"Oh, come on. Who wants to go and hang out at some boring art museum, anyway?"
"Bloo! Stop being such a pain and just get on the bus!"
"Yeah, Bloo! You're always whining about having nothing to do and now the opportunity is here and your just gonna whine about that, too?"
Bloo stuck his tongue out at Mac, his creator, as he clung to the side of the Foster's Bus, held tightly in Frankie's arms as she tried to pull him on and put him in a seat (which would more likely just be the lap of another friend, seeing as a good percentage of the household had been shepherded into the bus). Her effort was to no avail though, he only held on tighter.
"It's not about the opptonuity-"
"Or the lack of opptonuity-"
"It's the fact I don't have a choice! WHERE ARE MY RIGHTS? I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THEM-"
With one almighty tug, Frankie managed to wrench the small, blue imaginary friend from his hold on the bus and sat him down firmly in the lap of Eduardo, a big, purple hairball, with large horns and razor sharp teeth, a friend who had no trouble in keeping Bloo firmly in his place. Frankie smirked "You have the right to remain silent."
The caretaker then walked to the front of the bus, standing just beside the drivers seat.
"OK, listen up everyone!" the buzz of excited chattering did not begin to dim down, much to Frankie's displeasure "Guys! Hello, guys, can I have your attention ple- Guys! Guys?! Come on just... EVERYBODY, SHUT UP!"
"... Thank you. OK, today we're taking a trip to the new modern art gallery, that just opened in town. Now I hope everyone who wanted to remembered to bring some paper and something to draw with..."
As Frankie expanded on the rules and regulations of the visit, Mac made his way towards Bloo and Eduardo, squeezing into the small space between them and the seat window. He looked over at the small, blue imaginary friend and then frowned to find him scowling.
"Bloo, why have you gotta be such a kill joy all the time?" the boy asked, shaking his head.
Bloo spluttered in disbelief "Kill joy?! I'm not a kill joy I'm a... a... BIRTH joy! What's the big deal about some crummy pictures and weird statues, who really cares about that, other than people who don't want jobs?!"
"Coco! Coco co coco co coco!" chirped Coco, the aptly named bird, in disagreement, leaning over the back of their seat to look at him.
"What are you talking about, what do I want a job for?"
The bird frowned, her already misshapen, rubber beak scrunching downwards, even further out of neatness. Tucked under her wing was a small sketchpad, and a pencil held between her toes. Mac sat on his knees and looked at her. Coco was an arty creature, and was clearly looking forward to the trip. The boy twisted his mouth.
"Bloo, just because you aren't interested in something doesn't mean you have to make other people feel bad about liking that something. You're so insensitive."
The bird-airplane-plant hybrid let out a sigh, only to feel a large hand touch her wing, softly. She looked to the seat beside at Wilt "Don't worry about it, Coco, you know how Bloo can be. I think your pictures are great, and I'd love to be good at art. You're the best artist I know, don't let anyone put a downer on that."
"Oh, oh, si, Coco, you es extra good at drawing the puppies and the bunny rabbits," Eduardo chimed in, excitedly, turning his head to look at her "Senor Wilt, will there be paintings of peritos at the museum?"
"You never know, Ed, there might be. But if not, I'm sure Coco would draw you a little one, later. You know, if you're not too busy or anything."
Coco smiled, nodding her head. Wilt was a sweet friend, very kind, and he always knew how to make her and just about everybody else feel better. With only one arm and one working eye, the tall, red imaginary friend had been dealt a rotten deck of cards, but somehow always managed to see the bright side of things. Which proves itself quite comforting when you live in house full of Imaginary Friends who, more often than not, people just don't want, any more.
"OK, so your group leaders today are going to be me," Frankie said at her loudest, drawing the colourful group of friends' attention back to her "Wilt, Mac and Coco. Oh, and also, Wilt if you don't mind, will you also be our meeting post?"
Wilt laughed, waving his hand dismissively "No worries! I mean, I'm ten foot tall, what else could I have been imagined for, right?"
