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Bob was an ordinary, unassuming sort of man. He’d be the first to tell you that, in fact.
“I’m an ordinary, unassuming sort of man,” Bob muttered out loud, while perusing the morning paper.
“I don’t make any sort of splash at all,” he continued, finishing an article about a man with no arms or legs that had traversed the United States on a device operated by his tongue.
In truth, no one would be likely to miss Bob should he disappear. It’s unlikely that even his wife, Maureen, would notice.
“Maureen probably wouldn’t even notice if I were gone,” he muttered.
“What was that, dear?” Maureen asked as she closed the refrigerator door and walked back to the kitchen table. “You were mumbling again.”
Bob always mumbled. No one really paid much attention to a thing he said, anyway.
“I said, I was thinking about leaving you for an anorexic cabbage farmer with a peg-leg, and no teeth,” he replied.
“Oh, that’s nice dear.”
Maureen had already become deeply involved with the latest business of the royal family via the Entertainment section of the paper.
Bob sighed, and folded the Business section. “I guess I’ll pop down to the office.”
Maureen grunted a reply.
“They’ve got a nice young assistant on the sales floor. Think I’ll give her a toss in a fitting room later.”
Maureen grunted again.
“Right,” Bob said, and left for work.
Robert William Charles Smith had been given names shared by noblemen and royalty, but he was also saddled with a surname that suggested anonymity. Apparently, the surname was the deciding factor in the direction of his life.
He was a middle-management number diddler for Slocum and Brahms, a retail store that specialized in nothing in particular. The store made enough money to function, but never quite enough to make any lists. It just sort of puttered along, never making much of a splash either.
Bob supposed that was why he was there. It was his curse to be average. Everything about his life was average- job, home, car. Even Maureen, who had been gorgeous before they were married, suddenly became unexceptional after their wedding. It was as if the very attachment of Bob’s name was enough to wilt her, too.
Sighing, Bob pulled to the curb, and parked. He briefly considered parking in front of the plug, so as to get a ticket.
“That’d be something,” he muttered to himself. “A criminal record.”
He grinned, and pulled forward. The fire plug was directly beside his car.
“I’m so naughty,” he said, with a shiver of delight.
A sharp rap sounded from his window.
“Hey, now. You can’t park there,” said a cop pointing his stick toward the plug. “There’s a plug there. Shove off and find somewhere else.”
Bob ducked his head with embarrassment, and drove around the corner to find another spot.
After parking the car, a beige four-door with a factory radio and no alarm or phone, he stepped onto the curb and turned to go to work. A skateboard punk appeared from nowhere, and clipped Bob, sending him spinning around.
Bob felt himself falling, and before the little truant could say, “Sorry, mate,” Bob was gone.
* * *
Bob plummeted several hundred feet, and would have expected to be dashed to death on the ground below, but he landed on the back of something large, furry, and winged.
Now they were both plummeting and expecting to be dashed to death on the ground below.
“Pardon me,” a voice said.
Bob realized it was one of the heads of the creature he was laying atop.
“But, would you mind so awful much getting off me. Your weight and velocity appears to causing me to fall, and I expect to be dashed to death on the ground below. Perhaps if you were to jump off, I could regain my original flight path.”
The other head turned toward Bob. “Just get the hell off me, you speeding heavy thing, you.”
Turning toward the first head, the second said, “And you, being so polite. This load is going to kill us, and you’re being all Miss Manners to him.”
“Shove off,” the second head shouted at Bob, as the winged body executed a roll.
“Terribly sorry,” the first head said, as Bob resumed his plummet. “He’s such an awful grouch in the mornings.”
The reply from the second head was lost to Bob as a whistling filled his ears.
“Well, this has certainly been a morning hasn’t it?” Bob said to himself.
At least he thought he said it. He couldn’t really hear all that well with the wind rushing past at such incredible speeds.
As he hurtled toward the ground, Bob absently wondered what the impact of smashing into the earth would feel like. Rather hard he supposed. Lots of breaking and squishing and such.
