Blue Boogie sighed as he closed the lid to the trash can.
“You’ve been huffing all night,” said Snarffle Rumblecough, ambling over to where Blue stood. With a third leg, one might think that the goblin would get around speedily, but Snarffle had slowed down after it reached full length. “What’s bothering you?” he asked.
“When was the last time we did something memorable?” Blue complained. “I feel like all we do anymore is hide mobile phones and wallets in the garbage, tie shoelaces together and wash flea treatment off of pets. Where’s the spontaneity? The pizzazz? Our raison d’etre?”
Snarffle made a gurgling sound through his nose to express his annoyance.
“I suppose you have a better idea?” he asked.
Blue hung his head. “No,” he admitted, getting back to his work by smooshing a big blue wad of nose wax on the underside of the kitchen table.
Sniffnot Thisway emerged from the living room checking items off her list.
“Shoelaces knotted,” she checked. “Spider placed on ceiling over the missus’ side of the bed,” check. “Cookies crumbled on the kid’s pillow,” check. She looked around. “What went into the trash tonight?” she asked Blue.
“Mobile,” he sighed gloomily.
“Mobile,” she scribbled onto her list. “Snarffle?”
“Forks and spoons reversed in the silverware drawer,” Snarffle reported. “Canine provided with a leather shoe and last pages removed from the mystery novel on the sofa. Oh,” he added, “and Blue’s bored with his assignment.”
Sniffnot shot Blue a sharp look.
“Bored?” she asked.
“Just expressing a desire for a more varied playbook,” said Blue. “It’s nothing.”
“No,” insisted Snarffle, ambling over to the cat door and locking it.
There was a small thump from the other side before the shadow of a nose began dabbing and pressing against the opaque plastic.
“Blue’s lost his raison d’etre,” Snarffle announced.
Sniffnot glanced around. “Is that some form of pastry?”
“No, my reason to be…”
A cat yowled loudly from the other side of the door.
“You know what, never mind,” Blue sighed. “Let’s just get on to the next house, okay?”
“Fine,” shrugged Snarffle, and Blue and Sniffnot followed his ambling steps out the front door, which they were careful to leave unlocked.
The next house was Blue’s favorite. It had a floor to ceiling library, half of which was devoted to books on parlor tricks and the performance art of illusion. Plus, he’d begun to develop a conversation, of sorts, with the home’s inhabitant. Most homes were set to right night after night, but not this one. Whatever changes he and the others made were ignored, embraced, or embellished upon.
On his second visit to this house, back when he’d joined the naughty goblin brigade, he’d gone to add his signature to the underside of the woman’s table and found a pattern of chewing gum had joined his glob from the night before. Studying it, he noticed that the little blops formed a smiling face. When he’d gone to drop the mobile phone in the trash, he’d discovered seven others already in there. At a loss, he’d settled for tucking the phone in a folder marked “Oddities” in the filing cabinet. His mischief in the library had ground to a halt in his first week as he began to read the books, marveling at the handwriting and turned corners that meant that every one of them had been mined for ideas on how to thrill people with things to boggle the mind. The book he kept going back to, night after night, was the one where she had scrawled, “Embrace the unexpected. Manifest the unimagined. Make WONDERFUL!”
He went to his favorite book this night hoping to gain some inspiration while Snarffle and Sniffnot were in other parts of the house. He took it down reverently and flipped to the page with her wonderful words… and stopped. The page was missing! He looked around for it, frantically checking all of the trash bins, looking behind nearby books, through each drawer in her desk, but it was gone. He felt heartbroken. Was this how people felt when they reached the last pages of their mystery novels? When they went to their baby books and found that the very first image had disappeared? It was horrible! Blue couldn’t imagine making anyone feel this way on purpose. That page had meant everything to him, though he’d realized it too late. It was gone. To be grieved. Lost to the clever conversation between an illusionist and her naughty goblin. He felt the sudden need to leave this house never to return.
