The Dromedarian

Author’s Note: I humbly submit January’s edition of  Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring a castle as this month’s setting, the object is a coffee/tea press, and the genre is science fiction – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

George opened his bedroom curtains to a sunny day. A lifelong bachelor, the middle-aged accountant maintained strict to routine, including cranking Dave Brubeck when he awoke. His condo chimed with smooth jazz. 

He dressed and retrieved his newspaper outside his front door. He had been reading the Montreal Gazette each morning since graduating university—loving the feel of ink on his fingers.  

“Language police arrested pet shop owner for parrot saying ‘hello’ instead of ‘bonjour,” read George, reaching for his coffee jar to prepare his morning espresso.

“It’s empty?!”

Routine broken, George ventured out to restock on ground coffee so this fiasco wouldn’t happen again.

He could take the elevator to the basement and walk through the underground city to get to the shop. But today was sunny, so he elected to stroll above ground. 

The sidewalks of St. Catherine Street bustled with folks enjoying the June sunshine. George weaved through the crowd until he reached the cathedral, which had two entrances to the underground city on either side. He chose the left one, descended to the mall, and joined a queue for the speciality Egyptian coffee shop. 

“Twenty pounds ground, please,” George asked the barista. “Oh,” he added, “and a latté.” 

It took over a half hour for the barista to grind and package the beans, much to the chagrin of the others waiting. It didn’t phase George. He took the bag and his drink from the young woman and followed the passage under the cathedral, exiting the mall through the other side. 

The buildings along St. Catherine Street had vanished, leaving a vast empty space filled with sand. He looked over his shoulder, and a sandy mountain replaced the cathedral. He scanned around. Not a soul was in site. He stood alone, drinking his beverage under the blazing sun.

In the distance, stood a lone castle. George didn’t recognize it, but it must’ve been a couple of kilometres away. Its two round towers on either side of a rounded front wall pierced the sky. A tall pole with a giant ball on the top rose in the centre, a bit higher than the turrets.

Having nothing better to do, and his condominium likely raptured, George wandered over.  He walked an hour before reaching it. The castle towered high over him, and the base of the building sunk deep into the sand. The drawbridge couldn’t open as a consequence.

A rope ladder flew down the side of a turret from an aperture and a man climbed down. George rushed over to help him and held the rope ladder taught so he could shimmy down. He noticed a huge hump in the middle of the alien’s spine and jumped out of his skin when George realized the man had a camel-shaped face.

“Who are you?” asked George.

“I’m the Dromedarian,” replied the stranger. “Hey, is that coffee?” 

“Yes, but…” 

The Dromedarian snatched the cup from his hand, took a swig, and spat it out.

“Ugh, is this the best you denizen have?” the Dromedarian bellowed in anger.

Realizing the stranger probably didn’t come from Montreal, George asked, “Are you from Toronto?”

“I have no idea what’s a ‘Toronto,’ but how can you humans consume this sludge? I’m scanning the universe for the perfect cup of coffee. When I beamed to your world, some twit said I should go to Chez Tim Horton’s, claiming they had the best coffee. I procured some. It was bloody fetid.

“Enraged, I teleported to my ship, and vapourized the surface of the planet. My stupid vessel ran out of juice, and I had to make an emergency landing.”

“That’s awful you were lied to. Can I help?”

“I need fresh-ground coffee to kickstart my ship.”

“I so happen to have some.” I presented my bag to the Dromedarian.

“Espresso? That should do the trick. Ever been inside a spacecraft?”

Mother told George never to go in cars with strangers. Given there’s no one else alive, he figured, what the hell? He followed the Dromedarian up the ladder, down a stairwell, and into the main control room of his ship. 

In the centre stood a giant tank, running the height of the main wall. The pole erected outside of the castle was attached to a cylindrical object raised a few feet above it. It resembled a giant coffee press.

The Dromedarian strapped on a jet back, took George’s bag, and flew to the top of the basin, emptying the contents into it. He then flew across the top and grabbed a hose, then pumped in some boiling water. He rejoined me to watch the liquid turn dark. After five minutes, he launched upward towards the ball in the sky, and with his rockets in reverse, lowered the plunger until it compacted all the coffee.

At that precise moment, the castle rocked and all systems came back online.

“Excellent, it worked!” he said. He walked over to a spigot at the base of the tank and filled my cup with brown liquid. “You will never drink Earth coffee again once you try this. Now that my systems are a go, I shall teleport you back to your planet. You can then fend for yourself”

Within a flash, George found himself standing at a safe distance from the castle. The turrets smoked and the vessel lifted off and rocketed into space.

“Wow, this is the best!” George cried after sipping the drink.

He retraced his steps to the remnants of the cathedral and found the entranceway. When he reached the bottom, people scurried around the mall like any other Sunday morning. 

George exited by way of the escalator on the other side. Mysteriously, the city had returned to its original state. He paused. “Oh, okay. Guess the alien really liked the coffee—everything’s back to normal.”

Returning home, he sat back and thought, Funny how weird things happen whenever my routine is broken, then enjoyed his beverage and continued reading the morning paper.

The Dromedarian © 2020 Bruce Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Bruce Gordon.

The Junkyard Brownie

The Junkyard Brownie

At the urging of wifey, I’ve decided to participate in author ‘Nathan Burgoine’s 2018 monthly flash fiction challenge.

Author’s Note: Brownies are commonly known as wonderful chocolaty-cake treats we all love and enjoy. In context of this story, the brownie, as found in Scottish folklore, is a friendly elf. I first got exposed to brownies reading Enid Blyton’s Mr. Pinkwhistle stories as a child. This flash fiction is themed on fantasy, hot chocolate, and junkyards. Sorta like the chocolate-based elf and the drink connection. Thanks for reading and enjoy.

