Call me Ishmael, just kidding, call me Teller.
We dream of what we will be when we grow-up. For some it is a fireman, a lion tamer, or a vampire hunter. You dream of being a hero, of whips, of gold lapels and brass buttons, and of ridding the world of monsters. You don’t dream of doing dishes for 12 guys, or of losing body parts to cranky loins, or the fact there is no sleep for the vampire hunter.
I dreamt of none of these things. I dreamt of becoming a wizard. Of long flowing beards, grand robs… and of magic. I didn’t dream of isolation, chemicals smells, or of bad food. You never hear about the downside of the “When I grow-up dreams”. I wonder how many of us would chose differently if we knew more of the reality. Would you? Would I? Would it be any better?
No matter. Magic is not something you can turn off and walk away from. No retirement either. At least none I’ve heard of. Sure, some wizard may look old, but there’s no telling. Most of us put on airs, and the airs of wizard could make your nose bleed.
Take Ming. To most of the world he is an ancient Chinese man with intense jade eyes, Fu Manchu whiskers, walks bowlegged, wears silk robes, and a large straw hat. He can eat so fast with chopsticks that all you see is a blur and the occasional stray ramen hit the wall. But if you cleared the air what you would see is a rat. A rat with intense jade eyes, drooping whiskers, and bowed legs. She was from the Bronx too, Northside. She said her burrow was under a noodle shop.
You might think that wizards live in castles with purple dragons for guard dogs. We don’t. Magic is tricky. It all works mostly the same, but it’s different too. I can’t do what exactly what Ming does, and she can’t do what I do. We’re able to conjure an apple, but my apple would be Granny Smith, and hers a Fuji.
Some things seem to be true for all of wizards. One is, money comes, but not real money. You have enough to live off of, but you’ll never be Donald Trump. (Note: A reputable sources says he has a Hatter. He may have gotten his wishes, money and fame, but he’s paying for it: bad hair and he’s going mad. I also hear he passes a lot of wind.) Even if you made a castle of pure magic, it would crumble, catch on fire, or be invaded by wombats.
Limits are good. They keep us, and others from conquering the world. And the universe often has a policy of live and let live, but there is also, ‘well if you die, that makes room for the others, so watch what you are doing’, kind of thing.
I can’t do a healing spell on myself, and I might be able to do one on you, but maybe not. That’s not my talent.
What are my talents? One is I have approximate knowledge of many things. So I can bullshit stupendously. This gets me a lot of work. You come to me and ask for gold, and I can spin hay. Often no one really asks for what they truly want, let alone need. The real magic is finding that. That’s what I do; I procure, . Some of it is luck, plain and simple. Wizards tend to have luck and its now always good. Most of us have marvelous memories, and we’re able to leap, both in faith and in facts. We see connections that others cant, or won’t.
But I degrees… I do that. My brain is like a Chinese acrobat, I always have a dozen plates spinning.
The smoke of burnt toast filled the air. I’m a bad cook. I try, but I get distracted. Boredom overtakes me quickly and before you know it, burnt toast, burnt beans, and burnt eggs. We go through a lot of pots and pans and Tums.
We… what I mean is I have a companion. Not of the shapely kind. Well, he’s not a blob, but he doesn’t have flowing golden hair, nor a milky white, heaving bosom.
My companion is a gnome, Frod. A grumpy one too. He’s from the Antarctic and is endlessly too hot. Our lives joined together when I saved him from the Dead Letter Office. Not the one for the Post Office, but the one connected with the Department of Death. He had been inside a package that lacked enough postage and was now forever sorting deadlines at the DoD. He had managed to get on a conveyer belt and was quickly headed to Haiti.
Many things can affect the magics. When I was doing the magics, somehow he became bonded to me. For better or worse there is nothing either of us can do about it.
Our toaster was on fire. That was the third one this year. I had just thrown open the windows and was trying to turn off the screaming smoke alarm when someone came into the office. I live behind the office. It’s more convenient and cheaper too.
I banged on the freezer. “Do you mind?”
I banged again, only harder. “Get the door Frod.”
“Every time,” a small voice came from the freezer. Frod opened a tiny door to the freezer and made his way on the crossways that zigzagged across the apartment and the office.
I heard Frod conversing.
“Customers,” I said to the teakettle, which did not reply. “Good thing too.” We were short on funds, and out of whale blubber. Frod wasn’t happy with imitation crab. If I had gotten, let’s say a cat bonded to me, she’d be happy with imitation crab. She’d curl up on me and purr.
I fanned the smoke out the window and then dashed to my room to try and find something dignified and reasonably clean to wear. I meant to go to the dry cleaner, but every time I was on my way something came up. I couldn’t ask Frod to, he’s all of 5 inches, 6 if you include the hat. No way would anything make it there and back. I’d have to consider getting an intern again, ya know, someone who works but isn’t paid. But then I’d have worry about keeping them safe, whereas I didn’t with Frod. Gnomes aren’t easily hurt, let alone killed. Can’t poison them, can’t stab or cut them, can’t set them on fire, can’t drown them, and you can’t squish them.
