Haroo Husky In:
This Ain't my First Rodeo
Not so far from the Homage Place, behind the trees and the brush and the sand, there was a secret passage hidden in the mountains, and within dwelt a hideout home to a notorious outlaw. This path led to the tunnels of an abandoned mineshaft, and at the end awaited a trove of coins and jewels and glittering things. On the stack sat a chest of great size and greater spoils.
And sitting on that chest was the priorly denoted outlaw. Like any good dragon, he had the overwhelming desire to park himself on the nearest mound of gold, but though he shared the red body (and indeed the glutes) of a dragon, a dragon he was not, and what animal he was truly was hard to say.
He had the white face of a wolf and the colorful mane of a lion worn like a mohawk, and from his hair sprouted the horns of a bull. The stripes of a tiger tattooed his arms and the spots of a hyena splotched his hips, and over his slanted, black eyes were dark markings that masked his glare.
Some called him a mutant, or a chimera. He was many things, but best to say he was a beast. Beefy, buff... and in the buff. His name?
“I am Kruel. ... No really, that's my name,” he proclaimed in a voice low and growling with a hint of dark mischief. “Evil mastermind. Cunning magician. The outlaw that all outlaws fear. Yet all I 'ear about is this... ''aroo 'usky'.”
In his bear paws he held the latest issue of the Gassy Gazette, which was a newspaper that spoke often of rumors and gossip and seldom of truth. 'Haroo Husky wins again' was scrawled on the front page with a photo of his signature wink and thumbs-up.
Actually, it was a shot of his butt pressed against the lens, snapped and submitted by one Remy Skunk. “'ow did 'e get to be the main character in this cartoon? I'm way more original than 'im.” Then he mumbled, “Mmm. And mine's much bigger than that...”
“Could it be perhaps that you lack the necessary scruples or otherwise any moral standards necessary to play the hero, Your Assortedness?” came a yellow snake with a striking accent and bushy head of hair. That snake was called Fizzier, and that snake happened to be his tail, to whom he was an advisor and boon companion.
... The first was true, anyway. “Recall that you did just proclaim yourself an 'evil mastermind' not a minute ago.”
Kruel raised a hairless brow. “Yeah? So what? For being my advisor, you aren't very bright.”
“Well! Scoff at me, if it suits you. I'm only a tail—not the most envious position, I'm sure—but oh, by all means! If you can think of something better, I would surely like to hear it!”
The beast grinned a fang-barred grin and tucked the snake beneath his throne. He sighed and released, plumes of smoke rising and an awful groaning to pass. (The snake groaned also.) “'ow's that for you?”
Fizzier popped back up, steaming and somewhat charbroiled. “You know I loathe your doing that!” complained his tail. “Of all the parts of your body, why couldn't I be something useful? Say an arm, or a leg?”
“Because, I'm using those.” He stroked his small, tufted beard of mane. “Besides, it'd ruin the fun...”
In rebuttle, the servile serpent flicked his tongue. He might've blown raspberries, but he didn't want to give his master any clever ideas.
Kruel tapped his paper. “And speaking of fun, it seems that a big event's coming to town.” And to capture this event was a photo of a familiar purple hippo, standing in a dirt arena and raising his champion's belt high for his adoring fans.
Actually, it was a shot of the back of his tights, courtesy of one Remy Skunk. “'Rodeo Rumble' they call it. A selection of fighters line-up to see who's top dog. Mmm... but we all know who that'll be.”
“Wait, Your Impetuousness! You're not thinking—?”
“Of course... I'll sign up, bend the rules (and a few contestants), and our 'hero' will 'ave no choice but to come rushing in so I can crush 'im in front of a live audience. They'll 'ave no choice but to notice me, and the West will once more fear the name of Kruel!”
He rose up and said this with all the threat and power of an arch-villain, neverminding the shining diamond wedged between his cheeks. “I've got a rodeo to win...”
There were a few today who would echo those same words. One such echo came from the private residence of Sheriff Cotton and from the big dog himself, having a mind to claim his prize and show everyone he was better than them. “(Not that I need to...)” he grinned to the reader of this tale.
