“So, you want to be a night, faerie, eh?” asked the Foreman.
“Not especially,” came the glum answer.
The Foreman's square face might have cracked the tiniest sliver of a smile. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Nettle?”said the young man. He made it sound like a question.
“We have a hundred Nettles in this department. Nettle what?”
“Nettle Filbert,” said the lad.
“Well, Filbert, welcome to your first day on the job. Your job for the first few weeks is to be the go-fer for the rest of the team. I’ll introduce you around, c’mon.”
Filbert climbed into the golf cart next to the Foreman and it began to zoom at it’s pleasant pace across the bumpy carpet, making sharp turns around puzzle pieces and plush toys. Filbert stared in awe at the egg-shell coloured walls. He’d never been inside a house before, and the walls seemed so strange and inorganic with sharp angles and perpendicular lines.
“First time inside?” asked the Foreman. Filbert nodded. “It gets you like that. This is the living room, there’s not much to do here after hours, we make do with a skeleton crew.” The Foreman rounded a dollhouse suddenly, and Filbert had to hold onto the golf cart’s dash.
“There’s Gingertrap,” continued The Foreman, “…he’s a disorganizer…” A Faerie in a collared shirt and braces waved to them. He was busy pulling DVD’s out of their cases and leaving them in precarious piles on the entertainment centre. “…and there’s Hominy. He’s a loser.”
Filbert couldn’t help agreeing with the Foreman as he spied the gangly young pixie in a jogging suit standing on the sofa. He sniffed loudly through a dripping nose as he struggled with a television remote as long as his body. He was attempting to shove it between the sofa cushions.
“His job is to take important objects and ‘lose’ them. He specializes in car keys and sunglasses.”
“Oh,” said Filbert, glad he hadn’t said anything.
“Very important job, losing. Work hard, lad, and someday you might be a loser.”
“Yes sir,” sighed Filbert.
The ride suddenly became smoother as the wheels of the cart came to some white stone tiles. There was a slight dip every time the cart went over the grout, but it was preferable to the carpet.
“This here’s the kitchen,” explained the Foreman. “Big team in here. Most of your work will be for them. Here’s Fluora–she does greasy patches and puddles of water that soak your socks.”
“Wotcher!” cried Fluora amiably.
“Here’s Grubbick and Pinkbottle–Sticky spots and stains.”
“’Alo!” said Grubbick, nodding.
“Sod you!” cried Pinkbottle, making a rude gesture.
Filbert looked at the Foreman.
“Best to avoid Pinkbottle,” said the Foreman with a grimace. “And here is Paperwasp.”
The man’s horny finger jabbed at the towering kitchen counter. Filbert had to squint to see the pixie in a blue dress.
“Oi! Beernut!” cried Paperwasp.
“Yes, Papes?” answered the Foreman.
“After you show the kid around, send him back here! I’ll have him open all the cupboard doors so’s the human’s clock their foreheads on ‘em.”
“You got it!” answered the Foreman.
Filbert noticed they were driving towards a large white obelisk.
“What is THAT?” cried Filbert, agog.
“The Fridge,” said the Foreman. “One of the busiest parts of our night. Some nights, especially around the holidays it’s all hands on deck here.”
“What’s needs doing.”
“You name it. Making fruits and veg go off, re-adjusting the cold settings, moving leftovers to the very back, knocking over jars so they drip, and making everything taste like onions. The smell boys are working round the clock in here – not to mention Frostabella.”
“The freezer-burn faerie.We’re gonna head up to the bedrooms, now,” said the Foreman as the Golfcart bumped impossibly up the stairs.
On their way, they met a pleasant looking faerie woman. She was leading a parade of brown beetles.
“Beernut! We’ve done the bathroom, and we’re headed to the kitchen. Can you run my timesheet back to Slokum? I forgot to hand it in.”
“Sure thing, Resi,” said the Foreman as Resi passed a stiff piece of card to Filbert.
“That’s Residue. She’s our cockroach wrangler,” explained the Foreman. Filbert watched the long line of cockroaches that skipped merrily down the stairs after the woman.
The golf cart touched down on the landing and the Foreman got out.
“Better stay here lad. Slokum’s…er…a little funny,” he explained with a pained expression. “Head on into the bedroom and talk to Grunne.”
“Yes, sir,” said Filbert, obeying. He had trouble keeping his footing on the knobbly carpet but managed to make it down the hall. Outside a door he saw a bored man in a polo shirt and khakis painting the wall with a stiff brush. There didn’t seem to be any colour, but an unpleasant septic smell came off the brush.
“You Grunne?” Filbert asked.
“In there,” said the man coldly pointing to a door. There were pictures of hearts and unicorns on it, and letters spelling, “Catherine.”
Filbert crawled under the door and looked around.
“Up here! Shh!! You’ll wake her!” came a voice from above.
Filbert looked up at the massive tower of cloth and wood. On top of a lumpy shape was a faerie. It was an old faerie. He had silvery hair and spectacles and wore a cardigan and scarf. He was holding long strands of something fibrous that shone silver in the moonlight. Hopping onto the bed (as Filbert suddenly realized it was) Filbert saw it was human hair in the man’s hands. Grunne was patiently weaving the hair of a tiny human female into snarls and tangles. He did this with the slow assured speed of a person who did this every night, and was in no hurry.
“What are you doing?” asked Filbert in a whisper.
“I’m a tangler, son,” said Grunne in a low voice. “You must be the new pup.”
“None of that ‘sir’ business. Just Grunne. You look confused.”
“It’s just… I thought Faeries did…nice things. I thought we liked the humans. I didn’t realize we antagonized them so.”
Grunne raised an eyebrow. “Lemme guess – Flower Faerie?”
Filbert nodded miserably and Grunne sighed.
“So what did you do?”
“I was a petal painter,” said Filbert feigning obtuseness and failing.
“Nah-nah-nah. You musta done summat BAD. No one signs up to be a night faerie… unless you’re Slokum, but he’s a loony,” Grunne added.
“There was… this girl,” said Filbert looking at his feet.
“Human?” asked Grunne.
“Always the same. You get caught and they bust you down to night faerie. Don’t worry lad. You’re among friends.”
Filbert considered the sleeping head on the pillow.
“Ever think of adding spaghetti sauce to the hair? It’d add a little hold to your work.”
“Lad, you’re gonna make one fine Goblin,” said Grunne with a smile.