Gumbo Galahad stepped off the bus in Gotham City and directly onto some broken glass. It wouldn't have been such a big deal, had he not been barefoot, but as it were, he was, so it hurt.
"YEE OWW!" he hollered.
He was a healthy, thin, young man from the hills, and when he wanted to, he could really make some noise. All the other people at the bus station turned and looked at the hillbilly who was hopping around on one foot while holding the other in his hands. He did this for several seconds while continuing to make noise until, eventually, he took his attention away from his foot and saw all the eyes that were upon him. He immediately became embarrassed and blushed. Slowly he put his foot back down, even though it still smarted, and people began to go back about their business. It was quite an entrance for him to make his first time in the big city.
"Why on Earth would you be riding a bus in bare feet?" asked a nasally voice with a Brooklyn accent and Gumbo turned to see a young woman wearing, what in his mind, was an obvious disguise. She had on a short, stylish trench coat, dark sunglasses, and a red scarf covering her blonde hair; all except the bangs. To Gumbo she looked like she had just stepped right out of a film noir he had seen at the Shootin' Creek Picture House back when he was a young'un.
"Thar weren't no sign about shoes," he said, defensively.
"Lol," said the woman. She actually said L O L. Then she looked Gumbo up and down. Besides being barefoot, he was wearing tight blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up and patches on both knees, an old, yet clean, white buttoned down shirt with patches on both elbows, a black vest that seemed too small for him and finally an honest to god coon-skinned cap on top of his dark brown hair, it even had a feather stuck in it. The woman smirked.
"What's ya name, kid?" she asked.
"Gumbo," said Gumbo. "Gumbo Galahad."
"Of course it is," said the woman. "Well, my name is Harleen Quinzel. You can call me Harley, though. And if I'm not mistaken, you're new in town."
"Yessum," said Gumbo. "And it's a pleasure t' meet yo'."
Harley glanced at a new bus that had just arrived and then over near the public restrooms where a security guard was patrolling.
"Tell ya what, kid, I was supposed to get on that bus headin' outta town over there, but I've decided I can't, in good conscience, let you wander around Gotham City all by yourself."
"I'm not all by mahself," said Gumbo, with a smile. He had very straight, white teeth for such a hayseed. "Ah gots mah trusty banjo with me." He gestured behind him at the bus he had gotten off of and just as he did, the doors closed and it began to drive away.
"Hey! Mah stuff!" shouted Gumbo as he began to chase after it, but Harley caught him by the shoulder.
"Ain't no way your gonna catch it, Davy Crockett. Not in bare feet. This is Gotham, there's broken glass, nails, needles, and who knows what else littering the ground," she said.
"But mah banjo, and m-m-mah bag..." stammered Gumbo.
"We can call transit authority," said Harley. "They'll find your stuff and you can pick it up later. Meantime, come with me and we'll at least get you some shoes."
"Yo' sho' is mighty friendly, ma'am," said Gumbo. "Not like what ah heard tell city folk was like t'all."
"Please, call me Harley," said Harley. "We're friends now, Gumbo, and what are friends for if not to help each other out? Your gonna need all the help you can get in this city."
Gumbo looked around himself at all the tall buildings and fast cars. It was very different from what he was used to back in the hills.
"I s'pose yo're right," he said, finally.
"Great," said Harley, taking another quick glance over at the security guard, who was now looking in her direction. "Let's get you to a clothing store," she added, shoving Gumbo away from the bus terminal and towards a busy street.
As they walked, quickly, Gumbo asked, "Are you a spy?"
Harley laughed a musical and somewhat maniacal laugh. "No, silly, I'm just... ducking an... ex-boyfriend," she said.
Once they had gotten away from the station they came to a stop at a curb.
"Yo' gotta car?" Gumbo asked.
"You don't need a car in the city, Davy Crockett," said Harley. "We'll take a cab." She began to wave her hand frantically in the air at the oncoming traffic.
"So where ya from?" she asked while she waved.
"Shootin' Creek," Gumbo said, proudly.
"Where's that?" asked Harley.
"Th' hills," said Gumbo.
"What hills, goofball?" asked Harley, in frustration.
Gumbo thought for a minute. "Th' hills o' apalachee, ah s'pose. Ya know, it's funny yo' calls me a goofball, 'cause back home I'm known as Th' Screwball O' Th' Hills."
