Art and the philosophy of life

Posts tagged ‘The Book Lovers Emporium’

Eliza Smith Barrington…

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Picture from:  Pinterest

Eliza was a beautiful woman.  She was well educated, wealthy, an accomplished musician, a trained ballet dancer and her paintings hung in some of the finest museums in the world.   Artists, across the globe, begged her to model for them, but she always refused.

Eliza’s  parents disappeared when she was a child.  Their wealth had passed to her, along with their butler, Mr. Quest.  Mr. Quest was to watch over her until she was twenty-one years of age, at which time she would have access to her entire fortune.  Mr. Quest, his job finished,  would have access to his as well.  On her twenty-first birthday Eliza asked Mr. Quest to stay on as her advisor.  He accepted immediately.

Eliza had no friends to speak of, no gentlemen callers.  People were intimated by her looks and her talent, often thinking that she was flooded with invitations and suitors.  In truth, she had no one, other than Mr. Quest and her cat, Mrs. Fuzzytail.  Instead of going to luncheons and inviting people to tea, her days were filled with practice.  She read, danced and played her piano.  Each day was exactly like the one before it, broken only by appearances for worthy causes, where she was expected to say a few words and hand over her money.  Those were the only times she met with others but she felt that it was her duty to be part of the community in some small way.

A week after her twenty-first birthday she went into the kitchen, where Mr. Quest was having tea, and asked if she might have a word.  He stood, pulled out a chair and poured another cup.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately,” said Eliza,  “Something doesn’t seem right, but I don’t know what’s wrong.  I thought…”

“That maybe I would know?” asked Mr. Quest kindly.

She nodded and took a sip of tea.  “You do make the best tea in the world,” she sighed, inhaling the delicious aroma and smiling.

“You have always enjoyed it,” he said, pouring more into his own cup.

Eliza fidgeted, something she had never done in her entire life.  Mr. Quest took quick notice and sat up straighter.

“Did my parents give something to you, something that you were to hold for me until I came looking for it?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I have had the same dream for two weeks and that’s what it has been about.”

“It’s true,” he said, relaxing.  “I was never to tell you, unless you asked but now that you have…”

“All will be revealed?” she laughed.

“Something like that,” he said, grinning at her.

“Well, I’m asking.”

“It’s quite a story,” said Mr. Quest, rising and going to the pantry.  “I think your favorite cookies may be needed.”

“I have all day,” said Eliza, “but I admit that I’m curious and quite anxious to hear what you have to say.”

Mr. Quest told Eliza that most of her answers would come from the people who ran The Book Lovers Emporium but that he would be happy to tell her what he knew.  He told her that his name wasn’t Quest, Quest was what he did.  He Quested, which meant that he went from place to place, universe to universe, and found things, protected things and beings, and generally spent eternity on quests.  He went on to say that only one of her parents, her father, was from earth.  Her mother had stopped here, on a tour of this universe, and met her father.

“They fell in love,” he said, “which wasn’t unusual, but she had you and that was not only unusual but unacceptable.  They disappeared to keep you safe.  They asked me to watch over you until you came of age.  If the Hunters found out that your mother had a child with a human they would have come for you.  They would have experimented on you, kept you locked up, until they found out how you were possible.”

Eliza ate a cookie and stirred her tea.

The person you see, when you look at me, is not my true form.  I am a warrior, that’s why they called me to watch over you.

“You are the most gentle person I have ever met,” she said softly.

“I must seem that way to you,” he smiled, “but believe me, I am not what I appear to be.”

She nodded and ate a cookie crumb, something else she had never done before.

“I love you very much,” he whispered, watching her eyes fill with tears.  “Your mother trusted me with your life, you mean everything to me.  I have kept you safe, as if you were my own child.  Your mother…”

“You love her, don’t you,” said Eliza, knowing she was right.

Mr. Quest nodded.  “From the very beginning.  But she chose your father and I agreed to be your guardian, to protect the part of her she had to leave behind.”

“They aren’t dead?”

“They are not.”

“Will I see them again?”

“Most assuredly.”

“What am I?”

“You are a beautiful, talented, intelligent and strong woman.”

“But, what am I?”

“You never tire, your stamina is unprecedented.  You can do anything you set your mind to, you have strength beyond measure, you are fast, clever and you have perfect balance.”

“What am I?”

“You are the Princess of the Outerworld.”

“Are you teasing me, Mr. Quest?”

“I am not.  You are a fighting machine, lithe, swift and smart.  You know where your prey will be before it knows where it’s going.  You have many talents that are asleep, at the moment.  Your dreams are the first sign that you are waking up.”

“What is my mother?”

“The Queen, of course.”

“Of course.”

“She came here to see what earth was like and, well, your father…”

“What’s going to happen to me?”

“Your strength will grow, your speed and your eyesight will improve.  Your thought process will become lightening fast and you will start to track those around you.”

“Track them?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Quest.  “You will become hyper alert to danger.”

“I see.”

“You have to go home.”

“Home?”

“To the Outerworld.  You’re mother needs you.  There’s a war coming.  I will be needed as well.”

“A war?”

“A war among the Fay.  The Book Lover’s Emporium is your mother’s headquarters.  Merlin is there at this very moment.”

“This is better than any of the bedtime stories you read to me as a child,” said Eliza, reaching for another cookie.

“It is no story, I assure you.”

“When do we leave?”

“As soon as your powers manifest.  I don’t think it will be long.”

“Will we go together?”

“We will.”

“I will make arrangements for the house and…”

“There is no need.  Things have been taken care of since the day you were born.”

“I see.”

“Your lawyer is one of us.”

“Of course she is.”

“We left nothing to chance.”

“Other than me, you mean?”

“Other than you,” he agreed.  “You were a gift beyond measure.  We fight for you.”

Eliza stood up.  “Let me know when you are ready to go.”

“By the end of the week,” said Mr. Quest.

“And Mrs. Fuzzytail?”

“Bring her.”

“Thank you.”

“Eliza.”

“Yes?”

“Your life is just beginning and believe me,” he said, grinning from ear to ear,  “it’s going to be glorious.”

 

Story by: Gigi
Tie in to The Book Lover’s Emporium (which I will be getting back to shortly).

 

Edith Olive O’Connor and the Book Lovers Emporium…21

“I told you not to drink Blue Moon,” sighed Edith, watching Tilly stagger into the room.

