Hand-Me-Down Shoes [ready for grade]
Jimmy's shoes were too big for him, even when he had stuffed the toes with an extra pair of socks. This was generally a plight for him, which sort of came with the fact that he had four older brothers and all of their clothes were passed down to him. He wouldn't have particularly minded this if he didn't keep tripping over his own feet and falling on his face, so that he was usually a bit scratched up about the elbows and had a large band-aid plastered across his nose, not quite matching his naturally sanguine complexion.
He wouldn't have tripped, either, had it not been for the fact that his hair - the color of autumn wheat- was far too long and brushed the tops of his eyelashes. Sometimes it shifted just one way or the other, and it got in his eyes so that he couldn't see. After a while, he got in the habit of wearing a cap that had been passed down from his oldest brother for some stupid old baseball team that apparently used to be good. Jimmy didn't know much about baseball, but he did know that this particular team had just about the worst players and the worst coach in the entire history of baseball.
Now that it was summer, at least, he could wear shorts, which - unlike his latest pair of jeans - he didn't have to roll up three times before putting on. They were a bit baggy and constantly creased, but at least he wasn't always tripping over the cuffs. He reflected that this would probably be made a good deal worse by his overly large shoes. The problem was that he wasn't very big for his age, whereas all of his brothers had been, and so nothing they had worn ever fit him quite right. His mother, who had a “take it or leave it” kind of attitude about these things, was not particularly helpful when in came to his plight, so he bore it as best he could. After all, he'd rather be wearing hand-me-downs than nothing at all.
Jimmy was like all boys his age, rowdy, a bit over-eager, perhaps a bit impetuous now and then, but it was all in good spirit. He was decent in school, a well-behaved kid and fairly smart, plus he worked hard and never shirked away from his duty. He got the reputation of being a good kid and trustworthy, and the neighbors were all too glad to let him mow lawns to earn a bit of pocket change. So he spent the first few months of Summer, trudging along behind a push mower and stumbling over his own feet.
Jimmy had his own Pokémon, of which he was very proud, for he had caught it himself the previous Summer. Of course, nearly everyone in the town had a Pokémon or two, for their own protection or to help out with their jobs, and no one really thought much of it except Jimmy. He'd found the Rattata stealing seed corn from Farmer Jensen's barn, shortly before it was badly injured by the Skitty that was kept on the premises for the very purpose of keeping the pests away. Jimmy, coming across it lying on its side and bleeding, had taken it home and nursed it back to health, naming it Tartufo somewhere along the way.
Now, as Jimmy strolled along with hands in pockets, on his way to go pick up the lawnmower that he borrowed from Farmer Jensen on weekends, Tartufo hopped along at his side. The Rattata was an exceptional specimen, really, with a hefty, brisk appearance and a mellow, thoughtful manner about him. He was of good size, and a year's worth of table scraps had left his purple fur silky and shining and his face alert and friendly. Though not the most intelligent Pokémon around, perhaps, Tartufo was honest and trustworth enough, and Jimmy was very proud of him. He thought that Tartufo would make a good companion one day, if he ever fulfilled his dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer.
Jimmy cut across a field of swedes diagonally to reach the mouth of the barn, breathing in the rich scent of manure and sawdust and all the smells of the farmyard. He was careful among the planted rows, trying not to throw up dirt unnecessarily, but his too-large shoes were wreaking more havoc than usual. Tartufo duly ignored the plants, threading his way between them happily enough, occasionally stopping to brush out his creamy whiskers.
“Hello, Mr. Jensen!” Jimmy called out, catching sight of the farmer silhouetted against the bare light bulb in the tractor shed. Jensen was younger than one might have assumed from his station, with a kindly, lined face, and hair the color of a hickory nut. He had large hands, but a quick way of movement and value of hard work that made Jimmy admire him greatly. Currently his huge hands were stained by oil, just brushing the tops of his faded blue jeans and the gardening cloves that protruded from one pocket. When Jimmy spoke, he looked around and the young boy could see the troubled expression on his face.
