At the end of my “Writing Motivated Characters” post the other day (the one most of you discovered on Freshly Pressed – thanks WordPress!), I advised people against writing stories about stupid swords because no one wanted to read such a thing. Several people disagreed in the comments, saying that, in fact, they did want to read a story about a stupid sword. So I wrote one.
In all its one-and-a-half draft, 900-word glory…
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The Stupid Sword
by Elrick J. Bakirke
Bernie and Carlos stood over the object, hands on hips.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bernie said. “What do you make of it?”
Carlos shook his head slowly. “I don’t know what to make of it, man.” He wished everything would just go back the way it had been three minutes earlier, before they found the thing. Carlos and mystery went together like muskrats and cobras. Or like Doritos and chocolate chip mint ice cream. Both of which Carlos liked, by the way, but not at the same time.
“That’s got to be the stupidest damn sword I’ve ever seen,” Bernie said.
“Sword?” Carlos said, confused. He studied Bernie’s face. Bernie was 20 years older and had been working here a long time. He knew a lot of stuff.
Bernie nodded. “Yeah. I’d go as far as to say it’s deformed, but I don’t know if a sword can be deformed. I think they use that word for animals. You know, like a two-headed turtle or a goat with six legs.”
Carlos made the sign of the cross and looked toward the heavens. He noticed a water stain on the ceiling tile. “What do we do?”
Bernie shrugged. “We call Fabermann, I guess.”
Carlos was careful not to show a reaction, but he was thinking, “Why did I open my big mouth?” The last thing Carlos wanted was Fabermann poking around. Fabermann had gigantic lips but a tiny nose and even tinier eyes. He looked like a pink toad who needed a shave. Now that’s deformed, Carlos thought, chuckling a bit, despite the gravity of the situation.
Bernie, who was technically Carlos’s supervisor even though it was just the two of them, said, “Wait here,” and then pulled up a chair at the computer terminal. He made a Skype connection with Fabermann.
Carlos guarded the sword. “That’s one stupid sword,” he said, though he really had no idea what made it stupid. He just wanted Bernie to like him.
“Fabermann,” Bernie said. “We got a… concern here.”
Fabermann’s big head filled the monitor screen. “A concern? You’re wasting my time for a ‘concern’? Whattya got a water leak in 3H? Fix it!”
Bernie’s face scrunched up, which it did whenever he had something serious to say. “Well, it’s more like a problem. I think you should advise.”
“Spit it out, Bernie.”
Bernie shot a nervous glance at Carlos. Carlos shot a nervous glance at the sword. He had gotten so caught up with Fabermann that he forgot to watch the sword. Damn it!
Bernie said, “Carlos and I… we found something here in the break room. I’m not sure, but I think it’s a sword.”
“A sword?” said Fabermann.
“Yeah. A stupid sword.” Bernie sat back and sighed.
Carlos shuddered. Bernie hadn’t sighed since 2010. That was the last time Max Fabermann had gotten involved in their affairs. Events were more dire than Carlos had imagined.
Fabermann looked this way and that, contemplating. “You guys say you’re in the break room, eh? Sit tight.”
The door to Fabermann’s office swung open and Fabermann strutted through. “Show me!”
Bernie ran to meet him, hobbling like a chimpanzee with no knees. Carlos hated to see Bernie get pushed around. “Uh, right here, Mr. Fabermann.”
Carlos was scared, but mostly out of solidarity with Bernie. He pointed at the stupid sword, in case Fabermann was unsure.
Fabermann chomped his cigar and took a closer look. “Hmmm. This right here? This is the sword?”
Bernie and Carlos nodded.
Fabermann circled it, mumbling, then stood straight. “This sword. This stupid sword right here is why you called me?”
Bernie said, “Yes, sir.”
Fabermann whapped Bernie and Carlos in the head with his beret. “That’s my nephew, George, you idiotic baboons!”
George Fabermann peeked up from the magazine he was reading, People’s 50 Best Episodes of Cupcake Wars. “Hey, Uncle Max.”
Carlos’s pain was acute. Not from being struck by Fabermann’s hat, but from his sudden realization that Bernie Shempstein, his hero, mentor, and ersatz father was, in fact, a blithering moron. Carlos knew it wasn’t a sword! He knew it looked like a person reading a magazine, but he’d trusted Bernie!
“I trusted you,” he said. The words fell from his lips like they were made of liquid nitrogen, which must be heavier than air, if you think about it logically. It’s a liquid.
Bernie hung his head. “But… I thought… I mean, George didn’t say anything, so I just figured… Uh, am I fired?”
Max Fabermann laughed. “No, Bernie. You aren’t fired. You are forged!”
Carlos and Bernie said, “What!”
With that, a ball of flame burst from the ground, and Max and George Fabermann unfurled their wizard capes. The room crackled with sinister magic. Max pointed his staff at Bernie. “This is a fantasy story, you fool! Never mind that its author has no clue how to write one. He promised a story with a sword, and his readers are getting a sword.”
An arc of purple lighting – the only kind of arc in this story – issued from the staff and struck Bernie, turning him to a sword. A stupid one, by Carlos’s estimation, now that he’d had some experience with them. George the Wizard took hold of the sword and flew from the room with his uncle, their chilling laughter echoing through the halls of the maintenance department, which was in the basement of building 4.
Carlos fell to his knees in slow motion and screamed “Noooooooo,” because that happened in Lord of the Rings and it seemed like the right thing to do.
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The only sword song I could think of, Strike of the Sword, by Japan’s premier metal band of the 1980s, Loudness. Akira Takasaki shredding on guitar.