By Julie Carpenter
The dwarves murmured amongst themselves about the best way to get rid of the thin man who sat in the middle of the bed, covered with straw. The red-haired dwarf stepped forward and looked at the man from about a foot away. He picked up the alarm clock from the rubbish on the floor and tossed it at the man's head, as an experiment in how well the usual method worked. The clock bounced off the man's head and began to ring. The Thin Hungry Man picked it up, delighted. He smiled and shook it. He held it to his ear. He bounced it neatly off the dwarf's head and screamed, "Take that you little red-haired idiot." It was a phrase he’d heard often during the fighting. It seemed an appropriate greeting.
Colvin, for that was the name of the red-haired dwarf, stumbled a bit and fell backwards into the biggest dwarf, a black-haired lumpy faced creature, who immediately used his somewhat lumpy head to catch Colvin in the middle of the back and send him sailing forward into the bedpost, knocking the wind out of him front and back.
"I told you it was a stupid idea," said the black haired dwarf.
When he could speak again, Colvin sputtered out, "I suppose we should have followed your advice and closed our eyes and counted to three and seen if he would go away, then?"
"Not a bad idea," said Marvin. The other dwarves muttered in agreement.
“Well then let's try it, shall we?" Colvin asked.
"Not too likely to work now is it? Now that you've bashed it on the head and all. I mean now it’s obviously not going to work." Marvin muttered darkly. He was considered the smart one by all of the others, except Colvin. Colvin was always the odd man out. He hated the rest of the dwarves. He hated their stupid, green pointy hats. He thought that lederhosen were a terrible idea as well. He always made sure his own pants came down past his ankles and he never wore a hat unless he had to.
The Thin Hungry Man sat and stared happily. He wasn't sure what was under discussion but he wanted to be ready the next time someone threw something at his head. He wondered whether they were waiting for him to throw something else at them.
"Imagine me sitting here and bouncing things off people's heads," he said. He was so happy he felt he could burst.
The dwarves looked at him. They weren't sure what to do with him and they were much too tired to throw things at him until he left.
"So now what, you little idiot, smarty-pants?" said Marvin. "I suppose you know we have to get rid of it before Mother comes home."
A murmur of assent and worry went up among the other dwarves, and they crowded behind Marvin and Colvin.
He looked up. "Dang! The idiot has made a hole in the roof. What do we do about that?" He would be the one that fixed it, of course. If anything went wrong, Colvin always had to fix it.
Marvin smiled that odd secret smile he smiled when he was about to do something unpleasant to Colvin. He had frequent practice smiling that smile. He stepped back from the bed and all the other dwarves gathered around him. They all stared at Colvin smiling.
Marvin stepped forward. "We have decided that someone has to take him to the girl. And you are just the stupid lump to do it!"
"No way," said Colvin. "I'm not going over there. It's a long walk and I'm too tired. Forget about it." Colvin did not enjoy the company of the girl. Well actually, he wouldn’t know how he felt about her company because she had chased the dwarves away on sight ever since the night that Marvin and Alvin had barfed up three packs of hot dogs and a couple of six packs of green beer in her roses.
The best way to take care of all the unwelcome creatures and objects from the void was to foist them off on someone else. If the various creatures and objects that fell from the void couldn’t be chased off, and they usually couldn’t, they had to be tricked into leaving or left at a neighboring house. And the closest, in fact the only permanent neighbor that he knew about was the girl. So she was usually the recipient of any of the annoying creatures that couldn’t otherwise be disappeared.
Colvin looked at the others. He looked at the hole in the ceiling. He sighed. He remembered when they had tried to convince their mother to let them keep that cute pink penguin with suspenders that had fallen from the void. It turned out he was a professional yodeler. That and the fact that the little guy had filled her toilet with ice had made her pretty adamant about getting rid of the travelers as soon as possible. This was one of the few houses near the void that seemed to have some sort of permanence. Houses disappeared with alarming frequency. Sometimes they simply disappeared; sometimes they grew legs and walked off. Once a seriously depressed house had blown itself up and the whole group of traveling clowns who had been making it their home went up in an awe-inspiring shower of brightly colored confetti. It had actually been quite a lovely sight in a way but it was pretty sad finding clown noses and clown hats and little squirting flowers all over the place for weeks. The dwarves’ house and the girl’s cottage. And he wouldn’t be moving in with the girl any time soon.
He was pretty sure that he would bear the brunt of the clean-up and repair, simply because the black haired brothers had proved over and over that they were too stupid and incompetent to do anything besides play poker and drink beer and fight. (They were pretty terrible at poker but pretty good at drinking beer and fighting.) The stupid thin man could only cause more damage for him to patch up if he were allowed to stay. Besides that witch in the cottage deserved him if anyone did.
"Come on," he said "Get off the bed you big idiot. Let's go." He sighed.
The Thin Hungry Man wobbled happily to his feet and looked at Colvin with a smile. Then for some reason he held out his hand.
Marvin and the other five dwarves snickered.