“Oh, hello, Jimmy,” he replied kindly enough, although he seemed bothered by something, “I was just getting the lawnmower for you, it was just about out of gas... But it seems that my gas can's gone missing.”
“It was by the tractor last time I saw it, Mr. Jensen,” Jimmy replied quickly, as Tartufo scurried into the tractor shed. The Rattata began to scuffle about in some empty sacks, whiskers twitching warily as he did so. He scraped his paws across the ground and growled as a rodent will when irritated, looking up at Jimmy with his sharp red eyes as if awaiting something.
“Yeah, it was. I came out last night to make sure there was still enough left for you... There was plenty, but now it's gone. I reckon it's those galdurned thieves again,” Jensen said after a moment, leaning over to make sure he hadn't missed the gas can in the shadowy corners of the shed. Alas, his searching was for nothing, because he straightened up again and shrugged, dragging a hand across his pants and leaving and inky stain behind. “You know, it looks like Tartufo's got their scent, too.”
“Thieves? But why would they steal your little old gas can when they could easily get the lawnmower?” Jimmy asked, looking around on the floor just in case Jensen had somehow missed it.
“Not normal thieves, mind you, Jimbo,” Jensen replied cryptically, which caused his young comrade to raise an eyebrow at him dubiously, “Pokémon... A pair of them, working as a team. Although what they want my gasoline for I have no idea.”
“I've never heard of anything like that, Mr. Jensen,” Jimmy quipped skeptically, as Tartufo looked up and lashed his tail about impatiently, letting out something between a squeak and a growl. “...Pokémon working together to steal things from a farm. What kind of Pokémon are they, anyway? Not Rattata, do you think? I'd think they would steal seed corn or something, and Sebastian'd have them before you could say “rat” in any case...”
“See, that's where I'm stumped. Sebastian came limping back home this morning all scratched up and soaking wet, you see, and all I've found of them are footprints in the swedes. Anyway, I'm sure I'll bag 'em eventually, but right now I suppose I'd better go get some gasoline so that you can do your job. Sorry about all this.”
“It's alright, Mr. Jensen. Tartufo and I'll wait here 'till you get back, ok?” Jimmy replied amiably enough, but secretly his interest was piqued. There were evidently powerful Pokémon around here, if they could so easily trounce Sebastian, an expert ratter if ever there was one. Smart, too, if they were teaming up like this to snatch things. Just the kind of Pokémon he needed if he was going to become a trainer someday.
“That's fine, Jimmy. Probably a good thing, too, if you're here. I think the thieves have caught on that when the truck leaves the farm is all theirs.” Jensen, who could see past the tip of his nose, replied. With a wave of his greasy hand he moved off down the path and Jimmy watched as he went, sitting down on as box that happened to be sitting to one corner of the dusty tractor shed, just in front of a bunch of moldy hay.
At that moment, a furry face poked through the door and suddenly Tartufo sprang up and bounded into Jimmy's lap, shaking slightly. Tartufo had not forgotten what had happened the last time he met up with Sebastian, who now miaowed in greeting to Jimmy. The cat Pokémon was the normal sort of cream, with a light, pinky coat and slitted eyes. His large ears, each reaching up into three notches, twitched continually and Jimmy could see that there was a little knot of blood behind one where something had snagged at his ear.
Sebastian was exceptional for his species in that he was male, and also in that he exhibited none of the tendencies of his brethren towards lightheaded giddiness and playfulness. H was, rather, a sharp sort of cat and, as aforementioned, a good ratter, and he was much valued by Jensen for being less presumptuous than a Meowth or a Glameow. He was, rather, proud of himself for his work and did not need any reassurance from his owner. Sebastian mostly avoided people, in fact, but he had a special fondness for Jimmy, who had been known to slip him a bit of fish because the boy wasn't overly fond of seafood, and often slipped it in his pocket rather than eating it.