Instead, it was not unlike being pushed through a thick pudding. Unpleasant and squishy, but not immediately fatal. After his body came to rest, he looked about. Above him was a layer of something he could only assume was dirt. There were roots poking down toward him, and a stray neon green worm would occasionally dig through and fall beside him.
Bob seemed to be in a chamber of sorts. It was a single round-walled room with a few odd symbols drawn on the walls in different colored lines.
Rising to examine the writing more closely, he heard a voice growing louder, as if approaching. Suddenly, a small portly fellow with a neon blue robe and a bright pink beard popped through a wall. The little man was speaking over his shoulder to someone behind him.
“We’ll just see about that. No decent spells my...” the short fellow paused, as he turned and saw Bob.
“What in Fregger’s thirteen stormy hells are you doing here?” he demanded, staring at Bob with a mixture of disappointment and rage.
“I haven’t the foggiest notion,” Bob replied, unsure what else to say.
A second figure popped through the wall. This one was a woman, as short as the man and dressed in a similar, though neon orange, robe. Instead of a beard, she wore a tremendous neon green beehive hairdo.
Bob shook his head. This was certainly not his usual day.
“I told you that spell wouldn’t work. The vermilion snowdragon eyes expired months ago. You can’t use shoddy material and actually expect a decent spell,” the little woman was saying.
The two robed figures stood beside Bob, then walked around him in circles, examining him as if he had suddenly grown an extra arm. Bob looked down to make sure that he hadn’t.
“This’ll never do,” the little man muttered. “’E’ll be no use what-so ever.”
“Use? What use? Would someone tell me what in bloody hell I’m doing here?”
The woman approached Bob and touched him. Once she decided that he was solid, she raised his arm and squeezed it slightly.
Shaking her head, she scoffed. “No use at all. Soft as pudding. I told you to place an ad, maybe post some flyers or something. No, no. I am Fzer Dibbleby, Great Sorcerer, Lord of Mystic Powers Unknown, you said. No trouble to whip up a hero you said.”
The woman snorted. “Only thing unknown is how you passed the Mystic Sorcerers and Wizards final exam.”
“Now see here...” Bob began before being interrupted by Fzer.
“Don’t you start with that rot again. You can always go back to yer mother.”
The woman crossed her arms. “Maybe I’ll do just that. Serves me right, takin’ up with you.”
Attempting to sidetrack the bickering, Bob said, “Excuse me. Could someone tell me what I’m doing here? Perhaps point me home?”
“And another thing,” the woman continued. “You still owe me father a new bull. After you turned the last into a two-headed flying furball, he’s been furious...”
“Now you wait just a minute,” Fzer began.
“ENOUGH!!!!!!” Bob screeched. “I don’t give a ragged, rotten fig about flying cowballs, or vermilion eyeballs, or whatever your current argument concerns. I just want to know where in God’s green stinking Earth I am, and how to get back to Highbridge Street.”
The bickering couple both paused, mouths agape. Bob stood breathing heavily and glaring.
After a moment he said quietly, “Was that a conniption fit? I’ve always wanted to have one.”
Fzer was the first to recover. “You, Sir, are in the city-state of Frigginstitch.”
Bob processed this statement.
“I’m not on Earth at all, am I?”
“Urth?” the woman queried.
* * *
Bob awakened some time later. He was laying on something not unlike a waterbed. Each time he moved, there was a rippling sensation. He tried to sit up, and look around.
He was in a different room.
At least he thought it was a different room.
The walls were a shade of pink that his wife referred to as Hawaiian Sunset when she suggested it for their own bathroom. Standing out, in neon colors that Bob had never imagined, were more of the strange symbols that he had seen upon his arrival.
Several laboratory tables were scattered around. Most were covered by glass containers full of burbling, gurgling fluids. Other tables were stacked nearly to the ceiling with books and papers.
Bob also noticed a floor-to-ceiling shelf containing beakers, boxes, and vials. Each had a label and Bob wondered absently if one of them contained expired vermilion snowdragon eyes.
Suddenly, Fzer Dibbleby walked through the wall. “What ho, shouting stranger? How was your nap?”
“Did you just walk through a wall?”
Fzer paused with his mouth open, and Bob continued. “I mean, does it impress the girls? Does it make you feel like a real wizard? Can’t you just cut a bloody hole in the wall?”