"That's adorable," said Harley, right as a green shuttle taxi cab finally pulled up to them and stopped.
Gumbo made a funny face at being called adorable, but then decided it was a compliment, and smiled instead. "Yo' really thinks ah look like Davee Crockhead?" he asked. In lieu of an answer, Harley all but shoved him into the back seat of the cab and then hopped in next to him.
"Shreck's Department Store," she announced to the driver.
As soon as the cab's side door slid closed there was a very loud click indicating pointedly that all the doors of the vehicle had locked. Harley looked towards the driver and noticed that the bullet proof glass partition separating them from him was tinted a dark green and made the driver nothing more than a shadowy blur.
"Welcome," said a smooth man's voice over an intercom. Inside the cab, it sounded very loud and echoey. "We're going to play a little game," it continued. Suddenly the cab lurched forward and merged into traffic. It began driving very fast.
"Oh my gawd!" shouted Harley, which startled Gumbo. "Is this Cash Cab?" she asked, excitedly.
"What? No," said the man's voice. The villainous smoothness of it gave way to slight annoyance. "This is not a game where you win money. This is a game where, if you're lucky, you win your very life."
"Aw, I want money," pouted Harley.
"Is this normal?" asked Gumbo. He was confused.
"Silence! Both of you!" shouted the menacing and mysterious driver. "You will be given two questions. Each wrong answer will get one of you shot. You may confer before answering, but you must only give one answer between you per question, understand?"
Harley and Gumbo looked at each other, totally bewildered.
"The first question," announced the driver, "Is this: What light illuminates the darkness, but also dims your senses?"
There was a silence and then Harley tore her sunglasses off and shouted, "Eddie, is that you?"
"Who? Wha- No." said the driver. The mystery was totally gone from his voice.
Harley lunged forward and knocked on the glass.
"Open this little window thingy," she demanded.
At first the driver didn't move, but then when Harley continued to bang, he finally reached back and unlocked the small sliding window in the partition. Harley slid it open hard. Once revealed, the driver appeared to be a pale man in a green bowler hat and pink domino mask.
"Eddie, what are you doing here? What is all this? What are the odds, huh?" Harley asked, quickly, and without taking a breath.
"Please!" shouted the man called Eddie, "Knock off all the questions!"
"Friend o' yers?" asked Gumbo, trying very hard to follow all that was happening.
"No," Eddie answered fast. "If I had known it was you Harleen, I wouldn't have stopped."
"Well that's a fine how do ya do," Harley shot back. "I don't want to ride in your crummy cash cab anyway. Pull over."
"It's not a cash- Fine!" shouted Eddie. He swerved and pulled over to a nearby curb. He hit a button to make the side door slide open. "Leave!" he shouted.
"Will do," said Harley, "But first..." She reached into her trench coat and pulled out a heavy duty, tricked-out revolver with LOVE and HATE written alternatingly on the cylinder. She stuck it through the small window and right up against Eddie's temple. "What size shoe ya wear?" she asked.
Five minutes later she and Gumbo walked down 12th Avenue together, Gumbo wearing a very nice pair of brown Italian leather dress shoes.
"Well, now we don't gotta go to the department store no more, so we might as well see the sights," Harley said in a very chipper way.
Gumbo didn't know how to respond. On the one hand he was grateful for the shoes. They were very nice and fit fine, but on the other hand he didn't much cotton to stealing.
"Don't be so glum," Harley said, noticing how Gumbo kept looking down. "Me and Eddie are old pals. We play this kind of game all the time. Don't you and your pals back in the hills pull guns on each other? You live in a town called Shootin' Creek for Pete's sake."
Gumbo thought about it for a minute and then realized, yeah, yeah they did in fact.
"Well, the MacHogbites are always a-shootin' at me, thet's fer sho'," he admitted.
"See, city folks ain't that different," said Harley.
Gumbo began to smile again as he let the recent events leave his memory like a bird leaves a nest.
"Th' answer is moonshine, by th' way," he said out of nowhere.
"Huh?" asked Harley.
"Th' answer t' thet man's question. What light illuminates th' darkness, but also dims yer senses? It's moonshine... Innit?" he asked, unsure of himself.
"Oh yeah, hey, you're right," said Harley, genuinely impressed. "You're smarter than you look, Davy Crockett," she said, and smiled at Gumbo.
He smiled back.
