“Come on,” I said, and led our wayward dwarf to the hotel bar. Grace had already bailed him out and given him a lecture he wouldn’t forget, no matter how many drinks he had in him. But he looked like he could use one, anyway.
I glanced around. The Faerie had pretty much taken over. Pixies, elves of all shapes and sizes, a couple of demigods, even a nymph who was gazing at a fake tree with a mixture of infatuation and confusion. About the only human I saw was Galinda, who was seated at a table near the door and delivering a blistering lecture to her husband. Galendor nodded mutely. Looked like trouble in paradise. I decided to MYOB, especially when I saw Brunhilde in a corner booth getting cozy with Coyote. Maybe Bishop Aiden should have hired Ann Landers.
Kent, the dwarf, didn’t speak until after he’d had his first drink.
“I was seventeen when the Gap first opened,” he said. “Been working the mines since I was twelve, yet even then I knew I was destined for something…more. Then about a year ago, I was topside with some buddies…and I saw it.”
Yep. Lord of the Rings strikes again. Did he really think there was a great epic adventure awaiting him on the other side of the Gap?
“They’ve Been Discovered,” he continued, his voice thick with emotion. “This episode, a bus driver in a local talent show got a recording contract. Mother Lode, Vern, do you what that meant to me? People breaking free from their ordinary lives, becoming something else. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
“Acting is in my blood, but let’s face it: how much opportunity is there in dwarvish theater? The Day We Struck Gold, When the Diamond Mine Went Dry, Perriman’s Pickax. I was stifled! You’ve no idea what I did to get this far, the hours of research, the money I invested to perfect the look, but I’d seen my chance and, by Perriman’s Pickax, I would take it.”
“You were hoping to get discovered at Fantasyland Studios?”
“I did my research. They’re into movies, television, theater, music. The Beaverteers. I went there, intent on giving them my best performance—“
“And you didn’t immediately get arrested for busking?”
He snarled and quaffed his beer. “Would that they had, but they just told me to leave. So I went into the park, thinking perhaps I could find my way to a studio. Vern, they treated me like a sideshow! Children pulling at my beard, people laughing and pointing. I tried to perform my soliloquy, and they asked me to sing ‘Hi Ho!’ People asking me if I was dopey and when I finally lost my temper, they laughed called me ‘grumpy.’”
“That’s from -“
“I know what that’s from!” He slammed his empty glass on the bar. “I have been typecast enough. I want roles of substance.” He hollered for the bartender to bring him another and brooded, staring into it as if he could find his answers in the gold beneath the suds.
A pixie flew up to the bar, sat on it, and ordered a whiskey sour. The bartender apparently had been working for a couple of nights and was used too such things, because he brought out a regular-sized shot glass, with a thimble for dipping. “You’re not alone. These Mundanes, they clap at us and say, ‘I believe!’ What’s to not believe? We’re staring them in the face, we are!”
“Peter Pan,” Kent and I intoned.
“Peter’s joke? Which one’s Peter?”
Galendor appeared at my other side. “If I get called ‘Legolas’ one more time…” He sighed and ordered a martini.
“At least that’s a character of some depth,” Kent grumbled, “and much loved by the ladies.”
Galendor drained his martini, closed his eyes and blew through his lips. Then he turned his attention to the dwarf. “Exactly my trouble, friend. What about you, Vern? You got used as a toy ride.”
“But you know what the worst of it was?” Kent suddenly cried. He was on his fourth beer in less than half an hour and even with Coors, a dwarf was bound to feel its effects. “You know what the worst of it was? The manager, he said I wasn’t convincing! I wasn’t convincing as a dwarf!” He banged his head against the bar and let it rest there.
He continued in Dwarvish. “Maybe I should take Garn up on his offer and go down to Australia. He’s got the rights lined up on a Faeriemet mine. The way the market is, a dwarf could make a good living, retire early. Garn’s not so bad, you know? A little obsessive about that ax of his, but I mean, we all got faults. We all got faults. Faerimet mining’s good work. Money’s good…I could start my own theater…”
I caught Coyote looking at us while Brunhilde was occupied with scratching behind his ears. I couldn’t help but glance down and notice his foot tapping a happy rhythm. He grinned at me, then turned to lick her hand.
It was getting embarrassing in here. I pulled up my balmy dwarf with my tail while I paid for the drinks. “Come on, Kent. I think you’ve had enough. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
“’Not convincing.’ Vern, dood—do you know how I’ve studied my art? I bought a TV/VCR and the complete collection of ‘Act Now! The They Were Discovered Complete – complete! – Acting Course for the Hopeful Thespian.’ You want convincing? Lish-listen to my Eliza Dolittle.”
I dragged him out as he launched into “Henry Higgens.”
If you like the story, the book is even better!
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(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg