Fun and Mayhem With the Neighbors

Fun and Mayhem With the Neighbors

gazebo for blogI was sitting on a very soft cushion I had placed on a hard plastic lawn chair in a shady corner of the gazebo. I was five weeks into what should have been a two week recuperation following a minor surgical procedure. It had been less than a week that I could sit comfortably.camera for blog

I had brought my camera with me, as I had hoped to engage in a little backyard nature photography, but it remained untouched on the table. Instead, I was being entertained by three of my characters.

 

My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy were schooling their horses in the back of the yard. These were illusory horses provided by their companion, Dragon, who had also cast a spell of concealment to keep the neighbors from noticing the goings-on. I watched as the three expert riders walked, trotted, and cantered their mounts on the flat, then over a cavaletti, after which they performed diagonals and figure-eights and flying lead changes. Then my Foreman, mounted on his spirited black stallion, demonstrated a piaff, a passage, and a pirouette, followed by a half-pass directly to the gazebo, and a low, courtly bow to me. I applauded and smiled my appreciation of the skill of horse and rider. It was fun to watch. Or it was until I almost fell off my chair.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, stepping out of the house onto the deck. She was wearing an enormous smile, and she was escorting two people. The man was sporting glasses and a neatly trimmed goatee, and was dressed casually in well-worn blue jeans and a black hoodie. The woman, in a matching outfit, had sandy blond tresses framing an open face. I recognized them as our neighbors, Mace and Gloria, who had moved into a house down the street earlier this year. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/

Elf clericneighborneighbor-2I felt my heart leap into my throat as Dragon led the visitors down the steps and right toward me.

Oh, no! Not them! Not now! What is Dragon thinking? What is Mace going to say about the horses being here again? How can I explain this?

I tried to rise to greet the visitors, but my legs felt like rubber. Gloria reached out and grabbed me before I fell flat on my face, and she eased me back into the chair. “Oh, please don’t get up! Mace and I heard from one of our other neighbors that you were recovering from surgery. We just dropped by to see how you were doing.”

“Well, I’m coming along slowly.” I tried to smile, but my eyes were darting all over the yard.

Where are they?

ShedOut of the corner of my eye, I saw my Foreman swing down from the saddle and quietly lead his horse away. He and the others led their mounts back to the shed to unsaddle and groom them. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and I’m sure every bit of color must have drained from my face, but Gloria and Mace didn’t seem to notice anything.

“Gloria brought a lovely casserole! I put it in the refrigerator.” Dragon moved some chairs closer to the table and motioned for Mace and his wife to sit.

“Thank you, Gloria! That is so thoughtful!”

I hope my face doesn’t break from forcing this smile.

“I would have made more if I had known your out-of-town relatives were staying with you again. I hadn’t seen anyone around lately, so I only made enough for you and your husband.”

“Oh, well, that’s okay. I mean, how could you know? They haven’t been outside much. They came to help take care of me, after the surgery.”

Good lord, I must sound like a blithering nincompoop!

But Mace and Gloria didn’t seem to be listening. “Hey, what’s that?”

“What? Where?” I almost gave myself a bad case of whiplash, checking the yard for errant characters.

binoculars and field guide“That bird there.” Mace pointed to something perched atop one of the shepherd’s staff poles holding a bird feeder. Immediately, Gloria grabbed a pair of binoculars from her pocket and strained to see the little bird, as Mace pulled a small field guide from his pocket.

“Oh, Mace and Gloria are birdwatchers! Isn’t that nice?” Dragon smiled broadly. “Mis . . .”

No! Don’t say Mistress Writer!

“Missy and her husband love bird watching. In fact, she’s been taking pictures of the birds here in the yard today.” She gestured toward the camera sitting on the table.

Mace frowned. “Missy? I thought your name was Marge.”

“Oh, that’s just a little pet name we have for her.” Dragon smiled and winked, and I sighed and tried not to collapse with relief.

Gloria lowered her binoculars. “You’re a birdwatcher, too?”

I nodded, and swallowed hard, trying to find my voice.

“Well, maybe you can help us, then. Mace and I are just beginners, and we don’t know all the different birds yet.”