He was beginning to like the city.
"So, what do ya wanna see first: Gotham Observatory, or the old abandoned ice cream factory?" asked Harley.
"T' be honest, ah really should start doin' what ah came heah t' do," said Gumbo.
"Oh yeah, I never did ask you what brought you to our fair city," said Harley.
"I'm apposed t' find Sheriff Crawfisher. He's th' sheriff o' Shootin' Creek, yo' see. Or at least, him was. He done run off t' this heah city a while back an' we ain't heard from him in ovah a month," said Gumbo.
"Why'd he come here of all places?" asked Harley, "And why did the town send only you to come get him?"
"I was th' one thet was most up t' th' challenge. I'm th' one with th' learnin' in Shootin' Creek."
Harley just smiled.
"I's even took a detective correspondence course... by mail," Gumbo added, proudly.
"That's all this city needs is another detective," Harley said under her breath. Then to Gumbo she said, "How's about we go get some lunch, I'll pay, and then we can figure out the best way to go about finding this Sheriff of yours, k?"
"I am powerful hungry," Gumbo said, rubbing his flat stomach.
"I know a super neat little bistro on Dini Street," Harley said, hooking her arm around Gumbo's and leading him past the entrance of an alleyway.
Neither of them noticed the mysterious man in a blue suit and hat that watched them from the shadows deep within the alley. It was easy not to notice him, though, as he had no face.
Gumbo and Harley sat outside on the fence-enclosed terrace of the bistro that Harley had mentioned. She had a bowl of clam chowder and an ice cream sundae, he had a ham sandwich made with artisan bread. He didn't know what "artisan" was, but bread is bread, he figured, so he ate it. It was a little doughier then he was used to back home, but he enjoyed it, especially spitting the sesame seeds out onto the sidewalk next to their table. The other patrons eating around them gave him dirty looks, but Gumbo didn't notice. Harley thought it was funny, so she didn't say anything.
"Now, explain to me why exactly your sheriff friend is here in Gotham City?" said Harley, as she ate a spoonful of ice cream. She always started with dessert.
"Him said thet he wants mo' excitement in his life," said Gumbo. "We's just got the TV in Shootin' Creek, an' him see all th' hustle an' bustle o' city life on thar and wanted it fo' h'self. Left his daughter an' the rest o' us townsfolk an' come up heah all alone. Th' town elected me t' come fetch him back." He took a big bite of his sandwich.
"No law and order in Shootin' Creek without him, huh?" asked Harley.
"T'weren't much order when he was thar," said Gumbo. "But now, th' law's gone too. Dreary Sam tried runnin' fo' sheriff, but he didn't actually want th' responsibility, just th' glamour, so he stepped down."
Harley nodded along to his story.
"Poor Honeydew, thas th' sheriff's daughter, is all broken up. Cries continuously since her paw left," Gumbo went on, spitting seeds as he talked.
"The poor thing," Harley said, sympathetically. "Well, I'll help you find her 'paw', but first I need to run by my friend Pam's after we're done here."
"Aight," said Gumbo, spitting more seeds.
"Would you please stop that!" shouted an old man in a fancy suit with a twirly mustache at the table next to theirs.
Gumbo looked surprised and embarrassed at the outburst, but Harley just looked over at the man, casually, and said, "Blow it out your ear, grandpa."
The man almost choked on his croissant.
"Well, I never!" he said, indignantly.
Harley ignored him and put her hand on Gumbo's shoulder. "You just be you," she said.
Once they had finished their meal Harley looked at Gumbo. "You got any bread?" she asked.
"Ah just et it all," said Gumbo.
Harley rolled her eyes. "I mean money, Davy Crockett," she said.
"Yessum, ah gots fo' whole dollars," Gumbo said, proudly.
"Yeesh," said Harley, pulling away the collar of her coat with one finger. "Well, we're gonna have to make this meal complimentary, then. I need a bug."
Gumbo looked around him until he saw a blue beetle crawling on the leaf of a potted plant near their table. He plucked it up with no problem and handed it to Harley.
"Ew, drop it in my chowder," she said in disgust.
Gumbo was confused, but did as she asked.
"Waiter! Waiter!" Harley began to scream, drawing the attention of everyone around her. Quickly, a young waiter came running out of the restaurant and approached her.
"What's wrong, madame?" he asked.
"There's a bug in my chowder," she said.
