Fences and Neighbors
by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Randolf, one of the most comely hedgehogs, spat. Although he could squeeze under the barricade, to do so he would have to empty pockets of bits and snips. Simply, either he could scoot past the police, or he could stay put and keep his delectables.
Perhaps, he should leave the republic in his official motorcade. His fancy fleet was beyond serviceable. Besides, since Henry took pride in protecting Randolf, if Randolf made a surreptitious exit, Henry would get back at him during their next round of pinochle.
It was not so much that Henry needed Randolf to travel in a vehicle capable of stopping a RPG as it was that Henry liked to fool the paparazzi with proxies. At most events, there were supposed to be at least two doubles of Randolf.
Randolf sighed. If only one of his two to three requisite facsimiles had showed up, he could be burrowing under the fence that separated his domain from the foreign one in which he stood. He could be, overlooked and enjoying his pilfered pawfuls of cookies and crackers, sharing choice morsels with the prettiest breeders in his kingdom.
Allegedly, all of the duplicates that were supposed to be part of this mission had the flu. Randolf sighed again and then sniffed. Su seemed to be in the vicinity. Randolf trilled to his Head of Protocol, who was also his best friend. Su answered in short barks.
Barking was an oddity, indigenous to Su. Randolf overlooked it; only Su had ever successfully competed with the king at Quills.
His mirrored aviator glasses throwing sunlight at Randolf, Su trotted up. In one paw, he held a hedgehog-sized smartphone.
Get me out of here before Henry intervenes.
Youd insult the head magpie.
And I care, why?
Diplomacy, Your Majesty.
Randolf groaned. Summon Bill, Phil, Milly, and Dill.
Already done, sir.
If youre such an etiquette maven, why arent you using my styled title?
Sincerely sorry, Imperial Highness Randolf the Sharp.
True, but Im obliged to obey your commands.
So, whats with our escape?
Were being purposely detained.
So, where are Bill, Phil, Milly, and Dill?
In league with magpies?
You befriend a Komodo dragon.
No, he indulges me-says Im amusing. He could eat my entire kingdom without being fully awake.
Termites, beetles, ants, mosquitos. Quickly call the royal cook and have him dip into my larder. Well buy our way out. Insectivores like crickets. Some Gryllidae and a pawful or two of aphids and scale should be enough.
Yes, Your Majesty, Imperial Highness Randolf the Sharp. Su pressed an earpiece more firmly into his head and dialed some knobs on a nearly invisible communication device. His smartphone was just for show.
Randolf contemplated scooping up the piece of chewing gum sitting near the border fence. A dust cloud in the distance decided him against that move. There were limits to what royalty could do when camera-equipped drones were operative.
While he pondered, Bill, Phil, Milly, and Dill drove up in beer cans. Bill was missing some quills.
Nasty cat caught a mouthful, Sir.
Your Majesty, Sir.
Get me out of here!
Yes Sir, Your Majesty. Bill and Phil ran toward Randolf, picked him up and threw him over the fence. He broke only one paw upon landing, but had been impaled in three places by a thorn bush.
Medics! Randolf yelped.
On the other side of the fence, Su tsk-tsked. Necessary?
Milly answered. Yes, sir. The magpies offered us double portions of marshmallow fluff. I felt myself weakening and had no idea how long I would be able to resist their bribes. Its legendary, among the kings guardians, how Pam, Sam and Tammy turned into double agents.
Suddenly, a handful of lizards, whose very saliva was lethal, appeared. Notwithstanding the bold beauty of their beaded scales, their grooved teeth funneled painful poison. Months earlier, Hooti and Judy had had to be euthanized after being bitten by such monsters. Not even Moodys foldable, first-rate gaff had been effective against them.
The hedgehogs ran. The lizards ran faster. They were drawn to Randolfs blood. Bill, Phil, Milly, and Dill threw themselves over their liege, providing a sharp barrier between their king and the reptilian attackers.
On balance, Su, who was unprotected, was gobbled up in a mouthful. A second beast found the soft space where Bills quills were missing and bit through Bill.
Phil, Milly and Dill pressed tighter against Randolf. Phil was decapitated.
As suddenly as they had appeared, the lizards scattered. AVs, operated by Henry, who was still on the avians side of the fence, were dropping small darts on the scaly beasts.
Moments later, a parliament of magpies landed on the hedgehog side of the divide. Greedily, they snuffed down the nearly dead lizards. One or two of them eyed the quivering bodyguards and the four-footed ruler.
Many shiny things were sacrificed that day to appease the magpie king. The hedgehog treasury released its pile of pennies, its bent silver comb, as well as its collection of mirror-like CDs. After Henrys ransom was paid, Milly, Dill, and Randolf were escorted to their hibernaculum and given instructions never to cross the border again.
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