He stomped through the rest of his chores. Without enthusiasm he reversed the direction of her hallway light switch. Heaving a gloomy sigh he located her stash of catnip and provided the whole supply to the watchful cat whose name, he knew, was Magic. Barely looking up while he did so, he blew a big balloon of nose wax and pushed it against the underside of her table, and then he stopped in surprise. The face was gone. Everything had been scraped away, and pasted in its place was a magazine clipping depicting a woman asleep in her bed.
Laughing with delight, Blue sprinted up the stairway banister to the bedroom. The door was open. Sniffnot dangled by one ankle from a string attached on the other end to the ceiling, and even with three legs Snarfle couldn’t leap high enough to reach her.
“A trap!” trilled Sniffnot, waving her arms to encourage caution.
The illusionist lay still on her bead, her breathing soft and even, but Blue distrusted it. He dug his straw and sleepy sniff from his hip pouch and blew a dose into a cloud over her face.
“That’s two doses!” Snarffle growled. “Get a grip Blue, we don’t mind if she oversleeps, but we do want her to wake up this week.”
Blue still watched her edgily. Something was bothering him about how she slept. He heard Snarffle grunt as he switched his center of gravity and ambled up the wall. Blue positioned himself underneath Sniffnot and held out his arms to catch. Only then did he notice the roll of paper in her grip.
“What is that?” he asked.
Sniffnot looked at the rolled paper in surprise, as if she had forgotten it was there. She dropped it into Blue’s hands.
“It’s a page from a book,” she said. “I had thought you were being careless with where you were hiding pages. It was laying right there on the floor.”
Blue studied the spot where she pointed, very near where he stood. A quick peek confirmed that this was the page he had thought lost. He pressed it flat and folded it in half, making it small enough to tuck inside his blazer. He wouldn’t lose it again, he promised himself.
Snarffle had reached the ceiling and was in the process of rumbling loose phlegm from one area of his lungs to another in preparation. Finally, he coughed, and a cloud of noxious gas charged at the string holding Sniffnot aloft. The string withered and snapped and Blue steadied himself beneath her.
Many things happened in that moment. Something collided with Blue from behind, tossing him several feet to land hard on the floor. A cat’s yowl and scrambling sounds followed, though by the time Blue looked, no cat was in sight. Several long gashes marred the floor near where Sniffnot sat brushing herself off. A powerful odor leaked into Blue’s nostrils and he knew that Sniffnot wasn’t nearly as calm as she appeared. She always got gassy when she was upset. The most important thing that had just happened, though, was what Blue had seen when flying across the room. He rose to his feet and straightened his clothes. Sniffnot had the list in her hand again and was crossing things off.
“This house is too dangerous,” she said. “That was a trap, if ever I’ve seen one. We can’t have them knowing about us. I’m escalating it to the haunting department to see if they’re interested. We’re done here.”
“No!” Blue cried. He couldn’t lose this house. This was the only house that made sense to him. All of their other efforts were lost on their audiences, but here, their work was appreciated. It felt good to be here. He realized that he thought of the illusionist as a friend. He searched his mind for an alternate explanation. “I think it was a trap for her nephew,” he said.
Sniffnot and Snarffle cocked their heads in confusion.
“That wouldn’t have worked on a human,” said Sniffnot. “They’re too heavy.”
“It’s a game they play,” Blue insisted. “With dolls. I read about it in her diary in the library.”
Sniffnot and Snarffle shared a glance. Neither of them had spent much time in her library. Snarffle shrugged.
“We can make a note not to give the cat any more catnip,” he said.
On cue, a sound of shattering glass rang through the house from another floor followed by speeding paws. Sniffnot sighed and made a new scribble next to the deep angry lines she’d drawn.
“How about this,” she said. “If you like this house so much, it’s yours. This will be your first lead assignment. You feel up to it?”
“Yes,” Blue said without hesitating.
Snarffle and Sniffnot left the room and Blue took a deep breath. He turned slowly toward the stacked shoeboxes on the closet floor, where just a sliver between boxes revealed a slice of human eye. Sniffnot bowed low, and quietly, not letting his hands touch enough to make noise, he applauded the hiding illusionist.
Written by W. C. McClure. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Also, please help support this indie author by buying W. C. McClure’s books http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!
Blue Boogie sighed as he closed the lid to the trash can.