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when boredom strikes

Work in Progress written entirely at work because there's nothing to do except stand and stare at the calendars. One by one, the calendars steal my sanity.

Issa sat at her computer and sighed. She was in the middle of a story and her muse was on his two week vacation. Why she sent him on the vacation in the first place was beyond her. All that she had gotten from him was a postcard from Toronto that said “Hey, check that mystery story of yours. It’s around that time to pull that one up again. Love, Me. P.S. -When you go shopping, buy some of those Hot Pockets. I think I ate the last one.”

Issa sighed. Of course he had eaten the last one. She had bought them to eat at work, but he had beaten her to them. That was just like her Logan Muse, he normally inspired with his head stuck in the refrigerator. Why she couldn’t have gotten a different version of said muse was beyond her. Oh well, at least he did give her some decent ideas when he wasn’t stuffing his face.

And now he’s gone, she thought. I don’t have a clue as to what to write. Great big jerk. She kicked the spare chair her muse usually sat in while doing his job, which her cat was currently occupying. Boots gave her owner a glare before closing her yellow eyes and going back to sleep.

“What I need is a substitute muse,” she said, switching the computer off after getting tired of staring at a blank screen. Knowing that she wasn’t going to get anything done any time soon, she decided to curl up on the couch and watch a movie.

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Opening it, she was faced with a rather short and prim looking woman that reminded her of the lady from Poltergeist. “Are you Issa?” the lady asked.

Confused as to why a total stranger would even know her nickname, Issa nodded. “I am.”

“Then follow me. The Muse-for-hire van is waiting to take you to the Muse-O-Mart.” The lady took Issa’s hand and started tugging her out the door.

Issa was dumbfounded. “Wait a minute. Muse-for-hire? What is this?”

The little woman frowned. ‘Yes. You should know all about the Muse Union, seeing that you have a muse of your own. The rules state you, the author, must pay your muse.” She then stared at her as if to say Duh! Any idiot knows the basics here!

Issa balked. “I never heard about that.” As it was, she barely had enough money to pay her bills, let alone pay her muse. The lady frowned again, but Issa said, “I do feed him and let him use the spare bedroom though.”

It seemed to calm the lady down. “Food and lodging will suffice for payment of services rendered. You do let him work for only a few hours a day with breaks, yes?”

Issa nodded. Her muse usually woke her up at three in the morning, then took a twenty hour break before resuming musing duties from eleven at night to two thirty in the morning. The schedule was sporadic, with him working a day a week some months or seven days a week other months.

“He’s on a two week vacation too,” Issa added, hoping it would win her points. Fortunately, it did.

“Excellent. You may call me Viv. Come.” Without waiting for Issa to pull on a pair of shoes, Viv tugged her out of the door and marched her to the black van parked in her driveway. Climbing in, Issa noticed two intimidating looking men in black suits sitting in the front seats.

“Who are they?” Clerissa whispered to Viv.

“Oh them. They’re the Muse Police. If a muse is being mistreated, the MP take them away and give them to more deserving authors.” Viv noticed Issa’s look. “They also punish muses for mistreating their authors.” Clerissa nodded and filed the MP away as a useable threat when her muse woke her up at three again, especially when she had to get up for work early the next morning.

“So, where is this Muse-O-Mart?” she asked instead, looking around the van.

“In an alternate dimension. Buckle your seatbelt, Agent Two drives like a maniac.” Agent Two looked at Issa through the rearview mirror and gave her a wicked smile that unsettled her a bit. Stepping on the accelerator, Agent Two shifted gears and the van jerked into motion. Issa stared out the window as the scenery did one of those Star Wars warp speed effects. What seemed like seconds later, the van stopped in front of a large gray building that looked like a typical super grocery-market.

The agent sitting in the passenger seat hopped out of the van and yanked the van door open. “Puny Author,” he muttered as Issa stepped down.

“Don’t mind him,” Viv said. “Agent One gets testy when Agent Two doesn’t take turns driving the van.”

Walking to the automatic doors, Issa saw Viv trying to steer an enormous shopping cart. Seeing that she was taller, Issa took over the cart.

“Well, now that we’re here, what type of muse are you looking for?”

Issa shrugged, still trying to register the fact that there were people sitting on the shelves of the store. Several of them waved at Viv and gave Issa ‘get me please’ eyes. The overhead store speakers were softly pouring out “Stand by your Man”, but with the word Man replaced with Muse.

