Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight is a short short story I wrote somewhere in late 2000 or early 2001. I did it for some online contest, the name of which I no longer remember. It got 1st Runner Up, or something like that. Personally, I just liked the idea of hearing a cow’s point of view. And I got to use the word “Dooky.” Makes me giggle every time.
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Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight
by Christopher M. Walsh
Gladys the cow was singularly unimpressed when the Goblin materialized out of thin air.
At first, Gladys thought it might be a calf of the Female Human, the one called O’Leary. The Goblin was only three feet tall with red, leathery features and a short, coarse black beard. It wore strange coverings Gladys had never seen before–all hard and metal. A sword and an axe hung at its sides. In spite of its stature, however, the Goblin looked very strong. A dull red glow emanated from its eyes. That was new, Gladys thought. Gladys decided this was probably not part of the Female Human’s herd.
The Goblin stamped around the barn. Gladys, less than interested, chewed her cud. Then the Goblin spotted her.
“Good,” the Goblin said. “We’ll need a witness.” This caught Gladys’s attention. It wasn’t often that one of the two-legged folk spoke to her with the expectation of being understood. Something interesting was going on here.
Another flash caught Gladys’s attention, and suddenly a second Goblin, even shorter than the first, stood in the middle of the barn.
“Dooky, you’re late!” the first Goblin said.
“I had to find the lantern.” The newcomer, Dooky, hung his head, embarrassed. The older Goblin, however, was having none of it.
“You cut that out. Stand up straight. Not that straight. You don’t wanna look like a Human.” Aha, Gladys thought. They aren’t Humans. Very interesting indeed.
“Now listen up,” the elder Goblin continued. “Since this is your first time out of the cave, you just find a corner and watch. Someday, though, you’re gonna have to learn how to do this yourself.”
“What do you mean?” Dooky asked.
“This here’s a war, boy. Always has been. Since the Beginning.”
“A war?” Dooky asked.
A war? Gladys thought.
“That’s right,” the elder Goblin continued. “One of these days, us Goblins are gonna rule over all the Domains. You just wait.”
“But I thought us Goblins liked living in caves,” Dooky pointed out.
“Boy, that ain’t the point! It’s the principle of the thing.”
Dooky obviously didn’t understand. His brow furrowed and his bushy eyebrows (not quite as bushy as his dad’s) merged.
“So what’s happening tonight?”
A wicked grin crossed the elder Goblin’s face, revealing jagged yellow teeth.
“A duel,” he said.
Gladys’s ears pricked up. Now this was exciting.
“A duel? Really? With who?” Dooky was getting enthusiastic.
“Ah, my boy. That’s why I wanted you to come with me. Tonight, your old Dad is gonna wallop the one and only Gaelbhan, High Prince of the Sidhe.”
“The Shee?” Dooky asked.
“No, the Sidhe.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, you said ‘Shee.'”
“It’s ‘Sidhe.’ Gaelic, or something.”
“Never mind.” The older Goblin waved it off. “Just find a place to watch. He’s gonna be here any minute.”
To Gladys’s chagrin, Dooky trotted over to Gladys’s stall and plopped down right next to her. Gladys snorted and flicked her tail in annoyance. The boy smelled like sheep dip. Gladys’s annoyance quickly dissolved, however, as the air in the barn became charged with energy. Gladys could feel all the hairs from the tips of her ears to the end of her tail stand on end.
In the center of the barn a slash of light split the air and opened. A tall, luminous figure stepped out of the crack, and it closed behind him. The light returned to normal but the energy in the barn remained, fueled by the figure’s presence.
Now that is an entrance, Gladys thought. This must be the Sidhe.
“Wow,” Dooky whispered. “So that’s a Shee.” Gladys delivered an irritated glance to the top of the Goblin boy’s head.
The Sidhe was much taller than the Goblin, although still not quite as tall as most Humans Gladys had seen. Still, he seemed to radiate energy. His hair hung in long silver waves, and his skin was so pale it was almost see-through, but not in a gross way. He wore a suit of brilliant chain mail. On his left arm was a shield with the image of a tree emblazoned on it. In his right hand was a shining broadsword. Gladys was impressed.
“I am Gaelbhan,” the figure announced. “I have answered your challenge.”
The Goblin stepped forward. “I am Drax. I offer a witness.” He gestured to Gladys. The Sidhe’s awesome gaze bore down on Gladys, who felt herself trying to cram her huge mass into the corner of her stall. The Sidhe simply nodded his approval and turned back to face the Goblin. Drax, to his credit, appeared unfazed by the Sidhe.
