Challenge 555 Response:
Bewildering Stories discusses...
with Brendan Scanlan
Anthony Lucas’ “Counter Guy” appears in issue 555.
Why might the imp-control organization seem to be a small outfit rather than a full-fledged bureaucracy?
[Brendan S.] If the scope of the agency’s responsibility is dealing with paranormal activity with a threat level similar to that of this case, namely imp removal, then it probably would not be funded in the way an agency that deals with more serious threats would be funded.
[BwS] Quite so, Brendan; “imps” may not be a major threat, as far as we know, and the agency dealing with them need not be very large. But we don’t really know what the agency is, only that it has the innocuous name of “Foundation.” It may be a non-governmental organization.
We are told that it’s housed in an “elderly office building” and has a suite of offices, one of which is Jennifer’s. We meet three other employees: Ken, Linda, and Ms. Puddin. They all relate to each other in an informal, even friendly way. The atmosphere is what one might expect in a relatively small but comfortable office.
Does Linda seem to know that Jennifer is or will be interested in the “counter guy”?
[Brendan S.] Sure. Jennifer is young and single. The counter guy is young and attractive, and Linda has seen pictures of him. Also, Linda is a seasoned professional in a field that requires her to know her people, as well as the people they are serving.
[BwS] But for the same reasons, Linda may decide that Jennifer will not be interested in the “counter guy.” We can surmise that Linda thinks Jennifer will be interested, because she drops a hint:
Linda rose and headed for the door. “Hmm, yes, there are number of considerations in this case... not all technical,” she said, looking back at Jennifer with her smile. “I will leave the decision to your sound discretion, Miss O’Connell. Keep me informed.”
In what way might the “counter guy” seem timid or at least oddly incurious?
[Brendan S.] The counter guy seems incurious in that he doesn’t question the activity that plagues him; but simply writes it off to his own clumsiness. He seems timid in that he doesn’t get mad or frustrated.
[BwS] The “counter guy” does seem to have become resigned to a life of small accidents, doesn’t he? But what happens when he sees how Jennifer cures him of the “imp plague,” so to speak?
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?”
The counter guy has adapted to bad luck by accepting it with equanimity. Now that Jennifer has freed him from his “imp curse,” how might he react? Cartwheels of joy might be a little much, but he could express relief and, at least, gratitude.
He might also want to take out an insurance policy by acquiring Jennifer’s special glasses and magical stone. And he might be interested in the technology for its own sake. He might even volunteer to join the “Foundation” and help others who are afflicted as he has been.
But the “counter guy” responds with what amounts to a shrug. Jennifer suggests that the two of them go dancing, but her interest in him is likely to wane if he continues to be so imperturbable. She may find him just a little too... bland.
Copyright © 2014 by Brendan Scanlan
and Bewildering Stories