Every other word Frod said was impolite; thankfully these guys didn’t seem to care. Wizards have keen hearing, but that doesn’t apply here, I could almost always, tune into what Frod was hearing. I could even see if I wanted to. At times I felt things he did as well.
In the back of my wardrobe was something from a Halloween many years ago. I tossed it on the rumpled bed. My Linkin Park t-shirt was now on backwards so the lettering wouldn’t show and I put on pair of plaid pants; they have deep pockets, excellanent for carrying whatnots. We don’t want meet any new clients in your boxers, now do we? On went my vest with the stars and moons. That dash of traditional wizard wear.
Then I quickly brushed off the dust from the gold lapels and left the brass buttons un. There I stood in front of the dressing mirror. I looked much as you imagined, like leftovers from a second hand store.
With a quick snip off went the lapels. I slicked back the wilds of curls into something more tame. As I was about to dash up-front, it occurred to me that shoes always said class. No socks, so boots it is. There are these thigh-highs from yet another Halloween costume that I liked far too much, but wizards often like to stick out from a crowd.
I gave another glance at my appearance.
With a quick stroke to my jaw line I tided-up my Van Dyke, making the edges clean and my short beard end with a point.
The three part earring picked-up on the colors I wore but the center stone always matched my eyes, whatever color they happened to be. There were days when they were purple, and others brown. Today they were almost orange. A side affect from a casting I did a few months back. I made sure that I had a pair of sunglasses. Some don’t care for it when they are looked at with kaleidoscope eyes.
The magics have an unpredictable factor. The more magics you do, the greater the odds that some thing is going to have a kink.
There are three types of the magics. Little stuff, such as lighting a candle, or finding your keys. The mid stuff such as causing a potted plant to come to life, or changing bee to a bird, or calling calling a object to appear. A lot on the last one depended on how common something was and the size. And big stuff, bring the dead back to life, calling up demons. Some of it depends levels of casting depended on what kind of wizard you are, where talents lie, and some is experience.
Little stuff you can do with little to no thought. Mid stuff that requires focus. And last, took something from you. What that was might some time off of your lifes clock or your left nut.
“You’re missing something,” my reflection noted. “How could I forget?” It was my signature. I called, “Toolong.” From under the bed snaked my scarf. It had enough strips of color to pull everything together, and you’d be surprised at how often such a thing comes in handy.
The door to my small office opened as if by magic, and I appeared in cloud of smoke. I bowed, with one hand in front and the other in the small of my back. Showmanship, given then what they want.
Frod was on the verge of a meltdown. He paced the length of my desk and was about to toss a sharpened pencil at thug 2 in the back.
“Ah, there you are Mr. Teller.” Thug 1 and thug 2 tried suppressing coughs, the smoke I guessed. The scent of burnt toast floated in the air.
I extended my hand with a flare. “Please call me Starbuck.” I then quickly dropped my hand. Fish even when they are blue and floating don’t have hands to shake with. He did have a mean underbite that gave him a primeval look. A look that said he could swallow you whole and that he had done so to many others.
The blue fish spoke, “I’m Mr…”
“Yes.” His fins kept moving as if he were in water. His gills expanded and contracted. How that fish out of water managed, I didn’t know.
Rarely did Goby venture outside of his club, The Sand Bar. Class joint. Not that I’d ever been inside it. Two reasons. The first, I couldn’t afford to park there, let alone have a drink. The second, there were runes cut into the marble, which put the whammy on a lot of the magics. I didn’t care to find out what affect it would have on me.
“I require your services Mr. Teller.”
“Call me Starbuck.” He ignored me. I took a seat behind my desk and gestured with my hand for him to have a seat. Foolish. Fish don’t sit. He ignored me.
“Would anyone like some coffee?” Frod shot me a cold look. He didn’t like making coffee, even when it was instant. I looked around the room, no one seemed to want any. Just as well, Frod would have pissed in the coffee before he served it. You’d be surprised at the amount in which that little bugger can pee.
“How about a Coke? Glass of course, none of that canned crap.”
“Frod, if you would be so kind.”
“Right,” he said, tipped his pointed cap, and spoke in a manner not fit for mixed company, and if a wizard, a floating blue fish, gnome, and two thugs weren’t mixed…
Goby explained that he needed someone found, a dragon someone. He didn’t say why or what for. I asked, but his mouth a gapped, his fish eyes a blank.
The unmistakable sound of glass rolling along the crossway came; I held out my hand and caught the bottle as it hit the air, and then tapped the glass to calm the carbonation. Screwed in on the side of a drawer is a bottle opener.
I drink a lot of Coke. A lot. That said, alcohol doesn’t affect me, nor does it have any real taste.
While we’re on subject of “bad habits”… Wizards aren’t allowed to gamble, bad things happen like earthquakes, and tsunami. Smoking makes me see spots. And ladies, I like ‘em but wizards don’t make great husbands. Too much on the road, and there was an element of danger. This comes from a couple of places. Like you build up enemies and others who want to use parts of us for casting. Ground wizard toe for casting travel, eyes for casting divination, and so on. Gruesome, but some used eyes of newt, and I am sure that’s gruesome for newts too. I tried to not use anything that was once living other than plants.
