Ahir walked carefully, one foot in front of the other, wobbling a little bit across a thin rope stretched between two tree trunks ten feet off of the ground, the sun setting behind him lighting up the sky in a brilliant display of oranges and reds.. Fourteen colored balls, forming two rainbows, danced between his hands in intricate patterns to the loud cheers and applause from the crowd gathered below him in Hixel’s park, mixed in with laughs for Bar’bou, who was walking on the rope behind Ahir juggling three balls, his tiny monkey tongue sticking out and licking his cheek in concentration.
Sweat beaded on Ahir’s face as he struggled to keep the frown of concentration off of his face, and to keep his friendly confident smile instead. Okay, three more steps and I will be in the center of the rope, then the hard part starts. Ahir reached the center of the rope and stopped walking. Ahir turned around so that he was facing the way that he had been walking from, and a look of surprise crossed his face. “Bar’bou, you mischievous monkey, what are you doing up here?”
Bar’bou chittered back a reply and continued walking toward Ahir. “No, no Bar’bou, do not knock me off of this rope!” Ahir started to walk backwards on the rope while continuing his juggling, Bar’bou following him and the crowd laughing. Ahir continued to walk backwards until he reached the end of the rope, and then he paused. Bar’bou grabbed the balls he was juggling and jumped up onto Ahir’s shoulder before beginning to juggle again. Ahir walked back to the center of the rope while the crowd applauded. Ahir gathered in the balls he had been juggling, catching one ball between each of his fingers and three in each palm, and he performed a small bow. Bar’bou mimicked Ahir.
“Thank you all for coming out for my show, and for your generous gifts. Please come see my show again, and bring your friends. Together, we can help to make this city a happier place. Have a great night everyone!” Ahir put the balls into his pockets and walked across the rope to one of the tree trunks that the rope was tied to. He climbed onto the trunk and undid the knot. “Bar’bou, I will put the rope away, why don’t you go and gather up the money that we got for today’s show?”
“A capital suggestion my friend.” Bar’bou jumped off of Ahir’s shoulder and onto the ground. He ran over to the blanket where the money was sitting and started to gather it up. Trixie, who was standing underneath the tree, looked up at Ahir.
“What did he say?” she asked him.
“He said, ‘Good idea.’ So what did you think of tonight’s show?” Ahir said releasing the rope and letting it fall to the ground. He climbed off of the tree.
“It was great. I was a little scared that you would get hurt doing that last stunt, but you performed wonderfully.”
Ahir climbed up the trunk of the other tree that the rope was still tied too. “I’m a professional acrobat and I fight magical monsters in my spare time. I think I can handle walking on a rope. Woah!” The rope came untied in Ahir’s hand and he slipped, and lost his grip on the tree. He fell from the tree and landed on his back on the ground. “Ow.”
Trixie giggled. “You may be able to handle ropes and monsters, but looks like you are no match for trees. Are you alright?”
“Yeah, only thing really injured is my pride.” Ahir got up and rubbed his back a little, looked at Trixie and smiled.”Maybe that can be one of my new tricks. I can see it now, ‘Watch as I do my most dangerous trick yet, and climb a tree.’”
Trixie laughed again and helped Ahir up to his feet. Her hands are so soft, and the last light of the sunset really makes her Auburn hair look amazing. Ahir blushed and then cleared his throat. “Thanks for the help Trixie, but I’m up now, you can let go of my hand.” She noticed that she was holding Ahir’s hand and quickly pulled her hand away, and blushed. Ahir smiled, bent over and picked up the rope, and began to coil it. Once he finished, he walked over to Bar’bou, who was jumping up and down excitedly. “How did we do tonight buddy?”
Bar’bou held up a crinkled bill. “Ahir, someone left a hundred dollar bill tonight!”
Ahir’s eye’s went wide and he reached out and took the money. “I guess someone really enjoyed the show tonight. What do you think, should we use this to go out and have something nice to eat?”
Bar’bou jumped up onto Ahir’s shoulder “Excellent idea. I desire an apple, followed by a slice of apple pie. Wait, providence has smiled upon you greatly, I desire the entirety of the pie!”
Ahir smiled. “You got it buddy. What about you Trixie? You feeling hungry tonight?”
“You mean that you will pay for me too?”