"Well... you are eating outside, ma'am," the waiter said, patiently. "I mean, it's bound to ha-"
Harley quickly threw the bowl of chowder right in the waiters face. Some of it splashed on the old man with the mustache who was sitting behind him too.
"Run!" Harley shouted to Gumbo.
Gumbo was confused and worried, but did as she said; mostly because she grabbed his hand and quickly pulled him out of his seat. They hopped the fence and ran down a busy city sidewalk. No one was chasing them, but Harley found it all very thrilling regardless. Eventually, they came to a stop two blocks away from the bistro and caught their breaths.
"What on Earth was thet?" asked Gumbo. "Ah hasn't runt like thet since Merciless MacSleezy thought ah done stolled his fishin' po'."
Harley wasn't listening to Gumbo's little slice of Americana, she was looking back to see if any cop cars were coming down the street. Then she looked up at the tops of the buildings that surrounded them.
"It's getting dark," she said, ominously.
"Thet's aight," said Gumbo. "Ah has th' night vision o' a coon dog."
"So does Batman," said Harley.
"Who?" asked Gumbo.
"Our local superhero," Harley said in frustration.
"Super he-ro?" Gumbo asked in confusion. "Like E-Man?"
"That's a comic book character," said Harley. "The bat is real. We need to get to my friend's place, pronto."
"How far away is pronto?" asked Gumbo.
"C'mon," Harley said, rolling her eyes yet again. She took him by the arm and lead him through an alley like a lost child. As they walked, they didn't notice the faceless man who continued to stalk them, even as he passed by the alleyway entrance and watched them walk away for several minutes.
Once the sun had completely set, and Gotham City became a cold, black canvas painted in neon lights and gray steam wafting up out of the manhole covers, Harley and Gumbo finally reached their destination: a dilapidated old tenement building on the outskirts of an already bad part of town. The only lights that could be seen in the building from the outside were in the highest windows where the silhouette of leaves and vines against the glass created a shadowy jungle.
"Thet's Pam's place?" asked Gumbo.
"Yep," Harley said, cheerfully, as if this place looked like the Ritz Gotham.
"It's a palace," Gumbo said in awe.
"Oookay," said Harley. Then she pulled him along towards the entrance.
Once they reached the top floor of the building via the stairs, since the elevator was out of service and had police crime scene tape across the doors, Harley knocked in a very specific way on the one wooden door that existed in the dark and dingy hallway.
That's a spy's knock, thought Gumbo. He hadn't completely given up the idea that Harley was a spy.
After a few minutes, a redheaded woman opened the door and a heavenly scent blew into the hallway. Immediately Gumbo thought this woman was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and he would do anything to get close to her.
"This is Pam," Harley said to Gumbo.
"Pam," he repeated, like the word was delicious to say.
Pam eyed the strange hillbilly her friend had brought for a few seconds, then batted her eyelashes and said, "come on in."
"Sho'," said Gumbo, and then he practically floated into her apartment. Harley just walked in.
"Welcome to my garden," said Pam, and then she slowly shut the door. It was like the mouth of a Venus flytrap closing.
"Drink?" Pam asked Gumbo.
"Sho'," he said, still in a stupefied haze.
Pam went over to a little wet bar near some bamboo curtains and began pouring some water into a fancy glass out of a decanter. She motioned to Harley for her to come over, which she did. Gumbo just stood where he was and stared at the ceiling.
"Where did you find this ridgerunner?" Pam asked Harley in a hushed whisper.
"At the bus station," Harley answered back.
"He's got no meat on his bones and he's filthy," said Pam. "My baby deserves better than that."
"You said someone that wouldn't be missed, so I figured him, 'cause he's new in town and alone and..." Harley began to yammer.
"Alright, alright, you did your best. Now go in the other room so you don't have to see this," said Pam. She sauntered away from Harley and towards Gumbo, holding the glass of water in her hand. Harley glanced over at Gumbo who was smiling to himself and happily staring off into space in blissful ignorance. For a second she almost felt something like regret, but then that left her mind as she left the room and went into a small bedroom down a hallway off the living room.
"Not sure what your... poison is, but we only serve water here," said Pam. She handed the glass to Gumbo, who payed it no attention as he took it. His eyes were now fixed only on the beautiful redhead in the green dress in front of him.
