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September 26, 2022

Heavy At Times

By Ase Ur-Jennan

The city herald grasped a pixie in his left hand. "Stay tuned for the local weather," he said loudly.

"Let me go, you craphead!" squeaked the pixie, pushing at his hand and kicking its legs in frustration.

The herald ignored it, and picked up his water glass for a long drink. While he drank, a jester wearing a sandwich board that advertised, "End of Winter Sales at Midgard West Mall" danced by in slow motion, juggling apples and oranges.

When the jester was off the stage in the town square, the herald belched quietly into his free hand, then announced, "The local weather forecast will now commence!"

He gave the pixie a shake, scattering attractive little bits of pixie dandruff sparkling through the air in shimmering multi-colors. As the pixie prepared to bite his hand, he brought the creature close to his mouth and whispered, "Do you want to tell the crowd what the weather is going to be, or do you want me to inform them about infectious pixie seborrhea?"

The pixie gasped, clapping tiny hands over its mouth.

Pixies aren't the brightest stars in the universe. Some of them are sweet, but by and large, they're just interested in amenities. Offer a pixie a choice between a job on an assembly line for big bucks or employment by a hotel changing light bulbs for minimum wage but free use of the jacuzzi -- you're going to see a lot of pixies in the hallways, making sure the glow-worms are doing what they're supposed to do.

Don't ask a pixie to guard your wallet. No matter how sincere they seem, if you engage a pixie to watch over your goods, once you take ten steps out of sight, that pixie is going to be flashing guild signs and calling other pixies in to carry your valuables off to NeverEverAgainToBeFoundLand, to be fenced off to some Lost Boys for cold cash. The pity is that there is no point in prosecuting them, because pixies have the memory of a gnat. In fact, perhaps less than the memory of a gnat, because a gnat will remember the area of a barbecue as a source of sustenance, but a pixie will see the second barbecue of the year and ask his or her compatriots, "What the heck is that all about?" and get his or her wings scorched again. Lie detector tests show that pixies remember nothing. And thus, their testimony in court is useless.

But the little scumballs can tell the weather, and that makes them invaluable to those whose trade is telling a bit about the future to those who crave planning their lives around what has no current reality.

Being out of doors and wandering much of the time, my father taught me that if there was a moon at night clouded by a halo of shimmery light, there would be a cold rain coming -- giving a traveler a chance to find shelter. If the sky in the day was spotted with little clouds like the pattern of spots on a mackerel's belly, rain was due in at most three days. "You see that? You should head for the nearest town," he advised, "and secure a comfortable spot before the rest of the tourists show up and crowd the inn." He also taught me that if you see hook-shaped clouds in long streamers against the sky, that crappy weather was due, be it windy and rainy, or hot and windy. I never knew him to be wrong about that one. "When you walk the roads of the World," he told me, "keep an eye on the sky."

But most people don't want to look at the sky and decide what they want to do for the day. They want to know days or weeks in advance, so that they can plan ahead. This one goodwife I know paid a mendicant seer with a pitiful crystal ball the size of a golf ball fifty gold coins just to find out the best date for her daughter's wedding, which they (the mother and daughter) felt ought to only take place on the paved street in front of Lord Stonewall's castle. (Lord Stonewall doesn't mind such, as he extracts a fee for the obstruction of his road.) For the mother and the soon-to-be wedded daughter, the backdrop of the castle was enough, and when an engraving was made of the event, the castle lent an air of wealth and elevated position. Folk like these have no interest in looking at the sky to determine what the day's weather will bring; they wish only to subject the weather to the schedule of their desires. Or, in more benign terms, they want to make sure the weather is going to agree with their plans. This is a common theme. It's called "Control," and living in the world as it is, or walking into the future with whatever it might hold -- pfft. An unexpected rain or an exceptionally hot day are just inconveniences, not something for men and women and children to experience in their natural setting.

This encourages a fascination with pixies. They are accurate in their short term weather predictions. The Life That Guides the World may have given them that gift in exchange for their dimwittedness about the past. Or maybe their sight is such that they see the patterns of the sky like we see the writing in a book. (Those of us who can read, that is.) Perhaps the pixie people have made weather prediction a priority in their culture, that is, if they get paid enough for it.

Last winter I read a wizard's treatise on pixie talent for determining the direction of the jet stream and accumulated cloudular moisture, but I could not reconcile the mathematical algorithm with the actual experience of the resulting weather. My guess is that the pixies were telling the wizard what he wanted to hear based upon what the pixies were getting as a reward for what they were saying; however, the paper did secure the wizard a spot on the programme at a major MagiCon in Shaddir, with free room and board for the three days of the conference. Looks like the wizard was just as choosy about his payment as the pixies.

And that remembrance brought me back to the scene in the town square. There was a big jar on the table in back of the town herald's seat. In it were half a glazed doughnut and a jigger of whiskey. The lid of the jar had about fifteen holes punched in it. The herald held the pixie close to the jar, and then brought it near to his face. "Pixie Hondricks, shall we tell the Town of the weather that is to come?"

"You betcha!" the pixie cried.

"Then tell them, Hondricks, what the future weather holds!"

"Gonna pour like a cow on a flat rock," shouted the pixie, "for the next five days!"

"There you have it, friends and neighbors. Rain, heavy at times, possible clearing by Twosday. Keep in touch with the city's weather service to check local conditions." He smiled at the folk who came forward to drop coins in his tip sack.

"And now, the doughnut?" asked the pixie, smacking its lips.

"Right here," said the herald. He watched the pixie flit into the big jar. "And as an extra reward ... " he dropped a middle slice of a Bavarian-cream-filled Bismarck into the container.

"You da bomb," said the pixie, its face already smeared with chocolate.

The herald put the lid back on the jar, making sure the air-holes were clear. When he looked up and saw me watching him, he turned away, emptied his tip pouch into his hand, and then stuffed the hearty take into his pocket. He scratched vigorously at the back of his head. "You're not going to cry outrage at me, are you, Shaman?" he asked, not turning around. "The pixie is happy, I'm doing well. What fault is there?"

"You assume I'll think that something is wrong, and so you're in doubt that what you're doing is right." I stepped back to keep away from the pixie hair infection. "But you're making bonus money by enslaving another being to tell the future. Why not let people look at the sky for themselves and remember what their grandparents told them about the weather?"

He sighed in annoyance and let his arms fall straight to his sides. "Because then I wouldn't have bonus money, now would I?"

Power over the future, and money. That's what it all seems to be about. Life shouldn't be, I don't think. Life ought to be about savoring each day for the unique condition it brings. Even before the pixie's forecast, I'd looked at the thick and loopy clouds and had known bad weather was in store, and had secured a room at the local inn.

"And is it worth having the chronic itch and losing all your hair?" I asked.

"I can always buy a wig," he answered, and picking up the pixie in its jar, he walked away towards the marketplace, where vendors were already putting their merchandise on sale before the rain began to fall.

Article © Ase Ur-Jennan. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-04-07
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