Ian and the Brazen Pot
by Anta Baku
Part 15 of The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland (Read Part 1)
The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland is also available in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited from Amazon.com.
How do you tell your worst sister that you’ve gotten her husband trapped inside a bronze pot by half-godly giants and it’s sitting on top of your bookshelf?
Yeah, it turns out I don’t know either. I shouldn’t have tried to ignore the problem. Anyone with a rational perspective would tell you that this is not the sort of a problem that you just ignore. But I didn’t want to deal with it. That’s an explanation, not an excuse. Once Dave was in his pot, and on my bookshelf, I just didn’t think about it for a couple of days.
Well, no, it’s not that I didn’t think about it. I thought about it a lot. I just didn’t, you know, do anything. I didn’t tell anyone about it except Harp, and she was no help. And I didn’t have any idea of how to get him out of the pot, so I just left it where it was and hoped something would come to me.
And of course in hindsight I recognize that strategy wasn’t going to go well. I ought to have been able to predict that Diana would report him missing, and that within a day or two she’d have recruited a few dozen volunteers to search every patch of woods within ten miles of their house.
And once that has happened, can you just say, oh, don’t worry, I’ve been keeping him in a pot? He’s fine, I mean, he’s not fine, he’s stuffed into a pot and I have no idea how to get him out of there, and he probably only lived through it because the dudes who did it to him are the bastard sons of the sea-god, but he’s not missing, not exactly.
If you can manage that you’re a better man than I.
But of course, I couldn’t beg off the search, either. When your brother-in-law is a missing person, you don’t just go on about your business like nothing’s happening. So I showed up at their suburban house on a foggy spring morning in sweatpants and a hoodie that I had dug out of the recesses of my closet, prepared to put in a long day of looking for someone I knew wasn’t out there.
I had no idea what else to do. In my life there’s always been one reliable solution when I have no idea what to do, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see her car pull up right before we were all going to break into groups and hit the parks. Apparently this was important enough to bring my sister Pol down from Grand Marais, and that meant I had someone to help me out of this jam. Probably.
I was having a hard enough time trying not to be put in charge of the search. Sure, I’m probably the worst person possible to do that, but try telling middle-aged Lutherans that the senior male member of the family isn’t automatically the person in charge. Diana’s an executive, for god’s sake. She’s got authority seeping out of her pores, it’s one of the reasons we never got along. And these people knew her already. But probably a third of them wanted me to tell them what to do instead, just because I’m a dude.
So I dodged, and I weaved, and eventually, somehow, some other guy helped Diana organize them into groups and assign search areas. Finally they weren’t paying attention to me, and I was able to draw Pol aside surreptitiously.
“You’re drawing me aside surreptitiously,” she said. “Does that mean you know where Dave is?”
“Why would you think that?”
“I know he’s been messing around in Fairyland. If he did something stupid there, you’d be the first one to find out.”
“Yeah, well, come back to my apartment and I’ll tell you about it.”
Pol did some sort of social sleight-of-hand that ended up with two search teams each thinking we were going with the other, and once they were gone she drove me home. I would have preferred to take my car, which is less of a beater, but if Pol wants to drive you let her drive. So I put up with the peeling upholstery on her passenger seat and the squeaky belt in her drive train while I told her all about my most recent visit to Fairyland, when my boss got Dave trapped in a pot and then sabotaged the best chance of getting him out.
“He was just there getting a haircut?” said Pol.
“Yeah, and then he and my boss started getting ideas.”
“Jesus, Dave,” said Pol.
“At least it’s not ‘Jesus, Ian,'” I said.
“Don’t worry, there’s plenty of that coming. Why didn’t you stand up to your boss? Why didn’t you tell Diana?”
“Why didn’t I change into a bird and fly away to where nobody could blame me?”
“You’ve got to stand up for yourself someday.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m just waiting for the perfect time.”
“You don’t think this was a good enough time?”
“Oh, like you’ve never wanted to stuff Dave into a pot.”
“So my boss could become a shape-changer? Hell, my boss is Ojibwe, it would at least be culturally appropriate.”
“I get that maybe I should have tried harder to stop her,” I said. “But I didn’t. I’m sorry. Will you help me get Dave out of the pot anyway?”
