A Simple Matter of Ownership

It is very hard to see anything in front of you when your eyes have been situated so they look straight up. Gladius had a curious habit of falling on his head whenever he fell from a great height, which was fortunate, as his head was filled with pudding. Even a fall from a very great height tends to not bother pudding, except perhaps to agitate it a bit. Such falls did tend to deform Gladius’s head, as he had no bones to keep it in the shape he preferred. And now, because he had fallen from a tree’s branch, the top of his head was quite flat. And now his eyes were atop his flattened head, making the entire prospect of vision a difficult thing, unless he wished to view the darkened sky or the branches of a tree.

And right now Gladius wanted to see why the woman and her Artur were screaming. He had been told that screams usually mean someone is hurt or about to become hurt, and he wished to help if he could.

“My tree!” a slippery little voice cried.

Oh! That must be the chattery thing that Gladius had found in the branches of the tree when he climbed up.

Gladius tipped his body forward until the scene came into view. The woman still smooshed her face against Artur’s chest and under his chin. The man didn’t seem to be too pleased. The chattery thing, not even taller than Gladius’s knee, stood on the ground in all four legs. The thing seemed to be filled with pudding, too, or something like it, because it couldn’t decide what shape it wanted to be.

Apparently the possessive animal was quite upsetting to Artur and the woman.

“My tree!” it insisted again. “No fruit for you! My fruit!”

“Oh!” Gladius said. “You say other words! That’s quite nice.”

The woman saw Gladius and his flattened head. She screamed again.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry. I won’t hurt you. You’re in no danger!” Gladius smiled, but realized his mouth had fallen on the other side of his flattened head from his eyes, and the woman couldn’t see his comforting smile.

Having a head filled with pudding was such a bother.

She kept screaming.

Artur wrapped his arms around the woman and attempted to usher her away.

The chattery thing shouted as they fled, “My tree! My tree! My fruit!”

Gladius shrugged as the man and woman rushed away. He turned to the critter. “Do you mind if I reassemble my head? It’s ever a bother to have a flat head like this.”

The thing cocked its head. “My tree?”

“Yes, I suppose it is. Have you had it for long?” Gladius reached up with his long, long fingers and attempted smooshing everything back into place.

“Always my tree!”

“I see! I’ve never seen you before! I didn’t know it was yours! Is there some way I might have some of your fruit, then?”

The thing showed its long, long teeth. “Do me a favor. I will give my fruit to you.”

“Oh! Well, that seems reasonable, I suppose. And what favor shall I do for you?”

The chattery thing nodded. “My tree. Just say this my tree.”

“Why, this is your tree.”

“Now, you shall have fruit. I will give you my fruit. I am a good friend.”

Gladius nodded again. “And I suppose you are. Thank you, my good friend.”

The chattery thing scampered up the tree to pluck some fruit from the very highest branch. “I am a good and merciful master. I give you the fruit that is mine and give it to you. I am the best master.”

Gladius frowned. Something seemed off about this statement, but he couldn’t say what. Whatever was wrong, though, the fruit was sweet, and his stomach finally stopped grumbling. If all it took to get the food he needed was acknowledge that the tree belonged to the chattery thing, what did that matter?

This is the seventh chapter of Summers’ End.

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