Parts 1-6 are here!
Part 7: True BullieverHe did not have very much time to feel sorry for himself. Now the subway was elbow-to-elbow with New Yorkers and tourists, jostling and hurrying on their ways home from their frantic last-minute Christmas shopping, and Bully had to use all his wits and instincts to keep from being trampled altogether. He darted from empty spot to empty spot on the floor as fast as he could, dodging a boot here, ducking a pointed shoe there, being sideswiped by a stroller and getting knocked on his fuzzy behind by carelessly swung shopping bags. He ran and ran and ran as fast as he could, weaving and rushing, through the crowd towards the turnstiles, making a broad leap onto the turnstile, tugging his MetroCard out of his purse and extending it towards the scanner.
But as he started to swipe, a careless commuter, swinging her hand wildly as she popped her token into the slot, knocked hard against Bully's back and sent him spinning head over heels off the platform and down onto the floor. Bully sat up dizzily and managed to roll to one side just in time to prevent being squashed under the enormous booted foot of a New York construction worker. He peered around wildly for his MetroCard, which had gone flying from his hooves when he fell. There it wason the other side of the turnstile.
As if he weren't feeling bad enough already, Bully gulped guiltily as he ran through the legs of commuters beneath the turnstile to fetch is MetroCard. He'd never tried to dodge a fare in his lifehe was an honest little bullbut he couldn't get anywhere without his MetroCard. But Bully hadn't counted on how far away the MetroCard had fell. It seemed like a mile away from him now, lying there bent and muddy on the floor as people walked over it, kicking it unknowingly until it slid away, disappearing under the feet of the crowd, far, far out of Bully's sight.
He gloomily hung his head and forlornly trudged down the stairs for the Brooklyn-bound F Train, his plastic Jim Hanley's bag with the trio of comics dragging behind him.
There was a train just arriving on the track as Bully leaped down to the platform, and he felt his heart soar at the sight of it. For just a second, he very nearly felt better at the comfortable thought of finally being on his way back home, but once again he was almost run over by a stampede of big clompy boots, stampeding into the cars the instant the subway doors whooshed open with a pneumatic hiss. Bully pressed and shovedbut even as small as he was, he couldn't squeeze into the car.
He held his breath, trying to make himself thinner, and straightened his neck upwards to make himself taller...
...just in time to see the big doors closing right in on him.
Bully shrieked and gasped as he leaped out of their way back onto the platform, the big rubber gaskets that surrounded the doors clipping at his scarf. For a moment he thought he was caught and would be dragged along beside the train down the dirty, dark tunnel all the way to 23rd Street (at which point the doors would open and Bully would fall down into the deep dark wet creepy gaps between the tracks...). He was so scared that he almost didn't notice at first that his scarf had untangled itself off from his neck. It was caught in the door but he was loose and free, and he gasped for breath as the train pulled out of the station, his beautiful scarf dangling from the door, roaring away down the tunnel, back towards Brooklyn, away towards home.
And Bully did exactly what you or I would have done if we'd gone through such a terrible day, even if that day was Christmas Eve: he sat down on the platform and cried.
"Why so glum, little chum?!" a cheerful, ebullient voice boomed above him, and Bully looked up in surprise at the speaker: an older man with a broad, expressive face, balding but grey hair (gone white at the temples) and bushy grey mustache, wearing shaded sunglasses that didn't hide the twinkle in his eyes. He bent down and kneeled on the subway platform next to Bully. "Face front, true believer! This is no place to have a bawl!" He pulled a large handkerchief out of his pocket and passed it to Bully.
Bully took the handkerchief and blew his nose with a messy snort, guiltily folding the cloth back inside itself so the sticky part wasn't on the outside when he handed it back. "Thanks, Mister," he said. He knew, of course, that he wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. He was alert and aware and ready to scamper away at a moment's notice, but something about the man was familiar and friendly, and while you all should remember just because somebody lends you a handkerchief it doesn't mean they're your pal, Bully suddenly felt just a little less stressed and upset.
"There!" The man smiled and gave him a thumbs up as he tucked away the handkerchief. "Isn't that better than causing a commotion, oh fearlessly frantic one?! It's a big fantastic, amazing, incredible, uncanny world out there, and a boisterously bullish bovine like yourself should be out having some Christmas Eve adventures, not sniffling sadly in the subway!" Bully realized that the man wasn't raising his voice, wasn't yelling, although every single sentence he spoke seemed to have an exclamation mark at the end of it. "No need to wet those baby blues! Remember, it's always darkest before the dawn, tiger, 'specially if you forgot to pay your light bill!" Bully started to speak, but the man was on a roll and there was no interrupting him. "Don't let a little setback stop that action! Stand a little straighter! Walk a little prouder! Be an innovator! Clap a little louder! Grow forever greater, frantic one!"
"I..." Bully started to say.
"Face front!" the man continued boisterously. "Lift your head! Make some friends! You're on the winning team! You're the ever-lovin' tip-top greatest, true bulliever! And always remember: with great power comes great responsibility! Well, I'm outta here!" He straightened up and strode away on his long legs. "Stay fearless, fuzzy one! Nuff said!" the man called as he disappeared down the platform, and then echoed after: "Excelsior!"
After the man left, Bully sat there for a long time. It seemed like hours to him, although it surely couldn't have beenbut no more trains arrived and no people pushed and shoved at him to get on it. In the time that Bully had sat, shivering in the suddenly very cold subway, he thought maybe he had missed Christmas entirely, that it had gone past him just like the train, and that no one would ever see him there on the platform, and that would be where he always lived, on the B-D-F-V platform of the 34th Street subway, fighting sewer rats for bread crumbs, sleeping in a greasy old discarded Big Mac box, and never, ever again getting to sit in a comfortable puffy bowl of his favorite cereal.
Despite the momentary enthusiastic cheer the strange man had given him, that thought started him sniffling once again, and he had never felt so alone in his life.
"Hello!" said someone, a bright and cheerful female voice this time. "What are you sniffing about?"
Bully looked up in surprise in mid-sniffle. He saw no one at all.
"Down here, silly!" the voice said, giggling.
Bully wiped his nose on the sleeve of his duffel coat, sopping up the tears that had started to well up on his nose ring ,and looked down at the train tracks.
There, standing between the first two rails, staring up at him with big bright blue eyes and a curious smile, was a large orange pig.
Tomorrow night: Part 8! (Just the thing to settle down with after you've whipped through your Wednesday new comics!)