“Well of course I’m going to help you get Dave out of the pot,” she said. “I’m not going to leave Dave stuck in a pot just to teach you a lesson.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Besides,” she said, “If Dave ever has to spend the rest of his life in a pot, I want to be the one who put him there.”
“I’m sure you’ll be able to figure this out,” I said. “I’m really glad you came.”
“I had to come,” said Pol. “He’s my brother-in-law.”
“You don’t see Anna here, do you?” I asked.
“Of course I don’t,” said Pol. “The only place she’d be useful searching is a library, and she knows it.”
“How do you know Dave’s not in a library?”
She just looked at me. I guess that was kind of obvious. In fact, Dave was probably the closest he’d ever been to a library, right now, stuck in a pot on my bookshelf.
Pol knows a lot more about pots than I do, which isn’t difficult. So I had hopes that she’d just be able to examine the thing, find some sort of a hidden catch that I hadn’t noticed, and pop Dave right out into my living room. Angie and her wife had taken my new roommate Beth out for the day, so we didn’t even have to worry about having enough space. Having four people living in a one-bedroom apartment was hard enough even when one of them was a harp and another one was trapped in a jar. With luck we could get Dave out of there before Beth even noticed him.
And we did get him out of there, but it was by me carrying the pot down to Pol’s car. She said she knew some people who knew a lot more about pots than she did, and they might be able to help. So I lugged him down the stairs and propped him up in the back seat, with the seat belt around him to keep the pot from breaking if we had to come to a sudden stop. I suppose that might have solved the problem, but it might also have solved Dave.
Pol drove us south out of downtown, and then east on Franklin Avenue toward the river. We drove long enough I wondered if she was taking us the slow way into St. Paul, but not too far before the river she stopped at a one-story concrete building with a brick façade. We went in a side door that said northernclaycenter.org on it, which I guess is what it was. It was a busy place, even on a Thursday morning, and I was a little overwhelmed. Pol seemed to know everybody, at least to wave to, and I just followed her, lugging the pot. People we passed gave me some curious looks but mostly kept to their own work.
Before too long she found the guy she was looking for. Ziggy was a tall guy with a shaggy salt-and-pepper beard that had bits of white and brown clay spattered throughout. He wore an apron but it was hard to understand why, because the rest of him was just as dirty as the apron was.
Pol introduced us. “Ziggy, this is my brother, Ian.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said, starting to offer me his hand and then thinking better of it, since it was full of clay. “And who’s the other one?”
“The other one?” I said.
“In the pot.”
“Oh. He’s, um, our sister’s husband. How did you know there was a person in the pot?”
“I just did,” he said.
“Ziggy’s got a talent with pots,” said Pol. “If anyone can get Dave out of that one, he can.”
“Well,” said Ziggy. “I’m not so sure. Sure, I can look at how someone’s carrying a pot and guess what’s in there pretty well. Even when it doesn’t make any sense. How did your brother-in-law end up in a pot?”
“Two giants stuck him in there,” I said.
“What, like Ares?” said Ziggy.
“Exactly,” I said. “Same guys, in fact. Otus and Ephialtes.”
“You actually met the Aloadae?” said Ziggy. “They’re real?”
“Real as anything in Fairyland,” I said.
“Oh, of course,” said Ziggy. “I keep meaning to go there one of these days. But I’ve been pretty busy, preparing for art fair season and all.”
“Well, if you go meet the giants, be careful, they’ve got a quick temper.”
“I guess,” said Ziggy. “Let me get a closer look at this pot.”
He looked it over closely, ran his hands along the decorative designs along the sides, peered into the top. “Well, he’s alive in there,” he said. “At least there’s that.”
“Can you get him out?” said Pol.
Ziggy shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’m good with clay, but this is bronze. I don’t even have the tools. You’ll need someone who works with metal. I don’t know how they got him in there at all, it must have been magic, because the opening isn’t large enough to get him out. If it was just a little bigger we could grease him up and hope that would work, but I don’t think it’s worth trying. Find somebody who knows bronze, maybe they can help.”
“Hm,” said Pol. “Tonya at Fire Arts maybe?”
“Yeah, that would probably do,” said Ziggy. I picked up the pot to start hauling it back to the car. Ziggy came along with us as we walked out “You in town for a while?” he asked Pol.
“Not sure,” she said. “I just came down because my brother-in-law was in trouble. I didn’t find out about this pot thing until this morning.”