“Ah, ahem . . . er, sure. Well, that little bird is a Black-capped Chickadee.” I gestured toward the small black and white creature who was still eyeing us from atop the pole.Backyard 078

Mace cocked his head and furrowed his brow. “Are you sure? It doesn’t look like a chickadee to me. Aren’t chickadees . . . well . . . smoother, sleeker?” He paged through his book.

“Yes, I’m sure. But you’re right – most are sleeker. This one has an abnormality of the feathers on its belly – it looks like it’s having a bad feather day. Here, I took a picture of this bird earlier this week. I’ll zoom it in and you can get a closer look at it.” I took a few minutes to find the photo, then passed the camera to Mace and Gloria.

“Hmmm…strange looking.” They compared the photo to the one in the book.

I took the camera again, and searched for another photo. “Here. Here’s a normal chickadee.”Backyard 039

They looked at that, then at the book. “Now this one looks just like the one in the book.”

“Field guides are great, but you have to remember that not every bird is a text-book example of its species. If you look at these two photos carefully, you can see they are the same species.”

They painstakingly compared the photos of the two birds, as I pointed out the field marks – the black cap and bib, and the white cheeks, the long, narrow tail and the small, the thick bill – then they nodded.

Gloria saw some movement in a nearby tree, and picked up her binoculars again. “Is that a Baltimore Oriole?”Backyard 008

I looked at the bird Gloria was pointing to and nodded. “And there’s another one.” I pointed to one who had taken over the chickadee’s perch.Backyard 051

“Cool!” Mace took a notebook from his pocket, pushed up his glasses, and started writing. “Lifelist. The chickadee and the oriole are only our tenth and eleventh birds.” He sounded sheepish.

I smiled, and spent the next half hour helping Mace and Gloria add to their brand-new lifelist.

“There’s a male American Goldfinch . . . and there’s the female.”

“There’s a Gray Catbird . . . and there’s a Common Grackle.”

“Oh, look!” Gloria pointed to the tree stump in the back of the yard. “There’s one I know – a Red-winged Blackbird!”

“Yup, that’s an adult male, displaying for the female, who’s over there on the fence.”

“She doesn’t look anything like the male!” Mace looked wide-eyed at the bird, then continued jotting down the names of the birds they were seeing.

Gloria had her binoculars up again. “What is that one? The one on the fence, with al the speckles?”

“That’s a fledgling American Robin, and there is the adult, on the edge of the birdbath.”

“Fledgling?” Mace wrinkled his brow.

“A young bird, already out of the nest, but not yet self-sufficient. The adults still feed and protect the fledglings.”

“It doesn’t look much like the adult!” Mace studied it carefully.

“No, it doesn’t. You’ll find that to be true of a lot of birds. It can make identifying a nestling or a fledgling very difficult. Even some sub-adult birds. Some birds, like Bald Eagles and certain gulls, for example, don’t get their full adult colors for years.”

Gloria and Mace looked impressed by this avian trivia.

Just then, I yelped as my Old Dwarf raced past the gazebo, brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest see iffin I do na! Thet be the lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!”

Not now! Not now!

I almost fainted, but our visitors didn’t seem to find anything untoward as my Old Dwarf continued to chase the rabbit all around the yard, hollering and cussing up a storm.

“That’s a pretty lively pair of rabbits.” Mace nodded toward the rabbit and the dwarf.

“We’ve had a problem with rabbits eating the vegetables in our garden.” Gloria flipped her hair out of her face. “We found a few commercial products that work well to keep them away from the plants without harming the animals.” The rabbit raced past the gazebo again, my Old Dwarf in hot pursuit. “I can recommend some, if you’d like.”

I nodded dumbly.

What I’d really like is something to keep my characters out of trouble, thankyouverymuch!

“Oh, hello! I did not know we had guests.”

I give up!

Gloria and Mace were gaping as Cleric walked down the steps and joined us on the gazebo. They looked at Cleric, then Dragon, then Cleric again.

“Oh, you haven’t met my sister, have you?” Dragon was smiling and her eyes were twinkling as she gestured toward Cleric. “She’s quite a bit younger than me, but everyone says we look like twins. Sis, these are Mace and Gloria. They live down the street.”

“How nice to make your acquaintance.” Cleric bobbed a little curtsey.

“Charmed.” Mace spoke in a flat voice and gave Cleric a look as if he were trying to figure out what planet she was from.

