Monday, April 14, 2008

Episode 3: Post Secondary Administration

"I'm looking for a...Weasle?" a very proper male voice said, breaking Andrew's reverie.

"It's Weazle," Andrew corrected him, having heard the animal reference in the voice. He looked over and saw no one standing at the till.

This had happened enough in the past year that Andrew had placed a poster in the back room for staff outlining the process. First, down; the majority of supernatural beings traveling the Tree were diminutive in stature: pixies, leprechaun, dwarves, gnomes, hobgoblins...

But there was no one looking up at him when Andrew leaned out over the counter.

Next, up. This was far more rare, since any flying fairy would usually hover at eye level out of simple courtesy and the realization that, the sooner eye contact was achieved, the sooner they got their coffee. The "up" crowd at Magik Beans were hangers, attaching themselves to low lying branches of the Tree directly above the coffee bar: vampires in bat form, sloths from worlds where evolution had favored their species, and Alan, a half-bird, half-human creature which spent most of its life hanging upside down by its nearly apelike feet. Alan was terribly friendly, but he still scared the hell out of Andrew the first time he came into the shop (all the hangers were creepy as far as Andrew was concerned), and according to legend (the fairy euphemism for rumor and gossip), supposedly rescued lost children and orphans. Andrew was of the opinion that being found by Alan would be terrifying, and was glad to have never seen the thing with a child, for all the creature's gregariousness.

But when he tilted his head upward, there was nothing there either.

Finally, side to side. If there was one thing the fairy population of the universe didn't understand, it was the boundary that existed between the customer and "behind the counter." The bloody things were brilliant when it came to chalk lines drawn on the ground, or thresholds like open doorways (which every human knew you could just walk through), but couldn't get it through their oddly shaped little skulls that the customer did not belong behind the counter. They always couched their imposition with some affable excuse like "I was just tryin' ta help guv'ner," or "I have a special recipe that will ensure your customers always return."

More like never leave, Andrew mused, intoxicated in some sleep that would keep them in the shop a hundred years that would feel like a day. He looked to his right, left, and even turned himself completely around.

Nothing. Gonna have to add something for invisible beings, Andrew thought.

"I must have the wrong person," the voice said. "You don't seem bright enough to be the man I'm looking for."

"No, I'm Andrew Weazle," Andrew said, his brow furrowed in irritation. "But humans can't see invisible beings. I'm bright enough to know that. Are you?"

"I'm as bright as the content of my pages," the voice replied.

Andrew's head snapped down again. "I'll be adding more than invisible I guess," he said to himself in a low voice.

"I beg your pardon?" asked the leather covered binder which sat on the glass counter above the baked goods.

"I wasn't looking for a talking binder," Andrew said, gingerly picking the binder up and reading his name misspelled in gold script across the cover. Andrew Weasel. "Here's the problem," he said. "You have my name misspelled. It's spelled W-E-A-Z-L-E."

"That may be so," the binder replied, seemingly chagrined at its error. "It could be spelled W-E-A-Z-E-L as well."

"Yeah, I know. No one ever gets it right," Andrew lamented. "But it's definitely Z-L-E."

"Very well then," the binder replied politely, and Andrew nearly dropped it as a small puff of gold fairy dust erupted from the last three letters of the name inscription, the letters literally leaping off the page and reforming in the air before coming to rest on the cover once again before finally sinking into the leather. "So," the binder said. "I am now looking for an Andrew Weazle."

"You've found him," Andrew replied, smiling at the binder's sense of decorum. "What's all the fuss?"

"You have been cordially invited to the semi-decadal, often irregular, Spring Symposium of Ontological Overseers to be held on this campus beginning in two weeks," the binder announced.

"The...uh...what?" Andrew replied. "Sounds like some sort of conference."

"It is," said the binder. "It's a conference for educating guardians of the Tree. All you need to do to register is say 'yes, I'll be attending,' and I'll expedite your confirmation."

Andrew frowned. "You'll have to excuse me, but I had a bad experience with a succubus about a year back, and I'm a little...more cautious than I used to be."

"The deadline for registration 30 seconds," the binder replied.

"30 seconds?" Andrew exclaimed, drawing the attention of a table of sylphs who were flirting with a bunch of frat boys who had mistaken them for underage girls dressed in diaphanous lingerie. "What the hell is my registration doing showing up 30 seconds before I'm supposed to be enrolled? Didn't Harry Potter get a whole shit-load of invitations to Hogwarts?"

"That's post-secondary administration for you," the binder replied.

"No shit," Andrew replied. "Even magical registrars can't spell my name properly."

"20 seconds," the binder said.

"The last time I made a snap judgment like this I ended up having my life essence sucked out of me and shaped into a doppelganger," Andrew protested.

"10 seconds."

"No," Andrew said. "You people should have your shit together and give a person time to think these things through. I'm sick and tired of having magical adventures dropped in my lap. I have a coffee shop to run you know!"

"Very well then," the binder replied. "We're very sorry to hear you won't be attending this year's semi-decadal..."

Andrew grit his teeth as the binder paused, as though giving him another chance to change his mind.

"...often irregular..."

"How do I know you're not an evil tome, like the Necronomicon?" Andrew asked.

"...Spring Symposium..."

"The Necronomicon would never string words like Spring Symposium together," Andrew murmured to himself.

"...of..." the binder gave one last ostentatious pause.

"YES!" Andrew screamed. The whole shop went dead quiet. He smiled at his customers. "Uh...just found out Brandon Routh won't be playing Superman in the next film!" The low buzz of busy conversation resumed.

"Sorry?" the binder prompted. "Were you saying 'yes' to me?"

"Yes," Andrew replied.

"Yes what?" the binder urged.

"Yes, I will be attending."