“Well, if you have time, come around some night,” he said. “Everybody’d love to see you.”
“I’ll see about that,” said Pol. “I imagine I’ll be around tonight at least, if we can figure this out by then.”
“Oh, tonight we’re all going to an opening,” said Ziggy. “There’s this new installation artist up at Northrup King. He took the biggest studio and everyone’s dying to see what he’s doing there.”
“I’ll see if I can get there,” said Pol. “I have a feeling either we’ll have gotten Dave out of the pot or we’ll be out of ideas.”
“All right,” said Ziggy, and waved us into the parking lot. “Either way, don’t be a stranger.”
“You could always come up to Grand Marais,” she said.
“Maybe I will, this summer,” said Ziggy. “Maybe I’ll get rejected from a couple of art fairs and have a weekend free.”
“I won’t hold my breath for that,” said Pol. “Look, I’d give you a hug, but….”
Ziggy just held his arms out and made a disappointed face. “Good luck with the pot.”
“Thanks,” I said, because I felt like I should say something. I may not have been any good for anything but carrying Dave around.
“And you can always come by if you want to take a pottery class,” he said. Pol just laughed and herded me back to the car.
“I could take a pottery class,” I said as she was pulling out of the parking lot, headed west, away from the river. “It’s not something to laugh about.”
“Come on,” said Pol. “I can’t imagine you in an apron covered with clay.”
“I’m expanding my horizons,” I said. “I helped someone build a gingerbread house just last week.”
“Did you enjoy it?” said Pol.
“Well, no, not really,” I said.
“I think you should stay in your own lane,” she said. “Remember when you tried to do woodworking in high school?”
“Don’t remind me,” I said.
“There are a lot of different crafts out there, Ian,” she said. “And they all have different skills, but every single one of them is messy.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. If I argued she’d just keep going. Fortunately at that point she had to deal with the Franklin-Cedar intersection, which makes no sense and is always full of drivers who don’t know what they’re doing. After that she concentrated on driving instead of needling me.
Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center is right on George Floyd Square, and I was a little worried about that. I keep meaning to make time to go there and see what it’s like, but you hear things about it being dangerous, and somehow I never really got up the courage. Pol, of course, has been there several times even though she lives four hours away. She reassured me that it would be fine, and she was right. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff in the yards and on the sidewalks, murals on the sides of the buildings, political signs and everything. People there have a point and they want to make it. But they’re also, if anything, overly friendly to anyone new coming by, maybe because they get a bad rap on the national news. The main thing I felt in danger of was getting trapped in an organizational meeting.
But I just followed Pol into the old theater building that houses the Fire Arts Center. The front door wasn’t open, even though the hours said 11-7 and it was ten after eleven. But Pol just hauled me around to the side of the building where there was an open garage door leading into a big open space filled with equipment.
It wasn’t as busy there as the Clay Center had been, though there were a few people standing around talking, and somebody working at a forge in the back. Pol caught the attention of one of the talkers, a Black lady a few years older than her, and introduced me again.
“Tonya, this is Ian, my brother. We have a problem I hope you can help us with.”
Tonya just looked at me. She didn’t offer to shake hands, which bothered me for a moment until I realized that if I did I would drop the pot. She just wanted me to get on with it.
“We need to open this pot,” I said. “Our brother-in-law is stuck inside it.”
“Your brother-in-law.” she said flatly.
“Is he a very small person?”
“No, the pot is bigger on the inside. Or the giants made him smaller to fit him in. Or something. I’m not really sure.”
“He went to Fairyland,” said Pol.
“And he got in trouble,” said Tonya, like that was the least-surprising thing she had ever heard.
“And now we need to get him out of the pot,” said Pol.
“All right,” said Tonya. “Put it down and let me think about it.” I looked around but didn’t see anywhere to put it. “Right in the middle of the floor is fine,” she said. So I put it down, and she poked at it a little bit, squatting to get a better look, tipping it slightly just to see how it moved.
“Do you think you can open it?” I said.
“Oh, I can open it.” said Tonya.
“That’s great!” I said.
“If you want me to open it and have your brother-in-law be alive, that’s a different problem,” said Tonya. It figured. “I can cut it open with a plasma torch, easy. But I’d cut through him just as much. We could put the top in a forge, widen the opening with a hammer, and make it big enough to get him out. If you don’t mind heating him to about fifteen hundred degrees in the process. I’m sure the chop saw or the drill press would get it open, but how do we know when to stop them so they don’t cut him? Same problem with the grinder.”