“What gave it away?” whispered Tilly, squinting, trying to hold her head on with her hands.

“Your lips are blue.”

“Oh.  Oh, yeah.”

“Did you have fun?” asked Edith, merrily.

“I can’t believe Jimi dedicated the Star Spangled Banner, to YOU.”

“Why not?”

“Is there anyone you DON’T know?

Edith thought for a minute and then said, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Greatest concert EVER,” said Tilly, lowering herself to the floor.  “No doubt about it.”

“Yes, it was wonderful,” agreed Edith, a far away look in her eyes.

“You can really sing.  You rocked the house,” smiled Tilly.  “I thought Keith was going to take a bite out of you.”

“Oh, no.  We don’t do that anymore,” said Edith, warmly.

“You and Keith? When do you have the time?  You’re always HERE!”

“I Hop dear.  I Hop,” she snickered, putting books into the White Dog’s basket.  “Please take these to room 309,” said Edith, to the Dog.  “Tell the recipient that I’ll send tea up in a moment.”

The White Dog nodded and toddled away, pulling his wicker cart behind him.

“Who’s in 309?” asked Tilly ”

“You’ll find out tonight.”

“Last night I saw Miss Marple in the hallway leading to the Room of Mysteries.  It’s possible that I just drank too much Blue Moon, however, so don’t take my word for it.”

“She’s here.  She’s working on a case and needed some information,” said Edith.  “Sir Gawain is here as well.  His steed is in the barn.”

“He brought his horse?”

“He rode his horse,” said Edith.

“Old school?” asked Tilly.

“Definitely,” nodded Edith.

“Merlin certainly had the crowd’s attention when he spoke about the war,” sighed Tilly.  “No one wants to go to war.”

“Some do, that’s the problem.”

“Can’t we all just live together peacefully?  Why can’t the faerie folk live with us in this reality, they seem very nice.”

“They can’t live with us for several reasons,” said Edith.  “They have too much power for one thing.   They could use their magic on humans and no one would even know.  They feel that we are far less than they are, and if you consider their magick, they’re right.  But humans have things they don’t have.”

“Such as?”

“We can lie,” laughed Edith.  “They can’t.  But they can twist words and make you believe they are saying something they aren’t.  We don’t have Rulers we must answer to but they are gorgeous, graceful and faster than you can imagine.  They don’t like humans except as prey or to use in their games.”

“Ah,” smirked Tilly, “the good the bad and the beautiful.”

“Very beautiful.  Amazingly beautiful,” said Edith. “But more than that, they could take over, use us for procreation, and turn us into their servants and make us like it.  The faeries you have met are under a geas that prohibits them from using magick on humans, or tricking them in any way.”

“So, if there’s war and the faeries win….”

“Yes, Tilly, things will go badly for humans.

You have no idea how badly,” hissed the Cheshire Cat, his smile appearing over the end of the counter.   “I’m hoping they win,” he purred.

Edith placed a pinch of Nip under the smile and watched it disappear.

Edith, my love,” said the cat, coming in to view, rolling in the Nip.  “You spoil me.”

“I spoil everyone Ches,” said Edith, rubbing his ears.”

Did you see the invisible trio last night?” he asked, flopping on to his side.  “I was one of the only ones who could see them.”

Edith and Tilly snickered.  “Of corse you were,” said Edith.

They’re here, you know,” said the Cat, lazily.  “More Nip, pleeeezzzzee,” he begged, his eyes starting to close.

Edith gave him another pinch and said, “Who’s here?”

The Cat looked around and waved her closer with his front paw.  “The Fae.  I saw three of them at the party last night.”

“Free Fae?” asked Edith.

The cat nodded and fell asleep.

“They’re here,” said Edith.  “They got into the Bookstore.  That means they got through the Wards, through the Magick.”

“That’s not possible,” said Tilly, grinning.  “No one can do that, right?”

“MERLIN,” screamed Edith.

 

Edith O’Connor and The Book Lovers Emporium…20

“Tilly…your arm,” said Chicago, reaching for her.  “The mark where your dragon used to be is filling in.”

“It started a few days ago, but I can’t make out what it is,” said Tilly, staring at the beginning of her new tattoo.

“Another dragon perhaps?” asked Chicago.  “That would make sense.”

“I don’t know,” sighed  Tilly.  “It’s like the Angel statue’s wing.  Everyday I hope her wing will be  bigger and I suppose it is, but it’s taking sooooooooooo long to grow.”

“I feel your pain,” laughed Chicago.  “You did a good job with Sig, by the way.”

“I couldn’t help myself,” laughed Tilly.   “Hey, do you think Merlin has a thing for Edith?”

“Certainly not!” said Chicago, rather loudly.  “Why?  Do you think he does?”

“Maybe.  He’s always watching her and he brings her little gifts.”

“They would make a cute couple,” said Chicago, thoughtfully, tapping her lips with her finger.

“Who would make a cute couple?” asked Edith,  walking up to the counter, grabbing a hand full of papers.

“You and Merlin,” snickered Tilly.  “You guys are adorable together.”

“I told you, there’s nothing going on between us,” said Edith breezily.

“Tonight is the first night of the Unusual Things Convention,” said Chicago.  “Has everyone arrived.”

“Not quite,” said Edith, checking her list.  “We are short a few Covens and there is a pack of weres’ that haven’t signed in yet.”

“What kind of weres’?” asked Chicago.  “I know the wolves are here.”

“Chickens,” said Edith.  “Werechickens.”

“Is she kidding?” asked Tilly, looking at Chicago hopefully.

“I rarely kid,” said Edith, continuing to sort things into piles.

“What’s on the agenda for this evening?” asked Chicago, changing the subject.

“Werechickens?” asked Tilly, once again. “Seriously?”

“Yes,” said Edith. “Seriously.”

“Are they adorable or vicious?” asked Tilly.  “I mean, they could go either way.”

“Both,” answered Edith.  “They can peck harder than you would believe and they use their talons as weapons.  They have human intelligence,  that’s what truly makes them dangerous.  And stop saying werechickens!”

“It’s really hard not to say it,” sputtered Tilly, covering her mouth with both hands.

“Do your best,” said Edith firmly.  “In answer to your question, Chicago, there will be live entertainment, a banquet, and a short Show and Tell.  During the Show and Tell different groups will preview what’s to come tomorrow night when they unveil their latest inventions.”