A good laugh rang through the bus for a few moments, before Frankie continued on to read out the group members. Finally, she wrapped up, ensured that nobody needed anything or no one had been left behind, and then sat down and shut the door to the bus.
Mr. Herriman watched the Foster's bus pull away, through his office window, nervously mopping his brow with a handkerchief as Madame Foster span merrily in his office chair, shrieking and laughing like a child. This old woman had never grown up, and though her friend would never wish her to be any other way, she was hard work, and he did find her to be trying sometimes. The bunny rabbit heaved a deep sigh, and turned away from the window.
"Madame, I cannot begin to comprehend how you can be so calm about all of this."
"So calm about what, Funny Bunny?"
"About what? Madame, we just had to ship the majority of our residents out on a field trip, for the sake of the arrival of one singular imaginary friend!"
"So? It's good for them to get out once in a while, its easy to lose your head in a house as crazy as this!"
"That's not the point! What we're doing today is very foolish, reckless and irresponsible, and I'm sure we are making a very big mistake by letting that... That, that CRIMINAL take up residency here."
"Look, Herriman, if she causes any trouble, we just send her back and tell them it didn't work out. The contract binds us to trying, not necessarily succeeding!"
"That's what I'm afraid of! What if we don't succeed!"
"Then it will be my fault," the old lady stopped spinning in the chair and looked at him, seriously, her eyes drifting uncontrollably due to still being rather dizzy "It is a good thing that the friends have gone out today. Zigzag will have time to arrive and get settled without anyone even knowing she's here. As far as the friends are concerned, she was recently abandoned, and has a totally clean slate, and we have to go on under that impression, too. Even if it's not strictly true."
"It's not at all true!"
"I know that, you big, lop-eared worry wart! But the last thing that girl needs is people being afraid of her, and spreading rumours about her, if she's gonna start living again, she needs to be able to make friends. Making friends is hard enough as it is, especially if you're imaginary. You can't just make 'em up, like people do, it's lonely. And you've never had to go through that because I have always needed you."
Mr. Herriman stared at her, and then found he could only sigh in resignation. She always wore him down with the you're-my-friend-and-I-love-you card "All right... I shan't speak of it again 'til she arrives, and I shan't worry... Now stop playing with those scissors, you are going to hurt yourself."
"OK, everyone, it's ten thirty, now, so you guys can walk about freely. Meet back here at twelve, for headcount and then lunch," Frankie announced over the bustling crowd of imaginary friends, filling the entrance to the art gallery to the brim with excited chatter. A lot of friends weren't even into art, that much; they were just happy to have something to do outside of the house "Remember who your group leader is so you can be counted at lunch, and I guess I'll see you later!"
And with that the friends dispersed off into the depths of the gallery in an explosion of excitement, running left and right and upstairs, a shrill cry of "AND DON'T RUN," flying above and over their heads. With Bloo in the lead, he and his usual group of friends made their way up the stairs first, after Wilt had quickly swiped an exhibition pamphlet from the information desk in the foyer, and began to flick through it. He suddenly made a face
"Aw, what, that's kinda nasty..."
"What is it, Wilt?" asked Mac, looking up at him.
"Well one of the exhibitions has a buncha animals preserved in formaldehyde," the tall friend rubbed his neck uncomfortably with what was left of his left arm "... I dunno, I don't really get 'art' sometimes, it's hard."
"Co coco co?"
"I just mean, y'know, just... Why? I guess it's just 'cos I'm not all that creative, but still. What's the artistic appeal of a dead sheep?"
Eduardo froze, drawing in a sudden sharp breath, trembling a little as he looked at Wilt, his eyes beginning to tear up.
"The sheep, it is... It is n-no alive? That is so sad!"
"Uh, DUH, Ed, that's why it's preserv-OW!"
Bloo was suddenly interrupted by Mac stomping on what one could suppose was his foot, giving the opportunity for Wilt to conjure a little white lie in order to keep the sensitive friend calm.
