehouse.
He held it up for Marlin to walk under.
Marlin ducked her ears beneath her arm, and walked through the opening into a dark alley way. The warehouse walls on either side were both too high to clearly see the sky, as the roofs of each building nearly touched one another.
Joshua walked around Marlin, who was staring up at the overhanging arches overhead and grabbed her paw with his own.
He walked her down the alleyway passing a series of shanty tents on either side. Most were empty, while others were hiding the sleeping forms of unknown animal types below them. Joshua walked her through the tents, some awnings nailed directly into the warehouses walls, until they came upon a red and green fabric dwelling.
Joshua bent down and went inside, and then popped his head out.
“Here we are. Home sweet home. Would you like to come sit inside?”
Marlin nodded vigorously and bent down as she crawled inside. There wasn’t much room inside, barely enough for both of them to sit cross legged, but it was dry and warm in the mid afternoon sun, despite the shade that the buildings offered.
As they got comfortable, Marlin raised one claw to her lips.
“How many of you live in this alleyway? There are so many tents, lining each side.”
Joshua counted on his claws, once, twice, thrice, and again.
“I would wager there’s twenty of us at this point. Once word spreads of a good spot to live, the real estate gets eaten up like nobodies business.”
“Do you all get along? It must be hard not knowing who your neighbors are going to be.”
“We keep to ourselves mostly. Once in a while a mouse, or fox, will come back drunk as a skunk and get a little loud. Getting them to bed is the best bet, so the warehouse folks don’t find us.”
Joshua stretched out his arms, and yawned. It was getting awfully warm in the tent.
Marlin looked around.
Other than a small sack of what she supposed were his clothes, or perhaps food, and a dirty blanket, it seemed that Joshua had little to nothing to his name. It saddened her.
“So you live here by yourself, not talking to anyone, just whiling away the days?”
“Basically,” he rasped, the gossamer strands of thread placed around his neck glowing a dull blue against the inside the darkness of the tent.
He looked around, noticing the blue glow around his neck.
“One moment. I’ll have to do something about that.”
He turned towards his bag, and began rummaging through it, until he found what he wanted. He pulled out a dirty white cloth neckerchief and wrapped it around his throat, hiding the purple fabric underneath.
“Excellent. Don’t want anyone bothering me about it, now do I?” His voice grating against the fabric mechanically.
Marlin shook her head.
“I wouldn’t have even thought about it.”
“I’m not the only one with this wound. I would wager plenty of animals would want it for themselves, or to sell it to someone who needed it without a second thought to my well being or care in the matter.”
Marlin thought about it for a moment, before nodding.
“Glad you had the foresight to hide it.”
“Before we fall asleep in here due to the heat, would you like to come with me around the city. I can show you some amazing places, and I promise to have you back before dark, just like your mother wanted.”
Marlins ears perked up.
“That would be wonderful. What’s in the typical day for a gutter punk such as yourself?”
Joshua took her paw and led her out of the tent, closing the red flap behind him by placing two stones on the fabric that reached the ground.
They went paw in paw down the alley way, and into the town.
The two new friends spent the rest of the afternoon, and well into dusk exploring the city together. At one point Joshua had taken her to his favorite water fountain where many an animal tossed in a copper coin or two, or even a silver if he was lucky. He had her be on look out while he dived into the humungous fountain and swam around looking for coin. Soon he surfaced with paws full of coin, and they clambered off into the city, leaving a wet trail behind them and laughing as they went. As he dried Joshua told her all about the great places in the city that she had never thought to go, having only really stayed in her neighborhood for her time in Port Palo. They visited a cheap rickety hole in the wall drink stand, that sold their drinks for the lowest prices in the city. As Joshua attempted to pay, Marlin lowered his arm, and threw two coins up onto the warped wooden plank that acted as the stands counter.
“Let me pay, Joshua. You save your money.”
Joshua nodded, and thanked her.
They sipped their drinks as they walked through the town and as the sky darkened Marlin looked up.
“Father should be home by now. Let’s go back to my place, and you can meet him, and stay for dinner.”
Joshua nodded enthusiastically and lead Marlin through the city clutching her paw in his own. He ran so quickly that Marlin nearly stumbled a few times before pulling on his arm with her free paw, begging him to slow down.
He turned back to her.
“Sorry. I thought you wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Plus its not safe for foreigners after dark.”
Marlin looked shocked.
“How did you know I was a foreigner?”