"So, tell me a little bit about yourself," said Pam. "What's your name? How much do you weight? What's your diet like?"
"Umm, Gumbo," Gumbo said, stupidly.
"That's all you eat is Gumbo?" Pam asked, incredulously.
"Mah name is..." said Gumbo.
"Of course it is," said Pam. "Well, drink your water all up, it's full of special vitamins and nutrients, then I'll introduce you to my baby, Lily." Pam gestured towards the bamboo curtain. From behind it, in the room beyond, there could be seen the faintest green glow as well as some shadowy movement. A low gurgling sound could also be heard.
"Would you like that?" she asked Gumbo.
"I reckon," he said. He walked towards the curtain, still holding the water in his hand. Pam moved quickly and got there first, though, and stood in front of the curtain like a sideshow barker about to unveil an amazing oddity.
"Eager beaver," she said to Gumbo. "Well, alright, feast your eyes..."
She pulled back half of the curtain to reveal a room that was once a kitchen, but that had been turned into a makeshift conservatory. It had several large windows and was full of plants of all shapes and sizes. They hung from the ceiling, cluttered several large tables and counter tops, and there were even some larger ones in pots on the floor. Vines grew up the walls and along the light fixtures, which contained UV bulbs. It was an astonishing sight to find in an urban apartment, but even more astonishing was the ten foot Venus flytrap that took up one whole corner of the room. As soon as it heard the sound of approaching people it lifted up its head and looked at Pam and Gumbo, though it didn't actually have eyes. Gumbo's only reaction to seeing all this was , "Ah'll be."
"You certainly will be," said Pam. "But first, drink up. My baby needs fresh male meat and it must contain the proper balance of chemicals."
"Whatever yo' say," said Gumbo and he made to chug the whole glass. Before he could, however, there was a loud crash and a person in a dark suit and hat with no face came flying through a window and into the living room from the catwalk outside. Pam looked furious.
"Who the hell are you?" she demanded.
"I am The Question," said The Question. Lack of a mouth did not hinder the ability to understand the words, thought they were muffled and gravely.
"No matter," said Pam. She lifted her hand and blew some pink dust in The Questions face. Nothing happened.
"Wait a minute," said Pam. "You may be dressed as a man, but you're not a man, I thought The Question was a man."
The Question was a man, but I am the new Question now, and it is not my lack of a Y chromosome that allows me to resist you, it's the built in gas mask behind this blank one that filters out your toxins." The Question pointed to her face, or lack thereof.
"I don't care what you are, you're not stopping me!" shouted Pam. She pointed at The Question and immediately vines shot out from the conservatory and straight at the masked vigilante. She dodged them and at the same time pushed Gumbo out of the line of danger. He dropped his glass, which shattered and spilled water all over the floor.
"Hey," was all he said as he was shoved down next to a couch.
The Question pulled a large knife from behind her back and ran towards the vines. Pam watched and cackled as the vines began to entangle the hero. The Question easily cut through them with her knife, though, and then turned her attention to the large flytrap called Lily that was their source. She pulled a small jar of acid from her pocket and tossed it at the plant where it broke open and began causing Lily to hiss and smoke. Some of the acid also splashed onto one of the UV lamps. It sparked and caught fire.
"Nooo!" screamed Pam. She could tell where all this chaos was going. She turned to run, but The Question caught her fast and handcuffed her hands behind her back.
"You bitch!" she spat at The Question.
"Takes one to know one," The Question fired back.
The small apartment was quickly filling with smoke from the conservatory, which was now on fire.
"You have to get Harley," Pam said.
"Oh, I'll be getting Ms. Quinn too, don't you worry," said The Question. She shoved Pam forward and took her with as she went down the apartment's only hallway, kicking in any door she came to. There was no sign of Harley anywhere in the place, but there was an open window in one of the small bedrooms. The Question put two and two together, then she dragged Pam and a still bewildered, but slowly coming to his senses Gumbo out of the smoky apartment and then out of the building entirely.
Five minutes later the three of them stood watching the old tenement burn. Pam was the only squator living in the condemned structure, so only she was upset to see it go up in flames.
"I'll get you for this," she shouted at The Question as she struggled against her restraints. "That was years worth of research you just destroyed. That was my pride and joy!"