“Oh, my! I do believe that rabbit is leading the Old Dwarf a merry chase.” Cleric giggled as the old reprobate ran by, still brandishing his axe and cursing a blue streak.

“Old Dwarf?” Gloria frowned and tilted her head.

“Oh, we give some of the creatures here little nicknames.” Dragon winked.

Is this nightmare over yet?

“Oh, look!” This time it was Mace pointing. “What is that?”

With great trepidation, I followed his gaze, then sighed with relief that it wasn’t another of my characters. “That’s a female Wood Duck. There’s the male, over there.”

My relief was short-lived.

“There you are!” The imperious voice announced the presence of my Arrogant One. I turned around and saw him headed for the gazebo. I felt the color drain from my face.arrogant-one

No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Oh, by all that’s holy, how do I explain this one?

“Mace, Gloria, can I get you something to drink?” Dragon seemed as oblivious to the presence of the annoying elf as were my neighbors.

“Oh, no, thanks. We should really be going. Marge is looking a bit pale. I hope our visit hasn’t been too much for you today.” Gloria was looking at me with concern.

“Oh, not at all. It’s been fun! Thanks again for the casserole. I’ll return the dish as soon as I can.” I smiled weakly.

My Arrogant One pushed past Dragon and Cleric and stood in front of me, glowering, his hands on his hips. “I can not tolerate horses in the shed! The Bounty Hunter and I use the shed loft as our refuge, and the others know it. They put those noisy, filthy, smelly animals in there to spite me! I demand you have them removed this instant!”

Dragon shoved him aside under the pretext of moving some chairs aside.

Mace and Gloria stood up. “Thanks for sharing your expertise today. We added some new birds to our lifelist, and we learned that not every bird will look like the picture in the field guide.” Mace tucked his list and his book back in his pocket.

“We really need to do this again.” Gloria smiled brightly.

“Are you even listening to me?” My Arrogant One’s voice rose in octave so high, I expected to hear all the neighborhood dogs start to howl.

I smiled at Gloria. “I’d really like that.”

Oh, how I lie!

“We’ll see our guests out. You should just stay here and relax.” Dragon gave me a broad grin and a wink as our two neighbors followed her and Cleric. I waved as they disappeared around the corner of the house.

My Arrogant One, his face as red as a beet, continued to screech at me, and my Old Dwarf raced past once more, turning the air blue with his language as the rabbit continued to taunt him. I saw my Bounty Hunter yelling at my Foreman and the lads as they led their horses out of the shed and turned them loose to graze, and I heard Sorceress slam the door as she came out of the house to investigate the commotion.

Relax? I’m going to kill these characters! Or maybe it’s just time to make good my periodic threat to them, and edit them out of my manuscripts and out of my life!

 

I laid my head down and tried to think happy thoughts, thoughts of a time before my characters had fallen out of my manuscripts, thoughts of normalcy.

Backyard 052

 

Be sure to stop by next week and see if any of my characters survive that long. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

An Uneventful Day

An Uneventful Day

blue-dragon-2The weather had taken another turn. The month of March in Minnesnowta, Dragon was learning, is unpredictable. The previous day had been reasonably warm; the outdoor thermometer had registered an almost-comfortable 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Last night, the temperature had begun to fall and the area had come under a tornado watch. This morning, Dragon had awoken to see a dusting of snow in the yard, and the thermometer barely reaching 29.

fireplace2

 

Never a fan of the cold, Dragon retired to the conference room and curled up for a nap next to her illusory fireplace. As she snoozed, basking in the very real heat of the conjured flames, she heard the door open.

“Are you ready to embark upon our tasks? Yestereve you decided that it was too late in the day when the books were first discovered for us to begin our investigation; so we came early this morn, and the day stretches before us.”

sorceress-facing-rightDragon opened one sleepy eye and regarded Sorceress, who was already bustling around setting up her materials and apparatus. The large beast growled softly, closed her eye, and rolled over. “Cold. Sleepy. Go away.”

“We should begin our work. We have much to do.”

Dragon recognized Cleric’s voice, and opened both eyes. A small, dark plume began to drift from her nose.

“It is too cold to do any work.” Dragon scowled.Elf

Cleric mirrored the big beast’s scowl as she opened her pouch and placed several vials on the table. “Well, Mistress Writer is anxious to learn of our progress.”