“Live entertainment?” asked Tilly.  “Who?????” she squealed, jumping up and down.

“Queen, Aerosmith, a group called Tin Robot, Bono, The Bloody Pines and a few others. Personally I like Tin Robot but I’m a big Queen fan so….”

Tilly was speechless.  “Am I dead?” she whispered, pinching herself.

“I would have noticed,” said Edith, stamping the date on several invoices.  “Although around here it is sometimes hard to tell.”

“It’s like a dream come true, I….”  Tilly sat on the floor.  “Werechickens and Rock and Roll Gods.  It doesn’t get any better than this.”

“I hope that’s not true,” laughed Chicago. “And you’re not supposed to say werechickens.”

At that, Tilly and Chicago started laughing hysterically

“They are normal human beings who just happen to morph into chickens,” said Edith.  “Now, can we please change the subject.”

“Do they like candy corn?” whispered Tilly, falling backward in another fit of hysterics.

The gray cat walked into the room and stared down at his gurgling friend.  “What’s with her?”

“Never mind,” said Edith, watching the cat climb onto Tilly, looking for a place to nap.

“Werechickens,” said Chicago.

The cat grinned…widely.  “I love those guys,” he purred, licking his paw.  “Just love them.  Did you know that chickens can run pretty fast?”

“NO CHASING, OR STALKING, remember?” said Edith, a bit more loudly than she had intended.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, but the gleam in his eyes implied something entirely different.  “Are the hens coming along?”

“Three of them,” said Edith.

“Lizzy?” asked the cat hopefully.  “She’s beautiful and a lot of fun.  She’s pure white when she turns.”

“Yes,” sighed Edith, putting her head in her hands.  “I have so much to do and none of it has to do with chickens.”

“Excuse me,” said Merlin.

“Oh, sorry,” said Edith, straightening her Tin Robot t-shirt.  “What can I do for you?”

“Uh, I can actually think of any number of things you could do for me, but all of them are best left for later,” he whispered wickedly.  “I’ll need time on tonight’s schedule to talk about the possibility of war,” he said, suddenly solemn.

“I’ll pencil you in,” said Edith.  “Is eleven, okay?”

“Yes, thank you.  Eleven will be perfect,” he answered, bowing slightly and opening his robe to show her his Stones t-shirt.

“The Rolling Stones?” she asked, taken back.  “Well, that explains a lot.”

“I like Keith Richards,” chuckled Merlin.  “I think he’s going to live forever.”

“Doesn’t everyone?” asked Chicago.

“Yes,” chuckled Merlin, “but not in the same body.”

 

 

Edith O’Connor and The Book Lovers Emporium…19

“Tilly this is…”

“Yeah, I know who it is,” she said.  “How’s it hangin’ Sid?”

“I haven’t used the name Siddhartha in a very long time,” said the smiling man.  “But I’m fine, thank you.”

“Whatever,” snapped Tilly, taking in his bald head, slim form, beat up sandals and worn jeans.  “I have questions.”

“Yes?”

“Yes, Prince.  I mean you were a Prince, right?”

“At one time, yes.”

“You were a Prince when it all started, when you found out that the people outside of your compound didn’t have what you had.”

“Yes, that’s when it all began,” he said quietly.

“Okay, now here’s the thing.  You had a wife and two kids, if I’m not mistaken.”

“I did.”

“And you deserted them so that you could do YOUR own thing.  You left them and never looked back.  I doubt that’s what your wife had in mind when she said, “I do,” or whatever you guys say.”

“Tilly,” said Edith.  “He’s our guest.”

“So?  This is a BOOKSTORE, a place of learning and I’m trying to learn.”

“You’re absolutely correct,” said Edith.  “Please continue.”

“You left your wife without a husband and you left your children without a father, so you could sit under a bodhi tree and feed your own ego.  That’s what it was, of course,  because you simply forgot about the commitments you made to the people you gave your word to, those who depended upon you, those you said you loved.  You turned your back on them them, so you could do your OWN THING.”

“Uh…” he stammered.

“Then you picked up followers along the way…all males, of course, because your generosity and awakening didn’t INCLUDED FEMALES.  And aren’t real leaders supposed to shun followers?  Followers are not the sign of a leader they are the sign of an egomaniac.”

“I must agree,” said Edith.

“You spent the rest of your life being waited on, meditating, hanging out with your home boys, who surrounded you and hung on your every word.  They cried when you finally died.  You’re not a leader Sid,  but I’ve learned that people will believe anything and simply look the other way when things become uncomfortable.”

“Eh, er….”

“You never even saw your children again.  You allowed men to follow you, men who left THEIR families to starve and be abused and you didn’t care, after all the only ones left behind were women and children.  I think you’re a bad person Sid.  You twisted things around for your own benefit and no matter what you say, the life you lived was the real truth.   You were selfish and thoughtless and, by the way, you should let your hair grow back.  Some men look great bald, you’re not one of them.”

With that Tilly turned and walked away.

“I agree with her one-hundred percent,” said Edith.  “Now, how may I help you?”

“I don’t feel welcome here,” said Sid, looking down.

“Yes, well, I can understand that.  The truth does hurt sometimes, doesn’t it,” she sighed.

“I was only trying to…”

“Find yourself?  Make a name for yourself?  Help others, with the exception of your own family, I mean?  Something like that?”

“Yes, something like that,” he said.  “You have a statue of me in the other room.”

“We do, but you’re wearing a party hat and a fake nose with a mustache” said Edith merrily.  “Now that that’s all out of the way, would you like some breakfast?”

“Just tell Merlin I stopped by.”

“He’ll be sorry to have missed you, I’m sure,” said Edith, already looking down at her notes.

“Good riddance,” said Chicago, walking into the room.  “I never liked that guy.  He acts humble but underneath….”

“I know what you mean, but he’s gone now, so we can get on with things,” said Edith brightly.

“Tilly was great,” smiled Chicago.

Edith laughed.  “She was fabulous.”

“I finished Sigmund’s readings.”

“And?”

“Well, you know about ‘client privilege,’  and all that, but let me tell you, he’s another one who fell for his own garbage.  The guy’s a loon and yet, people followed him and like Sid, even now there are those who can’t let go of what they once said.”

