by Anthony Lukas
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
The lunch crowd had left and dinner folks were an hour or so away. Jennifer slid onto a stool at the counter. He came from the back, smiling his smile that seemed to her to widen just a bit when he saw her. “Well,” he said, “back again. Excellent. Coffee to start?” He went down the counter at her “Yes, please,” and returned with a mug and coffeepot. He filled her mug. “And what else for you?”
“Those chocolate drizzled macaroons look pretty tasty. One of those, please.”
She watched as he moved down the counter to a cake plate piled with macaroons. She slipped the Stone out of her pocket and put on the pair of tinted glasses. The stone glowed. Jennifer peered through her glasses and saw the diner filled with a pink light.
As the counter guy lifted the lid and reached for one of the macaroons, another one fell from the pile to the floor. Jennifer looked at the counter beside the cake plate and there he was, standing on the back counter next to the macaroons.
About a foot tall, slim and handsome as they usually were, the imp grinned down at the counter man as he bent to pick up the fallen cookie. Jennifer pocketed the Stone and the diner returned to its natural colors. So much for the easy part.
Now, what to do: trap the imp and leave? Or reveal to the counter guy what had been going on? She thought of the Reveals she had done and participated in. The reactions from people were all over the board, from denial to outright hysteria. A simple Entrapment, if possible, was usually the best. Of course, she thought with a smile, a Reveal might impress him. And Linda’s voice came back to her: “a number of considerations, not all operational.” Darn her.
Jennifer bit her lower lip. If she revealed what she was about to do, would he accept or reject it? What would he think of her? Would he be impressed or think she was some kind of freak? Should she play it safe and say nothing to him or hold her breath and jump in with both feet?
He set a plate with her macaroon in front of her. “Here you go.” He waited as she took a bite. “Good?”
“Thank you. My humble contribution to the menu. My grandmother’s recipe.”
“Excellent. Umm, so what happens to the dropped one?”
“Ah, you noticed that. My dessert later,” he said with a smile and leaned back against the back counter. A stack of napkins slid to the floor. He sighed and bent to pick them up.
Jennifer slipped on her glasses and brought out the Stone. The imp was sashaying proudly down the counter away from the pile of napkins.
The counter guy straightened and tossed the fallen napkins into a trash pail, looking a little embarrassed. “Always have been a little clumsy, I guess.” He looked up a little ruefully at Jennifer, but then smiled and said, “Ah, cute glasses. Very Lennon.”
“Oh, I forgot.” She started to take them off but stopped. She took a breath. And jumped. “Say, wanna be my twin for a minute?” She brought out another pair of glasses.
“Uh, okay,” he said, with a look at her that had her second-guessing her decision. But he put them on and turned to look in the back mirror. Jennifer and he stared back.“Well, aren’t we a pair,” he said.
Jennifer smiled at him in the mirror. A pair, she thought and then forced her mind back to the business at hand. Now, gently, gently. “Now, watch this.” She opened her palm, and the Butigan Stone glowed pink.
He stared and said, “Cool,” then looked up at the diner, glowing pink. “Whoa.” He looked all around, flipping the glasses up, then down again, up and down. “Well, ain’t that something.”
Okay, thought Jennifer, so far so good. She took a breath, then said, “So, now don’t be startled, but please just look down the counter there, by the macaroons.”
He turned his head and stared. And stared. The imp was sitting on the back counter edge, swinging his legs in the aisle. He froze when he saw the two of them staring at him. Then he grinned and waved.
“Huh,” said the counter guy, pointing, “What a...?”
“He’s called an imp.”
“I see.” He stared just a bit more before saying, “Funny little guy. Looks a little like Justin Bieber.”
Now Jennifer stared. Was he going into some kind of shock? She didn’t have any kind of experience with that kind of reaction. Her mind raced as she looked from the counter guy to the imp. Well, she thought, he actually does kinda look like Justin Bieber.
The counter guy looked back at Jennifer. “So, what’s he doing here?”
Calm, rational question. Good. “Ah, we really don’t know why they show up when and where they do. I can tell you that he’s the cause of your clumsiness. He’s been knocking stuff over when you get near it, like the macaroon or that stack of napkins. I think he’s been with you for quite a while. Years probably.”
“Really,” he said. “Well, I’ll be darned,” He took the glasses off and stood silently for quite a while, staring out the front window. She wondered where his mind had gone. “You okay? Sorry to just kind of spring all of this on you.”
“Oh, no, no problem. I was just thinking about... well, how many times I’ve cursed myself over the years for being such a klutz. Always seemed to be dropping something, could never do much without bungling it. I’ve always planned extra time to do anything because I knew I’d screw it up somehow and have to do it a second time...” His voice trailed off. “I’ve never tried doing some stuff, like skiing, because I knew I would have an accident and get hurt. Or even going dancing,” he added a bit wistfully, “because I was so clumsy I figured I’d just make a fool of myself somehow.”
He looked so, so sad. Jennifer cursed herself. She should have just trapped the imp, but her vanity... “Can we do anything about him, or is this it for the rest of my life?” He had put the glasses back on and was staring down the counter.
“I’ve brought a trap with me.”
Jennifer put the dark cube onto the counter. “Imps are very curious. This emits a sound they can’t resist investigating. When they’re close enough, it grabs them in an ectoplasmic-magnetic field and pulls them in.”
“Ecto...? Sounds 50’s sci-fi. What do you do with him then?”
“Well, I take him back to my bosses, and they send him back to where he came from.” To his raised eyebrow, she added, “I don’t know much more at this point. I’m still pretty new at this. Ready?” To his nod, she turned a switch on the side of the trap then handed it to him. “Just put it on the back counter a couple feet from him.”
He did and at first nothing happened. Then the imp straightened up and looked around. He stood and started down the counter. He stopped when he saw the trap, his head cocked to one side, listening.
“Is he really going to just walk into a trap like this?” whispered the counter guy.
“Well, they’re really not very bright. Here we go.”
The imp moved closer, then reached out to touch the trap. There was a soft flash of light and he was gone. A moment of silence. Then the counter guy said, “That’s it? Kinda anti-climactic.”
She smiled. “Yeah, sorry. There’s really not much flash-bang in this business, I’m afraid. Could you just hand me... Thanks.” She took the trap from him. “And the..” She indicated the glasses. She packed the Butigan Stone and glasses in the box and slid it into her pocket. “Well, that’s it.”
“Really?” He looked at her, then kind of patted himself down. “I don’t feel any different. What do I do now?”
“Whatever you want.”
“How will I know if I’m able to do things now?”
Jennifer took a breath, then said, “There is a test we might try.”
“Well” — Jennifer smiled — “we could go dancing.”
Copyright © 2013 by Anthony Lukas