“Or our lack thereof.” Sorceress frowned as she approached the books, safely enclosed within the glowing grid. “Besides, you can hardly say it is too cold to do any work in here. You have this room as hot as a Dwarven forge!”

Dragon chuckled. “I like the heat. It helps me think.” She slowly rose and stretched, yawning widely. “And, speaking of Dwarven forges, has Mistress Writer found her errant dwarf?”

Cleric shook her head. “No. The Old Dwarf is still missing. He was not at dinner last night, nor breakfast this morn.”

Dragon frowned at that. “It is unlike the rotund one to miss so many meals.”

Sorceress waved off Dragon’s concern. “Mistress Writer does not believe him to be in any peril. However, if you two insist on worrying, perhaps we may be able to assist in searching for him, if we can complete our investigation without further delay.”

Dragon nodded. “Very well, then, let us commence.” She mumbled an incantation, releasing the books from the glowing grid in which she had contained them. “Just be certain not to touch them.”

* * *

dwarfThe short, round figure stood concealed behind the big maple tree, munching a turkey leg. He carefully peeked around the thick tree trunk and looked out over the yard. The earlier dusting of snow had already melted in the morning sun, and the dwarf could no longer see the white puffs of breath in the air from the horses and riders he watched.

Only a few feet away from him, my Foreman and the lads were exercising their mounts. My Forman rode a spirited black stallion, my Gypsy was on a flashy black and white cob, and my Young Hero was astride a small chocolate palomino pony. They were performing cavalry drills, riding in circles and figure-eights, executing flying lead changes, half-passes, pirouettes, and diagonals. They were completely oblivious of their audience of one.

 

My Old Dwarf chuckled and took another big bite of turkey leg. Grease dripped into his beard, and he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Who be needin’ spells o concealment? In me own world, in me old life, I woulda been kilted a hunnert times over iffin I could na keep from bein’ seed when I be needin’ ta go unnoticed! And dwarves do na be havin’ the advantage o magic.

Gnawing the last of the meat from the turkey leg, the dwarf stowed the bare bone in his pocket. He glanced at the riders again, but they were at the other end of the yard. They had dismounted and were checking their equipment. The dwarf looked around the rest of the yard, watching for any movement. Seeing none, the old reprobate stealthily slipped from tree to tree along the edge of the wide expanse of lawn until he was in the back of the yard. After a few moments, he slunk over to the garden shed, opened the door a crack, and slipped inside. His eyes adjusted immediately to the dim light, an innate ability of his race. Hearing voices from the loft, the old one silently crept up the stairs and entered the attic unnoticed.

“I do not see why you feel the need to remain in hiding.” My Bounty Hunter propped his foot up on a box and studied his companion in the flickering light of the lantern.

My Arrogant One gaped at him. “Do you not? If I return now, that odious beast will probably roast me and have me for dinner!”

“Dragon?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

My Arrogant One’s voice rose to a pathetic whine. “Of course, Dragon! She has always been jealous of me! She constantly downplays my skill and makes light of my power. And you heard what she called me!” The elf slumped into a chair and sulked.

My Bounty Hunter tried to hide a snicker behind his hand. “Yes, I believe she called you a contemptible, aggravating, pompous, loathsome creature.”

My Arrogant One jumped from his chair and gestured wildly. “Yes! Yes! You see? She is insanely jealous! My life is not worth a single copper should I return!”

dwarf-facing-right“Eh, the beastie do na be jealous o ye, elfie! She just knowed good and well what ye be.”

The elf shrieked at the sudden appearance of the dwarf just a few feet away, and my Bounty Hunter jumped, knocking over the box.

“Ye knowed, elfie, thet dinna be very polite o ye ta just disappear the other night.”

Before the elf could find his voice, my Old Dwarf whirled around to face my Bounty Hunter, who was slowly raising his weapon. “I would na be doin’ thet, laddie, iffin I be ye. Drop yer crossbow and kick it o’er here. And ye can be handin’ o’er them thar knives ye keep in yer vest, too.”

For a long time, my Bounty Hunter stood and stared at the dwarf through narrowed eyes, taking his measure. Finally, he smiled an oily smile and placed his crossbow on the floor. He gingerly nudged it toward the dwarf, then fumbled in his vest pocket for his knives. Suddenly, he dropped to the floor and reached for his crossbow, but the dwarf brought his axe down on it, splintering the weapon.

