“Not since they took my license away,” replied the mythical creature. “I was once an important member of the Fairy Syndicate until…well, never mind that.”
“Memory still too painful?”
“No, it stinks too much here. I’m having a hard time breathing. Do you always do that when you’re startled?”
“It runs in my family. I’m trying to do better. Is it really that overpowering?”
“I have tiny nostrils,” said the fairy. “Don’t worry about it. Soon my nasal passages will cauterize and then I probably won’t even notice.”
Yes, yes! The Fairy Syndicate it was going to be. The Writer nibbled on a stray granola crumb and realized he had no liquid refreshment at hand. “Hon?”
There was a thumping noise as his wife wriggled out from underneath the sink and knocked her head against a pipe. “What now?”
“The dwarf just met up with a disgraced fairy.”
“That's fine, dear. I'm going to the hardware store to pick up a length of PVC pipe. You need anything?”
“I’ll take either a V8 juice or a spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list.”
“Juice it is.”
The Writer turned back to his computer, inspiration burning inside him. Or was that the plate of breakfast nachos he’d eaten? Either way, he was on a serious roll.
“As long as you’re sure,” said Stubs, “because I could try Beano.”
“No, I’ll just be very predictable from now on.”
Stubs wished they’d been walking all this time, so he could come to a sudden, dramatic halt. Instead, he gave a little jump and made a screeching sound. “What do you mean, ‘from now on’? I’m on this quest alone. Me, myself, and I are more than enough to handle this…this…” He trailed off as he realized he had no idea what he was doing out here in the swamp. The Dirty Forest Man had simply pointed and sent him on his way, no set of instructions, no maps with objectives clearly circled in red pencil…nothing. Except for setting Stubs' pants on fire, of course, but that could have just been a joke.
The fairy stared at him pityingly. “You see, Stubs? You need me.”
“That’s ridiculous. Did I not just moments ago vanquish the antagonist?”
“Tony?” The fairy emitted a tiny laugh, which was the only size laugh she had in stock at the moment. “He was merely a minor inconvenience. You will face much greater threats on your quest. And you will need my help.”
“How do you know about my quest?”
“Like you, I work for the Dirty Forest Man. He is preparing to wage war against the Fairy Syndicate. I am valuable because of my fairy knowledge and I am only too willing to repay those little swine for the humiliation they heaped upon me.”
“Right, humiliation. You still haven’t told me about that.”
The Writer nodded in agreement with himself. Best not to reveal everything all at once. As long as he could give Stubs sufficient motivation to continue the quest…that would involve a bit more exposition. After all, Stubs had no real sense of loyalty for the Dirty Forest Man and, therefore, probably wouldn’t engage danger for him, so why continue the quest?
Fearing the plot was on shaky ground, The Writer snatched the granola packet and looked into its depths. Only a few crumbs left. He licked the bag clean and waited for a burst of inspiration. Nothing.
The front door slammed and a minute later The Writer’s wife appeared.
“Here’s your nasty juice,” she said. “Oh, and as I was checking out, I saw these on sale. Remembering your latest fetish, I thought you might enjoy them.” She tossed him a box.
The Writer caught it and examined it quizzically. “The hardware store carries granola bars?”
“You go through the weirdest phases, dear. Remember when you wore the same socks for an entire month?”
“I have no recollection of that.”
“Little wonder. I’d almost managed to block it out of my memory as well. I’ll let you get back to your writing. By the way, don’t use the upstairs bathroom until further notice.”