Soaring over the kingdom of Poonow, a majestic dragon dashed through the skies. George loved how the early sun reflected off his coppery wings. He surveyed the tiny homes as the villagers stopped their routines to admire him as he zoomed overhead.

The dragon spotted the eight foot high wall of tires, found at the outskirts.  He zoned in on a giant red X near the centre of the enclosure and descended. As a rather large dragon, the ground shook violently when he landed, and the yard, filled with tons of metallic junk ranging from vehicles to appliances, clanked and chimed summoning his arrival.

He towered over a hut near the landing pad.  A dark brown creek about a foot wide flowed from the front door, and three gnomes holding mugs were sipping a beverage and, based on the tone of their voices, sounded upset. They did not break their conversation, despite George’s thunderous arrival. Unphased, two goblins appeared passed out cuddled in a ceramic bathtub, surrounded by toasters and car parts.

“How can Ich do this to us?” the gnome in a green hat complained. “This hot chocolate he serves just does not make busting our asses hauling all the metal we find to this dump worth it anymore.”

The second gnome, dressed all in yellow answered, “It could be worse,” he bent over and filled his cup with the creek’s brown liquid and took a sip. He immediately spat it out, “Blech, I stand corrected, this does not taste like chocolate anymore, but something a bit more familiar. I can’t quite place my finger on it. Hey, where are Forlan, Rasbis, and Tanin? I have not seen them around here in ages?”

The third gnome, who had a rather large white beard and red hat replied, “You have not heard? Our despot ogre king, Ronald Tumpkin, declared them illegal immigrants in the land, and they were exiled. He feared that their metal collecting took away employment from the goblins who supported him – lazy bastards,” he glared over to the goblins snoring away. “Tumpkin claims we gnomes are responsible for all the crime in the kingdom.” The other gnomes muttered in agreement as they gagged on their drinks.

George, growing impatient at being ignored roared, which immediately got everyone’s attention. “I want my hot chocolate!”  One of the gnomes nervously offered his, but dropped the cup when he realized it was too small to satisfy the dragon’s craving.

“Ich,” he cried to the hut, “George is here. Can you please come and serve him some hot chocolate?”

A rather large brownie bolted through the door, holding a mug about the size of one of the gnomes. He placed it in the creek until it filled with the brown liquid. He offered it to George who blew a flame over it to apply more heat. and took a quick swig. He regurgitated it up immediately. “God, that tastes like shit!” George roared, “what did you do to make this? Dip two dirty socks in hot water?” He angrily threw the mug on a pile of metallic junk, that clanged and clung as it fell to the ground. “Never mind, where is our daily tribute?”

Ich nervously pointed to a pile of six rusty car mufflers. “What?” the dragon bellowed, “this is getting worse and worse! The counsel is losing patience.  You know better than anyone, Ich, that we demand the finest metal in the world! And we need twenty pounds a day per our agreement.”

George belonged to a counsel of six dragons, who long discovered the ability to turn basic metal into gold.  They seized any opportunity to expand their growing hoard, stored deep in the mountains beneath their chambers. After the last great war that devastated the kingdom, the villagers happily provided the dragons with fresh metal each day for protection. Ich, owner of the junkyard, had the responsibility of procuring the daily tribute for the dragons. The kingdom lived in subsequent peace for centuries.

The brownie, not wanting to upset George further, said nervously, “Have you not heard that King Ronald believes that by putting heavy tariffs on foreign metals, the Kingdom of Poonow would prosper and all his goblins would  gainfully be employed? Those bastards produce nothing! Remember, that great ore we gave you in the past was not native to our territory!”

“This is most disturbing,” said George, “and threatens our ancient agreement. This king must be removed! Where is he now?” He closed his eyes momentarily and opened them.

Ich replied, “In the White,” he paused as five other dragons magically teleported into his scrap yard, “Castle.”

The largest, Elrick, stood a head taller than George, and had beautiful platinum scales. He said, “Is it true, Ich, that Tumpkin’s responsible for our tribute being cheapened?” He paused and saw the creek, “Hey? Is that hot chocolate?” He lowered his head and lapped a sample. Immediately he spat it out, “That’s fucking vile!”

Ich replied, “Our king wants us to produce our own cocoa and has taxed those imports too. These goblins don’t farm either so I use sewage now.”

Enraged, Elrick breathed fire on one of the sleeping goblins, waking the other who immediately bolted for a large pile of radiators to hide. “Counsel, we must leave and destroy the White Castle, and Tumpkin immediately. Ich, you are now be in charge. Undue the tariffs and bring us back the best possible metal. And for Pete’s sake, get us some decent hot chocolate.” The dragons nodded in agreement.

It did not take them long to destroy Tumpkin and his tower. Ich’s scrap yard soon gathered the finest metal bits again that kept the counsel happy, and the world at peace.

The hot chocolate creek soon flowed with the richest tasting cocoa, and the deported gnomes returned to their former work, satisfied to be rewarded with the fine beverage.

All was well in Poonow. King Ich and the dragons prospered.

The Junkyard Brownie © 2018 Bruce Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Bruce Gordon.

dissbruceBruce Gordon lives in the ‘burbs of Ottawa with his author wifey, three basses (hers, but she lends him one), five guitars (totally his), and one drumkit (hers and hers alone). A musician since his teens, he still plays, but has also ventured down the writing path. His upcoming novel, Dissatisfied Me, A Love Story, is about a 49 year old on the verge of his 50th birthday, who reminisces about his life while sitting alone in his room in his mother’s basement.