"And I wasn't even trying," The Question said, casually. "I was actually investigating an illegal moonshine ring and became suspicious when I saw this man here in the company of an obviously disguised Harley Quinn. Luckily he lead me to a far more sinister plot. This explains where all the missing young men there's been a rash of lately have been going."
Pam didn't say anything, she just looked smug yet defeated.
"Are you alright," The Question said, turning her attention to Gumbo, who was rubbing his head.
"Ah thinks so," he said. "Where's Harley?"
"The criminal known as Harley Quinn has escaped... for now," said The Question. "Just thank your lucky stars you did too, kid. She was trying to assist her friend here in feeding you to a giant carnivorous plant."
Gumbo had a look of betrayal on his face as he looked from the faceless crime fighter to the evil redhead known to some as Poison Ivy.
"Um, thanks fo' savin' me, ah... guess," he said.
"It's my job," said The Question, like a 1940's detective.
"Whut now?" he asked.
"Now I wait for the police and fire department to arrive and hand over Ms. Isley here to them along with whatever evidence can be salvaged from the wreckage. Normally I'd want you to be a witness, but considering you were hypnotized through most of it, I think it would be best if you just went on home now," said The Question.
"Home..." Gumbo said, wistfully.
It suddenly began to rain a little bit and sirens could be heard of in the distance. Gumbo turned away from the grim scene he was taking part in and slowly began to walk away into the night. He had no idea where he was going, it was late, it was dark, it was wet and the only person he had met in the city so far had turned out to be a murderer, or an accomplice to a murderer, he wasn't sure. But he was sure that he was lost, so he just wandered aimlessly. He wandered for several hours until he passed by a dark alley and someone reached out, grabbed him, and pulled him into it.
"What happened? Is Pam okay?" asked Harley. She was all covered up in her disguise again, complete with sunglasses, even though it was night time.
"Yer friend got harrested," Gumbo said, angrily. "An' yo' git away from me. I don't want nothin' t' do with yo' no mo'."
Harley took off her glasses and looked at Gumbo with hurt in her eyes.
"Ah thought... ah thought yo' was a nice person, but yo're not. Yo're not a nice person et all," he went on.
Harley looked down at a rain puddle near her feet.
"I'm a criminal, in point of fact," she said, quietly. "I was on the run when you met me, but I still went out of my way to show you a good time here in Gotham."
"So's yo' could lure me t' yo' sexy friend like a worm lures a catfish t' a hook," said Gumbo. He was as mad as it was possible for him to get.
"I'm not a good person," Harley admitted, sadly, looking up and into Gumbo's eyes. "But you can't say I wan't nice."
Gumbo didn't know if that was an excuse or an apology or what, so he just reached down and took the shoes off his feet and handed them to her.
"Heah, give these back t' yer other friend," he said. "He's probably a murderer too."
"Probably," Harley said, accepting the shoes.
She looked down at them in her hands and began to cry a little. Gumbo just looked at her and then turned and began walking deeper down the alley. There was nothing more to say.
After a few twists and turns through the asphalt jungle that was Gotham's alleyway system, Gumbo finally saw an outlet and headed for it, but was suddenly stopped by a hand reaching out of some trash on the ground and grabbing his ankle.
"Gumbo?" said an old and frail voice.
Gumbo looked down at the small old man the hand belonged to and was astonished to see behind the long gray beard and greasy filth, the impish face of Sheriff Crawfisher.
"Sheriff, whut is yo' doin' heah in this alley?" Gumbo asked.
"Oooh boy, let me tall ya," said Sheriff Crawfisher, releasing Gumbo from his grasp.
Gumbo waited, but when the sheriff didn't continue he said, "Okay, tell me."
"Ah come t' this heah city with dreams o' fast cars, pretty women, and gay nightlife, but what ah found was crime, discrimination, and destitution."
"Bet yo' regret abandoning yo' daughter n' fellow townsfolk, huh?" asked Gumbo.
"Ah s'pose," said the sheriff. "Truth be told ah left Honeydew back thar in them hills fo' her own good. Ah think part o' me knowed no good would come o' all this. Th' city ain't no place fo' us hillfolk."
Gumbo gave his old friend a sad smile and then sat down next to him on the cold, wet ground among the trash.
"Ah heah thet," he said.
The next morning the rain had stopped, but the city was still covered in a thin layer of dirty water. It made Gotham look as clean and shiny as was possible for it to look. Gumbo Galahad peeked his head out from some old newspapers covering the cardboard box where he and his friend, Sheriff Crawfisher had slept all night and saw the sun rising over the gray skyscrapers.