"It's not really dead, Ed, it's just a model, it wasn't alive in the first place."
"Y-you mean she was never a happy lamby, she never felt the joys of the summer time and love of her madre, th-that es even sadder!
Wilt spluttered, this time, but quickly stepped closer and patted Eduardo's back comfortingly "It's OK, Eduardo, let's forget about the sheep, look!"
He showed the big, purple friend the pamphlet, pointing to one particular exhibit. Eduardo wiped his eyes, then took the pamphlet carefully in his huge, hoofed hands, still sniffling as he squinted at it, not doing so well with reading English even after all this time.
"Is that a perito in the picture, Senor Wilt?" he looked up at him, suddenly, his eyes sparkling "IS THERE A PUPPY EXHIBIT?"
"You got it, Ed! Why don't we go there now?"
"SI, SI, WE RUN."
"No, wait, Ed, Frankie said no running!"
The puppy exhibit for Wilt, in truth, was a bit of an eye-sore. By the time it was twelve o'clock, and he finally managed to drag Eduardo away from the exhibit, he was starting to feel a bit frustrated, not with the exhibit or his friend, but mostly with himself. He really, really wasn't getting this art thing, the puppy paintings were cute, but the colours made his head hurt, they were just so randomly selected and he just didn't understand. He didn't know what was nice about them, and they didn't evoke anything in him, which frustrated him. He always tried really hard to be open and think deeply about things. But it was a struggle. All the same, he couldn't help but grin at Eduardo's excitement as he fawned over the paintings and sculptures and all of the cute puppy things, that filled the beast's eyes with happiness, and occasionally its resulting tears. Even if it went on for an hour and a half, whilst doing circles about the large white room, Wilt just liked seeing the friend happy.
There was a good sized cafeteria space, that had been rented for the Imaginary Friends, to have lunch, in the basement of the gallery, with graffiti like murals on the walls, in all types of different styles and bright colours. That room, with the friends sitting at their tables eating lunch and chattering noisily to one another, could have easily been nominated as the most colourful room in the world, at that specific point in time.
Bloo seemed to the quite enthusiastic about what he'd seen of the gallery, so far, in spite of the fuss he'd drummed up earlier that day, and was eagerly screaming at Wilt and Eduardo about all the cool stuff he'd seen, like an exhibit of sculptures made entirely out of paddle balls. It was as he went on to talk about how fluffy the dead sheep's woollen coat was that he had Mac's foot delivered sharply into his shin, shutting him up with a final yelp so as not to upset Eduardo again.
"So what other exhibits are there, here?" Wilt asked the smart little boy, through a mouthful of sandwich. He swallowed "Sorry. Eduardo and I have only had the chance to look at the perito- I mean puppy exhibit."
"Well, there's one exhibit upstairs that actually has an age restriction," Mac replied "So me and Bloo couldn't go in, but Coco did."
"What was in there, Coco?"
"Co coco coco co co coco co co."
"I'm sorry, Coco, your mouth was full, I'm not sure what you said is that OK?"
"She said it was full of artwork by prisoners under different sentences," explained the smart little boy.
Eduardo audibly swallowed "... P-p... Prisoners? Like banditos and the... The stabby peoples?"
The monster started to shake nervously, looking at Wilt, as he always would, for some sort of support. As if on cue, the red imaginary friend put an arm (the only one he had) around his wide shoulders, giving him a small, squeeze and a shake.
"It's OK, Ed, the bad guys aren't gonna be here. They're all locked up, and you are totally safe, OK? You trust me?"
"Si, Senor Wilt... I trust you."
"So what was the work like, Coco, any good?"
Coco went on to explain in her somewhat restricting language that the artwork wasn't just that of prisoners, but of mental patients, as well. Some of the work was very detailed and professional, while other pictures or sculptures looked like an untalented child could have made them. She described to them one particular painting she had liked, and went on to ask if Wilt would like to see it, because she thought he'd think it was interesting.
