Emo Kid liked raccoons in theory; they had always seemed to him like a cross between a cat and a panda. Theoretical raccoons, however, did not smell like garbage and feces; this one did. He wondered how one was supposed to interact with members of such a species.
“Pardon me,” said Emo Kid politely. “You are impeding my progress.” The raccoon, showing very little interest in his dilemma, stared back at him with black-rimmed eyes eerily similar to his own. He racked his brain for any vestigial knowledge of raccoon psychology.“You like shiny things, right? Have you seen my earrings? If you help me escape,” he said desperately, “I’ll let you have them.” The animal did not seem impressed by this offer. It continued to stare at him, unmoving and unblinking.
“What are you doing down there? Who are you talking to now?” came the muffled voice of the Jock, his interest apparently piqued by the sound of polite, if one-sided, conversation. “If you’re pretending to call someone so I’ll go away, you can give it up now. In those pants it would’ve been way too obvious if you had a phone in your pocket.”
“That’s a headliner right there: High School Quarterback Mysteriously Grows Intellect,” Emo Kid told the raccoon grumpily. Its nose twitched subtly. He raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you like football, do you? Well, we can converse on that topic if that’s what it takes for you to let me out.” He settled onto his elbows as comfortably as possible in the circumstances and went into lecture mode, raising his tone so that his captor was sure to hear him. “What most football fans seem unwilling to acknowledge is that the sport is not based on physical prowess, but in fact the willingness of so-called “manly men” to throw themselves bodily upon other men and engage in sweaty grappling.”
“If you don’t die down there,” the quarterback remarked conversationally, “I am going to tear you to pieces.”
“I apologize, but I can’t hear your strident tones from down here,” Emo Kid called back loudly. “Besides, I was talking to my friend here.”
He turned back to the raccoon, which was still gazing at him in apparent fascination. “Where was I? Ah, yes. While this kind of exercise may have been regarded as manly amongst the Spartans and perhaps the Romans, it really has no place in,” he sniffed regally, “civilized society. Take a moment to reflect, if you will, on the famous men of literature. Mr. Darcy, for example, was not held in high regard due to the size of his biceps, but rather for the size of his wallet. While Hamlet was proficient with a sword, his true weapon was his wit and his ability to put into words the torment of his soul. And though Robin Hood may have engaged in the occasional grapple when prompted, I believe we should give greater value to his tender courtship of the Maid Marian, who–”
He could have gone on along these lines for quite some time, but the raccoon, seemingly moved by his speech (or perhaps the enraged howls of the Jock out on the street), had begun backing away. Emo Kid gazed at it with gentle appreciation. “Thank you, my friend,” he said sincerely, beginning to crawl after it. “It’s good to know that in the eternal gloom and anguish that is life, the bright and shining light of true friendship will always appear to pierce the darkness. I feel that we have a connection,” he mused, dragging himself along with his elbows after the raccoon as it scooted away from him. “Maybe in another incarnation we were kin.”
He realized, as he continued in his dark and uncomfortable journey, that he was giving voice to a lot of ruminations that usually would have been kept to himself. He wondered if this was why the great poets always seemed to have tortured lives—perhaps misery was required to truly loosen the tongue? Whatever the case was, he knew that when he got home (assuming he ever made it out of this smelling maze of a prison) his first act would be to pull out his notebook and guitar and begin composing. Well, second act, perhaps; he couldn’t imagine creating inspiring works of music without taking a shower first.
Perhaps, he mused, he had found the reason that the Jock and others of his kind were unable to express themselves in any way other than brute force and childish insults. The highschool quarterback had never been submitted to any sort of teasing or humiliation; surely this must be why he was unable to form his thoughts as eloquently as Emo Kid himself. He began to feel pity stirring—imagine what it would be like, traveling through life with a soul as two-dimensional and undeveloped as a piece of unexposed film!
Just when his eyes were beginning to water in sympathy, he had a sudden, vivid mental image of the Jock lounging with his head on Emo Kid’s backpack, a Game Boy Advance clutched in his brutish hands. Emo Kid’s hands, lily-white and delicate in comparison, balled into fists. He raised one as well as he could, shaking it in the direction he imagined (and hoped) the sky to be. “Curse you!” he screeched hoarsely. “If only I could make you comprehend the vileness of your deeds! But you will never understand. No one understands,” he finished pathetically, voice dropping to a whisper.
His fist began to drift slowly towards the slick floor of the tunnel, but the realization that the raccoon was almost out of sight around a bend caused him to instead slap his hand down quickly and resume his crawling. “You, though,” he cried out, reaching petulantly for the striped tail. “You understand me. Due to our bond and all,” he added, in case it didn’t remember. He wasn’t sure how much animals comprehended the bonds of friendship. The raccoon ignored him as it flicked its tail out of reach, increasing its pace. Emo Kid scrambled to keep up. “My friend,” he huffed, unused to such exertion. “I hate to complain, but you are moving just a little too…fast,” he trailed off, almost bumping into the animal as it suddenly came to a stop.
Emo Kid blinked, unsure for a moment why he suddenly felt dazzled. Then, as the raccoon faded off into the darkness, he realized. A band of light lay across his face where the sun shone down through the slots of a manhole cover.