On top of one of the ruins there stood a wild old man, shaking his fist and shrieking gibberish down into the valley. It looked as though he’d never combed or cut his hair in his entire life, and aside from the enormous bushy beard trailing down between his ankles, he was stark naked.
“Er, excuse me, sir,” called Waldo. “I’m looking for a flying tarantula. I believe it came this way recently. Did you see it?”
“Ah!” cried the wild man, peering down at Waldo. “I know you!”
Waldo frowned. “You do?”
“Yes, why yes I do!” said the wild man. He shimmied down the side of the ruin like a monkey and hopped over, grinning toothlessly. Waldo wrinkled his nose. The man smelled like a sweaty goat. “You’re the boy who hates his family!”
“Oh, that’s just great,” groaned Waldo, throwing up his hands. “I suppose you heard me shouting from all the way up here, too, and now you’re going to tell me you think I should be locked up, or publically humiliated, or tied to a cannonball and drowned in the sea!”
“Why, no, not one bit!” said the wild man. “No way in never! In fact, the reverse is quite the opposite: I’m proud of you!”
“You are?” said Waldo.
The wild man grinned again and clapped a hand on Waldo’s shoulder. His odor was so powerful it brought tears to Waldo’s eyes. He could see ants in the man’s beard.
“Oh, yes, indeed absolutely!” said the man. “For you see, for example, I myself hate my family, I detest them! In fact I hate everyone in Marjoram. I find them simply despicable, utterly loathsome. I’ll tell you why. Let me explain! Thirty-three years ago, three and thirty of them, in the past, I was walking along the city street, the avenue, the boulevard, like a normal chap, just your regular—you know, your simply normal fellow, do you see? I was eating a soup, a stew of some kind, a brewed stewed lunchtime edible, and it spilled! I made a false move of some kind, of some sort, and the soup spilled on my coat. Everyone laughed! They all made fun! They pointed at me and chuckled and guffawed and snickered at me, and by the Seventh Sea, that was the last straw! That was that! No more! I hated them all that day, and I hate them all today!”
Waldo frowned. “You hate them because they laughed because you spilled soup on yourself?”
“Yes, correct, that is exactly on the—that’s right!” cackled the wild man, hopping from one foot to the other. “I hate them ever so utterly! Every one of them! Now I live here, you see, don’t you? And every day from dawn till dusk I give them a piece of my mind! Like this!” He shook his fist and screamed at the city below.
“That must be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Waldo.
“Nonsense! Balderdash!” grinned the wild man. “You can be like me, if you like, if it please you, if you like! Live in a wonderful old city and hate them all for what they’ve done, for what they’ve said, for what they’ve made you do! Oh yes. But find your own city! This one is taken.”
The wild man grabbed a handful of pistachio-bug shells and stuffed them into his mouth, crunching loudly. Waldo lifted his foot and noticed he was stepping on millions of discarded pistachio-bug innards. “You’re eating the shells and throwing away the insides?” Waldo shook his head. “You’ve lost your marbles! I don’t want to be like you, and I don’t hate my family.” He sighed. “Not even a little. I just got angry and…and I said it. I wish I could take it back.”
Somewhere, something was buzzing.
“I know that sound,” thought Waldo.
Before he could do a single thing about it, the poisonous flying tarantula descended from the sky in a surprise attack and stung him right on the arm.
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