"Well... I dunno, I mean, I don't know if Ed would be all too happy in that exhibit."
"That's OK, Wilt, Bloo and I can take care of Ed while you go i-"
"AWW, WHAT? We have to babysit the big, hairy SCARDEY BABY?" Bloo cried out, in exasperation.
"I AM NO SCAREDY BABY! WHY YOU ALWAYS BE SO MEAN, AZUL, WHY?"
Lunch had finished now, and Mac and Bloo had taken Eduardo to look at the puppy exhibit, again, while Coco lead Wilt to the prisoner's gallery. A lot of the paintings in the exhibit were of self portraits, and the bird friend had been right; a good percentage of them were so crude, some even having been created using wax crayons. A lot you wouldn't have known had been portrayed by characters behind bars, but beside every display, was simply the name of the piece and the name of the crime or the disorder. Some were very adult-orientated, while others were still lives of wooden toys and stuffed animals, or portraits of imaginary friends.
Coco lead the tall tought to a collection of canvases that fit together to make one enormous painting, a collection which, had it been sat on the floor, wasn't far from being just as tall as him. It was a big white painting, with a huge pair of boney grey hands, palms opened up to the viewer, with their fingers tensed into sharp angles, the sinews so heavily defined in the wrists that Wilt could almost feel his own hand tensing from the mood of the painting, to replicate it.
"Co co coco co co co coco?"
"I don't know what I think; it makes me feel... Weird?"
The bird went on to explain that she liked how it made her feel. Not in the sense that it was a good feeling, but because she was glad she could feel it. She said that she could feel the guilt and the fear of the artist, in the bold, shaking lines, and the definition in creases of the hands, and the joints and the sinews. Wilt tilted his head to the side, concentrating with a narrowed eye, tensing and releasing his hand rhythmically.
"... I... I don't... Get it?"
His friend responded with something along the lines of "It looks like you're getting something," as she looked at his tensing hand, and watched his Adam's apple shift in his throat as he audibly swallowed. She walked closer to the display and pointed to the bottom right corner with her toe "Co co co coco co."
Wilt wasn't sure it was a signature at all; it just looked like a jagged line to him. But he supposed, with a shrug, that the whole exhibit was supposed to hold an air of ambiguity about it. He looked sideways towards the small plastic plaque that was mounted on the wall beside it.
UNTITLED – MANSLAUGHTER
It was written in bold, black lettering, frank but vague. He looked again at the giant pair of hands on the wall, big enough for him to sit in, were they to curl around him.
"Yeah... I think I like it, too... I think."
Foul Larry had really not wanted to go to an Art Gallery that day, and during the visit had simply sat and sulked in the foyer until it was time to go to lunch and then time to go home. It wasn't that he wasn't interested, he just didn't like being told what to do very much.
A big, old bully of an Imaginary Friend, having lived his whole life under his own rules and on his own terms, even after a couple of years of living at the house, he was still finding it difficult to readjust into the whole 'friend' side of being an Imaginary Friend. It was a lot easier than it was when he first arrived at the house; at first he found himself very paranoid, aware that so many people knew where he'd been, what he'd done, and who he'd done it to. He was lucky to have a few old friends from his neighbourhood tag along to his new home, and things were not as uncomfortable with a certain one-armed figment as one would expect between two old arch-rivals, but it was still a struggle.
He didn't get on so well with some of the friends, and when that was the case, then everybody knew it, and he also didn't really get on so well with himself.
Wilt had kind of forgiven him for what had happened all those years ago; a half-intended accident that had ended in the loss of an arm and half his sight, but a paranoia continued to hang over the orange giant's head, because even if the sufferer had forgiven him, whose to say that anyone else would? or would even care that everything was done and forgotten?
For his own sake, he held a very reserved, yet intimidating, hold on the corridors he rumbled through, so even if people didn't like him, at least they had more reason to dislike him than "he hurt somebody once, really bad. Even if he's sorry he still did it and that makes him terrible." Why should he ever try to be nice to somebody who had no interest in getting to really know him, because of something he did years and years ago?