“There’s no way to get him out without hurting him?” I said.
She blew out her breath. “Not that I can think of. I can ask around, I guess.” She pulled out a key and opened up the gallery space in the front of the building, where there were a couple of other people. They didn’t have any ideas, either, but one of them wanted to talk to Pol about the same installation artist we had heard about earlier. I didn’t really catch it, but it sounded like she was part of the team working on the project and really wanted Pol to come see it. She even had promotional postcards. I didn’t think this was really an appropriate time for that, but Pol just took it and said she’d come if she could. I don’t think the woman even knew Pol, but for some reason she hadn’t been interested in getting me to go to the opening.
Pol didn’t give her a hug goodbye, but she did give one to Tonya. I didn’t get any hugs at all, though of course I was carrying the pot again. I can blame it on that. We went out the front door, and made it back to the car without being volunteered onto any committees. “There’s got to be some way to get him out of there without killing him,” I said.
“Those two were my best ideas,” said Pol. “I think we should go back to your place and regroup. Maybe Harp will have found something.”
“I’m not sure Harp has found anything except another hard drive full of cat pictures.” Since I brought her back from Fairyland my until-recently-most-unusual roommate has spent the vast majority of her time on the internet. I keep her in disks and she doesn’t bother me much, but we haven’t really been able to develop much a of a friendship. For all that I work for a connectivity provider, I’m not much of an online sort of guy. I don’t really have much of an idea what she does all day. In fact I’m not sure she looks at cat pictures at all, I just say that cause it’s what the internet is supposed to be for.
“I asked her to research the giants and the pot for us,” said Pol. “While you were getting the pot down. I sort of vaguely remember a story about some Greek god being stuffed into a pot, but I don’t remember how he got out.”
“Ares,” I said. “I remember that much, and Ziggy knew about it too. Maybe we should have asked him.”
“Harp will know,” said Pol. “I think Harp can probably find any information known to man at this point.”
She may have been right about that, but even if she was, it didn’t turn out to matter. Harp had done her research, all right. She knew everything there was to know about Otus and Ephialtes and how they had trapped Ares in a pot for thirteen months. That everything just didn’t turn out to be very much.
“Hermes set him free,” she said. “But no one knows how.”
“How is that possible?” I said.
“It’s a very old myth,” said Harp. “No one knows why the giants put Ares in the pot in the first place, either. There could have been lots of reasons. Ares was pretty obnoxious, and so were the giants.”
“They just seemed like irritable architects to me,” I said.
“When they weren’t building cities they were trying to force goddesses to marry them,” said Harp. “Ephialtes wanted to marry Hera, and Otus was completely obsessed with Artemis. Messing with Artemis eventually got them killed. Like a lot of other people.”
“Wasn’t Hera married to Zeus?” I said.
“And wasn’t that, like, the worst marriage ever?”
“You might say that,” said Harp.
“I don’t think Ephialtes was very smart,” I said.
“Smart at infrastructure and not much else?” said Pol. “Sounds like someone else I know.”
“I don’t know that I’m actually smart at infrastructure,” I said. “It’s just my job.”
“Compared to everything else, then,” said Pol.
Which, I have to say, was absolutely the perfect cue for Beth to come back from her outing with Angie’s family. The sting was mitigated a little bit by an appreciation for the perfect timing. I’m pretty sure my crush on Beth isn’t an obsession, and I hope it’s not going to get me killed, even though she seems to be about as interested in me as Artemis was in Otus. Although as far as I know Artemis never made it more complicated by crashing on Otus’ couch.
“How was your day?” I asked as she came in the door.
“Terrible,” she said.
“Anybody permanently stuck in a pot?” said Pol.
Beth just looked at her strangely, and I remembered they hadn’t been introduced. But she answered before I could say anything. “No,” she said, “but they took me to a restaurant and made me eat this thing called a Juicy Lucy.”
“Oh no,” said Pol.
“It’s some sort of sandwich,” said Beth. “Except when you bite into it it’s got boiling grease inside, and it gets all over you. It’s like something my step-sisters would have done as a prank.”
“It’s supposed to be cheese,” I said.