“Well, I’m not sure. I’m really happy with my current muse, but I just need one to be on call whenever he’s not around.” Issa looked around, still trying to figure out which way to go.

“Ah, I see. Then take a left, we’ll go to the General Muse section.”

The General Muse section housed muses that were basic models. They knew run of the mill plot ideas and characterization skills. They were all kind of too basic for what Issa had in mind though. Viv saw that Issa was paying more attention to the right side of the store that housed the Specialty Muses.

“I’ll be in the Manager’s Office until you’re ready to leave. If you find a muse you like, then put them in the basket.” With that, Viv walked off and left Issa alone to browse.

Browsing the Muse-O-Mart was more difficult than Issa had expected. Down one aisle were the Angst Muses who came with their own boxes of Kleenex. They gave her sad looks and then burst into tears or moody silences when she didn’t pick any of them. Down the next few aisles were the Humor Muses. Issa was tempted by several that resembled John Cleese and Michael Palin, especially when they lapsed into the “Parrot Sketch”.

Turning down another aisle, she narrowly avoided being shot, stabbed, blown up, taken hostage, and being chased by a gigantic stone ball. Making up her mind, she decided that she did not need an action/adventure muse, no matter how sexy they looked in fedoras and khaki.

Issa avoided the Horror aisle completely after hearing the tortured screams and ominous gurgling sounds coming from its depths. That and the row of overhead fluorescent lights had suddenly gone out. The screaming had gotten louder when that happened, and something dark trickled out from the aisle. Pushing the cart, Issa quickly passed by.

In the Romance aisle, she had dodged several Cupid Muses’ arrows and politely declined roses from various Don Juan Muses. Issa wasn’t completely sure, but she thought one of the Lothario Muses had pinched her behind. A cheeky leer to her right confirmed her suspicion. Blushing, she exited the aisle post haste.

She passed other aisles until she reached the Fandom section of the Muse-O-mart. After strolling around and waving hello to some of the Character Muses she was familiar with, she left.

Issa found herself at the very back of the Muse-O-Mart. She glanced at her still empty basket and then back at all the aisles she had already been in. It looked like she was going to have to go home empty handed and just deal with the fact that she wasn’t going to be writing anything until her muse came back from his vacation. Disappointment set in as she wheeled the cart towards the Manager’s Office.

Before she could go very far, a flickering blue light caught her attention. Walking over, she saw that the light came from a bare blue light bulb that was covered with cobwebs. Under the light were shapes covered in dusty drop cloths. A sign hung precariously over the aisle with “Rejects” carved into it.

At the sound of her approach, one of the drop cloths stirred and a muse with red rimmed and bloodshot eyes peeked out. “Somebody’s here!” she shrieked, spooking Issa. At once, all the drop cloths flew and muses of different sizes, shapes and specialties looked at Issa hopefully.

“What are you guys?” Issa asked. One of the muses stopped drinking from his Jack Daniels bottle long enough to answer her.

“We’re the muses people picked up and then never used.” He took another swig. “I’m the brooding-at-the-end-of-the-bar Angst Muse. My author realized that after a while, all his characters were hanging out in bars instead of doing other things in the story.”

“So he returned you?” The Brooding Angst Muse nodded and drank some more. “What about you?” she asked a sad looking clown.

“Nobody got my jokes,” it said, wiping it’s eyes with a multicolored handkerchief. Issa went down the aisle and heard sad story after sad story. One Horror Muse was squeamish about blood, a Villain Muse wasn’t evil enough, a Romance Muse thought that buying his lady love a lawnmower on her birthday was sexy. There were Fandom Muses that didn’t know anything about their fandoms, General Muses that didn’t have a clue about basic punctuation skills and more General Muses that couldn‘t spell if their lives depended on it.

The rejected muses tried to persuade Issa to take them. Some of them even jumped from the shelves and grabbed her ankles to keep her from leaving without one of them. Getting a tad freaked out by their behavior, Issa kicked off the last muse and bolted out of the aisle. Just as she was leaving, she saw a scrambling movement on the very bottom shelf. Curiosity got the best of her and she crouched down to see what it was. When she touched the green legging clad ankle, whoever it was let out a shrill scream and huddled deeper into the shelf.

“Leave me be! Get it away!” he screamed. The shelf started to shake as the muse trembled. Some of the other muses shook themselves out of their self-pity and dragged the shrieking muse out and into the aisle.

