Leonides and Sybyll
Winner Writers’ World 2nd Round Short Story Competition Jul-Aug 2006
He walked quietly among the holiday shoppers. Frazzled mothers with demanding children skirted around him as he made his way slowly down the middle of the packed shopping mall. Christmas muzak gurgled over the speaker, almost drowned out by the clacking of hundreds of tongues, the squeals and screams of kids the jingling of merry bells. Santa summonsed the hopeful to sit on his lap and pour out their heart’s desire, despite his over worked and underpaid ears.
Stopping by the red cord barricade around the castle, Leonides Tindal Victoire stared at the red suited purveyor of all things good and waited his turn. For the most part, he ignored the stares of young mothers and wide-eyed children. He was used to them by now. Lifting a finely pencilled eyebrow at one little girl in pigtails he smiled, showing even white teeth and a glimpse of his pierced tongue, peeking between pink, glossed lips. He chuckled at the impish grin she gave him, then frowned as her mother dragged her away, muttering about coming back later. Shuffling forward as the line advanced, Leonides thrust a hand into one pocket of his black trench coat. The responsive quiver of a small, furry body brought a smile to his lips. He stepped towards Santa Claus as his turn finally came. If Santa Claus was surprised to have a 22 year old man in a black trench coat, with spiked white hair, pencilled eyebrows and wearing pale pink lip gloss tell him what he wanted for Christmas, he didn’t show it. He listened as patiently to Leonides as he had to every other child in the line.
Clutching a small pack of candy in his hand, Leonides headed for the food court. It was past lunchtime and he felt the protest of his empty stomach, accompanied by a sympathetic stirring in his pocket.
He bought a burger and fries, with diet soda and made his way to an empty table. Taking a seat, he reached into his pocket and grasped the little furry one, pulling her out and settling her on his shoulder before offering her a couple of French Fries.
This attended to; Leonides unwrapped the burger and began to eat. He chewed fastidiously, careful of smudging his lip-gloss.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you will have to leave.”
“I beg your pardon?” Leonides quickly swallowed the mouthful of food and turned to look at the woman who stood beside his chair. She was middle aged, perhaps fifty; plump, wearing her disapproval like a mask. She leaned on a trolley stacked with dirty dishes, food scraps and crumpled serviettes.
“You can’t sit in here with that…” she pointed, “rat.”
“I can’t?” Leonides frowned and rubbed his cheek against the happily masticating Sybyll.
“It’s against regulations.”
“Oh” regulations, of course,” Leonides smiled. Deliberately, he assumed the vacuous expression of one who pretends to understand when he has no idea what is being said.
“No animals in food preparation or service areas.” The woman seemed sure that this piece of information would have Leonides running for his life. It seemed to take her several seconds to assimilate the fact that he hadn’t actually moved.
“Do you allow guide dogs?”
“Guide dogs?” Her eyebrows crept up to hide behind the heavy bangs that graced her forehead.
“Yeah, you know dogs that blind people have.”
“Yes, I suppose…”
“Well, what if this were a guide rat?”
“It’s not a guide rat!”
“It’s not?” Leonides pondered for a moment. “How do you know?”
“Well, you’re obviously not blind.”
“I didn’t say she was a guide rat for the blind, I asked, what if she were a guide rat?”
“If she’s not a guide rat for the blind, then she can’t be a guide rat.” The woman’s voice rose with exasperation and she planted both hands on her hips.
“But she is a guide rat. She is my guide in every sense of the word. Why, Sybyll here is my mentor, my advisor my…guide!”
“Oh that’s ridiculous…you’re going to have to leave!”
“You’re only worried because you can see her!” Leonides said. “Until I took her out of my pocket, you didn’t even care.”
“Well, no…but I didn’t know she was there and anyway, that’s beside the point. Even if she was in your pocket, you can’t come in here with a rat!”
Glancing at the diners around him, Leonides raised his hands in appeal. “Did I come in here with a rat? How does she know I came in here with a rat? She says she didn’t see me come in here with a rat!”
Several diners laughed, some of them looked away and one group of teenagers lent their support.
“Lady, he didn’t come in here with a rat. We were watching.”
Nodding, Leonides returned his attention to the woman. “There. I didn’t come in here with a rat. Can I eat my burger now?”
Drawing a deep breath, the woman let it go with a soft huffing sound. “You’ll have to leave.”
“I can’t leave though. You said it yourself.”
“I did not!”
“You did!” Leonides allowed his face to assume an expression of the greatest amazement. “Didn’t you say I couldn’t come in here with a rat?”
“Well, yes. But…”
“Coming in would entail walking around the mall with a rat, yes?”
“So, if coming in, walking with a rat, means that I am breaking the rules, walking out with a rat would be the same, right? Ergo, I can’t leave. Now if you wouldn’t mind; Sybyll and I would like to finish our lunch.” Leonides handed two more fries to the rat, waiting for the woman to leave.
“You–you’re unsanitary!” the woman spat, before putting her weight behind the trolley and pushing it away.
Smiling, Leonides picked up his unfinished burger. “I’d rather be unsanitary than retentive!”