With pride, he marched out the door. “Oh, no you don't!”
The squeaky voice of disapproval, then, came from Candy Skunk, the blue and white-striped mother to Haroo and Remy, worn in a small apron tied in the back with a cute bow. If ever you wondered how a husky came to have a skunk for a brother... blame her.
If Cotton's fur was gray and Candy's blue, how did Haroo ever end up with pink? Were their names enough, maybe? “You're not getting off that easily!” she shout, hands to her hips. “You promised you'd help me with the shopping!”
The sheriff sweat and bit his lip. Beneath those radiant eyes and that innocent smile, his little lady could be very... persuasive. “B-but, sweetie! The stores are all closed today!” he pleaded, docile as a pup.
“No butts!” she giggled. “If they're closed, I'll just lift yours up and use it as a battering ram!”
He grew defensive and held it away. “B-bu— I mean, all the guys'll be there! An' besides... HE'S goin', too!” he smoldered with rage. “I won't be upstaged by HIM!”
“The chucklehead what lives next door; the papa to Haroo's goofy friend. He and I got a score to settle, yes, ma'am! Bitter rivals to the end!”
“Howdy, neighbor!” said the papa in question as he clapped the sheriff on the back, showing no signs of rivalry whatsoever. His name was Teddy, a friendly brown bear of silky roundness with a soft spot for honey that he would eat until the very buttons were freed from his flannel shirt.
As it happened, he was the engineer to the Homage Place's very own Tumbleweed Express... even if he sometimes had a hard time squeezing in the pilot's cabin... and an even harder time squeezing out. “Nice weather we're havin' today, huh?”
The sheriff choked him by the tie. Not that this was really possible, since Cotton was but a dog and Teddy was a bear much, much larger than him. “Don't play dumb wit' me!” he barked. “I'm wise to you! Yer fixin' to get me off my guard with yer 'howdy-doody' ballyhoo so ya can beat me in the Rodeo Rumble!”
Teddy twitched his ears. “Is that today?”
“Darn tootin' it is!”
“Oh, thanks for remindin' me, bud!” the bear rubbed the back of his own neck. “Had a feelin' I was forgettin' something! And to think if ya hadn't told me, I woulda missed out on the whole thing... That'd be just awful!”
“It means a lot to me, bud! But how could I thank a nice guy like you?” he thought aloud, stroking his chin with a pensive, far-off look. “Hmm... I've got it! How would you like a hug?”
A pair of grizzly arms seized the fat dog and reeled him in a squishing embrace from which there was no escape. The more he struggled, the deeper he sunk... A lot like quicksand. “Grahh! Bloh! Warrg!”
“Aww, I love you too, bud!” he pat him on the head. “Welp, I'm off to tell the missus. See ya in the ring! Hee hee!”
The papa bear turned and walked away in a cheery, happy-go-lucky gait, wiggling his small tail (and a bit more) as he did. Cotton's eyes turned white and he sagged backwards.
Oh, the competition was fierce; the anticipation was mounting. Streamers and balloons floated on the breeze as the hype of the Rodeo Rumble filled the town, and there to head it off was our very own mayor, Maurice. “Where I appreciate the sentiment, I have never been much for formalities,” said he, placid, nondescript, like he didn't even care. “You may simply call me 'Mayor Maurice.'”
The mayor was a sheep of short stature, squinty eyes and an eternal smile on his face. He dressed smart in his tall top hat, ritzy black tailcoat with ruffled cravat and his elegant dress cloak complete with his fancy monocle and jeweled walking stick.
He spun it and gave it a twirl, unknowingly striking passersby upside the head or jabbing them in the gut. “Get ready to Rumble!” he cheered to rev up the crowd, or so I suppose. His voice was so mild that it's hard to tell. “Ahem. Yes, I sounded quite vigorous there, didn't I?”