It was an elf from the Tolkien fandom. Issa couldn’t place him because his dark hair was covering his face.

“Relax, you ninny! She ain’t no fangirl!” one of the muses (the General Muse with the grammar problem) said. “You ain’t no fan girl, right?”

Another muse (the not-so-evil Villain) shook her head sympathetically. “He was picked up by a rabid fangirl who mistook him for Legolas.” Issa winced. No wonder the muse was in the shape he was in.

“I’m not a fangirl,” she said. Instantly, the Elf Muse relaxed, but the twitch he had developed at his right eye kept going.

Flicking his hair out of his face, he looked at her. “You will not make me give you ideas about Legolas?”

“Nope. At least not the kind you other author demanded.”

The muse let out a pent up breath. “And you will not watch the movies only to pause the frame so you can stare and sigh at Legolas?” the Elf Muse cringed. Issa guessed that his old author had done that a lot.

“Absolutely not.”

“And you will not write…will not write…” Here he curled into a ball and covered his head with his arms. “Mary Sues?” The other muses screamed at the mention of the evil that was Mary Sue. The not-so-evil muse burst into tears and the squeamish Horror muse curled into a ball and sucked his thumb.

Issa made a face. “Most definitely not.” Then she paused. “At least not on purpose.”

The Elf Muse gave her a shaky smile and then looked up through the messy curtain of hair that had fallen in his eyes again. “So I can come with you?” he asked timidly. Issa, being one of those people that rooted for the underdog and runts of the litter, held out her hand and helped the elf muse to his feet. She had to crane her neck up to see him as he stood, and she wondered just how the over six foot tall elf had crammed himself into his shelf.

Climbing into the basket, the elf muse curled up again, choosing the side of the huge shopping cart that was closest to Issa. Viv was waiting for them at the checkout counter.

“Ah, the emotionally scarred elf. Good choice. Now just go sign the muse/author contract and we’ll be ready to go.”

Issa pushed her cart with the now sleeping Elf Muse in it towards a cashier. “ISBN number?” the cashier asked, holding out a scan gun. When Issa didn’t know what to do, the cashier gave her a suffering sigh and zapped the gun behind one of the elf’s pointed ears.

“Method of payment?”

Viv saved her before the cashier could roll his eyes. “What’s in your pocket, dearie?” Digging around, Issa pulled out a bit of pocket lint and a chewing gum wrapper.

“It’s all I have, but…”

The cashier cut her off. “One rejected muse for pocket lint. Sold.” He pushed a piece of paper at her. “Sign here.”

Scanning the contents, Issa noticed the terms Viv had mentioned before. Getting the gist that by signing the paper, she would be obligated to take care of her muse, give him breaks and reasonable hours, and not cause him further emotional harm. She looked at her twitching new muse and shrugged. She didn’t think anyone could give him any more emotional harm than he had already suffered.

Signing the paper on all the required places, she and Viv helped the new muse out of the cart and into the van. Agent One was behind the wheel, a triumphant look on his face. Agent Two was sulking in the passenger’s seat. The trip home was as fast as the trip there, even though Agent Two whined about Agent One’s driving the entire time.

“I hope I don’t see you again,” Agent One warned, staring pointedly at Issa behind his sunglasses. Viv was nicer.

“Now just follow the Muse Union rules and everything should be fine. Have fun.” Then they took off with a bang, leaving Issa and her new muse on the front lawn.

Issa unlocked her house and went into the kitchen to fix a snack. “Hey, if you want, you can wear some of my other muses’ clothes until I can get yours clean.” Her muse nodded, sending a small cloud of dust in the air. She showed him the spare room and bathroom, leaving him to clean up. He was so dusty, she wondered just how long he had been on the shelf.

Thirty minutes later, the Elf Muse padded barefoot into the kitchen, his long hair now in a damp braid down his back. The novelty t-shirt that had “I fear no beer” printed on the front and the green gym shorts he wore were a far cry from the clothes that he had on earlier. Issa made a mental note to go shopping for stuff that better suited him. As it was, the height and body type differences between both muses were so much that the t-shirt hung on his frame and the shorts rode up above his knees.

Offering a bowl of grapes and apple wedges, Issa eyed her new muse. “So, what’s your name?” The Elf Muse sat on a nearby barstool. He opened his mouth and said a name Issa knew she’d never be able to pronounce. Sighing, he chewed on an apple wedge and watched her try anyway.

“I suppose you could call me what my name is in Common Speech,” he offered.

