Shooting the Backyard Breeze

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artymon I\/
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Shooting the Backyard Breeze

Post by artymon I\/ » Thu 24th Jan 2013

No matter if you were demon, dwarf, fairy, or mud man, the moon spoke. Not literally like in It with Henry Bowers talking to Pennywise the dancing clown via the moon, but it held a sway over all.
Indeed, on this night Mulch favored the moon with a brief glance: a milk-white eye looming, watching, overhead, visually the size of a large coin, in reality much larger. A lot of this dwarf’s most exciting and savory memories had occurred under the watch by this lone sentry. A number had been spent with her as well.
Sucking in a sample of the fresh air, Mulch approached the colossal figure.
“Eh…Butler?”
The caveman who made play in an Armani suit turned and smiled. “Mulch Diggums, tunnel digger extraordinaire, where’ve you been keeping yourself?”
Returning the smile as best he could with his tombstone teeth, even managing a smarmy wink, Mulch replied, “A good thief never reveals all his secrets. How’s Artemis 2 been doing?” The dwarf still was uncertain how to approach that whole situation – what do you call someone who died but was cloned back to life, like Lex Luthor?
“A good thief never reveals his secrets.” Butler’s face told nothing more than Mulch already suspected, less than.
“Touché.”
“So is Artemis what brings you out here at this hour? I was on my evening security patrol.”
The night air was cool, yet Mulch as though he’d run a marathon. His heart thudded in an eerily light way, as though the organ that was supposed to be pumping blood had taken a holiday. He swallowed.
“Actually you were the reason for my unannounced cameo tonight.”
Me?” Butler genuinely sounded surprised, but then, when does a body ever walk into Fowl Manor and not seek one of the Artemises? (or would that be Artemii? or just Artemis? Number One and Number Two. Thing 1, Thing 2.) “Well, what can I do for you?”
This was it. The edge of the cliff. Sink or swim. Do or die. Actually, no. He could still walk away, go home and curl up next to one of the Oscars he had salvaged from the LAPD’s evidence lock up. But it wouldn’t change his feelings. And if he couldn’t dredge up the courage or confidence, whatever, now, then he most likely never would.
“Just a small favor,” – still can back out – “can I have your permission to ask –”
The mammoth manservent’s eyes narrowed. “Ask what?”
The foot was in the water, the cat’s paw poked from the bag, too late now. Even if he never finished, Butler was still intelligent to infer his intentions.
“To ask your permission for Juliet’s hand in marriage.”
Mulch’s body immediately tensed up, ready to plunge into the soft earth and flee. His reflexes might not be lightning fast, but he had could give a cat a run for its money. In one case an old mining friend, Bob Hoskins had bet a month’s salary and a blackmarket shellfish dinner to race a cat to its mouse. The memory of the savory lobster flesh still brought a warm glow blossom through his heart.
When his neck was not abruptly snapped, nor his face immediately implanted with an imprint of Butler’s knuckles, Mulch felt his body slowly discharge excess energy, watching Butler casually saunter past the wary dwarf, facing the western sky. Silhouetted by the glow of the full moon, Butler was just a massive blacked out form.
Butler’s answer was one worded, “Why?”
Sometimes Mulch seriously felt there was no hope for people, fairy or otherwise. Why did Picasso cut off his ear, what’s a paladin. Not that he would voice these thoughts aloud to Butler, least, not right now. Besides, he did deserve a straight answer.
“Cause I love her.” Gods above, that sounds so cheesy!
Again, Butler’s reply did not surpass a single syllable, “Why?”
And again, a legitimate question for Butler to ask. Actually, more so legit. His request had come entirely from the woodwork.
“Juliet and I,” Mulch saw a muscle twitch on the enormous Eurasian and carefully worded his next sentence. “I don’t know what it is, I’ve always been attracted to danger. A life without risk, with no uncertainties isn’t worth living. I can still remember one of the first times I came home with an extra item in my inventory, that feeling, this charged buzz, a light dizziness but you don’t feel sick, how I felt, having triumphed over the hoity-toity fairies that held a certain disdain for people like me in their eyes. I felt like a cosmic justice had been righted. Triumphant. Euphoric.”
Butler said nothing. He thought back to when he was a younger man, fresh out of Madame Ko’s academy, a shadowy black ops government commissioning him to go behind enemy lines in East Berlin, back when the country was ravaged in two by Communism. The excitement, the thrill, the charge of it all. Most people had a bad tendency of over-romanticizing (as with everything now) espionage, associating the swagger of James Bond as reality.
So had Butler, until a submachine gun had found its way along his forehead, a telltale gleam of a malicious bullet winking at the Eurasian from down the barrel. That completed the transformation of Juliet’s brother Dom to the reserved but fearsome warrior Butler.
The pair’s tour of the Fowl grounds brought them by a rhododendron bush, the towering mass of red-purple flowers attempted to cow Butler.
“So is that all my sister is to you? Some easy thrills?” Butler had a way of keeping his voice even and his face blank as a slate leaving him impossible to read.