Not even close. “Boy oh boy does that guy stink!” Remy, whom his older brother toted like a sort of backpack, criticized from somewhere in the crowd. “And that means a lot coming from a skunk. I should fart on him sometime!”
The skunkish prankster squinted an eye, turning and bending to test his aim. Burry shuffled to the other side. “H-have you ever been to a rodeo, Haroo?”
“Golly, I'm not sure,” pondered the pup. “A rodeo's where you ride a bull and hold on for as long as ya can, right?”
A gasp arose from the masses and fell silent as they set their glares upon him. “What?”
“How brutish and barbaric!” Maurice glowered. “Bulls are people, too! The very idea of we animals riding one another...”
Haroo looked on as a horse carrying its master trotted past him. “But everyone rides horses.”
“Yes, but they're horses,” he told as if it were common knowledge, “the most stupid, dumb, and not-smart among we herbivores. After all, I'm a philosopher as well as a mayor that makes clever claims how the world will be thousands of years from now without having to worry about staying alive long enough to prove them, so I know these things. ... What? You say that has nothing to do with horses? Well, I bet they can't tell the difference!”
The selfsame horse turned and reared him, exiting with a knowing grunt and flick of its tail. Maurice blinked, his head as swollen and full of air as one of his balloons. “Buh den uh cood beh rong.”
“That's not the only thing you are, lambchops...”
A horrible shadow covered the sheep and blotted out his sun. He tipped up his hat to see Kruel towering over him, grinning with his lolled tongue, flexing his muscle, eyes dancing with sinister delight. “'ello, gov'nah.”
“Akkshoouhlee Uhm duh may—”
He was stomped under dragon foot. “Silence! Now, which one of you peasants goes by the name of 'aroo'?”
Haroo tilted his head. “Aroo?”
“Playing dumb, eh? Like I'm going to— Wait a minute...” He pinched the pup by the shirt and brought him to his face to examine him, steam puffing from his nostrils. Didn't ring any bells so far.
He spun him around and lifted his tail. “Ahh! That's the picture in the paper. I was looking at your face, so I didn't recognize you at first.”
He let him go, and Haroo fell to the ground. “Oof! J-just who are you?”
“I'm Kruel. ... No really, that's my name. Evil mastermind. Cunning magician. The outlaw that all outlaws fear. ... I feel I've said this before.”
“That's because you said as much in your opening dialogue, Your Forgetfulness,” reminded his tail, feeling quite pleased with himself. Kruel pinged his nose. “Ugh, you are so uncouth! Well, at least you didn't—”
Fizzier screamed as smoke filled the air. “Gosh, what do ya want from me?” asked our hero, holding his nose.
“A chance with you alone in the finals. Of course you know I'm talking about... the Rodeo.”
“The Rodeo? B-but I wasn't planning on competing!”
The beast tilted his head. “Really? And what if I take this innocent civilian,” he peeled the mayor from his sole, “and do something like... this?”
He snapped his fingers, and magically Maurice was transformed into a stick of gum! Kruel tossed him in his maw and noisily chewed with a toothy sneer. “Mmm? Mmm?”
“Uh... I still don't want to compete.”
He spat him out and transformed him into a towel with which he slid across his dancing rear, sneering still. “'ow 'bout now?”
Maurice was transformed into a stick of deodorant which the beast applied to his underarms. His sneer cracked. “Anything...?”
Haroo shook his head. “This guy's seen it all. I'm running out of ideas...” He raised his arm to sample his scent. “Blech. I 'ate the unscented kind.”
“It would appear your scapegoat as it were doesn't look the 'helpless victim' type,” quoth Fizzier. “Hm. Might I suggest you appeal to Haroo's inner masculinity and issue a challenge to him, thereby luring him to accept your dare in order to save face and maintain his fragile pride?”
“... Orrr I could just turn the sheepy into a book and read 'is boring thoughts out loud.” And it was so, Mayor Maurice became a gray, dull book complete with blinking cover.
The beast crossed his leg and slipped on a pair of reading glasses. “Let's see 'ere... 'Chapter 24: Ten Theories that prove the Moon is really made of Cheese—'”
“Anything but that!” the townsfolk cried, at once lifting the pink pup high and spiriting him away to the stadium.