“Thet coulda just as easy been yer head, laddie. Now, stop bein’ so foolish and hand over yer knives. And elfie?” My Old Dwarf glanced over his shoulder. “Ye best not be tryin’ ta magic me, liken ye did once afore.”

“Magic?” The Bounty Hunter frowned. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot you did that, elf. That was clever. Magic doesn’t work on dwarves, but you didn’t use it on him, did you? You levitated a fallen tree branch and used that to knock him out.”

Since my Arrogant One had not regained his voice, my Old Dwarf answered. “He did. But he’ll not be trickin’ me like that twice. Now, the two o’ye git o’er here and sit down. We be havin’ a lot of conversatin’ ta do.”

* * *

The three companions slumped over their worktable, exhaustion showing in their every expression and gesture. Cleric and Sorceress were dripping with sweat, and even Dragon looked a bit wilted.

The books in the center of the table were surrounded by vials and pouches. Remnants of many potions and powders were strewn about. The three spellcasters had spent the day attempting to magically probe the books to locate their source and purpose, along with any evidence of inherent danger.

“Well, there are several traces of magic on the books.” Dragon sighed, and tiny black smoke rings rose from her nostrils. “We all agree that the one trace is from the magic conduit through which the books entered our world, correct?”

Sorceress and Cleric nodded.

Sorceress wrinkled her brow. “It exactly matches the trace magic found on the four items from our world that have appeared here, so I believe we can presume these books came through the same conduit. That would indicate these books also originated in our world.”

Cleric frowned. “Perhaps, but how do we account for the second remnant of magic?”

Dragon shrank her considerable bulk to the size of a Cocker Spaniel and started pacing the length of the room. “I do not know. I do not recognize the magic, yet these books seem familiar to me.”

Sorceress scowled. “We have exhausted all magical means of examining the books. I fear we must risk the potential danger and begin our physical examination.”

Cleric’s eyes widened. “There are precautions we can take, are there not? Can not one of you cast a protective ward on the books to prevent them from harming us when we handle them?”

glowing-grid-for-blog“It will take much time to prepare such a spell. We are all fatigued. I believe we should wait until the morrow.” Without waiting for a response, Dragon swelled to her previous size. She immediately went to the table and prepared some spell components. While she worked, she recited an intricate incantation under her breath. When she finished, Dragon sprinkled the mixture over the books and cast her spell, once more creating a protective, glowing grid around the books.

“Return in the morning. We will continue then.” Without another word, Dragon went over and curled up in front of her fireplace once more. Within moments, she was snoring. Cleric and Sorceress shrugged, then quietly left the room.

fireplace2

* * *

I heard the door slam as Miles came in from the garage. “Honey, you home?”

“Right here.” I walked down the stairs.

12-28-13 - MN Arboretum 080“Sorry it took longer than I thought it would. The trouble wasn’t in the carburetor, it was the fuel pump. The mechanic didn’t have one in stock and he had to get his supplier to send a new one.” He handed me some bags, took off his jacket and hung it in the hall closet, then gave me a quick kiss hello. He pointed to the bags. “I stopped off and got some rotisserie chicken for dinner.”

“Oh, I knew there had to be a reason I married you! How did you know I wanted chicken for dinner?”

Miles grinned. “So how’s everything on the home front? Anything new and exciting happen today?”

“Nope. It’s been most uneventful here. All my characters must have taken the day off. I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of any of them the entire day.”

“Hmmm…that’s ominous. I wonder what they could be up to.”

 

Be sure to come back and see what my characters are up to in future episodes. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

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Another Repairman Bites the Dust

Another Repairman Bites the Dust

Elf facing rightThe odor was almost unbearable. It smelled like a rotting corpse, or a beached whale that had been left to decompose in the hot sun for weeks. A group of my characters crowded the hallway around the door to the utility room. Cleric hesitantly poked her head into the room and wrinkled her nose. “Mistress! What is that dreadful stench?”

 

I looked her straight in the eye and spoke in my most dramatic voice. “Why, that’s the smell of . . . death.”dwarf-facing-right

“What? Who be dead? What kilt ’em?” My Old Dwarf pushed his way past the others, and raced into the small room waving his war axe. He took one breath, turned green, put his hand over his nose and mouth, and ran out almost as fast.