“Of course I will. You are a part of the team too, but you have to do something for me first if you want to come along.” Ahir said with a sly look in his eye.
Trixie blushed again, “What is that?”
“You have to tell us someplace good to eat. Bar’bou and I don’t get to go out very often.”
Bar’bou chimed in, “They must be able to provide me with apples! Otherwise it is unacceptable.”
Trixie turned her head and thought for a moment, and then she smiled. “I know of a place that sounds just right, and it’s not too far from here.” Trixie started walking to the east entrance of Hixel’s park. They continued on for a couple of blocks and finally stopped in front of a building with a sign that read, “Richie’s Dining and Catering.” “This is the place, come on guys!” Trixie walked into the building.
Trixie was greeted by a young man in tan shirt and a black vest. “Trixie, how are you doing? I thought you didn’t work tonight though.”
“Hi Timmy. I’m here with some friends to get something to eat. This my friend Ahir and his monkey Bar’bou.”
Timmy chuckled, “This is the guy from all of your stories? Does the monkey really talk?”
Trixie blushed and waved her hands. “Of course not, I just found Ahir’s acrobatics to be fascinating and wanted to make him a little more interesting for stories, that’s all. A talking monkey, that would be ridiculous.”
Timmy smiled. “I was only kidding. Follow me and I’ll show you to your table. Talking monkey, like that could happen.” Timmy showed them to a table and they sat down across from each other and handed each of them a menu. “Your waiter should be along shortly. Enjoy.”
Once Timmy had walked away Ahir glared at Trixie. “I thought you promised not to tell anyone about Bar’bou and I. What else are you putting in your ‘stories’?”
“I’ve actually been writing stories about your shows for a while for my English class. My teacher keeps encouraging me to try writing in different genres to develop my skills more, so when I found out about what you and Bar’bou really do, I decided to write about the other things that you guys do. Don’t worry, no one thinks they’re anything but stories I’ve come up with. Keep Bar’bou from talking here and we should be fine.”
Ahir looked over his menu and occasionally looked up at Trixie, who he kept catching looking at him and then looking away. “So, you work here?”
Trixie looked down at the table and frowned, and started playing with a wet spot on the table. “Yeah. I know it’s not the most glamorous job in the world, but it works around my school schedule so I like it.”
“Nothing wrong with working here. At least you have more of a steady income than I do. Whether I get to eat everyday depends on how my shows do each month.”
“Working as a waitress I pretty much live off of my tips, so we’re in a fairly similar position actually. I only make $2.50 an hour.”
“How can they do that to you? Isn’t there a minimum wage law that says they have to pay you more than that?”
“There is, but they justify it by saying that my tips make up for it. Which means it really stinks when I get lousy tips.”
“I’ll bet. So, what would you recommend getting here?”
“I would recommend the mooey-gooey burger with a trip to the salad bar, so that you can get some apple slices for Bar’bou.”
“That sounds good to me. Bar’bou?”
Bar’bou was about to answer when a young man with a tan t-shirt and a black vest walked up to their table. “Hi Trixie, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing well Tommy. We’ll take two mooey-gooey burgers, with two trips to the salad bar.”
Tommy scribbled some notes on his note pad. “And what can I get you to drink tonight?”
Ahir spoke up, “I’d like a chocolate shake if you have one, and a cup of water for my monkey.”
Trixie held up two fingers. “Two shakes please.”
Tommy scribbled a few more notes. “Alright, I’ll go get your orders in. You folks go ahead and help yourself to the salad bar.” Tommy walked away and entered the kitchen.
Ahir and Trixie got up and went to the salad bar. Trixie prepared a plate with a salad on it, and Ahir prepared a plate with some apple slices, grapes, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers on it for Bar’bou. “Aren’t you going to have a salad Ahir?” Trixie asked.
“No, I’m not a fan of salads. I might share some of the fruit and veggies off of the plate I got for Bar’bou. I thought about putting some bananas on the plate too, but I really can’t afford to have him freak out and start screaming at me in here,” Ahir said smiling.
“Yeah, if we could avoid making a scene that would be good. I kinda like working here.” Trixie and Ahir sat back down at the table and Ahir slid his plate over to Bar’bou. Bar’bou looked at Ahir with gratitude sparkling in his eyes and he picked up an apple slice and started chewing away at it.
“So, you are in an English class, how is that going?”
