He had been staying in a particularly cavernous hole he had found while poking around the field behind his house, but he felt that a proper hermit should have an actual structure of some sort to live in. He'd always seen hermits living in little shacks out in the woods when he watched them on TV. But there was a great lack of trees in his neighborhood, so he would have to consider carefully how he would acquire such a place.
He picked up his stick-with-a-string and began foraging around for a new place to stay. The clouds were now an ominous shade of pink, and Pepper knew it would be dark before long. He crossed the street, at great personal risk, because who knew what kind of crazies might be driving around drunk or something and not care to stop for someone like Pepper. But luck was on his side that day, or, as usual, luck was around his neck. Pepper made it across the street safely and without incident. However, he was now in unfamiliar territory. Pepper firmly prodded the ground with Larry, testing it carefully for any sign of weakness. You always had to be aware of your enemy's weakness. He'd learned that on TV, too.
The ground seemed solid, it held up to even the most insistent of Pepper's prodding, and thus was found suitable for continued investigation. He walked a few paces, keeping a watchful eye out for anywhere that might be a desirable place to spend the evening. After a cursory sweep of the area, his eyes landed on a shape that, in the shadows and fast-advancing dusk, could have been a small car. But it could have been something else, too. Pepper had an adventurer's heart, and decided to investigate.
He walked down the sidewalk briskly, and without fear. There were kids, older ones, who would cower upon hearing the barking dogs. Some of those dogs, it was rumored, were as big as cows and meaner than dinosaurs. But Pepper was never afraid, he walked right past them, head held high.
After many steps, he finally arrived at the shape. Now that he was up closer, he could see that it was not a car. In fact, it was a tiny house! Why, how perfect. This was exactly the type of place a hermit should live. He peeked through the window to see if anyone was inside the house. It was empty.
"That's odd," Pepper thought to himself. "Who would leave a perfectly good house like this?" He pushed cautiously on the front door, but it swung open with little effort. "And without even locking it," Pepper added.
The quarters were small. Only one room. But that was enough for Pepper, all he would be doing here tonight was sleeping. He could make plans for how to use the space tomorrow.
There wasn't any bed to speak of in the tiny place. It didn't really matter, though, Pepper had grown accustomed to sleeping on the ground from his days in the field. He was grateful tonight for the roof above his head, and the walls to keep the wind from blowing across his bare arms.
He curled up in a corner, nighttime now settling itself in. Pepper did the same, and before long, his eyelids fell shut and Pepper drifted off to sleep.
** ** **
It wasn't the morning sun that woke him up. Instead, it was a tapping. Gentle at first, but when that yielded little result, it became more insistent, until finally, Pepper was sitting upright and staring another creature in the face. Startled, he lifted his stick-with-a-string, in case the creature proved hostile.
"Hi," it said.
"Hi," Pepper replied. Even though he didn't trust this invader, he knew better than to start off by making enemies with it.
"What are you doing in my house?" The creature, who appeared to be female, asked.
"Your house?" Pepper said, "This is MY house. I found it."
"You didn't find it. My daddy built it for me, and you're in my house, in my front yard."
Pepper didn't find this a very plausible story. He decided to approach this new creature with caution until he knew more facts.
"If it's your house, why is it so tiny?"
"It's a playhouse?" She said haughtily, pointing at something on the front door.
In the darkness of night, Pepper hadn't been able to examine his surroundings very thoroughly. He now looked where the female was pointing, and read, "Pinkie's Playhouse" carved into the door frame.
"That proves nothing," Pepper said. "You could have done that just now."
The female rolled her eyes. "No, daddy doesn't let me use the power tools. I've told him I won't get into trouble, but he still won't let me. He did it four months ago when he built it."
Pepper didn't really like this situation. He had always been told to speak honestly, so he told the female, "I don't really like this."
"If you don't like the house, you shouldn't be sleeping in it."
"No, I like the house, that isn't the issue. The issue is that it apparently already belongs to someone."
"Why is that a problem? Can't you just go back to your house?"
Pepper wasn't sure how much he trusted this female (who, he'd determined based on observation and context clues, was probably human), but so far she had given him no reason to fear her, so he chose to reveal his secret life to her. "I can't do that, you see, I'm a hermit."
"A hermit?" She asked. "What is that?"
"Someone who lives entirely alone."
The girl considered this for a few moments. She dragged her fingers through her curly blonde pigtails, as if trying to straighten them out entirely, but the task seemed futile as there were simply too many curls. After a time, she said, "I think I would like to be a hermit, too."
Pepper balked at the idea. A girl hermit? "You can't," he said.
"Why not? I've already got a house, it seems like I'm all set."
"Well, first of all, we haven't officially determined the ownership of this house. And secondly, you're a girl. Girls can't be hermits."
"That makes no sense," she said. "I think I'd like to be a hermit with you."
Pepper balked again. "You can't be a hermit with someone!" He hollered. "Hermits live alone, that's the whole point!"
"But wouldn't it make sense, if you were going to live alone, to have someone around to keep you company?"
Pepper considered this idea. It did make a bit of sense, though he didn't want to admit it.
It didn't matter, though, the girl seemed to see the agreement on his face, and declared, "It's settled then. You and me will be hermits together."
Chapter 1: Pepper
Full Story at pepperadventure