“Sad,” said Edith, shaking her head.

“Destructive,” said Chicago

“That too.”

“Is there any of that great coffee cake left in the kitchen?”

“There is,” nodded Edith.  “Shall we have some at the counter?”

“Absolutely,” said Chicago happily.

Edith O’Connor and The Book Lovers Emporium…18

“Everyone,” said Merlin, “this is Lance.”

“Who ARE you people?” asked Lance, pulling on the doorknob in an effort to escape.

“Lance, this is Edith, that’s Tilly and the cat is Snowball.”

“The door won’t open,” cried Lance hysterically.

“No, of course, it won’t,” said Merlin kindly.  “Edith, Tilly and Snowball, this is Sir Lancelot,  Knight of the Round Table.”

“Hi Lance,” they said, staring at the distraught man who had turned toward them and flattened himself against the door.

“Please let me leave,” he begged.  “I didn’t do anything, I have money.”

“Well you slept with Guin,” said Tilly.  “So you DID do that!”

Edith gasped.

“You know my wife?” asked Lance, calming a little.

“Guinever’s your wife?” asked Tilly, shocked.

“Yes, do you know her?”

“I know OF her,” she answered flatly.

“Now, now children, let’s not jump to any conclusions.  The story isn’t what you’ve heard it to be,” said Merlin, trying to put his arm around Lance’s shoulder, to no avail.

“So she wasn’t married to King Arthur?”

“Well, yes, she was married to Arthur,” said Merlin sheepishly.

“So?” asked Tilly, her hands on her hips.

“Lance is, shall we say, a bit disoriented.  That can happen when Hopping from one place to another.  This seems to be a rather severe case of dislocation but a nice cup of tea and some of those little white cookies will help.”

“Tea?” said Lance.  “Are you insane?  I want to get out of here,” he shouted again, pounding on the door.

Merlin lifted his hand and Lance yawned and slid to the floor.  “Poor fellow,” he sighed.  “He’ll feel better when he wakes up.”

“And about Guin?” asked Tilly.

“Another time, if it’s alright with you,” said Merlin.   “I need to see to him, and Edith….”

“Yes?”

“Sir Gwain will be the last to arrive.  He’s always late.  He still feels the need to get someone to watch over the Holy Grail whenever he leaves.  It’s not there but he refuses to face that fact.  At any rate, please send him to my rooms if he gets here anytime soon.”

“I will,” said Edith.

“You know that I need everyone I can get to fight, if war is declared.  I’ve called in Arthur and the Knights, as a last resort,” he said sadly.

“And the Lady of the Lake?”

“Arthur has Excalibur.  I’m hoping that once the faeries know that Arthur and the Knights are willing to fight, we can settle things peacefully.”

Edith nodded and shot a stern look toward Tilly, who was absolutely bursting with questions about Lance and Guin.

“Up you go,” said Merlin, pulling Lance to is feet.

“Did you say you had cookies?”  mumbled Lance.

“Indeed,” said Merlin.

“Everything you need will be in your room,” said Edith.

“What would I ever do without you?” he said, half carrying Lancelot from the room.

Tilly looked at Merlin, then at Edith.  “Gak,” said Tilly.  “Merlin has a THING for you Edith!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Edith, filing some papers in red and blue folders.  “He doesn’t and that’s the end of it.”

Snowball, laughed and jumped off the counter.  “Hey, don’t look at me,” he said, walking past Tilly.

“Don’t you think this is weird?” asked Tilly, leaning on the counter.

“Which part?” asked Edith.

“I just saw Merlin dragging Lancelot through the hallway,” said Chicago, shuffling a deck of cards in her hands, as she walked toward the counter.

“You KNOW Lancelot?” asked Tilly.

“Sure,” said Chicago, laying down the spread.  “We go way back.”

“How far back?” asked Tilly.

“We dated for awhile but he’s always been in love with Guinie.”

“You mean Arthur’s WIFE?”

“Well sure,” said Chicago, “Guin was Arthur’s wife at Camelot, but that was a different time and place.”

“But….” sputtered Tilly.

“Who’s the reading for?” asked Edith, watching Chicago study the cards.

“I’m still trying to help Sigmund but honestly, I don’t think there IS any help for him.”

“Too bad,” said Edith.

“He’s so strange,” said Tilly.  “I hate the way he chews on those cigars day and night.  One look at him and you can see where all of his misguided theories came from.”

Chicago and Edith laughed.  “That’s the truth,” they said.

“Oh, by the way.  Buddha arrived last night,” said Edith casually.

 

 

 

Edith O’Connor and the Book Lovers Emporium…17

“I just saw Merlin,” said Tilly, looking over her shoulder.  “He’s still wearing that blue robe.”

“I think it’s his favorite,” said Edith quickly.  “Have you noticed the change in the statue?”

“I did.  The angel’s wing is growing back,” said Tilly.

“It is.  It started the day before yesterday.  New, soft white feathers,” said Edith.  “They’ll turn to stone eventually.  She is a statue, after all.”

“I love this place,” said Tilly dreamily.  “Maybe her true love is coming back.”

“I think that would be the only reason for the new wing,” smiled Edith.

“Will he come here?”

“It’s too early to tell,” said Edith.

“The poets are kind of driving me crazy.  They answer every question in verse or some other kind of strange thing.”

“It can be fun, once you get used to it,” said Edith playfully.  “Young Gregory stood in front of me this morning and said, “What yonder wheat fields, harvest golden brown, whilst the dairy mother fair, provides the rest.”

“What was that supposed to mean?”

“It meant that he wanted toast and butter for breakfast,” sighed Edith.  “Everything was already in the dining room but he does like to have his fun.”

“Can I punch them if they say things like that to me?” asked Tilly hopefully.

“Absolutely not,” said Edith, pulling a new tablet of paper from a drawer. “But if you must, don’t leave any marks.”

“Gotcha,” laughed Tilly.  “There was a fight in the Gardening section earlier.  Three of the books disagreed on the proper way to fertilize a garden.  Some pages were torn but I pulled the books apart and gave them all time outs in different rooms. The Department of Repairs is going to look at them tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” said Edith.  “Between Gardening and the Mystery area, with all the stabbings and shootings, I sometimes think we need a referee.”

“Edith, can the animals talk when they aren’t in the shop?”