Fzer turned red. “Now see here...”
“No, you see here. I want some explanations.”
Bob was surprised by his sudden ferocity. He rather liked it, and was about to verbally chew on the little sorcerer some more when the woman ran through the wall, chirping excitedly.
“Fzer, the king is here. He wants to see the champion, immediately.”
Fzer turned as white as a cloud. “Now?! But, I haven’t gotten one yet. All we have is this blasted whining fibble-knocker.”
Bob was about to ask what exactly a fibble-knocker was, when a man similar in build to Fzer stepped through the wall and announced, “Announcing the arrival of His Majesty, King Ghljnhammer Drizenstance the Forty-third, King of Frigginstitch, Possessor of the Royal Pearly Purple Passion Pole, Lord of the Heady Happy Hostesses, and Master of the Majestic Mommerdodder!”
Bob opened his mouth before he considered the likely result. “What in the name of pompous presentations was that?”
The man who had just made the announcement glared.
The woman, who still had no name, smiled slightly.
“I,” said the new arrival, “am Hennydo Goblsnift, the royal page. I have announced the arrival of His Majesty...”
Bob cut him off. “Yes, yes, I get the idea. No need to go through it again.”
Goblsnift snorted, and pointed at Bob. “What is that?”
Fzer stepped forward, and grandly swept a hand before Bob. “Master Goblsnift, may I present the new Champion of The Realm, the Great And Powerful... um... what are you called again?”
“Bob,” Bob replied.
“The Great and Powerful Bob, Champion of the Realm.”
Goblsnift approached Bob, wandered around as if examining a car before test drive, and snorted, “Don’t look like much.”
“Thank you,” Bob responded, “I’m not much. Why not just send me home?”
“But ’e’ll have to do,” Goblsnift finished.
“Righto, I’ll have to... er, what?”
“Get him ready. His Majesty will be in to see him.”
Fzer bowed before Goblsnift. “It will be done immediately.”
As soon as Goblsnift had disappeared through the wall, Fzer fell on the floor in a faint. Bob nudged him with a toe, to see if he was alive.
The little woman, whom Bob supposed was Fzer’s wife, said, “It’s just a panic attack, ’e oughta recover quick enough.”
“Lovely,” Bob replied with sarcasm. “Kind lady, please tell me two things.”
“If I can.”
“Do you have a name? And, why am I here?”
She chuckled. “I am Velorina Wincemand-Dibbleby, wife of ’is wizardness on the floor there. You are The Bob, recently recruited to be the champion defender of Frigginstitch.”
“Because Fezzie’s a poor excuse for a wizard,” she answered.
“No.” Bob shook his head. “Why do you need a champion?”
Velorina shrugged. “Tradition I s’pose. Easier to send one representative to fight a war than amass an army.”
“Aye. Frigginstitch has been the mortal enemy of Poofenfahrt for untold ages. Every few years, the kings get testy about somethin and declare war. Then we have to round up a champion, and have a battle. Sometimes we’ll get some good ’uns, and the battle goes on for days. Lots a wagerin’, people sellin’ pennants. Sometimes we have a mock battle between two rival mead makers, Mead Match, they call it. Great sport it is.”
“And presumably the loser of the real battle...” Bob trailed off.
“Gets the axe ’e does. Or sword, mace, cudgel, pike, whatever’s handy.”
Bob turned green.
“Lovely color, Bob.”
“Thanks,” he muttered absently. “Can Fzer return me to my own place? I really don’t think I’m...”
Velorina cackled. “Fzer probably couldn’t return you to the other side of the wall. Not the greatest spellcaster in the world.”
Bob slumped to the floor. “Any chance I can get out of this?”
“You can win.”
Bob dulled again.
“Now,” Velorina said, pulling him to his feet, “Let’s get you dressed for the king.”
* * *
A brief time later, Fzer had recovered from his faint to find Bob standing before him. Velorina had just finished tying a sash around Bob’s waist.
“There,” she said. “Looks like a right champion ’e does.”
Fzer wasn’t so sure he agreed with that assessment.