The basketball-headed friend squeezed himself out of the Foster's bus, after everyone had arrived back outside the house, the bus relaxing so much from the tension of his weight and his pressure that it threw it self sideways in the opposite direction, with a metallic clunk and a creak and shocked cry of the friends that were still left inside. And the second he was free from the bus' grasp he was off like a shot, up the steps of the porch and barged into the foyer. He'd done well not to knock anyone over in his hastened effort to get upstairs (he'd found out last minute that everyone was going out that day and he hadn't had time to change into a clean set of clothes and he felt disgusting), but it was as he took his first stair upwards, he accidentally clipped the shoulder of Wilt, sending him forwards, and down, his face about to collide with the steps. Larry let out a small squeak and grabbed the friend by his good eyestalk, giving it and unintentionally rough tug to straighten him out again.
Wilt shook his head, scrunching his eye, a little, then regained focus, meeting the face of Larry who was looking at the floor with an odd combination and grumpiness and sheepishness. They stood in silence for a moment, before Larry cleared his throat.
"Oh uh... That's OK, don't worry about it," Wilt accepted, rubbing the back of his neck. He swallowed and they looked awkwardly away from one another "Um... Sorry. Did you enjoy the art gallery today, Larry?"
The orange giant frowned, now, blowing a raspberry and shaking his head, before continuing on his thunderous little way up the stairs. Wilt rolled his eye.
"Aw man, I need t'get outta these clothes," he groaned quietly as he stepped into his bedroom, finally, and took off his favourite, bright green jersey, tossing it carelessly to the floor. He then hooked his enormous thumbs into his shorts, and stretched the elastic away from him, allowing them to fall, in one brisk movement, around his ankles. He froze on the spot, however, as someone suddenly cleared their throat.
His eyes the size of dinner plates, the giant friend, now only in his underwear, shoes and socks, slowly, slowly turned his head to look over his shoulder in the direction of the sound, before letting out a girlish scream.
"Wh-what are you doing in here?!"
The friend that was laying on the bed furthest away from him, supporting her chin in her hands as she lay on her front, only stared at him with a hooded lid, a down-turned mouth and furrowed brow, as he desperately scrabbled to put his shorts back on, and cover his chest with his hands, flinched back against the door.
"What are you doing in my room?!" he demanded.
"No it's not, it's mine!"
"M'Zigzag," the friend mumbled turning onto her back, her hands behind her head now as she looked blankly at the ceiling "I'm yer new roo'mate."
"Hey, you OK, in there?" came a low voice, followed by a light knocking from a tiny fist at the bottom of the door. Larry turned his attention from the unwelcome friend to the door, opening it with a frown, as a single eye poked through the jar.
"Watchoo want, Jackie?"
"I heard a little girl scream," Jackie Khones replied, stepping into the room a bit, a surveying the room. He noticed Zigzag on the bed "Was it you, girl?"
The grey friend only pointed at Larry, the giant's face instantly flaming burgundy, and the much smaller friend only snorted with a roll with his eye, leaving and slamming the door behind him.
Larry took a moment to recover from the embarrassment of the whole situation, before narrowing his eyes at the intruder.
He thundered towards the foot of her bed, and loomed over her, casting a huge shadow. She stared back at him.
"... Look, mate, am I gunnoo 'ave trouble with you?"
"Not if you don't make it, girl."
She turned away from him, and pulled the covers over her head, wrapping herself up like a cucoon. The orange giant's frown only intensified.
"I'm going to Herriman about this."
"I don't care."
"I don't want some girl in my room."
"I don't care."
"Especially not you."
Zigzag didn't even bother to respond, remaining wrapped up in her blankets as Larry glowered at her, before letting out a short roar of frustration and storming towards the door, slamming it behind him.
A few moments passed, before her opened the door again, and turned off the light, as though to make a point.
The new arrival did nothing, simply lay curled up in the dark.