“Okay, so what is it?”

He grimaced, then said “Bob.”

Issa blinked and then tried to comprehend how a Tolkien Elf had gotten such a name. “Bob? Your name is Bob the Elf?”

“Yes.” His tone was mildly defensive. “I was one of those minor background elves that did not get the flashy names like Haldir or Elladan or Legolas.” At the last name, Bob’s eye started twitching again.

“Bob’s a good name,” Issa said, sensing another breakdown was in the making. “So, um, Bob. What part of Middle-earth did you come from?” Getting up from her stool, she took some glasses from the cupboard and poured water in them.

“Mirkwood.” Bob thanked her for the water and swallowed. “When that wench of a fangirl found me in the Mirkwood Elves section of the Fandom aisle, she grabbed me before I had a chance to introduce myself properly. Before I knew it, she had already called me Leggy-Poo and had tied me to her bedposts.” Bob shuddered at the memory.

“She didn’t think that with your dark hair, you couldn’t have been Legolas?” Issa hadn’t read the books close enough to actually find the passage saying what exact color eyes and hair Legolas had, and she didn’t really have the inclination to do so either.

“Who knows. It was a traumatic experience.” He wouldn’t say any more, and Issa noticed his hands had started shaking. Not pressing for his history any more, she pushed the bowl closer to him and went down to her basement to do a load of laundry. When she got back, she saw her computer room’s light on and Bob sitting at her desk reading some story that had been on her hard drive.

“How did you know how to mess with that?” Issa asked, leaning against the doorjamb.

Bob shrugged, his eyes still on the screen. “Standard Muse Operations. We all know how to use a computer, even if computers do not exist from where we hail from.”

“Oh. So what do you think?”

Bob tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. “It works, though a few paragraphs do feel a little stilted. You could change this part here to correspond with what you said a few pages before.” Issa moved from the doorway and sat in the spare chair. Soon the two of them had a couple of pages solidly down and were already thinking up ideas for future action.

Looking at the wall clock, Issa yawned. “Bob, I think it’s time to call it a night. I’ve got work tomorrow.” Bob nodded and saved what they had written. Issa went to the guest room and turned down the bed, already thinking just how she was going to be able to finance another bed whenever her Logan Muse came back from his vacation. Going to her bedroom, she found Bob looking at the picture frames on the walls.

“Um, you can do whatever you want to, I turned down your bed whenever you’re tired.”

“We elves do not sleep as you mortals do,” Bob said, tucking his hands behind his back.

“Oh, yeah. I knew that.” Issa kicked herself mentally for forgetting that bit of Tolkien trivia. She was really going to have to brush up on her book reading in the near future.

“I thank you all the same, my lady,” he said, finally turning. He grinned at her. “And I thank you for rescuing me from the horrors that surely awaited me if another fangirl had come instead of you. It is as if a shroud has been lifted from my eyes.”

“You’re welcome. Good night, Bob.”

Bob gave her a small bow. “Mãn dú, Issa.” He closed the door after him and as she got ready for bed, Issa could hear him putter around the living room. The television came on briefly, then turned off. Her stereo turned on for a while, then it was also turned off. Around one in the morning, Issa heard her back door opening and shutting. Curiosity got the best of her and she looked out her window. The dim moonlight showed Bob walking in her back yard, his face turned skyward. He walked towards the small copse of trees that started at her side of the property and then went into the county’s. There was a creek about a half mile away and Issa guessed that was where Bob was going. She watched him walk until his tall, slender form was eaten up by the nighttime shadows. Closing her curtains, she returned to bed, falling asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

The sound of singing woke her up the next morning, as did the smells of bacon and eggs cooking. Following her ears and nose, she made her way to her kitchen where Bob was standing at the stove.

“Good morning,” she said, hiding a yawn behind her hand.

“Good morning. I did not know what you usually ate for breakfast, so I made what was in the refrigerator. There is some tea on the counter.”

Pouring a mug of fragrant jasmine tea, Issa frowned. “What’s with all this?” she asked.

Shrugging his thin shoulders, Bob stirred the skillet of scrambled eggs. “I simply wanted to show you my appreciation. If it bothers you…”

“No, no. That’s not the case. I was just wondering, that’s all.” Making up for her question, she bustled about and took two plates from the cabinet. After setting the breakfast nook, she went outside and brought in the paper.

Ah, Bob the Emotionally Scarred Elf! We loves him anyway, precious.

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