Fiction Tuesday – You Can’t Fight City Hall

Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

“Oh dear. I wonder who that could be?”

Nobody skipped merrily over to the stairs, and then proceeded to bound up them. Everyone else took a moment to stare dumbly at the others, then shrugged and followed The Professor up the staircase.

They emerged just as Nobody was opening the door. As the portal swung inward it revealed a young gnome in a police uniform. Several similarly adorned gnomes shifted nervously behind him.

As The Professor stood in the open doorway the young gnome cleared his throat and asked, “Dr. Cooly Nobody?”

Nobody sniffed in derision and straightened his stance. “That’s professor, officer. The doctoral review board at Empty Throne University didn’t seem to think my work was ‘absurd enough’ for their very high standards.”

Visibly derailed, the officer cocked his head. “Applied Imagination isn’t absurd enough?”

Nobody sighed and slumped his shoulders. “Yes. ‘Too many practical applications,’ they said. Can you believe that?”

Just then a crash, followed by a blinding flash of blue light, exploded to Will’s left. Everyone turned to track its source, and dicovered Bug holding a rubber chicken. Around the toy’s neck was a red ribbon embroidered with the word “Surprise!” in gold letters. Bug squeezed the chicken in embarrassment, as which point it belched fire.

“Sorry,” Bug whispered as he set the chicken gently on a shelf.

The young officer stared dumbly at the offending chicken for a moment before he managed to collect himself. Clearing his throat, he continued, “Um, well. Yes. I’m afraid, Professor, you will have to come with me. As well your son-in-law and that illegal immigrant wizard standing next to him.”

Will looked around the room for the offending wizard before he realized, “You mean me?”

The police-gnome nodded. “Yes, sir. I’m very sorry, but I’m afraid you’re all under arrest.”

Will opened his mouth to protest, but was beaten by Nobody. “Well, this is entirely unacceptable! I have very important work to do, and Will is part of that. Can’t you come back tomorrow? I should be perfectly ready to be arrested tomorrow.” Finishing, The Professor flashed a brilliantly awkward smile.

“Ummm. That’s not how this works, sir. You’re under arrest now, and I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me.” Leaning in, the gnome whispered, “Personally, I’m a big fan. But if I don’t bring you with me right now my job’s on the line.”

Sighing again, Nobody turned to a table on his right and picked up several items. He then held up a sheet of paper and a pen and ask, “As my daughter is not under arrest, may I send her with a note to my lawyer?”

The police-gnomes brow wrinkled. “I suppose that’d be ok. But you will get a phone call once you get to the station.”

Nobody waved his hand dismissively. “No, that will take far too long. I think I’d much rather have this dealt with quickly. As I said, my work is at a critical point.”

The police-gnome cocked his head in permission. “Oh, all right.”

“Thank you!” Nobody bent over his table and scribbled a barely legible note on the sheet of paper he held. Upon finishing the old gnome folded the paper and offered it to Sindy.

“Dear, would you please take this to Ibi and see they meet us at Cty Hall?”

Sindy took the slip of paper. “All right, dad.”

“But sir,” the police-gnome interjected. “We’re not going to City Hall. My orders are to take you down to the station for processing.”

“Oh, yes. But we’ll just skip that step if you don’t mind. I’m sure the Mayor’s council will demand to see us in short order. I’d like to be front and center when they do.”

The police-gnome slumped in defeat. “Uhhh. All right.”

“Splendid! Sindy, off you go. We’ll see you shortly, I’m sure.”

With that, Sindy stepped out the door and past the gnome who’d been questioning her father. With a final vengeful glance directed toward her husband, who visibly flinched, she disappeared down the alleyway.

“All right, gentleman, if you’d all come with me?”

Will, Bug, and Nobody all exited The Professor’s home, slamming the door shut behind them. They were escorted to a large van out on the main street and helped inside. There were two benches set opposite each other in the large rear compartment, but the ceiling was too short for Will to sit on them so he opted to sit on the floor. It was not comfortable. The gnome who’d knocked on the door joined them in the back. It was several minutes before their captor felt comfortable enough to break the silence.

“Professor, I really am sorry about this. As I said, I’m a fan. My dad was saved by your anti-fading treatment.”

At this, Nobody brightened considerably, “Oh, was he? I don’t get to meet very many patients after treatment, may I ask what his side effects were?”

The police-gnome nodded. “He was lucky, he kept his taste and can still see colors. But now he has to eat everything with ketchup or it doesn’t taste right to him.”

“Oh, that is good news! I’m so glad.”

“So are my mom and me.” The gnome paused for a few beats before adding, “I can’t believe Empty Throne University said your work wasn’t absurd enough for them.”

“Ah, well, about that.” Nobody reached into his lab-coat and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. “It turns out some of my work meets their requirements at last!”

Bug clapped his hands, “Prof, that’s great news! Congratulations!”

The police-gnome nodded in agreement, “So they finally recognized the importance of your work to treat fading?”

“Oh, goodness no. That’s just common sense! No one’s giving a doctorate for that!”

Will, who’d managed to remain silent during the exchange up to this point, was regretfully compelled to ask, “So what work did they find met their standards, Professor?”

“Oh! I sent them samples of my snack chips! They said anyone who could turn a turnip into an appealing flavor of potato chip was certainly absurd enough to have a doctorate from their institution.”

The police-gnome’s mouth watered, “You make snack chips?”

“Oh yes!” Nobody reached into his lab-coat once more and produced a small bag emblazoned with the “Snack Like Nobody’s Business” logo. Handing it to the police-gnome, he said, “This is an experimental flavor. Cheddar and pine nut.”

“Wow!” exclaimed the police-gnome as he accepted the package. “Thanks, professor!”

Will managed, somehow, to lie down. “I’ve got a headache.”

“Sorry, kid, I left my mallet at The Prof’s.”

Will gave a salute of acknowledgement and replied, “I’m good, thanks.”

Bug shrugged and turned back toward Nobody. “So, Prof, you gonna accept their offer?”

Nobody pursed his lips and shook his head. “No, I don’t believe so. At least, not yet.”

“How come?”

“I’ve recently discovered the formula for a flavor of snack chip so absurd I’m almost certain they’ll offer me a seat on the selection committee once they’ve tasted it.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

Nobody motioned everyone to lean in, which was mercifully unneeded for Will as the professor was seated by his head. The others, however, leaned in as Nobody lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “Barbecue.”

Will’s eyes shot opened in disbelief. In the haze of his headache he managed to glance at his fellow passengers, who mercifully wore similar incredulous expressions on their own features. Finally, the young police-gnome managed to gain his voice.

“That’s genius,” he whispered.

At that point the conversation had become so absurd Will decided to shut his eyes and take a nap.