My super-awesome-fun-time editor, Alison, had surgery recently. One of my fellow Carina Press authors who shares Alison as an editor suggested that we do a little tribute to cheer her up. We’ve all written short stories featuring Alison and characters from our books. Today is my day to post it. I hope you enjoy it!
A Blessing of Unicorns
by R.L. Naquin
Save the world as many times as you want. It doesn’t grant you any special privileges. The monsters still get all the fun.
Traveling cross-country through closet portals does not make a closet monster’s head split open and his guts spew everything he and his ancestors have ever eaten in the last six centuries. Not so for humans.
Maybe I’m exaggerating. I’ve only ever closet-travelled once, and it was between two closets in the same house. I wasn’t willing to try it again over such a long distance. Not even for a sick friend.
So, Maurice went off to Wisconsin to see Alison, and I waited.
And I waited.
I was about to give up and find something to do other than sit on the guestroom bed and try to read a book I wasn’t really interested in. The doorknob turned, and Maurice spilled out of the closet, his big yellow eyes wild. He slammed the door behind him and leaned with his back against it.
“Did it not go well?” I asked, setting my book aside.
He scrubbed at his face with the palm of his hand. “Zoey, it was a disaster. I don’t even know where to start.”
“Is Alison okay?” That was my main concern. The rest was superficial, even if he’d managed to burn down her apartment.
He nodded. “She’s fine.”
I stood up and grabbed his hand. “Come into the kitchen. Tell me everything.”
Once we were settled, Maurice took a long swallow of strawberry lemonade. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his paisley shirt and fixed his eerie eyes on me.
“She was asleep on the couch when I got there.” He set his glass down. “I’d expected her to be in bed, not in the middle of everything where she might wake up and see me.”
“Did she wake up?” My heart sped up. The last thing a person recovering from an operation needed was a scare. The poor woman might rip out her stitches.
“I’ll get to that.”
“I came out of the coat closet and found her on the couch. She didn’t move, so I knew she was out. Her cats were piled up on top of her, and they didn’t notice me, either. At first.”
“At first?” That didn’t sound good.
“I just wanted to do a little cleaning for her. You know, clean the fridge and the windows and baseboards. Places people don’t always get around to doing.”
I made a face. “You clean our baseboards?”
He rolled his eyes. “Focus, Zoey.” He took another drink. “I went into the kitchen and Princess must’ve heard me. She popped her head up, saw me, and darted off into the bedroom. That woke up Captain, and he hissed at me. He hissed at me!”
“And that’s when Alison woke up,” I said.
“Nope. She was still out cold. I forgot my cleaning supplies, so I opened a cupboard to reach through into our own cupboard to get my stuff.”
“You can do that?”
“Of course. Except, I was really shaken up by getting hissed at, so my aim was off. I opened the wrong portal.”
“Who’s cupboard did you open?”
He ran his hand through his sparse hair, leaving the few strands in disarray. “Zoey, my aim was really off. I wasn’t even in this world.”
“Where was it? Pluto? Because, you know, Pluto’s totally still a planet.”
He frowned at me. “I reached into a world whose dimensions are different from ours. Sort of a giant world.”
“You reached into a giant’s cupboard.”
“His stable. I reached into Alison’s cupboard into a giant’s stable.”
I thought about that a minute. If he were a giant, wouldn’t his stable be huge? Maurice was the giant. I shook my head, confused.
“So, you found horses.”
“No. I found a blessing.”
“A blessing. So, it was a church, not a stable.”
“A blessing is what they call a group of unicorns. A dozen tiny pink unicorns ran out before I could stop them.”
My eyebrows tried to fly off my face. “Tiny unicorns.”
He nodded, miserable. “Pink ones. They were everywhere. They got into the flour and left hoof marks on everything. Captain ran away when he got poked in the butt with a tiny horn. They knocked things over, shattered picture frames, and erased a bunch of stuff on her laptop when they ran across the keyboard. It was terrible!”
“And that’s when she woke up,” I said. My hands shook a little. Alison would never forgive us. I thought about booking a flight out there so I could clean up for her. Or hire a maid. Something.
“Nope. She didn’t wake up. Not even when the tiny winged elephant flew through the portal and trumpeted right in Alison’s ear.”
I shook my head. “You’re totally making this up.”
He frowned. “I wish I was. Did you know Alison’s got gremlins living in her walls?”
“No.” I shrugged. “But most people do.”
“Well, these were pretty upset by the commotion. One had been sleeping in Alison’s knitting. The flying elephant and the unicorns startled him, and he took off. His foot got tangled up in yarn and he unraveled an entire sweater she’d been working on while he ran.”
I dropped my head on the kitchen table. There was no apology big enough for what I owed Alison. “Maurice, she’s going to hate me.”
He patted my hand. “There’s more. I’m not done.”
“It took over an hour to round up all the tiny pink unicorns and send them back through to their stable. The elephant was a bit easier to catch, flying or not, he was kind of slow.”
“Awesome.” I cast my eyes around the kitchen, wondering if it was too early for something stronger than lemonade.
“After that, I cleaned the apartment and got rid of any sign of the disaster.”
“Stuff was broken, deleted, and unraveled, Maurice. You can’t just clean that.”
He puffed his chest out. “I replaced the broken stuff with exact duplicates. She’ll never know. I redid the edits that got lost.” He grinned. “I think my suggestions might even be better than hers.”
“Oh, God.” Yes. A drink would be a great idea.
“The knitting was a little tricky, but I found the pattern she was working from, and I watched a few YouTube videos. No problem. I almost finished the sweater for her, but I remembered what you said about not letting her know I was there.”
“You just…learned to knit in the short time you were there and redid almost a whole sweater.”
“Anyway, I got it all sorted out, cleaned her baseboards and windows, tucked the blanket around her, and came home.”
“And she never woke up.”
“They gave her some pretty good drugs.”
Maurice’s shirt pocket twitched, and a sound like a broken sneeze erupted from it.
I frowned. “You didn’t.”
Maurice grinned from ear to ear. “I’ll put it back eventually, I swear!”
“Oh, Maurice. No.”
He unbuttoned his pocket and pulled out a miniature, winged elephant. Maurice placed the impossible creature into my cupped hands. It trumpeted up at me and stroked my thumb with its trunk. It’s wings were cloud-soft fluffs of downy feathers.
Maurice patted my arm. “I shouldn’t get all the fun,” he said. “I wanted you to have some, too.”
The full tour:
Veronica Scott, 1/31/13 Even Egyptian Gods Need Editors Sometimes
Darcy Daniel, For My Wonderful Editor
RL Naquin 2/11/13 A Blessing of Unicorns
J L Hilton, 2/14/13 Valentine to My Editor
Shawna Thomas, 2/19/13 For Alison