"Wake up, Sheriff," Gumbo said, nudging the old man next to him awake. "We's got t' git t' th' bus station."
"Oh, Gumbo," the old man moaned. "We don't gots nothin' but six dollars betwixt us, an' thet ain't nearly enough fo' two bus tickets back south."
"Then we'll have t' ask folks fo' money ousside th' station til we do have enough," said Gumbo.
"City folks don't give nothin' away fo' free, 'specially money," said the sheriff. "Listen t' me, boy, ah been heah longer then yo'."
"We have t' try," said Gumbo. He stood up with a look of determination and certainty stretched across his face.
The sheriff looked at him for a moment, almost as if he were an idiot, and then finally threw off the old coat he was using as a blanket and said, "Fine!"
A short walk and many stares from passersby on the street later and the two hillbillies had made it to the station where they commenced pandhandling. No one so much as gave them the time of day, but the station's security guard did raise an eyebrow. He told them to stop and Sheriff Crawfisher called for his badge and he called for the police, so Gumbo dragged the little old man out to the curb rather than deal with anymore trouble. They sat there with their heads in their hands wondering if they'd ever see the hills again, when suddenly a mysterious stranger in a trench coat approached them. She had blonde pigtails, green eyes and a friendly smile on her face. in one hand she held a small carpet bag and in the other an old, but tuned banjo. Gumbo looked up at her and didn't know what to say except, "Harley?"
"Right-a-rooney," she said.
"Ah told yo' ah never wanted t' see yo' again," he said, but there wasn't much anger in his voice anymore.
"If I listened every time someone said that to me, I wouldn't have any friends," said Harley with a small laugh.
"Which reminds me," she said, reaching into the bag she held. She quickly pulled out the brown leather shoes she had given to Gumbo and handed them back to him. "Here," she said, "I want you to keep them. My friend won't be needing them since he got arrested last night and is now in Arkham Asylum again with Pam. Serves him right for ripping off game shows. Also, here's your luggage and banjo. I showed up bright and early at the station today to get them for you." She handed the things to Gumbo, who took them silently. He didn't know what to say.
"The banjo was missing at first, but I saw some street performer calling himself 'Mister Banjo' playing it over by the restrooms and got it back for you, no problem. All it took was a good left hook."
Gumbo smiled and began plucking the strings of his instrument.
"Thank yo'," he said.
"No probs," said Harley.
"Is this th' crazy woman yo' was tellin' me about all last night?" asked Sheriff Crawfisher, pointing at Harley.
"Thet's... never mind all thet, Sheriff," said Gumbo. He stood up and put his hand on Harley's shoulder. "Wit th' dawn comes a new day, as they say, an' yo' should never let someone's past color their future. Harley is a kind, generous soul an' thet's whut's important."
Harley smiled at Gumbo and Gumbo smiled back and gave her a wink.
"Thanks, Davy Crocket," she said to him.
"Well Ah'm glad yo' made a friend an' all thet, but now how we s'posed to get back home, did yo' forget?" said Sheriff Crawfisher in his ornery old man way.
"If it's just money for bus fare you need, I got ya covered," said Harley. She reached into a pocket of her coat and pulled out a wad of hundreds. "It's the lest I can do for you, Sheriff Crawfisher, is it?"
"Darn tootin'," said the sheriff.
"Hey, ya found him!" Harley said, excitedly.
"Yup," said Gumbo. "I guess my trip t' th' city wasn't all thet bad after all. At least ah survived."
"That's lookin' on the sunny side," said Harley.
"Hmph," said Sheriff Crawfisher.
"That reminds me of a song," said Gumbo, brightly. "I think we have time for that before we leave, right, sheriff?"
"I-" the sheriff started.
"Good," interrupted Gumbo. "Can yo' sing, Harley?"
"Can I? No. Am I gonna? Yes," she answered enthusiastically.
Gumbo began a-pickin' away at his banjo and Sheriff Crawfisher, in spite of himself, began a-stompin' his foot and when the time was right both of them as well as Harley began a-singin'...
"Well there's a dark and a troubled side of life.
There's a bright and a sunny side too.
If you meet with the darkness and striiife,
the sunny side we also may view.
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side.
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way,
if we keep on the sunny side of life."