Bob was wearing a small cauldron atop his head. Visor slits had been cut into one side, allowing him a limited range of vision. However, if he swung his head too quickly, the “helmet” tended to keep spinning around, blocking his sight. A brush had been attached to the cauldron, creating a plume of sorts.
Bob’s arms and legs was encased in a metallic cylinders that had probably been stove pipes. His body was surrounded by what he assumed had been a small stove, perhaps the very same that had provided protection to his extremities.
Moving about with a great deal of clanking, Bob stood before a full length mirror, trying to convince himself he looked like a champion. Despite plenty of experience standing before a mirror trying to convince himself he was a champion, he was failing miserably.
“I don’t look much like a champion,” he said turning toward Velorina. The “helmet” slid around past his eyes and he saw only blackness.
“No, ye don’t,” he heard Fzer say. The sound was muffled, something like a conversation under water.
Bob righted his helmet, and said, “So now what?”
Fzer responded by spouting a string of gibberish, and tossing a powdery substance into the air.
Bob sneezed, again.
Fzer snapped, “Be still woman. The king will be here any second.”
“No ’e won’t. I’ve put a Clockenshtoppen spell on them. King and page will remain suspended in time for at least another minute or...”
Hennydo Goblsnift suddenly burst through the wall, interrupting Velorina. “The king has arrived to see the champio..”
Goblsnift paused when he saw Bob. “What in the name of Nurlyburb’s puce pantaloons is that?!”
Velorina curtsied, and said humbly, “This his majesty’s newest champion.” As she said this, Velorina flicked a pinch of dust in Bob’s direction.
“This is the same loppy pobble that was ’ere before?”
“Aye,” said Fzer, trying to sound confident. “Tis the same. Dressed for battle, ’e is.”
Bob sneezed again, and when he glanced at the mirror, he saw that he was wearing a proper suit of armor. He was nearly startled, and then decided there wasn’t any point. If he continued to start at every absurd thing that happened to him while in Frigginstitch, he’d look like he was having a seizure.
“Best get on with it,” he said to no one in particular.
“Good lad,” Fzer said, patting Bob’s shoulder. “Knew that spell would set ye up with a right set of armor.”
Velorina gave Bob a wink, and then stepped aside, joining Fzer and Hennydo in their bow before a man who had appeared through the wall, seated in a throne carried by four stout men dressed like Goblsnift.
“Your majesty,” the trio said together. “We present you with our new champion, The Bob, of...”
They all paused momentarily. Fzer muttered in a stage whisper, “Where do you live?”
“Um.. Er... Bridgefield Street, in...”
“The Bob of Bridgefieldstreetin.”
Ghljnhammer Drizenstance the Forty Third, King of Frigginstitch, Possessor of the etc., stood to his full height, all three feet of it. Then, stepping on the back of one of the bearers, he reached the floor, and strode towards Bob.
For several minutes, Drizenstance circled Bob, tugging thoughtfully at a long fuchsia beard. After a pause, he kicked at Bob’s leg like a miser in a car lot, and stepped back.
“It’ll ’ave to do.”
With that, he snapped his fingers, stepped on the bearer again, reclaimed his seat and disappeared through the wall. Hennydo shrugged at Bob and followed the king’s entourage.
“Well, how do you like that?” Bob snorted, indignantly. “Come thousands of... er, how far have I come?”
Fzer shrugged. “Couldn’t say. Different dimension. Next door. Who knows.”
“Oh... a great distance, get all made up in this silly suit, and it’ll have to do. It’s enough to make me spit.”
Having failed to raise his visor, he found that particular expression of frustration to be rather unwise.
* * *
Sometime later, after much grumbling on Bob’s part, the wizard, the wife, and The Bob were all standing outside the gated entrance into Triggenhoppel Stadium and Convention Center.
The stadium (and convention center) was a giant stone monstrosity that Bob thought of as the bastard love-child between the Roman colliseum and one of those stadiums that blimp flies over.
A sign attached to the stadium wall announced, “HOLY WAR XVIII: HUNDER FUNDERSTAN VS. THE BOB” in neon letters four feet high.
