After the disastrous dinner with the Hendersons, Xerxes didn’t see them anymore. Even Obsequious Otter didn’t come by anymore, although Xerxes’ Prescient Pigeon said it saw the otter around sometimes. Penelope, Xerxes’ ex-girlfriend and current laundry room wall, didn’t mention if his trip to the Hendersons’ had affected her relationship with their dining room wall Bumble and he didn’t ask. He just wanted to be left alone.
One morning, Xerxes was eating cereal over the kitchen sink and staring blearily out into the eternal, empty grey, when a huge parrot landed on his windowsill.
“Awwk! Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” it asked.
“I don’t have any sugar,” Xerxes said automatically, wondering if he could kill a parrot with one punch.
“Liar! Liar!” the parrot shrieked. “You have at least four cups left.”
“But I’m going to make a cake today and I need it all.”
“Liar! Liar!” the bird yelled again. “You’ve never made a cake in your life.”
“Let me guess, you’re Polygraph Parrot,” Xerxes said. He had dealt with novelty pets enough to know how things worked.
“My owners call me Polygraph Polly,” it said. Xerxes ended up giving it some sugar, just to make it go away.
It wasn’t just Polly either. Over the next few weeks, other animals appeared at the house, sometimes just to say hello and sometimes to ask for things. There was Gregarious Goat, who always wanted to talk for hours; Haranguing Hamster, who squeaked up at him about the lack of hamster representation in politics; and then there was Malicious Marmoset. Xerxes found the marmoset chasing his ShyPhone 4 around his bedroom. It hissed at him, then stole the book he was reading off his table, tore the cover, and threw it in the toilet.
That night, Xerxes pulled out the house manual and figured out how to lock the doors and windows, something he’d never done before. After an hour, he got them all locked, ending with the kitchen window, which was how Prescient Pigeon usually came and went.
“You don’t have a ceiling,” Mr. Pettyevil, Xerxes’ kitchen wall, whispered.
“You don’t have a ceiling,” Mr. Pettyevil repeated, and smirked as only a wall can. Xerxes looked up. Dang, he was right. He had forgotten there was no ceiling. It had cost extra and Xerxes had just assumed he wouldn’t need one in an empty dimension where his house was the only thing in the whole universe. Plus, he liked the idea of his walls appearing to go up and up into infinity.
The next day, Prescient Pigeon arrived with a gun, just as Xerxes decided that one might be necessary. He wasn’t sure what kind he wanted, so he was curious what kind the pigeon had brought.
“It shoots gummy worms,” Prescient Pigeon said proudly.
“That’s not all,” the pigeon said quickly. “There’s a selector knob here. Let’s see . . . It also shoots gummy bears, gummy spiders, gummy amoeba, and gummy Ten Commandments. See?” The pigeon aimed the gun at the wall and fired with his foot. There was a bang and Mr. Pettyevil shouted in irritation. Xerxes picked up a tiny, gummy copy of the Ten Commandments. It was perfectly readable, or would have been if Xerxes could speak ancient Hebrew.
“Nice,” he said. “I wish I had a porch, so I could sit out there with this and shout, ‘Get off my lawn!’”
“You’d need a lawn too,” Prescient Pigeon said, “but I’m not carrying that here for you.”
That night, Xerxes woke up in darkness to hear something crawling down his wall. It must be that Malicious Marmoset! he thought. Slowly, he reached over and picked up his gummy gun. He flicked on the lights and there was the marmoset, dumping melted lemon sherbet into his sock drawer. Xerxes fired a burst of gummy amoebas at it and it dropped the bucket and darted to the far wall. Xerxes flicked the selector switch and strafed the fleeing marmoset with gummy worms. It screeched as it was hit and finally fled back up into darkness.
The next day, Xerxes coaxed his ShyPhone 4 out from under the bed and called Conrad, his real estate agent.
“Conrad, this is insane. When I moved here, you promised me total isolation. Now I’ve got marmosets dumping lemon sherbet into my sock drawer in the middle of the night.”
“Just wash them. The washing machine still works, right?” Conrad said.
“Well, it turns out the Cereal Python really loves sherbet,” Xerxes said. “He ate it all. Unfortunately, he ate all my socks too.” At that moment, Prescient Pigeon arrived, gasping and clutching a 12-pack of socks. Xerxes took them with a nod.
There was a knock at the door. “And now there’s a knock at my door!” Xerxes shouted over the phone. “In a dimension where I’m the only person, I should not have people knocking on my door.” He hung up and flung the door open.
There was no one there. Instead, there was a note taped to the door. It said:
How dare you attack our cutsey-wootsey marmoset! You, sir, are no gentleman. This means WAR!
For some reason, this cheered Xerxes up. No one had to be polite or make small talk during a war.
(to be continued)