“Several English classes actually, and they are going well. My teachers love reading my stories about you and your shows.”
“What are you going to school for?” Ahir asked stealing a carrot stick off of Bar’bou’s plate and biting into it with a loud crunch.
“I want to be a writer, and possibly become a creative writing teacher someday.”
“Between school and work, how do you find time to come to my shows, much less try and help me to handle the creatures coming through the portals?”
“I just work hard when I get the chance to. Richie, the owner, usually lets me work on some homework when it gets slow in here, and going to your shows is a big part of some of my classes, watching you work so I can write about it. I’m only going to school part time and they are all night classes this semester, so that helps to free up some time.”
Tommy walked over with a tray with two plates piled high with french-fries and with two large burgers sitting on it, and two chocolate shakes. “Alright, here we go. Two mooey-gooey burgers with fries, and two chocolate shakes. Timmy put a good word in for you with Chester and we got some extra fries for you and Ahir, Guardian of Malor. Enjoy.” Tommy put the the plate with a nice thick burger with cheese oozing off of it on the plate, french fries, and lettuce and tomato on the side in front of Ahir and Trixie.
Tommy walked away chuckling and Ahir gave Trixie a skeptical look. “‘Ahir, Guardian of Malor?’”
“What? I had to call my stories something. I think it is a very noble sounding name. Enough of that, you don’t want to let you mooey-gooey burger get cold. It’s much better tasting when the cheese is still hot enough to squirt into your mouth with every bite.” Trixie took a big bite of her burger. She pulled the burger away from her mouth and there were two tiny rivulets of cheese running down either side of her chin, and dripping down onto the french fries on her plate.
Ahir chuckled and then grabbed his burger and began to eat it as well. Ahir took breaks in between bites of burger to pick up some of the fries that the cheese had dripped on and devoured them. After Ahir and Trixie finished their burgers they took their fries and dipped them into their chocolate shakes.
Bar’bou’s head jerked up, an apple slice sticking out of his mouth. He clapped his hands and jumped up and down. Ahir looked at him and said, “Are you sure?” Bar’bou nodded. Ahir quickly slurped down the rest of his milkshake and reached into his pocket. He handed Trixie the hundred dollar bill. “Leave a tip that you think is fair, Bar’bou and I have to go now, a portal has opened.” Ahir got up from the table, Bar’bou jumped up onto his shoulder, and Ahir pulled his pack up onto his shoulder.
“Ahir, you have to wait for me. You promised that I can help you to fight against the Aureus’aevum.”
“We always knew that there was a chance we’d have to go fight one where you weren’t around to let know. We have to pay the bill, and we can’t waste time waiting for a waiter to bring the check.”
“I can take care of that. Just give me a second,” Trixie walked up to the cash register and got Timmy’s attention. Timmy came over and whispered with Trixie. Timmy took the hundred dollar bill from Trixie opened the cash register and and pulled out change. Trixie took the change and walked up to Ahir and handed him $65 dollars. “Here is your change, now let’s get going.” Ahir and Trixie left the diner. Bar’bou pointed to the north and Ahir and Trixie started to jog.
“So, what did you think of the mooey-gooey burger Ahir?”
“It was very good. I wouldn’t mind having another one sometime. I wish I hadn’t eaten one right before having to run, how far is it Bar’bou?”
Bar’bou cleared his throat. “The destination that you seek is half a mile away. We should be able to reach it quickly enough this time.”
Ahir and Trixie ran on in silence for the half mile, and just before they turned the corner to reach the lot where Bar’bou said the portal was open, Bar’bou’s head jerked upright. “Ahir, the portal has closed once again.”
“Are you sure Bar’bou?”
“Yes, I am certain, but we are close enough that we might be able see who is responsible for it this time.” Ahir quickly rounded the corner and saw an empty lot. “There, Ahir, I saw someone duck around the corner of the building. Quickly, you can still find out who it is that is doing this, and how! Maybe you can find someone to help you in your quest!” Ahir started to run across the lot when a hawk dove screeching down, and flapped it’s wings in Ahir’s face. Ahir batted it away and started to run forward again and the hawk swooped down into Ahr’s face again.
This time the hawk spoke. “Tell your human to stay out this Bar’bou, this matter does not concern him! He is no longer needed to protect this city!”