“No, no! Of course not!” The dwarf sounded half scared that Butler would simply raise one colossal foot and smash the dwarf into the earth, to be used as simple fertilizer for future rhododendron bushes. And half shocked (or maybe that was offense) at the idea of Juliet being nothing more than an easy thrill.
He contemplated the silent manor, that gigantic house of horrors it had once been for the fairies, but to Mulch, that mansion had been a godsend: offering him freedom, new beginnings, wealth, and now possibly love.
“I don’t go for any of that ‘love at first sight’ bunk,” the dwarf began, “nor am I the hearts and flowers type of guy, hand me a tissue I’m weeping. Maybe that’s what I like about Juliet, cause she isn’t that type of girl either. From the moment I first met her, decking that Loafers guy, going toe-to-toe with guys twice her size, scaling buildings, she never had struck me as someone who’s weak or prissy.”
A film of admiration shone across Mulch’s eyes.
“Yet, I don’t mean that she’s some butch tomboy; there’s an elegance to her, a delicate feel to her. And when you look into her eyes, you can see this fiery untamed force hiding inside her, daring you to try something….like how Clint Eastwood walks into a saloon, not looking for trouble, but he keeps his gun hand ready.”
At this, the smallest of smiles curled the lips of the gigantic manservant skyward. A few clouds had slunk in, totally obscuring the waning moon as it made its journey, chasing aimlessly after the sun.
“In Norse mythology, the Vikings believed the sun was chased constantly by a wolf and likewise a wolf chased the moon –”
“ – I’ve heard this one before,” Mulch interrupted an edge of excitement glinting from his ominous tombstone teeth, either genuinely interested in the subject or glad to be able to know something that might impress Butler. “And at the end of the world, Rollinrock –”
“Ragnarök.”
“Yeah, Ragnarök, at the end, the wolves catch the sun and the moon. Not the happiest of endings.”
The stars had slowly faded from existence, bringing to question if they ever had been there at all, or if they were just fantasy. A few more clouds had joined the assembled mass.
“Unhappiness arises from the difference between the way things are and the way we believe they should be.” Butler had a tendency to speak in a single tone voice, not to be confused with being humbrum, placing no more emphasis on a discussion about the weather or nuclear fallout damage. “Do you believe Juliet is unhappy?”
Taken aback a moment, Mulch took notice the flock of clouds had started to descend on the grounds. It was very late, or early. He had never been to sure how to put it.
“She’s not the type that would stay unhappy and if she was, she’d change that. Or rearrange someone’s face.”
“What’s the farthest down a dwarf has dug?”
“That’s random, uh…well the fairies live near the upper mantle, almost two hundred kilometers belowground, the outer core of the earth is molten, that’s what, nearly three thousand kilometers deep. Farthest I’ve gone under, has to have been one of the times I tunneled under the city to escape the LEP, think it could have been 350 or 400 kilometers. I don’t think you could go much farther down.”
“Why?”
“It was hard to breath down there for one, had to dig several other tunnels to filter in fresh air or else I’d’ve suffocated. It was hot down there too. Can’t imagine anyone tolerating anything more than that. Especially if they’re not running from the police.”
They carried on this way, Butler asking the dwarf questions, and the dwarf scrounging up an answer that seemed to satisfy the bodyguard until Mulch finally asked a question of his own.
“Why do you keep looking over my shoulder?”
“Oh no reason,” Butler’s earlier smirk had escalated into a full smile. I just like watching the sun rise. Some say each time is a new and exquisite miracle and others believe to be a mere fact of life.”
Horrified, Mulch turned and there, well above the cockcrow of dawn, the sun had crept up, a gold coin amidst a sea of blue. He reached a hand around to his neck and peeled off a strip of skin. Plagued by further shocks, he discovered most of his body was burned, clean through his clothes. He gasped and realized his throat was dry, so his gasp came out as a rasp.
Pins and needles surrounded the edges of Mulch’s vision, he felt light, was this way up? Or no, no, that was down. Definitely down. The grass felt cool against his burned body, droplets of morning dew were quickly inhaled by the dwarf’s screaming pores.
Vapors of mist could be seen emitting from him as his body moisture was literally sucked up by the sun’s demanding rays. Mulch’s once plump features were now withered and crackled, having been drained of all useful fluids. Hair female dwarves used to call gorgeous had turned brittle and broke off.
Writhing, the dwarf mustered all his reservoirs and dove underground, driven by instinct towards the closest groundwater resource.

•••

“Hey Dom?” Juliet’s smooth voice floated over the garden and found Dom’s ear. “Are you ready to help with breakfast?”
Butler shrugged at the dwarf’s sudden exit, turned in the direction of Juliet’s voice and answered, “Yes, I’ll be along in a moment.”
From one of the many closets built into the walls around the manor, Butler removed a hoe and rake and went about, repairing the section of lawn that was tunneled through.


This is somewhat based off an old Norse myth where a dwarf once dared to ask Thor's permission to marry his daughter.
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