Haroo, for his part, tossed and turned in the sea of waving arms as he dared to stay afloat. “H-hey! Wait, fellas! Don't I get a say in this?”
Shindig Stadium. For the Homage Place, it was a place where sports and competitions of all kinds were held. Now it hung with folksy banners that signalled the arrival of the Rodeo Rumble, emblazoned with the noble image of a raging bull slamming his weight on that of a sharp-dressed sheep.
Spectators filled the benches from up high and down low, separated from the sand-filled arena by tall fences. Among them was one Rose Bear, thin of frame with a red lipstick smile and eyes ever closed. Somehow, she could see anyway. A tall hairdo of blonde-dyed fur rose on her head, and she dressed in a white shoulder-less shirt.
She was Burry's mother... and a total air-head. “Ya can do it, Burry!” she cheered in a voice that was trill, scratchy; singsong. So enthusiastic was she that she threw her arms around the nearest head she could find and squeezed it tight. “Mama's rootin' for ya!”
If only she knew it was her son to whom she squeezed. “M-Mama...! Papa's the one out there, not me!”
A figure entered the arena, the spotlight shining and aimed close for him. So close, in fact, that the heat burned his eyes and shattered his monocle. This notwithstanding he gestured a hand to lower the mic; it was dropped on his head.
Blindly he reached for it, and in so doing yanked the cord and pulled it in his mouth. He spat it out and cleared his throat to start anew, but the electrical got wet and out flew sparks that shocked him and made his wool frizz.
A tiny flame danced on the tip of his hair. Now he was supposed to lick his fingers and snuff it out, only to grab the mic and get zapped all over again, right? Wrong. He wasn't about to fall for that one! No, he was too smart. He would extinguish it with a less conductive liquid: gasoline!
Fiery combustion ensued. The crowd went wild with cheers and applause. Maurice blinked his eyes, which were the only two things on his body not cooked to mutton. “Yes, thank you. I practiced all night. Eh-her-hem... Laaadies and gentlefurs!” he roared in a deeper-than-deep voice. “Welcome to the Rodeooo Ruuumble! Speaking is your host and MC! The dashing... the fabulous... M—”
An ice cream was chucked in his face. “... Maurice. Mayor Maurice,” he muttered, his voice again since mild. “Tonight we have for you a series of one-on-one fights. But not just any fights; wrestling! The kind of wrestling that puts the Rumble in Rodeo!”
From his bench, Haroo listened in, his skunk-of-a-brother there to massage his shoulders as any coach would. “Wrestling, huh? That doesn't sound so bad! It's more of a show than a fight, right?”
“On the contrary,” though not asked, the MC replied, “no one would come to see something like this if it wasn't real. And is it ever! At least, the violence is.”
The young husky gulped. “Indeed! Each fighter will go at one another until the loser is squashed, flattened, crushed and/or smushified.”
“Gosh, is that last one even a word?”
“Cheer up, Hawoo!” Remy encouraged. “It could always be worse!”
“Really? Like how?”
Remy took a long step back as two bare-chested, tight-clad fox wrestlers approached and shadowed his brother with all their evil roundness. He yipped as they slammed down. “Like that.”
“Yer in my seat, stoopid!” said Giddy in his usual, less-than-giddy demeanor.
“I was here first, buddy!” the other, Kit, offered in flighty rebuttle as the both rammed their noses against each other.
“'m gonna squish ya flat!” the dark red fox warned, squishing the pup under left cheek.
“Oh yeah? Well I'm gonna grind ya to dust!” threatened the orange fox, grinding the pup under right cheek. Sitting alone as he once was, Haroo thought his bench felt a mite empty...
Remy snapped a photo.
The MC gestured his gloved paws to the challengers. “The first round starts with a battle between husky and bear. I hear these two are simply the best of friends!”
“Ya heard wrong, lambshanks!” the sheriff refuted from somewhere.