“No,” said Edith, “and once they have been used to communicating in every language that exists, they don’t want to leave.”

“I can understand that.”

“They are happy here, right Snowball?” asked Edith, sliding a treat toward the White Cat.

“Have you noticed the way the windows in this entrance room change all the time?”  Tilly continued.

“Well, there two bay windows, one on each side of the door, when we are in Europe and they become flat windows when we are in The United States.  That way we fit in better.”

“You’re kidding, right?” laughed Tilly.  “We never fit in anywhere.”

“We try,” said Edith, sharpening several pencils.

“Someone’s coming to the door,” said Snowball.

The door slammed into the wall with such force that the glass in the windows shook.

“Looks like it’s raining,” said Tilly, as she stared at the soaking wet man sliding across the floor.

“Can I help you?” asked Edith calmly.

“I don’t know?  Can you?” asked the man frantically.  “I was on my way to England and then suddenly I was being thrown through this door and,”  he said, looking around, “where’s the plane?”

“It’s probably somewhere in the sky?” said Edith politely

The man looked up.   “Where’s the ceiling?” he asked, turning in circles.  “Are those dragons flying….”

“My name is Edith O’Connor,” said Edith politely.  “And you are?”

“Uh, do I look familiar to you?”

“I’m sorry, but no,” said Edith kindly.

The man looked at Tilly pleadingly, but she simply shook her head and stared at her hands.

“He’s coming,” said Snowball, licking his paw.

“Lance,” shouted Merlin, walking toward him, his arms outstretched.   “You’re here at last.”

 

 

Edith O’Connor and The Book Lovers Emporium…15

The dragons entered the Dining Room just as the clock struck nine.  They crept in, all five of them, low to the ground, their wings folded against their bodies, their eyes alert.

“Good Evening Teal,” said Edith politely.  “Would you do the honors,” she said, holding her hand toward the candelabras.

Teal, the largest of the dragons, nodded and a thin ribbon of fire shot from his nose toward the candles as he lit them, one by one.  “Thank you,” he whispered, rubbing against Edith’s hip.

“Well, I know how much you love to light them,” muttered Edith softly.

Merlin walked into the room and looked around the table.  “Oh, I hope you’re not all standing up because of me.  Sit down, sit down,” he said, waving them to their seats.  “If you do things like that I may start to think that I’m special and then I’ll make a fool out of myself.”

Everyone took their seat and tried not to stare at the great wizard.

“Edith,” said Merlin, looking around, “this is magnificent.  I don’t deserve to eat amid such beauty,” he continued, taking her hand and kissing it.  “You spoil me.”

“Well, I try,” she said.  “But, you don’t make it easy.”

“I wore my blue robe just for you,” he said, as stardust pooled around his feet.

Edith blushed. “Thank you,” she said.  “Now, on to business.  The heads of all the groups that have arrived for the Unusual Things Convention, so far, are seated here.  I think you know everyone.”

“I do,” said Merlin, smiling and nodding to everyone.

“Please be seated Merlin,” said Edith.

“You’ve outdone yourself this time,”  said Merlin, reaching for the salad.

A flock of birds flew into he room and landed on the long table.   They started pecking at the seeds that were spread over the white linen tablecloth, for their benefit.  When they were finished eating, they walked back and forth and sang.  Merlin stood up and applauded loudly when they were finished.  “Thank you my friends,” he said delightedly. “Thank you.”

The birds chirped happily and flew up to the chandelier, so they could watch the rest of the festivities in comfort.

Merlin was clean shaven and wore his usual blue jeans under his robe and heavy gym shoes on his feet.   His blue eyes didn’t miss a thing.  He watched those at the table and listened to what they were saying.  Finally, after three of the Albino Raccoons did a fantastic tumbling routine, Merlin cleared his throat and silence fell over the room.

“How goes the war, Merlin?” asked Billy, the tiger.

Merlin stood up, scattering stardust all around him.  “It goes slowly, my friend.  Too slowly.  The Faerie Courts are divided.  North and East against South and West.  Moon against Sun,” he said, looking down.  “The North is preparing to attack the humans.  East is behind them.  South and West think it’s too soon but they have waited a long time to take back what was originally theirs.”

“Surely they know they can’t win against the humans,” said Thomas, speaking for the raccoons.

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” said Merlin.  “If they place humans under a massive glamour, they won’t even have to fight.”

“But they don’t have a glamour that can cover everyone,” said Billy.

“I’m afraid they do, my friend,” sighed Merlin.  “They plan to take away human will. They want to live on the planet, they want to…”

“We want to take our rightful place on earth,” said the tall beautiful faerie, walking into the room.”

“Gavin,” said Merlin, nodding toward him.

“Merlin,” said the faerie.  “May I speak?”

“By all means,” said Merlin, sitting down, taking a sip of his tea.

“I am Gavin, Prince of the East….”

“We know,” said Bobby.

“HI GAVIN,” said everyone at the table, at the very same time.

Merlin covered his mouth with his hand, so no one would see him laughing.  Edith just turned around and hoped no one would notice her shoulders shaking.

“Excuse me. I’m Miss Lucy Fuzzy Paws and I don’t think we’ve met. I’m kind of new here.”

“Uh, what?” said Gavin, looking around.

“I said, I’m Miss Lucy Fuzzy Paws and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

“Well, no you haven’t,”  said Prince Gavin.  “You’re a rabbit.”

“I know that,” said Lucy, rather bemused.  “Pretty much everyone knows what they are, don’t you think?”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“What’s wrong with him?” whispered Lucy, looking at Merlin.

Merlin was laughing too hard to answer, so Edith stepped forward and said, “Prince Gavin I would like to introduce you to my rabbit, Miss Lucy Fuzzy Paws.  Lucy, this is Prince Gavin.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Lucy.  “You’re very good looking.”

“Thank you,” said Prince Gavin graciously.  “You’re a lovely rabbit.”

“Thank you, that’s what Edith said.”

“What folly is this Merlin?”  asked the Prince.

“Would you like some Apple Crisp?  It’s delicious,” said Merlin, waving him to a seat.  “There’s plenty and there are brownies and ice cream as well.  I think the brownies have chocolate chips in them, if I’m not mistaken.”

“You are not mistaken,” said Edith.  “Would you care to join us Prince Gavin?”

