The gremlin started screaming, and he stuffed the critter’s mouth with a discarded advertising flyer. Then he borrowed the cashier’s ‘Puter Power tape (designed to mark boxes that had been paid for if they were too large to stick in a bag) and quickly secured the creature’s hands, feet, tail and mouth, then handed it to one of the temp brownies to dispose of.
The temp brownie was still wearing shreds of Circuit City tape. “You better make sure that the manager here leaves enough milk and cookies tonight!” it grumbled. “Or else.”
“What?” Hob spotted another gremlin, working to squeeze it’s way into the cash register, grabbed it and taped it too, then had to jump out of the way as the cashier, a chubby teenager with pimples and just enough facial hair to make him look untidy, reached for the roll of tape.
“We don’t get our pay, these gremlins will be back.” The temp stated the obvious. And it wouldn’t be only the temporary hires releasing them into the store. There was a reason Circuit City went out of business.
Hob shoved the second gremlin at him. “Get these two out of here and get yourself back in here pronto, or your association with ‘Puter Power will be ended before you can get paid—or take rightful retribution, either one.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” The words were disrespectful, but the temp brownie winked out of sight, and then back in time to grab the next gremlin before Hob could get to it. Pickings had been thin since the Circuit City managers had slacked off on the midnight milk and cookies custom.
But the temp had a point. The gremlins were just as hungry as the brownies, and as a result this Black Friday had been one of the worst in memory.
He looked around for the manager. The poor man was trying to help a woman with a crabby baby—ah, he could help with that. A moment’s magic made the store smell a bit fresher, and changed the baby’s cries to smiles. The brownie tossed the used diaper to make a face at him, but shoved it in to the plastic bag it was carrying, then took several more trussed gremlins from other workers and shoved them in with the smelly thing, tying it shut and vanishing to dispose of all of it.
Hob leapt to the manager’s shoulder and whispered, “milk and cookies, milk and cookies” but the man paid him no attention. He turned to the next customer in line. And the next, and the next, while Hob scrambled to keep the temps working, trap gremlins before they could do too much mischief, and do whatever general trouble-shooting he could do in between.
The manager was still at the customer service desk a half-hour after closing, looking harried and exhausted despite all Hob and the other brownies could do. he rushed the other human employees out as quickly as he could, then went to grab his own coat.
The brownies gathered around, watching his every move, and Hob whispered in his ear again. He headed toward the small refrigerator, and his cell phone rang.
Two of the temporary hires started to pale at the edges, and Hob leapt to them, putting them hand-in-hand with two of his steadiest regulars. Another temporary worker had snuck up to the small refrigerator, and had a jug of milk out, was getting ready to pour it into the bowl.
This one he cuffed roundly. “It doesn’t count if a human doesn’t set it out, fool!”
The manager snapped his phone closed and headed for the back door. Hob had only a moment to act, and the man just wasn’t listening to him. He ran and grabbed—not the milk, it wouldn’t do for the man to spill it—but the empty bowl, and set it in front of the man’s foot.
Bang—clatter! The bowl went skittering across the floor.
“Oh, knew I was forgetting something.” The man bent to pick up the bowl, set out the milk and cookies, adding a half-box of doughnuts and a handful of hard candies. “Everyone worked hard today.”
The brownies hopped up and down, rubbing their tummies. He was barely out the door when they fell upon their rightful pay.
For new friends, you can find more of my very short stories here and my ongoing, serialized novel, Fireborn, here.
And to all my friends, I hope your Friday-After-Thanksgiving (whatever you choose to call it) was less hectic than Hob's!