Below that was a smaller sign- “Next Weekend, Monster Carriage Nationals, and BBQ.”
Another sign, smaller still, read, “Ofcolbyr 43rd-46th: Sheepherders and Sheepshearers Union, Annual Meeting and Muttonfest. Bring the kids.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Bob muttered.
“Is that a prayer?” Velorina asked. “You’d be amazed at how many champions that we’ve recruited have said that very thing.”
“I’m sure they have.”
There were two guards beside a ticket booth, checking tickets, and searching for weapons. Fzer wandered over to the booth. After a few minutes, Fzer returned from the booth with a trio of laminated passes. He clipped one onto Velorina, another on himself, and stuck the last one to Bob’s armor with piece of material that resembled duct tape.
“Yer obviously the champion, but security acts funny if you don’t wear the passes about. Makes ’em feel powerful.”
“This way,” Velorina said, leading Bob toward a tent that was striped in colors that Bob couldn’t begin to describe. “You have a tent to use to prepare for battle.”
“And how exactly does one prepare for battle?”
Fzer clapped Bob on his armored back, and replied. “Ye undergo rituals, and spells, or whatever else you need to insure your victory.”
“Lovely. My opponent is doing the same?”
“Say, perhaps this is a bad time, but do I actually get a weapon?”
“Aye, you carry the Great and Powerful Emerald Blade of Frigginstitch, the most powerful sword in the city-state.”
“Sounds impressive,” Bob replied. “Might I have a peek?”
Velorina brought him a small wooden chest that had been waiting for them when they entered the tent.
Preparing to be awed, Bob raised the lid of the chest.
He sucked in sharply.
“It’s the size of a twig!”
Fzer screwed up his face in annoyance.
“Now listen here! This is a great and powerful weapon. Besides, it’s not the size, it’s the way you handle it.”
Velorina gave a Bob a sly glance, and rolled her eyes.
Bob picked up the emerald sword, and waved it about. It had virtually no weight, and when Bob placed one hand at the tip and pulled, he noticed the blade begin to bow.
“Oh, lovely,” he remarked.
“Isn’t it,” replied Fzer, clearly missing the sarcasm.
Any further comment from Bob was drowned out by a tremendous fanfare played on instruments that sounded almost, but not quite, like trumpets.
“Show’s on,” said Velorina. “Best get out and watch the pre-game. Come along Bob.”
* * *
After a great deal of noise, and a few performances by the Gildersnarf Wizard School Band and Pennant Corps, it came down to go time for Bob.
“Well, deary, here ’tis. Time to fight,” remarked Velorina as she stood beside him at the doorway into the arena.
Bob simply stared at his opponent.
Apparently, the wizard of Poofenfahrt was a bit more skilled than Fzer.
The brute on the opposite side of the field was at least two feet taller than Bob, and three times his weight. He also held a sword the size of a small tree which he wielded one-handed.
Before Bob could make a final remark, a gong sounded, signaling the beginning of the first, and Bob suspected, only round.
The brute strode forward, and Bob was suddenly reminded of a train.
A large train.
Check that. A huge train.
Not one of those fancy bullets, mind you, but a gigantic steam engine.
The crowd roared, and Bob remained still, watching the giant lumbering toward him, increasing speed.
Fzer was screaming, although Bob couldn’t make out anything he said. Velorina stood beside her husband, peeking through her fingers.
The giant was nearly running. He had cleared almost the entire span of the arena.
The giant was running full out. His arm raised to deliver a crushing blow to Bob’s helmeted head.
With a sound not unlike the screeching one hears prior to a large automobile accident, the giant slid to a stop before Bob, arm raised, sword quivering with pent-up energy.
“Well?” snarled the giant.
“Ain’t ya ’fraid?”
“I’m ’bout to smash you.”
“Go on then. Beat up a smaller man.”
“I gots no choice. They ain’t many’s bigger’n me.”
“You’re a bully.”
The giant began to slowly lower the sword. “Now see here...”
“No. You see here. Don’t you think your mother’d be ashamed of you. Picking on people littler than you?”
“You know, the frail old lady who bore you, gave you life.”
The giant pointed out toward the crowd.