“Oh, hello, Sebastian,” Jimmy greeted the cat, who looked over him (as near as Jimmy could tell, for the eyes were slitted and impossible to see) hopefully, “sorry, bud. We had meatloaf last night.” Nonetheless, Sebastian purred warmly and rubbed up against his leg, causing Tartufo to scurry fearfully up to his shoulder, spitting violently. Jimmy could see bite marks on Sebastian's haunch, and knew that Jensen had not been lying when he'd said that the thieves must be tough. Sebastian, after all, had once been observed to attack and drive off a foraging Furret at least twice his size, and only on that occasion had Jimmy seen him scratched up. At present, he had apparently come off worse, as Jimmy could sense in his somewhat dampened attitude.
“It's alright, Tartufo,” Jimmy cooed reassuringly, for the Rattata's claws were digging into his shoulder nearly hard enough to draw blood. “Anyway, he'll leave you alone. Come on, let's go have a look around. Mr. Jensen said there were footprints in the swedes, maybe we can figure out what kind of Pokémon they are.” Standing up, with Tartufo still clinging to his shoulder, he exited the tractor shed, the morning sun throwing his shadow long in front of him. As they came up a small hill to the field that he had crossed earlier, he tripped a bit over his overly-large shoes and Tartufo jumped down indignantly, sprinting ahead with his back lit by the golden sun.
Jimmy saw what Jensen had been talking about on the instant, as Tartufo leapt cautiously across a length of planted field and sniffed at a smattering of paw prints, not unlike those made by Sebastian and about the same size, too. In fact, Jimmy would have taken them for the Skitty's tracks had not there been a second set, large and oval-shaped, alongside them, walking together at a diagonal across the field. This second set was made by some bipedal creature, as was easily determined from the line and the spacing. Jimmy was just trying to puzzle out what they were made by when suddenly a loud squeal emerged from the tractor shed and Sebastian came darting out, tail between legs and spitting fire and brimstone as he darted away, pursued by a dark Pokémon a bit smaller, but fierce as a dragon.
“A Poochyena!” Jimmy shouted, darting towards the Skitty, who skidded to a halt behind his legs gladly enough. The little dog Pokémon's hackles were up and her large teeth were showing as she growled at the sudden block from her prey. Red eyes met Jimmy's briefly and the fur stood on end as if electrified. The creature stood only marginally higher than Tartufo, but with the dark mask and white teeth and hair poofed out it looked much larger. Sebastian, almost twice her size, was cowering in terror behind Jimmy's legs, not caring for the determined, strong-jawed assailant in the least.
“Tartufo! Quick!” Jimmy yelped, for the Poochyena's ears were turned back and she was belly-growling in a menacing way. It was amazing how terrifying the little dog could be, for she seemed on the verge of attacking the trainer. Tartufo, stunned and a bit behind Jimmy, dashed into the fray, letting out a noise like a gaggle of geese as his tail rose and he hit the Poochyena full force with a tackle. This didn't actually do much, for the Poochyena was knocked a few inches backwards, but kept her footing and, as her instinct told her too, she bit Tartufo's leg as he was trying to escape.
The Rattata let out a heart-wrenching squall as he struggled to get away from the sharp grip, striking out with his back paws and feeling them pass across the Poochyena's nose. The dog Pokémon growled but did not let go of Tartufo's shoulder, biting down hard.
“Tartufo!” Jimmy shouted desperately, for the Rattata was flailing around, trying to escape, and no doubt making things worse for himself in the process. “Stop struggling and bite him back!” The Rattata could hardly hear or comprehend over the blinding wave of pain surging thorugh him, but he understood and lunged forward, getting a hold just below the Poochyena's head, close to her neck. He bit hard and pushed with his back legs, using his weight to try and get her to let go. They were fairly close in strength and size, however, and Jimmy could see that this was getting nowhere.