 

I laughed. “Not who. What. The freezer died.”freezer-again-003

Cleric furrowed her brow.

“I was planning to do grocery shopping this afternoon, so I wanted to check the inventory list I keep taped to the top of the freezer. The list must have gotten wet; it’s smeared and totally illegible. So I opened the freezer to see what we have stored in it, and I was almost overcome by this smell.” I fished out another soggy package and tossed it in the big, black trash bag I was holding.

Cleric’s eyes widened. “The food is ruined?”

I sighed and nodded. “Luckily, there were only a few items left in the freezer.”

My Young Hero, my Gypsy, and Sorceress – all three holding their noses – peered around Cleric. My Young Hero said something, but I couldn’t make it out. After the lad’s third attempt to make himself understood, Sorceress placed her hand on his shoulder. “Wait.” She waved her other hand and mumbled a few words. The stench was gone.

My Young Hero removed his hand from his nose and thanked her, then turned to me. “What I said was, would you like us to take a look at it? Maybe it can be fixed.”

“Thanks for the kind offer, but I somehow doubt that a bunch of medieval characters who fell out of the pages of my book manuscripts would be much help fixing an electric appliance.”

My Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Oh, I don’t know. A little magic here, a few wards there. I bet we could have it up and running in no time.”

“Don’t trouble yourselves. Really.” I gave them a stern look. “If you remember, I have a service contract with my utility company that covers all my appliances, so all repairs are free. I’ll give them a call and ask them to send a repair technician.”

My Gypsy smirked. “Would that be the same repair technician who came out for your other appliance, the machine in which you launder your clothing?”

“I don’t know if they’ll send the same technician. Why?”

“Oh, no reason. No reason at all.” He spread his hands and looked at me, wide-eyed, trying hard not to laugh.

Sorceress raised an eyebrow, and a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “As I recall, it took that technician numerous attempts to fix the other machine. And did he not have a problem with mislaying his tools?”

I groaned as I remembered the last time I had required a service technician. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/the-case-of-the-missing-tools/)

I gave my characters a sharp look. “I don’t know who they will dispatch, but I don’t want any of you getting in his way. I’m warning you, if there’s any trouble, I’ll . . .”

“…write you all out of the books,” the entire group solemnly intoned. They all rolled their eyes and started giggling uncontrollably as they turned and walked toward the stairs.

phone with caller IDI need to come up with a more effective threat! I finished removing the packages of spoiled food from the freezer, carted the bag to the trash bin, then went to my office to call the repair service. After navigating their automated system, I steeled myself against the inevitable wait. To my astonishment, rather than being placed on interminable hold, I was immediately connected with a live service representative, a woman with a very pleasant voice who identified herself as Dee.

I explained the problem. Dee asked me to wait while she checked my account. A few minutes later, I found myself speaking to a different representative, a woman with a very stern voice who identified herself only as Dee’s supervisor. I was puzzled. I wasn’t sure why a simple request for a repair technician warranted being transferred to a supervisor. I shrugged and repeated what I had just told Dee regarding my need to have the freezer fixed.

“Yes, Ma’am. We can dispatch a repair technician to your location tomorrow morning, between 8 am and noon.”

Well, Dee’s supervisor certainly arranged for very prompt service. Maybe I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. “Thank you. That will be just fine.”

“Good. Now Ma’am, before I am able to confirm the appointment, I must remind you of certain policies. Any pets, including any errrr . . . exotic pets you might have, must be secured well away from the area in which the technician will be working. The technician and his tools must not be disturbed; nor may anyone at your location appropriate any of the technician’s tools for any purpose.”

I felt my cheeks flame. “Of course! I assure you, I have no pets here, exotic or otherwise. And no one here makes a habit of appropriating other people’s property.”

“Hmmm. Yes, Ma’am. Well, if you understand and agree to these policies . . .”

“I do.”

“Well, then, I can confirm your appointment. Now, will you be at the service location at the time the technician is to arrive?”

“Yes.”

“Will anyone else be there?”

“I don’t know. Possibly. Why?”

“I need to make a note in your file if anyone else will be there at the time of the appointment.”