“Don’t tell me you like them,” said Pol.
“Of course I don’t like them,” I said. “I just know that it’s supposed to be a cheeseburger with the cheese on the inside.”
“It’s never cheese,” said Pol. “When you cook cheese it separates. And all the fat comes out and burns you.”
“Why would anyone do that?” said Beth. Pol and I looked at each other and shrugged. “And then they took me to another place,” Beth continued. “And they had this drink that had these weird black chewy things inside it and everybody else thought it was good and why did I come to this world anyway?”
“Oh, that’s just bubble tea,” said Pol. “You’ll get used to it.”
“I don’t think I want to get used to it,” said Beth.
“Our world’s like any other,” I said. “Some of the things are terrible, like Juicy Lucys. And some of the things might seem really weird but eventually you learn to appreciate them.”
“Like bubble tea?”
“Yeah, I think most people like bubble tea eventually,” I said.
“How am I supposed to know which is which?” she asked.
“Well first thing is, I think you should trust us more than Angie.”
“Definitely,” said Pol, “if she thought it was a good idea to feed you a Juicy Lucy.”
“Who are you, anyway?” said Beth. “I’m Beth,” she added a little belatedly. Of course it wasn’t as belated as my introductions.
“I’m his smarter sister,” said Pol.
“And her name is Pol,” I said. “Beth is, um, a friend, I think? I met her in Fairyland, and she needed someplace to stay, and she’s crashing on my couch for a little while.”
“And you’re going to figure out how that goes,” said Pol.
“Yeah,” I said, a little sheepishly. Pol’s response was all eyebrows.
“And what was our day like?” asked Beth.
“We’ve been trying to get our brother-in-law out of this pot,” said Pol.
“OK,” said Beth. “I will just leave you to that.” She’d brought in my mail, so she plopped down on the couch and started reading through a random catalog. Which I guess is not the worst way to figure out how things work in this world.
Pol and I went back to talking to Harp. Her best theory was that maybe we could find Hermes, and ask him to get Dave out of the pot. I pointed out that if no one on Earth knew how Hermes had gotten out of the pot, the Fairyland Hermes, who is an avatar of our mythological beliefs, wouldn’t remember how he did it either. And I don’t remember a whole lot about Hermes, but I remember that you didn’t want to mess with him. Almost as much as Artemis. I only get involved with the Greeks when Dave doesn’t give me a choice, and that was already too much for me.
But we didn’t have any better ideas, so I was preparing to send Pol to explain what she could to Diana, while I prepared to go into Fairyland the next day. And then Beth piped up from the couch.
“Hey, I know this guy,” she said. She was holding the flier for the studio opening that night.
“You’ve only been here five minutes,” I said. “How can you know anyone?”
“I didn’t meet him here,” said Beth. “I met him in Fairyland. He was building a strange thing he called a junkyard.”
“Why? They don’t have cars. Just coaches, and pumpkins.”
“He said there would be cars soon enough and he wanted to be there first,” said Beth. “It was built out of all sorts of metal, I figured he must be from here. Look, it says on the card, Jameson Jameson III. I wouldn’t forget that name. And it’s got his picture painted on it.”
“Huh,” I said. “I guess there’s no reason you couldn’t have some, what is he, installation artist and entrepreneur, coming to Fairyland with everyone else.”
“He helped me get a guy out of some metal bands that were imprisoning him,” said Beth. “Maybe he could help you get Dave out of the pot.”
So we all ended up in Nordeast that evening. Well, not all of us. Harp didn’t want to come along. But Pol and Beth and I all went up in Pol’s car, and Dave was there inasmuch as Dave could really be considered to be anywhere. I had no idea how much of this he was experiencing from inside his pot.
On the way I explained to Beth that Northrup King wasn’t the name of a reigning monarch, it was just the name of a building. Or maybe more like ten buildings all jammed together. A hundred years ago it was a seed company, and when they didn’t need it any more it got converted to artists’ studios. Like so many other art spaces it used to be surrounded by railroad tracks and industrial complexes, but now is surrounded by coffeehouses and microbreweries. I’ve been to some of the microbreweries, but I’ve never been into the big building itself.
Pol practically lived there as a teenager, but of course bringing her little brother along would never have been cool. Naturally she knew just where to park, and where to go afterward. I’m not sure I would have ever figured out how to get into the building without her, and I definitely would never have found my way out again. People always ask me if I’m worried that I’ll get trapped in Fairyland, but no magical maze is as hard to find your way around in as Northrup King.