Joshua looked her up and down.
“There’s aren’t many a mouse the type that you are around here. You’re very fuzzy for such a warm climate, don’t you think. Not to mention your bright colors.”
“You’re right. I’m bright and fuzzy. Most of the mice that live here are dull browns and greys. Not bright orange like me and my family.”
“Not to mention your mothers accent.”
“You’re right about that too. I forget about it since I hear it all the time, but she clearly has one from the old country.”
They slowed to a reasonable walk. Joshua turned to her.
“So where is your family from anyway?”
Marlin thought for a moment before responding.
“I’m not sure. Mother and Father won’t talk about their lives before coming here. I’ve asked so many times, and all they say is that they live in Port Palo now, and that’s all that matters. Then they smile to themselves and look relieved. It’s all very annoying, I must say.”
Joshua giggled. It croaked out of him, in small mechanical yips.
“My, your laugh is funny,” said Marlin, poking out her tongue at him.
“About as funny as your great big whiskers,” retorted Joshua, who also poked out his tongue.
They laughed with one another as they walked through the streets, being careful to mind back alleyways where danger could lurk.
Just as it began to darken to the deep purple of the evening sky, Marlin and Joshua made their way through to the merchants alley and came to stand in front of the mouse’s shop. Marlin opened the door, and bowed down low, raising one arm in a friendly come hither gesture.
Joshua walked into the store and waited for her as she closed the door behind the two of them. The store was empty but neither her mother or father were in sight.
Knowing that it was time to close the store down, Marlin locked the front door and flipped the sign so the closed lettering painted on one side could be seen through the window.
That done, they walked through the store, passing the great loom which had a few extra inches of fabric created, displaying great fish below the boats on top of the water, and into the house beyond.
They came to find their mother and father making dinner. Gregory was whistling a tuneless song while he chopped vegetables for that nights dinner.
“We’re back. Father, this is Joshua, the stoat who saved me from my mugging this morning,” said Marlin, as she slumped herself into the nearest chair at the table.
Helena turned to her and chided her while waving a wooden spoon in front of her face.
“You’re late young missus. Before dark means before dark. You know it’s not safe out there at night.”
Marlin pursed her lips, her whiskers twitching this way and that as she tried to defend herself.
“Sorry mother, we were just having so much fun here. I lost track of time and we got back before it got totally dark, didn’t we?”
Helena was having none of it.
She waved the spoon around again, and jabbed it at the air a few times as she spoke.
“Be that as it may, you’re to be home before dark from now on. Go and wash your face and paws and come help make dinner with us.”
Marlin huffed out a sigh, and pushed back from the table in the beginnings of a foul mood. She did not like to be told off, especially in front of company.
Joshua followed her into the wash room where they both stood before the sink and Marlin ran the tap, until warm water washed down the sink. She soaped up her paws, and handed it to him to do the same. She rubbed the soapy paws on her fuzzy cheeks and washed her face, scrubbing at it harder than she really intended.
“Imagine. Telling me off for not being home before dark, and it’s not even dark yet.”
Joshua smiled and rubbed his soapy paws over his white and brown face as well.
Marlin splashed water on her face, and washed her paws clean, as Joshua did the same.
“Oh I don’t know,” offered Joshua, “I think it would be nice to have someone that cares about you worry where you are.”
Marlin froze as the realization of how she was acting must appear to a stoat such as him.
She blushed, entirely embarrassed, and just a little ashamed of herself.
“You’re right, of course. I’m very lucky to have such loving parents.”
“Now we should go out there, all good cheer, and help make the dinner—something I’m looking forward to terribly.”
Marlin offered a small smile, her mood improving.
They left the wash room, and came back into the kitchen, and Marlin walked right up to her mother and gave her a big hug.
“You’re right. I’m sorry for acting so irresponsibly. It won’t happen again.”
Helena smiled down at her daughter.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be irresponsible again one day. You’re young. But thank you dear. I’m glad you’re home safe.”
Marlin let go of her mother, and walked over to her father, who was quietly cutting vegetables and placing them in a stew pot next to the sink. He smiled all the wider as Marlin hugged the side of him, and told him she loved him too.
“I know dear. And I you. Now how about we cut these up as quickly as we can, and then you can help your mother cook the stew for tonight’s dinner?”
Marlin whole heartedly agreed and took out a knife from the cutlery drawer and began to cut the vegetables Gregory gave her into small spoon sized chunks.