First Draft Excerpt from Gifts of the Mother

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It still lacked a couple minutes of ten when I arrived at my office, whistling tunelessly. RaDonna was nowhere in sight; I asked the receptionist - Dolores - to let her know I was in, and went back to check on John.

"Hello, boss! Did you hear the head of IKEA was elected prime minister of Sweden?"

"No."

"He's assembling his cabinet."

I groaned, but it was closer to modern workplace decorum than most of his jokes. Maybe Mollie was having an effect on him. "Did you get my instructions from RaDonna?"

"Oh yes. I've got my recommendations done for the upcoming appointments, along with the documentation. The files are right here. You're going to need to replace that eight hours you missed fast - your licenses are coming up for renewal next month. I ordered you a MacGuffin course for the difference."

I groaned for an entirely different reason. MacGuffin courses were a useless time-consuming pain in the ass, but sometimes you had to bite that particular bullet to get your continuing education hours in. If I had to do CE, I wanted to learn something, and MacGuffin courses were notorious for lacking that feature. "Let me know when it arrives."

"It's online and should be in your email queue. Basic American sent round their latest group of prospectuses. I'm going through them now."

Basic American was a large reliable mutual fund house, mostly too diversified for top of the market returns. When you've got over four hundred holdings in a single mutual fund, that's too many. Their main advantage was for older clients, past their peak earning years, who that insulated to a degree from bear markets. "Thank you, John." Their prospectuses would be boring white bread, but one of us had to go over them in case something important changed, and John had a lot more time than I did right now. "By the way, Julie and I are getting married."

"Wow, that was fast! Told you she was a keeper!"

He didn't know anything about what had happened since then, but that was probably for the best. "What can I say? You were right." I waved and headed off to my office.

RaDonna was waiting. Soon as I closed the door, "I haven't heard back from great-grandmother about what I asked, yet. I'll let you know when I do. Tell me what happened!"

Ra' was an old friend. I'd known her even before I met my first wife. She looked like a taller black woman in her late thirties, just enough weight on her to have curves. What she'd just recently revealed was that both she and her husband were of mixed human and elven blood and she was really in her early sixties. The elven genes had started human but been twisted in giving them elemental powers, and they had difficulty conceiving without a magic ritual given to them by The Mother, a sort of Earth goddess. That ritual had been perverted and polluted by the Mad God's cultists, but evidently their demise had had an immediate cleansing effect on the ritual because Ra' thought she was pregnant now. "Well, Sunday afternoon Julie comes to me saying she's pregnant. You know I'd ordered a ring from Tom, but that kind of short-circuited my plans. One thing and another, she accepted my proposal. Didn't even fight it, hardly. She says she thinks a small private ceremony would be best for right now. Will you be my Best Woman?"

"I can't be the fertility blessing?" she teased. She did have that glow pregnant women sometimes get.

"Well, even if that was part of our tradition, it does seem a little redundant given she's already pregnant, too."

"Of course I'll be your Best Woman, Mark. I'm just so happy to have finally caught I want to flaunt it while I've got it. Now tell me about what else happened."

So I told her the story of the arrest and what happened after.

"Sounds like the Mad God alright. Seems like he doesn't hardly do anything without some dramatic touch like blowing out the lights. I'd be right careful were I you."

"Any specific advice?"

"Just avoid crowds. I know, difficult in L. A. But it's all I've got."

"It would be nice to have some kind of weapon to fight back, or at least a shield for Julie to defend herself. You think Old Zeb could set me up?"

"I heard Old Zeb is tryin' to cut a swath through the Owens Valley social scene. The Star Elves taught him to make himself younger. He still looks like an old shoe and smells worse'n an open sewer, but that's not stoppin' him."

I chuckled. "Sorry Ra', I know it's not funny to you, but the image of Old Zeb hitting the rural bars looking for women and thinking he's God's Gift is hilarious to males."

"Wait'll he hits on Julie."

"She will have my sympathy, but it's still funny. I thought people bathed regularly when he grew up."

"I don't know. Maybe a hundred years mostly alone in the desert changed him. Alright, Mark, I'll see if Roland will contact him. You know he's going to want payment?"

"Maybe if I just skip the middleman and offer him some good liquor." I wasn't a connoisseur but Johnny Walker and Jim Beam were pretty sure hits. Find out if he liked beer or wine; I could keep finding new good beers and wines for him indefinitely.

"You know, that mightn't be a bad idea. Of course, liquor isn't all that he buys."

"We'll see what he wants when I offer him a case of Johnny Walker Black."

"That might be casting pearls before swine."

"Wait until he tastes it. I think you might be underestimating him." Underestimating Old Zeb might be easy - if you didn't know he was a two hundred year old former slave who'd escaped, learned magic, and paid his former master for his family's freedom with fairy gold he'd made himself (It had been a deliberate choice; he could also make the real thing). He had to be tough enough to give lessons, and not exactly the dimmest bulb around, even if his grasp of modern realities wasn't what it could be. But to be fair, Old Zeb's way of wooing women would make for a lot of underestimation by those women. He'd grown up in the first half of the nineteenth century, and things were different now, but he wasn't.

"Just be careful with him; he's one of the stronger human mages. He may not have great-grandmother's mastery, but you have no defenses at all."

"Ra', this is me. I'm going to be completely upfront and truthful about everything. He could still choose to take offense, but it won't be because I was asking for it by running a con on him."

"Just the voice of experience. After a certain amount of time, some men get set in their ways. They like what they like and they want what they want. 'Better' doesn't enter their thinking."

"If he wants cut rate rotgut, cut rate rotgut is what I'll give him. But I think it's worth trying to give him a chance to see if he likes the good stuff."

"If it pays off, more power to you. Just be careful. I got to go talk to Frank about something. We'll give Old Zeb a signal tonight." And with that she was out of the room.


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 13, 2021 8:41 AM.

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