possible mild scare for munchkins.
main character: Oz
disclaimer: I hold no legal rights to Oz (property of Joss Whedon & the Buffy the Vampire Slayer writing staff) or to the Grouch (property of Jim Henson & anyone else with legal rights to the Muppets/Sesame Street.).
distribution: Twisting, Paula, anyone else ask first.
note: this is set about five years before the series begins.
Oz shook his head, debating if he could convince his parents not to make him get a haircut. It was just starting to get long enough that he didn't feel like it looked bad, and Mom was going on about how it looked all shaggy and unkempt. Unkempt - cool word. Maybe he could use it in a song someday.
He lifted the awkward case, putting the strap back over his shoulder. He had to get to his guitar lesson. He'd decided back before he'd even started school at all that he wanted to play the guitar, to perform on stage and have people scream and cheer like the musicians that his parents loved did. Unfortunately, loving music didn't grant talent at music, so he'd settled for listening to everything, singing - or trying to sing- just about anything, and begging for musical lessons.
There was some sort of huge accident on Main street, with people standing around, and cars where they shouldn't be, an ambulance, and two police cars. He'd never seen two of Sunnydale's police cars in the same place before, although he'd known there were more than one. He'd have to go another way to get to his lesson.
He'd have to go through the alley.
Nobody liked the alley, even though it wasn't a particularly bad alley. Oz - never Daniel Junior, just Oz - wondered if Sunnydale actually had a bad section for a moment before deciding that it didn't matter. What did matter was that he'd have to go through the alley. It was always messy, cluttered with papers and cans, bottles and broken bits of frames and wheels and things that he couldn't identify. There could be anything in that alley. And everyone was certain that there was something there. Something that wasn't a rat, or a stray cat or dog. Something strange and scary and maybe dangerous.
Trying to walk quietly, Oz started picking his way through the alley, hoping that if he concentrated on not slipping, on not falling over anything then he wouldn't be as frightened. Not that he'd admit to being frightened, he was twelve, after all. Everyone would tease him if he admitted to being afraid, especially Devon and Larry.
He was about halfway through the alley when he felt it. That creepy feeling that says something is watching you. Oz froze, and slowly turned, looking around the alley carefully.
There was a slightly dented round metal trashcan, speckled with rust and carrying a streak of yellow paint and a spray painted frown face - sort of like a smiley, but not. The lid wasn't fastened down, but rested on the shaggy head of... something. He couldn't see it clearly, but there were a pair of eyes watching him, larger than his own, and the definite feeling that he was being scowled at.
Realizing that it had been discovered, the shape rose higher, until a pair of shoulders and fuzzy arms, all covered in thick brownish shag like his great aunt's living room carpet. The thing glared at him. "Stop stepping on my trash!"
Oz swallowed, his eyes going wide at the inhuman shape. "Sorry. Just leaving now."
Carefully, he began to pick his way through the alley a bit faster. Grouches were real, just like on Sesame Street. Who would have thought? If Grouches were real, and that had definitely been a Grouch, then... What else might be real?
Oz let the question and the discovery tumble in his mind as he went up the stairs for his guitar lesson. It might be important someday, but right now, he had to work on the A-Major chord.
He had a small smile, thinking that life was pretty strange. Sort of wild, and unpredictable. Maybe he would manage to be in a band someday. After all, if there were really Grouches, what else was possible?