“Yes, well. 'Hated rivals' is what I meant to say! Mmm, these food nicknames of mine sound rather scrumptious. I wonder where they come from?”
Cotton and Teddy marched to the front, the spotlight shining bright on their eyes, locked; burning with rage. (Save for the latter, who was really quite happy.) “I want to thank you again for everything, bud!” expressed the papa bear.
“Pfft! Save it fer after I beat the honey outta ya... 'bud.'”
“No, really, I mean it! And as a token of good sportsmanship... how 'bout a hug?”
The sheriff's ears fell flat as the pair of furry monster arms drew him in and constricted him like a snake. “Bwohh! Not againnn...!”
“Ohgoodnessme,” cried Maurice with no mean emotion as he was lost in their midst. Their squashing, flattening, crushing, smushifying midst. The spectators were shocked; it was a sight almost too much to bear. Especially for Giddy and Kit, who fearfully and most expressively passed gas on their small, pink, snaggletooth'ed, fluffy-tailed seat.
Teddy released, and his foe sagged back, leaving him to look on in confusion and wonder. The MC inspected the body. “Hmm. The round has not even begun, and yet Teddy Bear wins by default! It would appear his opponent has fainted.”
The sheep, too, shared in the embrace. He was flattened, and folded like a two-dimensional piece of paper. “And so have I.”
The wrestling bell was rung. Now Kit was in the ring, eyes squinted with glee as he cupped his hands together and shook them to all his adoring fans, however short-lived this was as the back of his head sunk back toward some manner of white wall.
He, without turning, reached behind and grasped it. He lifted his gaze and found it to be a very muscular gut, lifting it further to see it belonged to Kruel himself, smiling with his meaty bear paws to his hips. “I'm sorry. 'ave I come at a bad time...?”
“Now that ya mention it—”
The beast snapped his fingers, Kit becoming a pair of wrestler's tights. “Oh no, buddy! Talk about being in a... tight spot!”
Kruel stepped his feet in and pulled them on with a snap. He surveyed his waist, giving his dragonic rump a smack as it jiggled to and fro. “Mmm... nnyhh. No, no it's too small. Why do they make everything so small these days, Fizzier? 'aven't they heard the saying, 'bigger is better'?”
The snake shook his head.
Ding, ding! The next round would see our hero enter the fray, donned in wrestler's tights and showing his bare-chested manliness to the world... even if he really didn't have much to offer.
His opponent, though? That was different. Giddy chuckled and snort and stomped a foot down in the sand, sending Haroo up from his feet. “'m gonna make ya pay fer what ya did to Kit!”
“Hold it!” Haroo objected. “I wasn't the one who beat Kit! Besides... I thought you wanted him to lose?”
In reply, the chunky fox turned and bent. The sight was familiar; he had seen enough of it already. “Gosh. You're not in a very understanding mood right now, are ya?”
The husky was rammed, fallen against the fence as his foe charged back and snared him between! With twangy laughter ringing in his ears was he grinded back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
The dark red fox shook as Haroo shuddered from his reverse tailwind. “Whoops! I think somethin' slipped. Now how'd THAT happen? Heh, heh, heh...”
“Nng! I didn't wanna use these, but you asked for it!” barked Haroo, maw open wide and flashing with a set of razor-sharp fangs.
The mouth of Giddy threw open with a bellowing cry as his elastic astronomity was pierced and ripped under teeth, a blow which sent shock waves rippling through his person with such force that the wrestler fox slumped over in defeat.
The MC stepped near. “Haroo used Bite! It appears to be super effective.”
... What? 'The final round already,' you ask? Of course, there were others that came before, many consisting of Kruel using his magic to dribble his opponents like basketballs, slugging them like punching bags or playing them out like the accordion... but he wrestled one or two for old times' sake.
Haroo, meanwhile, fell prey to the business end of all the wrong ends and several such stinkings of the face. Why, there was even a face-off between he and his not-so-secret admirer.