“That’s me mum.”
There was a woman whose dimensions were only slightly smaller than the brute facing Bob. She was waving a pennant that read “Smash ’is head in.”
“Lovely lady,” snorted Bob. “I see where you get your looks.”
“Thanks, mate. C’n I smash ye now?”
“Do you really enjoy all this?”
Bob sighed dramatically. “Typical. People like you have been a torment to me my entire life.”
“Good thing I’ll be ending it then, eh?”
“I suppose. Shall I take off my helmet? Make it easier for you?”
“Tha’s up t’ you. I can split yer skull either way.”
“No point ruining the helmet, though.”
Bob removed his helmet, and let it dangle in his free hand.
“Right. Well ’s been good to meet ya,” replied the giant. He raised his weapon, preparing for a powerful overhead slash.
Bob planted the helmet right between the giant’s eyes.
The giant fell to the ground, sobbing.
“Ye ’it me,” he blubbered, both hands covering his face.
“Damn right, I hit you. You’ll think twice before you pick on another person won’t you, you big lumbering sack.”
The giant continued to sob, making occasional hitching noises and snuffling sounds.
“Now that you’ve come down to my size, shall we see who’s the bigger man?”
The giant continued to snort and bellow.
“Thought so. Never had a hand put to, you have you?”
“No,” the brute whined. “Everyone’s scareda me.”
“Serves you right you... you... you...”
Frustrated at failing to find the appropriate insult, Bob threw down the helmet, which bounced upward, clocking the giant under the chin. The giant’s head snapped back, and he crashed to the ground, unconscious.
Bob stared at his handiwork, grinned up at the crowd, and promptly fainted.
* * *
When Bob awoke, he was laying on the sidewalk of Highbridge Street. He blinked, looked around, and realized that it was late afternoon.
As he turned, a racing skateboarder zipped by, clipping him. This time the skater was knocked to the ground.
Bob leapt to his feet, snatching the front of the boy’s shirt.
“You should watch where you’re going, you little hooligan.”
The youth clutched his skateboard, and started a sarcastic reply, but glimpsed a fiery look in Bob’s eyes.
Then the boy realized what this nutter was wearing, and thought an apology might be the way to go.
Shuffling his feet, and looking at the ground, he replied, “Sorry, mate. ’ ’pologies for your trouble.”
“Accepted. Move on, then.”
The boy hopped onto his board, and disappeared around a corner.
Bob realized that he had actually raised his voice to somebody.
He felt giddy with power.
He was a warrior champion.
He could do anything.
Maybe he’d just go see about a transfer out of the accounts department. Move to someplace more befitting his powerful, manly new image.
Like sporting goods.
* * *
Maureen stared at Bob through the Plexiglas divider.
“What the blazes did you think you were doing?”
Bob, dressed in a jumpsuit provided by the police, shrugged. “Just figured it was time for me to stand up for myself.”
Maureen shook her head. “By wearing a stove and swinging a butter knife at your manager?”
“It was a suit of armor. And that was the Great and Powerful Emerald Blade of Frigginstitch.”
“No. Really. The people of Frigginstitch needed a champion, so Fzer the wizard brought me there. Then we made armor and I got a sword, and I beat the giant...”
“From Poofenfahrt,” Maureen replied.
“Yes, exactly. Now...”
“Well he was really tall. And the guy writing this story called him a giant.”
“The guy writing.... Good-bye Bob.”
Bob watched Maureen walk away, at least as far as he could with his head pressed against the Plexiglas. Then he slumped back in his seat.
A uniformed officer stepped over to return Bob to his cell. “C’mon mate.”
Bob shuffled down the hallway, hands and legs chained.
“Don’t feel too bad, fella,” the guard said, opening the door to the cell Bob shared with Benny “Hacksaw” Peckham and a small man who mumbled about dimensional gateways. “You’ve made the papers.”
The guard closed the cell door, and returned a moment later with the day’s newspaper.
Bob snatched the paper through the bars and read the headline.
“Madman attacks retail manager,” Bob read aloud. “What do you know? I’ve finally made a splash.”
Copyright © 2004 by Lewayne L. White