“I’m here to discuss war,” said the Prince dramatically, his purple cloak flowing out behind him, even though there was no wind.

“That’s all well and good but we’re having dinner and a bit of a celebration, so you can join us or you can wait outside until we are finished.  The choice is yours,” said Edith, in no uncertain terms.

“Fine,” said the Prince, “throwing himself into chair. “I’ll have a brownie, please.”

“Would you like a carrot?” asked Lucy, pulling one toward him.

“No thank you,” said the Prince.  “I’m having a brownie.”

“Carrots are supposed to be good for your eyes but I don’t think that’s true.”

“Why not?”

“Teddy told me that he knew of a girl who put carrots on her eyes every night before she went to sleep and she still couldn’t see any better when she woke up.”

“I see,” said the Prince, looking at Merlin, who simply shrugged and smiled good- naturedly.  “Well then, I suppose you’re right Lucy.  Carrots do not improve one’s eyesight.”

“I never met a faerie before,” she said, moving closer.  “You seem very nice.”

“Thank you.  You seem very nice as well,” said the Prince, smiling.

“Rabbits have to be nice because everyone is trying to kill us all the time.  It doesn’t matter though.  No matter how nice we are, people still kill us.  I don’t think it would be a bad thing if you glamoured all the humans.  If you do glamour them can you make them be nice to rabbits?”

“I promise I’ll do my best to make that part of the spell.”

“You can pet me if you like.  I’m very soft.”

The Prince ran his hand over her back and grinned.  “You are a very smart rabbit, aren’t you Lucy.”

“Whatever do you mean,” she asked innocently.

“You made me fall in love with you and you didn’t even need a spell,” he smiled.

“No one can do spells in the Bookstore,” said Lucy knowingly.

“Well then, you won my heart fair and square.”

“Is there going to be a war?”

“I believe there will be,” said the Prince gravely.  “But if you stay inside the shop you ‘ll be safe.”

“But what about all of the other rabbits?” asked Lucy fearfully.

“I’ll do what I can to make sure they are out of harms way,” said the Prince grimly, jabbing his fork into the brownie and snagging some ice cream along with it.   “I promise you, I’ll do what I can.”

 

The End

of

Part One

Thanks to all of you who are enjoying this story.
I’m very grateful for your comments and support.
I’m thinking about turning the story into a book,
so there may not be any more bits on my blog.  I’m
caught up in life at The Book Lovers Emporium and
I would like to see where it takes me.
Thank you again…<3

 

 

 

 

Edith Olive O’Connor…The Book Lovers Emporium…14

“Things seem to have settled down nicely,” said Tilly.

“I agree,” said Edith.  “Apparently, hot chocolate and a herd of dragons did the trick.”

“And the tiny marshmallows.”

“Yes,” smiled Edith, “and the tiny marshmallows.”

“Jerry’s finished with the room.”

“I took a peek last night.  It’s magnificent,” said Edith.  “He’s a wonderful artist.”

“He said he was inspired.  Are the dragons going to live here?”

“I think so,” said Edith. “Unless he takes them with him.”

“Does he have a real home?”

“He has a crystal cave but he’s always moving around.  He Hops from dimension to dimension and he spends a lot of time in the past with Arthur and the Knights.”

“Wow,” said Tilly.  “Some life.”

“And there’s the war,” said Edith, suddenly staring into the distance.

“What war?”

“The Faerie War, of course.”

“How long has it been going on?”

“No one knows for sure.”

“Why are they fighting?”

“Right now they’re fighting because more faeries want to live among us.  Some have always been here but those faeries go about their business and mind their manners.  There are others, however,  who simply want power…over us.   Truthfully, I can understand how they feel, after all, they were here first.”

“They were?”

“Yes, Faerie has always been here.  Then we came and well, you known how we are.”

Tilly nodded.  “And he’s trying to stop them from coming here?”

“In a way, I suppose.  He just wants peace and humans and faeries don’t always go well together.  Faeries are as violent as we are, they are masters at wordplay and they don’t like us.  They can do a lot of things we can’t and they can use magick.”

“In other words in would be bad for us.”

“Very,” said Edith.

“Will faeries be coming to the convention?”

“A few but they have been here for a very long time and respect our customs and know how to act responsibly.  They are not allowed to use glamours, bind or play tricks on anyone while they are here.”

“Good to know.”

“There’s something in the yard that looks like a space ship and a blimp had a love child that looks a lot like a radiator,” said the white dog.

“Oh that will be the Steampunk delegation.  They are always coming up with new and wonderful modes of transportation.  I admit that I’m more than a little interested to see what they are bringing to the convention this year,” said Edith excitedly.  “They always have the most fabulous things.”

“Remember that dog collar they made for me?” asked the white dog.

“I do,” said Edith.  “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

“Me too,” said the dog sadly.  “But with the goggles, nuts, bolts, mirrors and whirling parts I couldn’t get a moment’s rest.”

“Well it looks wonderful hanging over your bed.  But I don’t think you would be out of place by asking them to modify it for you, so that you could wear it.”

“Thank you,” said the dog, turning in a circle.  “I’ll do that tomorrow, after they’re settled.”

Their rooms are decorated in  late seventeen to eighteen hundred Victorian and I filled it with gadgets, so I’m assuming they will be up all night building things.”

“You’re a great host,”said Tilly.  “And Edith, I was wondering…”

“Yes, yes, spit it out girl,” said Edith, sorting through a pile of papers.

“Can I stay here forever,” said Tilly quickly, closing her eyes.

“Of course you can.  You can stay as long as you like.”

Tilly stood in front of the counter with her mouth open and just stared at Ethel.  “I can?”

“Yes, you can.  Now The Green people will be arriving tomorrow.  Can you please make sure there’s plenty of fresh fruit and water in their rooms?” asked Edith.”

“I will,”stammered Tilly, “and thank you.”

“Oh, it’s nothing, there’s plenty of room and you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t supposed to be here so, this is your home until you feel like moving on.”

Tilly rubbed at her eyes and picked up a pile of books that were stacked on the counter.

“Those go to Vincent’s room,” said Edith.  “And tell him that I’ve ordered more gauze for his ear.”

The front door slammed open and a tall thin woman walked in.  Her black hair fell down her back in waves and her emerald green eyes, glistened like the gems they were named after.   Her skin was pale and her lips were ruby red.  “I have arrived.”