... Er, Essie that is. Not Holly. (Much as he would have liked.) And by 'face-off', I mean his face was subject to such pollution of the climate that it was liable to fall off. “Heh heh hee! This's fun!” laughed the cowgirl, shifting upon the pup with matchless rhythm.
She would later fart herself unconscious. Nevertheless, our young hero endured, and miraculously came out on top time and time again. (Figuratively, anyway.) But for all his brawny bravado, had our hero any hope of defeating Kruel, bent on becoming this story's main antagonist?
“It's the moment you've been waiting for!” announced the mayor, “The final round, and indeed, the title match, is heeere! On the right is the Mystical Megaton Monster, the guy that puts the B in 'behemoth!' The one! The only! Krrruuueeelll...!”
The beast winked, cracking his knuckles as out snorted fire from his nostrils. Fizzier, too, winked and looked majestic before his master bopped him in the nose. “Yeeowch!”
“On the left is the Pint-sized Pup and Simple Savior of the Homage Place! The—”
Kruel glared at him. The sheep averted his eyes, tapping the mic. “... The other is Haroo.”
The opposing sides neared and faced parallel. “I'll make you a deal, 'aroo...” growled the cruel one. “If you can survive my attacks, I'll forfeit the match.”
“O-oh... r-really? W-why'd ya wanna do a thing like that?”
“Because overconfidence is a trait of any good villain, really.” He reached down and stroked the pup's chin with his claw, lifting it so their eyes met. “But don't worry... I may squash, flatten, crush or otherwise smushify you, but I won't trick you. I'm a man of my word!— Eh, beast. Mutant... chimera? You get the point.”
Haroo drummed his chin. “Hmm... Well, sounds reasonable!”
“Good! Because it will never happen. ... Sheepy! Make that silly bell go ding so I can beat this guy and receive the publicity I deserve!”
With limbs a-totter did the MC ring the bell. “F-i-i-ight!”
No sooner than was it said did the chimera butt stomp his target with a boom, grinding down as smoke and fire loosed over his victim. He stood and crashed down with a mighty belly flop, bouncing up and down as like his opponent were a trampoline, rising to his feet with there to follow a stampede of stomping from his merciless feet.
He threw down his body and slammed his elbow for a direct hit, twisting him like elastic and sliding him across his belly and snapping him on his rear. He fell backwards on his foe, now repeatedly bouncing again as the heat and smoke returned, at the last tossing him skyward and exhaling a burst of flame breath for a fiery finisher.
Fireworks lit the stadium. The beastly outlaw flashed his fangs. “I win... Victory is mine.”
“Uh, excuse me, Mister Kruel?”
The beast paused. He looked over to see Haroo, unscathed and still standing right where he left him. “Yeah, um... Gosh, how do I say this?” The cowboy threw his paws to his side and smirked. “I survived.”
“What... REALLY?! Eh, that just figures. Wait... then if that wasn't you, then who did I—?”
Something landed at his feet. That something was some fresh-hot mutton, blinking its squinty, mild eyes. “Dear. I may be new to all this, but I do believe cooking the MC may be grounds for disqualification. Therefore, the winner of this match... is Haroo Husky!”
The crowd exploded with cheers and applause from his family and friends, Remy and Candy mostly. Burry could not, as his dear old mum was squeezing his head like a melon; similarly could this be said with Cotton and Teddy. Even Kit and Giddy rejoiced, however forgetful were they as to why they had come in the first place.
They watched as the champion's belt descended, basking in golden light... Then the cord carrying it snapped and fell and thumped Maurice on the head. Haroo took it in his paws and raised it high. “Wa-ha-howww... I really did it, didn't I?”
Kruel stared on sore and solemn, eye a-twitch. “Oh, cheer up, Your Runner-upness! You know how that old saying goes: 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'? It is not without merit to say that perhaps this may be the true moral of this story.”
Fingers were snapped; the snake's mouth was sealed shut. “Zip it, Fizzier.”
Haroo faces his biggest outlaw yet in the Rodeo Rumble, a wrestling competition of only the most extreme proportions! Will he prevail?!