Pol somehow led us right to the studio we were looking for. It must have been a loading dock for the seed company, because it was big, and it was also tall. The ceilings were three stories high, and whoever this Jameson Jameson III was, he had made good use of the space. Apparently he made animatronics, and some of them looked like they would be more at home across town at Can Can Wonderland than in a building full of serious artists. My eye was drawn by a 25-foot-tall mechanical pinball machine, but the line for playing it was stretched out all the way across the studio and back.
In fact the whole place was full of people. At least, most of them were people. I was startled by a waistcoat-wearing pig, and thought one of them had come out of Fairyland, until I realized it was an animatronic and part of the exhibit. Refreshments were being handed out by lizard men in fancy dinner jackets, who were constructed so well I almost mistook them for real. They were all wearing bright buttons that said “Vote Lizard People,” so I figured the artist had been around since at least 2008.
This seemed to be his big coming out party, though. Pol said she’d never heard of him, and if you’ve been making art in the Twin Cities for over a decade and escaped Pol’s notice, you must have been making a serious effort to stay underground.
This exhibit was anything but underground. It was gaudy, and sparkly, and very, very busy. Half of the Twin Cities arts scene must have been there, ducking under fiberglass figures of protowhales, playing a giant skee-ball game where they rolled a ball taller than me downhill to get it going fast enough, or trying to figure out just what they were supposed to do with a scale model of Lake Superior that had been filled with phở. It seemed to me that the natural next step was to squeeze the lime and put the Thai basil and the bean sprouts in, but I don’t really know art.
Beth was dazzled. I was dazzled. Pol just dragged us along as she hunted through the crowds for the artist. Somehow she found the one corner where there weren’t any people, just a few temporary walls closing off a small part of the studio, and a sign that said “Ignore the Little Man Behind the Curtain.” There wasn’t a curtain, and the man inside wasn’t particularly little, but somehow the whole crowd was ignoring him anyway.
“That’s him,” said Beth. “Hey, Jimmy.”
He looked up from what he was working on, which looked for all the world like a black panther. I suppose it was another animatronic, but even in disrepair I couldn’t make out any mechanical parts.
“Now what are you doing here?” he said. “That sign is supposed to keep everyone out while I’m working.” He peered at Beth. “And what are you doing here at all? You’re in the wrong world, young lady.”
“No more than you are,” said Beth.
“I’m always in the wrong world,” said Jimmy. “But I still don’t understand how you got in here. You shouldn’t have been able to, just because you come from Fairyland.” He looked closely at Beth, then shook his head, and moved on to me, though not for very long. “And you’re not interesting at all, are you?” he said, which left me as nonplussed as Beth had been over being called “young lady.”
“It’s you, then, isn’t it?” he said to Pol. “You’re the one with special sight. You’re the one who could track me down here in spite of my sign.”
“I brought us here,” said Pol. “I don’t know that it took special sight. You obviously weren’t out there with all the people. You had to be somewhere.”
“The sign would have kept you out if you weren’t,” said Jimmy. “I know. You see things that other people can’t.”
“You had that vision of the future,” I said. “With the canoes.”
“Ah! said Jimmy. “You can see the future! So of course you can find me here.”
“I thought maybe I could just see canoes,” said Pol. “I like canoes.”
“Well I don’t have any canoes in here,” said Jimmy. “At least I don’t think I do. There’s a lot of stuff. But I’m pretty sure none of it is a canoe.”
“Look,” I said. “We don’t mean to bother you more than we have to.”
“She can see the future,” said Jimmy, pointing at Pol. “And she’s in the wrong world,” he said, pointing at Beth. “But I don’t know what’s supposed to be wrong with you.”
“I’m carrying my brother-in-law around in a pot,” I said. “Does that count?”
“Maybe, maybe,” said Jimmy. “Let me see this pot.” I wasn’t really sure I trusted the guy, but I handed Dave to him anyway. What else was I going to do, take him home and put him back on the bookshelf?
“You helped get Iron Harry out of his metal prison,” said Beth. “Could you do that again?”
“Oh, yes, my first piece of scrap metal in Fairyland,” said Jimmy. “But this isn’t Fairyland. There’s plenty of scrap metal here. How did you get someone stuck in a pot in this world anyway?”