“I can see that” said Edith warmly.  “Queen Emerald, how nice to see you.  You look well.”

“I am well Edith.  Are my rooms ready?”

“They are.  Just go into the cellar and make yourself at home.  There are snacks, from the blood bank, in the refrigerator and there’s a microwave there as well.  I’m assuming the rest of your entourage will be coming later this evening.”

“They well be here at midnight,” said the Queen.  “Thank you,” she said, giving Edith a little bow.

“My pleasure,” said Edith nodding in return.

Edith and Tilly were watching the Queen glide toward the back of the next room when Tilly said, “How can you know what the past conventions were like?  How do you know all of these people?  You haven’t been here that long Edith.  I don’t understand.”

“I don’t understand either,” said Edith honestly.  “But I know every single thing that has ever happened in this place, from it’s very beginning.  In a way, it’s as if I’ve actually been her from the start.  I suppose anyone who has this job just understands all of that..”

A paper fell onto Edith’s blotter…

My dearest Edith:

What time is dinner tomorrow?

Yours, M

P.S.  A fresh salad would be most appreciated.  Perhaps an apple crisp for dessert? With ice cream, if it’s not too much trouble.

“He’s coming down for dinner,” whispered Edith, her eyes wide with anticipation.  Then she snapped her fingers and yelled,  “DINING ROOM.”  The walls immediately started rearranging themselves.   Tables and chairs flew through the air and pushed and shoved their way into position.  China leapt from cabinets, which had flung open their doors, and landed on the table.  Silver, polished and gleaming, followed.  Candelabras and a gigantic flower arrangement appeared in the center of the table as glasses landed gently at each place setting.  “Thank you,” said Edith pleasantly.  “That will be all until morning.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edith Olive O’Connor and the Book Lovers Emporium…13

“I do wish he would walk a bit more softly when he paces,” said Edith.  “The shelves are quaking, books are falling to the floor and the tea set in the cabinet is in danger of shattering.”

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

“Chicago,” said Edith.  “I think I’d like to send some hot chocolate to him, right about now.  Hot chocolate with the tiny marshmallows he loves so much.  What do you think?”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” said Chicago.  “I’ll ask the kitchen to do it.”

“Thank you,” said Edith.  “I have a room full of albino raccoons to care for.”

“They are so darling,” smiled Chicago.  “I saw one in his pajamas this morning and I had to control myself, so that I wouldn’t pick him up and kiss him.”

“Oh, don’t do that!” said Edith, at once.  “They are fully grown and intelligent adult raccoons.  They are here because they are inventors, instructors and scientists.”

“But they are so beautiful with their white faces and lovely ears…”

“Snap out of it,” said Edith.  “Leave them alone unless they speak to you.”

“Fine,” said Chicago moodily.  “I know you’re right.  It’s just that I had a pet raccoon as a child and I just thought…”

“They are not those kinds of raccoons and you know it.”

“I do, but…”

“Please send the hot chocolate to our guest and let’s hope that it has the effect we are all hoping for.”

“Of course,” said Chicago, heading to the kitchen.  “I’ll send some biscuits as well.”

“Excellent idea.  Thank you.  And Chicago…”

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry you can’t pet the raccoons.”

Chicago smiled.  “I know you are.  I’ll make sure he gets the tiny marshmallows, so don’t worry.”

“Tilly and Jerry sent the dragons to another dimension for a few hours.  They can’t handle them while he’s here and that a guy Tim is no help at all.  Maybe you should let them go to him and get it over with,” said the gray cat, sprawling on the counter.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” sighed Edith.  “Just tell Tilly to release them and I’ll take any fallout that may come our way.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” said the gray cat, jumping to the floor.

Ten minutes later there was a terrible roar and the dragons were free.  They disappeared, after making a right turn through the foyer and nearly hooking Edith with their claws but it was over quickly.   After a few minutes, the pacing stopped and piece of paper dropped onto the blotter.  Edith picked it up and smiled.  It said:

Dearest Edith:

Chocolate and dragons.  Aren’t you the clever one.

Yours, M

“Miss Edith.”

Edith looked over the counter and saw a white raccoon.  “May I be of service, Thomas?”

“I just wanted to thank you for all the tree trunks in our quarters.  We do enjoy a soft bed, now and then, but a hollow tree is our favorite place to sleep.  We appreciate your kindness.”

“Thank you.  It’s a great pleasure to have you with us again, Thomas.   I do hope Molly and the children are well.”

“Very well, thank you and Edith, some boxes may be delivered later today.  If you would send them to the lab on the twelfth floor I would be in your debt.”

“It will be done.  Enjoy your time here and feel free to read as many books as you like.”

“Gracious as ever,” he said, taking his leave.

“He’s very nice,”  said Snowball.  “Polite and grateful.”

“Yes he is,” said Edith, writing the titles of books in her ledger.

“Do you think he will make an appearance?”

“I do,” said Edith.  “I think the chocolate and the dragons have calmed him a bit.”

“I met him once,” said Snowball.  “A great man.  Stardust fell from his midnight blue robe as he walked.”

“Oh, that’s my favorite robe,” said Edith, happily.  “I do hope he wears it, if he comes down.”

“Edith.”

“Yes Snowball?”

“I’m happy you’re here.”

Edith choked up and felt tears sting her eyes.  She went to the cat and put her arms around him.  “I’m happy that I’m here too, Snowball.”

“EXCUSE ME, THIS IS ALL VERY TOUCHING, BUT WHERE SHOULD WE PUT OUR LUGGAGE?”

“You need to lower your voice and make yourself visible at once,” said Edith sternly.

“Oh, sorry,” said the Tiger. “My bad.”

“Your rooms are on the ground floor and they open into the forest,” said Edith.  “You know the rules.  NO HUNTING.”

“But stalking is okay, right?” asked the tiger, his tail swishing back and forth.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” said Edith.  “You frightened quite a few of the others when you did that last time.”

“But Edith, we’re CATS and stalking is what we do,” moaned the tiger.  “You’ve seen us…we get all focused, wiggly and tense.”

“This is a Convention, Bobby.  Mind your manners and keep the rest of your party in line or you’ll answer to me.  Understood?”

“Understood,” said Bobby.   “But it won’t be as much fun.”