“That’s rather irregular.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“So why are you asking?”

“Ma’am, do you want a technician there tomorrow or not?”

“Of course I do!”

“Then that’s why I’m asking.”

By the time the appointment had been confirmed, I was reaching the boiling point. I felt totally humiliated. Just wait until I get my hands on some little tool pilferer! And just what had happened last time, after my Young Hero returned the tools that Dragon had taken, that it was entered into our file?

dragon facing rightI was unable to locate Dragon the rest of the day. She was not, as had become her custom, basking by her conjured fireplace. She was not on the wide shelf in the walk-in closet in the guest room she had chosen as her lair in this world. She was not in the conference room, or my office, or the kitchen. I searched for hours, checking every nook and cranny of the large bi-level house, but was unable to find her. I finally satisfied myself with gathering the rest of my characters and giving them a stern lecture on the consequences, should anyone disturb the repair technician the next day. I spent a good ten minutes describing, in grim and graphic detail, what would happen if any tools went missing while the technician was at work on the freezer.

Later, as Miles and I got ready for bed, he said, “That was quite some lecture you gave your characters tonight. So, do you think they actually listened to you?” Miles tried to hide his smirk, but failed miserably. I chucked a pillow at him.

At precisely 8am the next morning, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it!” Miles headed for the door, while I quickly took a head count of my characters. Dragon was still missing. “Honey, the repair technician is here.” I sprinted for the door.

Profession Portrait Face Man Old Trainer SeniorAn older man stood at the door, a game smile contrasting sharply with his thin, shaky voice. “Good morning, Ma’am. I’m Bob and I’m here to repair your freezer.” Following company protocol, Bob handed me his identification credentials. He looked warily past me as I glanced at his company ID and returned it.

Bob picked up his toolkit and I started to lead him downstairs to the utility room. I saw my Young Hero and my Gypsy at the top of the stairs. They smiled and waved at the technician, who grabbed me by the arm. “I was told only you and your husband would be here today.”

I pulled my arm out of his grip, raised an eyebrow and scratched my jaw. “What difference does it make who’s here?”

In reply, he just gripped his toolbox tighter, his knuckles turning white. I again started to lead him down to the utility room, and he followed, stumbling along. I showed him the freezer and explained how I had discovered that it was not running. Bob nodded a lot, but said nothing. His eyes darted around the small room as if he were searching for an escape route. Finally, I said “Well, I’ll be in my office if you need anything. It’s at the end of the hall, the door on the left.”

Wide-eyed, he grabbed my arm again. “You’re not going to leave me here alone, are you?”

This time, I had a bit more trouble extracting my arm from his grip. I scowled. “I’m sure you know your job, and don’t need me watching over your shoulder while you work.”

“You know, I’m really not feeling very well. Maybe I should just go, and they can send another technician.”

I gaped at him. “What is your problem?”

He blushed. “Well, John, he’s the last tech who was here, he reported some very strange things.”

“Oh?” I racked my brain, trying to remember what had happened, what the other technician had seen. “As far as I remember, some of his tools went missing while he was out in the truck. When he discovered the items were missing, he confronted me about it. A young relative who was visiting figured out the tools had been taken by his pet, who is attracted by shiny things. My relative got them back from his pet and returned them to the technician. Then my relative and I left the room, and the technician finished his repairs.”

“Yeah, right, but he told our supervisor that after you and your relative left the room, the pet came in. John was hysterical when he came back to the office, and he told some pretty wild stories about this pet. The supervisor ended up making John take medical leave. Said he had suffered some sort of breakdown.”

“Oh, that’s ridiculous! What’s so scary about a . . . ?”

blue-dragon-2

 

 

Before I could finish, Dragon squeezed through the door, smiling a toothy smile and snorting puffs of smoke from her nostrils. She was carrying a big, shiny, chrome-plated wrench. “Excuse me. Did you drop this?”wrench

 

I might get my hearing back in a few weeks. I think Bob’s scream shattered some crystal three states away. Rumor has it the utility company has offered him early retirement. I keep calling them to have another technician sent out, but every time I call, I’m disconnected. I don’t know if we’re ever going to get our freezer fixed.

 

 

If any of you are experienced in the field of freezer repair, Dragon would love for you to stop by and lend a hand. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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