Colvin brushed the hand away and said, "Just follow me you big oaf."
The Thin Hungry Man smiled happily and followed him out of the cottage. He felt magnificently happy, and though he was too polite to ask, he felt certain he would eat soon. There had to be food in a world this exciting. There was no other reason for him to have come here. It must be destiny. He would eat. His stomach rumbled awesomely and he felt hungrier than he had ever felt before. He took this as a good sign. The only reason for his increased hunger had to be that food would come soon.
The Thin Hungry Man followed Colvin out of the little thatched cottage and looked around him in amazement. The yard behind the dwarves' cottage was a brilliant green color. It was the most vividly green grass the Thin Hungry Man had ever seen. As he looked closer he realized that there were small patches of earth which weren't covered by grass. These small patches were the same color green. It was as if someone had taken spray paint in the same color as the grass and tried to hide the places where the grass wasn't growing (which was, in fact, the case.) This struck even the Thin Hungry Man as slightly odd. After all if there was one thing he knew, it was what grass and dirt should look like. At the end of the small patch of grass Colvin and the Thin Hungry Man turned left and walked behind the house and through a garden blooming in a mass of colors. The flowers were every shade from neon colors of lime and lemon to iridescent whites and pinks that seemed to generate a small amount of light. There was one vivid scarlet flower, somewhat like a rose in character that stood almost 25 feet high. The dwarf seemed not to notice, but the Thin Hungry Man was amazed and delighted. As they walked along, the Thin Hungry Man looked back at the house. In front of it was a very small patch of grass and flowers that ended at the void. Objects came zooming out of the void every few minutes and landed on the lawn. He saw Marvin come running out into the lawn to pick up a cardboard carton full of brown bottles.
"Beer!" yelled Marvin in the distance and soon the tiny yard was a mass of little fighting dwarves.
"Won't be any for me when I get home, of course," said Colvin, without looking at the Thin Hungry Man. "Not that you'd care." Not that Colvin was too worried about that. He would walk home the long way by the void, probably find at least a six pack of his own and it with that chimpanzee who had recently converted to some form of neo paganism, just to put off going home and patching the roof.
The Thin Hungry Man smiled politely.
“They're going to find some way to blame the hole in the roof and everything on me, of course," offered the dwarf. He sighed, "Not that you'd care." Colvin wasn’t actually worried about that either. Blanche would never believe that it was his fault, although it would cause tension when she started yelling at Marvin and the others.
The Thin Hungry Man smiled. It was so good to have a conversation. He looked down at his small companion. The dwarf had taken his cap off in the heat. His red hair shone brilliantly in the sun. A sudden whim overtook the Thin Hungry Man and he patted Colvin's shimmering red hair. Colvin caught his hand and bit him. It hurt.
They walked along a dirt road now which took them farther from the void. Soon they walked through a patch of turnips the size of small trucks, and it hid the void from their sight. The Thin Hungry Man looked interestedly at the blood that was dripping from his finger. He tasted a little bit and then made patterns with it on his arm.
Before ten minutes had passed they entered a grove of trees in an improbable shade of lavender. The dwarf began to look nervously around him and wring his hands. This was what he was worried about. He had managed to get rid of two reindeer, a psychotic rabbit and a large talking chair by locking them in the walled garden behind the girl’s cottage but everything depended on stealth. It was tricky and she didn’t like dwarves. Probably because she also didn’t like psychotic rabbits and talking chairs and two somewhat depressive reindeer with a pathological need to belch boiling green steam. He was certain there would be new locks to pick. He had to think....He had tricked the reindeer into jumping over the fence. He looked at the thin hungry man. He wondered if he could simply launch him over the fence with a little boost.
They came out of the grove of lavender trees, and there was the girl's cottage, shimmering in its whiteness. He hesitated momentarily. He looked back at the odd, annoying, bloodstained man behind him and realized that this was going to be difficult. He thought he heard the slam of the back door. He stopped, trying to decide what to do. The Thin Hungry Man wandered past him and tripped over a sign that said in bold letters DWARVES! KEEP OUT!, and in smaller letters under it You Little Idiots. The Thin Hungry Man then landed in a flowerbed so deep and thick that he disappeared momentarily. Colvin was just about to bolt when he suddenly felt a hand on the back of his neck.
"How many times have I told you little idiot dwarves to STAY OFF THE LAWN!" the girl screamed in his ear.
The lectures were usually long, drawn-out affairs, conducted with the girl's fingernails in the back of his neck, most of the time after large flower-pots had been dropped on his head, but this time, thankfully the lecture was cut short, by the sudden appearance of the Thin Hungry Man, bounding out the flower bed, with his brown wavy hair full of petals and a joyous expression on his skeletal face.
“Hi!" he said.
The iron fingernails relaxed just a bit as the girl mentally prepared herself for the green steam, or the yodeling, or the existential insurance policy sales pitch and Colvin felt his opportunity.
"He fell through the roof. He said you were his cousin. Bye!" Colvin was off like a shot.