Note: wizards don’t really use a lot of potions. It’s messy and you have to have all this stuff on hand. If you want that kind of thing witches are better.
From my pocket came a bag of M&Ms, original, not the peanut. I filled my hand with the colorful candies, picked out the gross blue ones, and extended my filled hand. “Care for an M&M?” No one seemed interested. I was, M&Ms are corner of any sound diet. Not enough red number 5 and you get the kat-soups. Don’t want to sneeze ketchup everywhere or smell of vegetable soup all of your life.
I told Goby that I would need something personal if at all possible to help me focus on what I was suppose to find.
“But of course.”
Thug 2 who stood in the back stepped forward and presented me with a bauble. Dragons are partial to such things, but then again so are many. I held it up to the light. It was as big as a fist and shown like starlight. Moonstones aren’t as pricy as some other stones, but they are far from plastic trinkets, and, in the right hands, or paws, could be useful.
Goby said, “That should work. She slept with it every night.” I raised my eyebrow, he must have know her pretty well.
Frod stood in front of the moonstone and made faces on its shinny surface.
Goby spoke again, “After she is found, there’s an emerald just as big, and a ruby. That should make it worth your while.”
“Yes indeed.” I finished off my Coke.
“What’s her name?” Kind of a silly question, no one but a dragon could pronounce her name. You need to be a dragon.
There are several kinds of dragons, but even so, in my travels, and I’ve traveled a lot, and in all of my years, and I had many, got the scars to prove it, I’ve met one. He was partnered with Barnum. His name was Bailey. Barnum would ride in to the main ring on Bailey’s back dressed a knight. Folks packed in to see a dragon. He snarled, and gnashed his mighty teeth, blew fire, and puffed smoke shaped animals. Barnum even stuck his head into the jaws of the fearsome dragon. It was a piece of humbuggery. No one could tame a dragon. Bailey had joined the circus and Barnum was smart enough to make him a partner. Dragons are many things, but they aren’t dumb beasts. Any creature that can enter your head isn’t to be trifled with. Dragons communicate telepathically.
“The dragon’s name is Pruina.”
Goby swam closer to me, so close I could smell the tarter sauce on his breathe. “Mr. Teller, don’t think about cashing the stone in, or cutting it. You’ll activate a nasty curse and you’ll be…”
Frod stepped away from the stone.
“Sleeping with the fishes?”
He ignored me.
“Here is something for your expenses.” Thug 2 stepped forward and the other stepped back. He placed an envelop on the desk. Frod went to investigate.
I didn’t count, and I didn’t ask how much. That would be bad form. Whatever he gave would be fine. And besides Frod looked happy, and he rarely looked happy. The gnome placed the envelope on his back and made his way to the safe.
Goby spoke, “I expect updates daily. And I’ll know if you’re lying. You have until the next full moon, and then the dragon won’t be the only thing with a price on its head.”
That gave me close to 30 days. It should be enough, unless she had gone into another plain, or another time. Doubtful. I hoped.
Thug 2 who stood in the back opened the door and checked the hall. As thug 1 backed up, he stepped squarely onto poor Frod. Thug 1 threw a quick look of sorry at me and raised his foot. A small boot, a tiny hand, and the tip of the cap could be seen on the edges of the still envelope.
Goby ignored him and made his way out of the office. Thug 2 followed.
I made my way over and picked up the envelope. Frod was pretty flat but soon shock it off, everything popped back into place.
“I should have bit him,” Frod said. His eyes glowed, intense and dark. Arctic gnomes bites are more than a mosquito bite. At first it’s a speck of cold and given enough time, the frostbite can spread throughout your body.
“Next time.” I quickly counted the money. We could afford blubber for Frod again. From my pocket came my compass, Rose. I think Frod had a thing for her. Too bad for him she’s made of plastic and only active part of the time, like when she was on a map.
I spread out a map of the area, put her by the moonstone and let her do her thing. Frod watched and followed her steps. I noted the route she had indicated. Frod said something to her, but it was gmonish. She was cute. I think she was a princess from a video game; at least we called her Princess Rose.
I packed. In my kit bag went a few clothes, and a book I thought we might need, but most of what we would need was already in the trailer.
I put the kit down near the map, a clear indication I was ready to go. Rose wasn’t moving any more, but Frod seemed to still be talking. I waited a couple of moments for him to finish up.
With a quick whistle, she stepped forward. I think Rose might have said something to Frod before she was back in my pocket.
I grabbed the stone, folded the map and picked up the kit. “Close up the office and the apartment. I’ll ready the trailer.”
“Right ya bastard.” He didn’t say it with any malice, but he never called me by my name or anyone by name, only Rose.
“Leave me do to all of the hard work.” Frod stepped into the tiny elevator that brought him level with the window. He grumbled as he did the lock. “Off on another fine mess.”