“Let us begin.”
Gaelbhan took a place close to the center of the barn. Drax drew his weapons and met the Sidhe face to face. The two opponents squared off.
Drax moved first, and Gladys was stunned to see how fast the short man moved. The Sidhe moved with grace, but was forced backward by the Goblin’s onslaught. Gaelbhan parried the Goblin’s axe blow with his sword and caught Drax’s sword with his shield. The Goblin spun his sword backward, driving it below. The Sidhe, whose own sword was locked up with the Goblin’s axe, drove both weapons down, narrowly deflecting the blow.
The foes untangled and squared off again. This time Gaelbhan went on the offensive, swinging low and letting the force of Drax’s parry swing his sword around toward the back of the Goblin’s head. Without looking, Drax brought his axe up and caught the Sidhe’s blade. The Goblin then threw the axe with tremendous force, pulling the Sidhe’s blade from his hand and driving both weapons into the far wall. Drax spun low and sliced into Gaelbhan’s leg. The Sidhe grimaced in pain.
Drax did not let up after his small victory. The Goblin drove after Gaelbhan, swinging his sword and howling with rage. The Sidhe kept his shield between the Goblin and himself, limping as blood ran down his wounded leg.
“Yeah, go Dad!” Dooky yelled.
Drax drove Gaelbhan into a corner, beating mercilessly at the Sidhe’s shield. Gaelbhan’s free hand shot up and caught Drax’s sword arm at the wrist. The Sidhe bent the Goblin’s arm down, then bashed Drax in the face with his shield.
The Goblin stumbled backward, holding his face as black blood squirted between his fingers. Gaelbhan took advantage of the pause to leap over the Goblin and rescue his sword from where it stuck, protruding from the far wall of the barn. Then he turned to face Drax.
The Goblin stood stone still, ignoring the flood that poured from his nostrils.
The Sidhe stepped forward, and threw his shield to the floor.
Wow, Gladys thought.
It was impossible to tell who moved first, but sparks flew as the blades connected, whirled, connected again. The combatants circled each other in a complex dance, dodging and swinging, parrying and swinging again.
The inevitable error was so slight Gladys almost didn’t catch it. Drax drove a powerful blow at Gaelbhan, who narrowly sidestepped the blade. The force of the swing took the Goblin off balance just long enough for Gaelbhan, with his longer reach, to come around and drive his blade into the Goblin’s back.
For a moment Drax didn’t notice what had happened. Then he coughed up a fresh gout of black blood, and his sword slipped from his hand. Gaelbhan closed in and placed a hand between the Goblin’s shoulders. With a firm push, the Sidhe pulled his blade from Drax’s torso, sending the Goblin tumbling to the ground.
Dooky stood up next to Gladys. Both were stunned.
The Sidhe knelt down next to the Goblin, who struggled for breath. Then he was gone. Gaelbhan reached his hand out and closed Drax’s eyes.
“Farewell, worthy adversary,” he said softly.
Slowly, Drax’s body faded, then disappeared altogether. The three who remained stood a moment in silence. Then the Sidhe turned to Gladys.
“Witness, I thank you.” Gladys could do no more than blink her big brown eyes.
The air crackled again, and the slash of light appeared. Gaelbhan, Prince of the Sidhe, stepped toward it.
The Sidhe turned. Dooky stood before him, holding his father’s axe. The Sidhe shook his head sadly, then turned away. The slash of light vanished, taking Gaelbhan with it.
Dooky dropped the axe and slumped in the straw, crying. Gladys stood next to him, uncomfortable.
Without warning, Dooky took up the lantern and hurled it toward the space where Gaelbhan had just been. It crashed against the far wall of the barn and burst into flames. The straw beneath it caught fire, and soon the whole rear of the barn was burning.
Gladys decided it was time to make a discreet exit.
The young Goblin knelt in the straw, weeping. Slowly, the boy faded away, back to where he came from. Good, Gladys thought. I’d hate to have left him here.
Gladys reached the safety of the farm yard and looked up at the barn. He watched as the flames leapt from the barn to the house, and noticed that the grass that led to the neighbor’s yard had caught fire as well.
A few hours later, nearly every building in that part of Chicago was burning.
Great, Gladys thought. Just watch. They’re gonna blame all of this on me.
© 2007 Christopher M. Walsh