“There’s a new book in your room.  It’s called Tiger by the Tail and it’s about two tigers who fall in love…”

“Oh, don’t tell me, don’t tell me,” said Bobby quickly.  “Thank you Edith.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Did you see him yet?”

“No.  Not yet.”

“I hope he comes down,” said Bobby.  “Claws and fingers crossed.”

“”Claws and fingers crossed,” agreed Edith.

“These are for you,” said Bobby, pushing a brightly colored tin across the counter.

Edith removed the lid and snickered.  “Hard candy in the shape of tigers,” she laughed.  “How ever did you manage it?”

“Snowball knew a guy.”

“I’m sure he did,” she said, popping a red tiger into her mouth.  “Delicious,” she moaned.  “Just delicious.”

“I’m happy you like them Edith.”

“I do and I’m very, very grateful for your thoughtfulness but you still can’t hunt or stalk anyone.”

“It was worth a shot,” said Bobby softly.

“It certainly was,” said Edith, carefully placing the box of candy on a shelf under the counter.  “And Bobby…”

“Yes Edith?”

“Try not to blow anything up.”

“You’re no fun Edith,”  growled the big cat.  “No fun at all.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edith Olive O’Connor and the Book Lovers Emporium…12

The Book Lovers Emporium shook to it’s very foundation.  Well, it would have, if it had a real foundation.

“He’s here,” said Edith, straightening her jacket.

“Ten cases of cheese doodle crisps just arrived,” said Chicago, placing the shipping slip on the counter.  “I had them put the crates in the kitchen.  One of the conventioneers sent them ahead.  They’re for the Unusual Things gathering this weekend.”

“Thank you,” said Edith, as she listened to the racket around her.

Stars are falling into the backyard,” said Snowball, as he walked into the room.  “A lot of them.  So far, no major fires or craters.”

“Things will straighten out as soon as he settles in,” said Edith hopefully.

“The dragons are making a terrible racket and there’s so much smoke in their hallway I can’t even see,” sighed Chicago.  “I put a fan on the floor but all it’s really doing is moving the smoke around, it’s not getting rid of it.”

Edith shut her eyes and snapped her fingers.  “It should be better now.”

“Thank you,” said Chicago, coughing slightly.

“INCOMING,” yelled Edith, as books flew in from every direction and stacked themselves on the counter and on the floor.  A piece of paper fluttered down from above and landed on the blotter in front of Edith.  It read:  Edith dear.  I’ll send for these later.  Meanwhile please let them sort themselves out until I’m ready for them.  Yours, M.

“Look at these titles,” said Chicago, bending over to have a look at the books.  “There’s an awful lot of Grimoires’ here and some of them look positive ancient.  They’re so old they’re falling apart.  And there are books on ancient herbs and birds.  Three books on dragons and mythical creatures and one on submarines.”

“No poetry books?” asked Edith, in alarm.

“Yes, four,” said Chicago, turning sideways to read the spines.

Edith let out the breath she hadn’t known she had been holding.

Tilly half fell through the archway and into the room.  She looked singed, charred, smudged and her hair looked as if some of it had actually been burned off  in places, but her blue eyes were alive with excitement.  “I think we’ve calmed them down a bit.  Large Wings is thrashing about but we’re letting him watch a movie about dragons so, he’s eating popcorn and acting less aggressive.”

“He’s watching a film?” asked Edith.  “And eating popcorn?”

“He is,” said Tilly.  “They’re all watching it and eating popcorn.”

Edith rubbered her eyes.  “They can hear his heartbeat and it drives them wild with the need to be with him, so there’s only so much you can do.”

“INCOMING,” screeched Chicago, as twenty or thirty books sailed into the foyer, some hitting the wall, others knocking down those books that had already stacked themselves.

“How long is he staying?” asked Tilly.  “He can’t possibly read all these books in a couple of days.”

“He doesn’t read them exactly,” said Edith. “They just…share their knowledge with him.  They basically tell him what he needs, or wants, to know.”

“Wow,” said Tilly.

“Indeed,” said Edith, looking at her hands.

“You’re wearing nail polish,” said Chicago, grinning.

“It’s not the first time,” said Edith, busying herself with the things on her blotter. “I’ve worn it before.  I’d wear it all the time but it chips from handling all the books and papers.”

“Is it for him or is it for the Unusual Things Convention Edith,” teased Tilly. “Tell us.”

“It’s for me,” said Edith, picking up a few of the books that had landed behind the counter.”

“Right, then,” said Chicago, trying not to laugh. “Is there anything I can do?”

Just then a baby Roc flew through the wall and crashed into the books, as he tumbled to the floor.

“Are you alright?” asked Edith, looking down at the pile of feathers.

“I think so,” said the Roc.  “He called me.”

“I gathered that,” she said flatly, pointing to her right.  “Go that way, then up.  You can’t miss his rooms,”

“Thank you,” said the Roc, straightening a few feathers with his beak.  “The war,” he said, shaking his head.  “He’s tired.”

“Well, we’ll try to keep things quiet,” said Edith.  “At least until this weekend.”

The Roc nodded and took off, barely missing the crystal chandelier glittering in the center of the room.  The wind from his wings knocked books and several people, one of them Leonardo, to the floor.

“Okay, then,” said Tilly.  “A Roc, right?”

“Yes, a Roc,” said Edith.

“What do you think he’s going to do with a Roc?”

Edith shook her head. “No idea but help me move some of these books away from the front of the counter, please.”

“Will we get to meet him?”

“It depends,” said Edith.

“On?”

“His mood.”

Tilly nodded.  “My brother’s like that.”

“I sincerely doubt that,” said Edith, putting a book that suddenly burst into flames, out with her bare hands.  “You better get back to the dragons.”

“If you need me, just yell or send Gray to get me.”

“Yes, yes, now go.”

“Those won’t fit in my basket,” said the white dog, looking at the enormous piles of books.

“You don’t have to deliver them, love,” said Edith.  “They’re for him.”

The dog nodded and walked away.

As the dog left, there was a true moment of silence.  Edith closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep that refreshed her completely.  When she opened her eyes, she could still see the white dog leaving through the doorway.  “I love my life,” mumbled Edith.  And at that very moment a bevy of albino raccoons walked through the front door.

“Are we too early?” asked the smart looking raccoon, wearing a black tuxedo.  “For the convention, I mean?”

 

 

 

 

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