Suddenly, a high, strangled scream ripped through the air and Sebastian suddenly appeared on the other side of the Poochyena, attacking his flank and knocking him off balance. Stunned, she let go of Tartufo's leg and the Rattata sprung clear as best he could, although his shoulder and armpit were badly bitten. Sebastian aimed a heavy cuff at the Poochyena, claws extended, which hit the Poochyena squarely on the nose before she was able to get to her feet and spring away, three parallel red scratches across the bridge of her nose.
Bleeding from nose and neck and with an injured flank, the Poochyena sucked in breath and let out a loud howl that made the two opposing Pokémon cower in fear and almost turn to flee. Apparently this was a signal, because from the tractor shed an orange, weasel-like face poked. A ruff of yellow and a buff stomach made this new contender extremely recognizable, and Jimmy sucked in breath as he realized that it was a Buizel, much larger than any of the other Pokémon. This must be the other thief, and apparently the brains of the operation, as well. She took in the situation at a glance and rushed to her partner in crime's side, exchanging a few brief words and then getting ready to fight.
“Sebastian, will you help us?” Jimmy asked, looking over at the Skitty, even though it was plain enough that he would from the lashing tail and determined expression on his face. “Alright! Tartufo, you take Poochyena. Use Quick Attack! Sebastian, use Captivate and then Faint Attack on Buizel!” The Pokémon nodded, bracing themselves for the attack. Sebastian went first, prancing out into the open in a funny way, taking away the attention of the wild Pokémon from the battle at hand as he began to leap and gambol deceptively in the open, the eyes of the thieves following his strange, dancing movements. Suddenly, he was behind Buizel and pounced onto her back, claws extended as he tried to pin the water weasel to the ground. Tartufo was off on the instant, buffeting the Poochyena again on her injured hip and causing her to yelp in surprise, for her eyes had been on Sebastian.
The Buizel began to lash her tail furiously, whipping up a strong wind that buffeted the fur of all the Pokémon surrounding, but that then built and slapped Sebastian across the nose sharp enough to cut. With a distressed caterwaul, the Skitty sprang clear, and his opponent surged forward and aimed a scratch at him that he barely ducked clear of. Meanwhile, her partner the Poochyena snarled as she whirled to face the limping Tartufo, still bleeding from the bite in his shoulder. Not wanting to close with the vicious rat again, Poochyena thought quickly and turned away, beginning to kick up the sand violently in order to blind her opponent.
“Quick, Tartufo! Close your eyes!” Tartufo obeyed instantly, but luckily Poochyena's judgment had been bad, since the Razor Wind whipped up by Buizel was still present and most of the sand drifted wide. Still, Poochyena used what there was as cover, and Tartufo wheeled around and around, unable to find her until she was literally on top of him, striking him hard with a Take Down on his good shoulder. Tartufo was thrown onto the injured one and fell hard, striking against the Earth violently. Luckily, however, the attack had also taken its toll on Poochyena's flank, for she, too, was thrown off balance and ran face first into the dirt.
Meanwhile, Buizel shot a stream of water at Sebastian, who was hit full on and blinded by the water. He lashed out instinctively with a Double Slap, which luckily hit the first time but missed the second, as Sebastian struggled to get clear of the water that he so detested. Buizel crouched down and began to whip her tail about again, working up another Razor Wind.
“Sebastian! Hold your ground and use Copycat!” Jimmy cried, tripping as he tried to approach. “Are you ok, Tartufo? We have to finish this, use Hyper Fang and then Assurance!” Sebastien crouched down as the wind blew around him, prepared this time for the sharp slap and already working his own thistle-like tail frantically, copying the Buizel's motions exactly, at any moment expecting the blast of air to knock him off balance and destroy his own attack. At the same time, Poochyena and Tartufo struggled to their feet and glared at one another from opposite sides of the ground that had been used as a battlefield now. Dirt flew everywhere, and their eyesight was obscured as they tried to locate one another. Finally, a clear spot opened up, and they surged forward as one, fangs exposed, gripping at one another with sharp teeth, each trying to get the better hold.