“He thought there was honey in it,” said Pol.
“No he didn’t,” I said. “And he didn’t get stuck here. He got stuck in Fairyland and I had to bring him back.”
“Problems in Fairyland are supposed to be solved in Fairyland,” said Jimmy. “Otherwise the stories get all mixed up.”
“Yeah, my boss doesn’t care if the stories get mixed up,” I said. “She just wants to become a shape-changer. She got him into the pot, and then she sabotaged me getting him out again.”
“So you can’t get him out in Fairyland?”
“I don’t see how,” I said. “I did everything I had to do, and then she just jumped in at the end.”
“That’s not good,” said Jimmy.
“But we can’t just leave Dave in the pot,” said Pol.
“No, no, I suppose not,” said Jimmy. “Look, I can take him out, but things are just going to get worse. You aren’t supposed to be here,” he said to Beth. “And he isn’t supposed to have magic problems solved in a world that doesn’t have magic in it. I knew that portal opening was going to be nothing but trouble.”
“What actually happens if we let him out of the pot?” asked Pol.
“More crossing over,” said Jimmy. “You start bringing people in from Fairyland, pretty soon travel gets easier and they start coming across by themselves. You’ve already got people taking metal over in huge amounts, at least by Fairyland standards. Even a little extra metal there is going to mess things up.” I tried not to look too abashed at that.
“If we don’t do it, though, somebody else will eventually,” said Pol.
“I know,” said Jimmy. “I just keep trying to slow it down, not speed it up.”
“But we can’t leave Dave in the pot,” I said.
“Is he a great man?” said Jimmy. “Is he kind, intelligent, sophisticated, capable, and honorable?”
“I’m not sure he’s any of those things,” said Pol.
“He might be kind and honorable,” I said. “Sometimes, anyway.”
“It doesn’t sound like releasing him would be a great service to mankind,” said Jimmy.
“Well,” I said, “he is married to our sister.”
Jimmy and Beth didn’t see where I was going with that, but Pol did. “And you don’t want to mess with Diana,” she said. “You want to keep metal out of Fairyland, it’s not a good idea to let her know that two giants there stuffed her husband into a pot.”
“She’d probably go in there with a tank battalion,” I said. “I don’t know where she’d find one, I don’t know if she even has any military contacts, but she’d do it anyway.”
“In high school she was voted Most Likely to Lead a Blitzkrieg,” said Pol.
“And she hasn’t mellowed with age,” I added.
“So it’s probably easier to just help us get Dave out of the pot,” said Pol.
One thing about me and Pol, we’re good at ganging up on people. Jimmy didn’t even think about it very long. He had a special sort of plasma cutter, fine-tunabe, and it went through the side of the pot without even giving Dave a sunburn. After all the trouble we’d gone through to get him there, actually getting him out of the pot only took a few seconds.
After he’d shaken out his muscles, he was relieved, and a little bit embarrassed, even though it wasn’t really his fault. But he had no desire to blame the whole thing on Miss Change.
“Sure, it was her fault,” he said. “But I can’t help noticing that bad things happen whenever I go into Fairyland.”
“That’s just Fairyland,” I said. “Bad things happen there.”
“He’s not wrong,” said Beth.
“Even so,” said Dave, “I think I’ve had enough of it. I’m going to go home and start looking for regular jobs here on this planet. Where all they do is stuff you in a cubicle, and the inability to get out is just a metaphor for the state of your career.”
“I think that’s a good choice,” said Pol. “And I don’t think Diana was going to let you go back, anyway.”
“Oh, I’m not going to tell Diana about any of this,” said Dave.
“How are you going to explain where you’ve been for the last three days?” I said
“I don’t know,” said Dave. “But I’m pretty sure I’ll figure out some way to blame it on you.”
And he did. Something about me taking him to a Timberwolves game, and us both getting really drunk, and him ending up getting lost in Target Center and sleeping it off. The story never really made much sense to me, but I wasn’t supposed to remember doing it anyway. Diana was mad, but instead of forbidding Dave from going to Fairyland she just forbade him from going to basketball games with me.
So somehow, out of all of this, I ended up with a win.
Part 16 of The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland is Some Pigs Are More Equal than Beth.
For news and new story notifications sign up for my newsletter