The Iron Writer Challenge #31
A live Griffin
A peanut butter and banana sandwich
The Nature of Beasts
Traffic had all but stopped—even the taxis—when they pulled into a parking space. Pedestrians crowded the sidewalk. “What’s all the ruckus?” Monty Conjure growled, switching off the Delorean’s engine.
“Is that,” Jeannie Conjure gasped, squinting through the windshield from the passenger seat, “a phoenix?” An elephant-sized beast covered in feathers and fur stomped toward them from two blocks ahead. They could feel the impact of its steps. Its tail swung side-to-side, denting cars and mangling lampposts. Screaming drivers abandoned their vehicles and ran.
“No, it’s a griffin. Note the lion-like body. A phoenix is just a bird that explodes.”
“Yes, darling. You’re right,” Jeannie conceded. She was bored with him. His tricks, on and off the stage, weren’t magical anymore. But she was confident an insurance payout would help her achieve a change of pace. As she handed him half a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, their traditional pre-performance meal, she noted a tiny dot of green ink on the plastic wrap. “You should eat, Monty.”
He took the sandwich, his stomach turning a bit at the sight of Jeannie’s ropy, liver-spotted left hand. Beneath another sparkly black dress, her once-sleek figure was flabby. Lately, she refused to perform many of their standard tricks and claimed to be too tired to learn new ones. The sword bit was getting sloppy and they planned to replace it with a levitation act, which she enjoyed because she could put her feet up. He often daydreamed of doing feats of magic with a fresh girl who wouldn’t spoil the act or mock his moustache. He also daydreamed about how easily, during an act of prestidigitation, a sword could slip. “Where do you suppose this animal came from?”
Jeannie looked distastefully at a darkening banana slice slipping from the edge of his still-uneaten sandwich and shrugged. “Maybe it’s part of our opening act.”
“We are the opening act.”
“That explains why we’re parked on the street.” She sighed. “It’s nearly time.”
“We’ll eat in the wings.” He pressed a button and the car doors rose, crane-like, attracting the attention of the griffin. Now only a block away, it tilted its massive eagle head and stalked toward them.
Jeannie stepped out of the car on shaking legs and drew a long breath. There was only one defense she could think of.
“Oy! We’ve got loads of lovely carrion over here!” called a disembodied speaker.
The griffin skidded to a stop just three car-lengths away, its claws tearing chunks from the asphalt. Shrieking, it stomped down an alleyway in the direction of the voice.
“You’ve still got it. Best ventriloquist I ever knew,” Monty proclaimed as he kissed her forehead. She snatched the sandwich and tossed it into the street.
“You can show your gratitude by buying me dinner later,” she said, smoothing her dress. “If that thing comes back, it’s going to scuff the car.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve been thinking of upgrading.”
“A new car? You’re full of surprises.”
Chuckling, he put on his top hat and took her hand as they walked into the theatre.
Very few parents enjoy chaperoning their child’s field trip. Today’s trip to the National Museum of Hollywood History was no different. Mark stood in front of the model Delorean as the mass of rabid kids tried to scatter in every direction. While he watched the other parents try in vain to corral everyone he drank a sip from his coffee and adjusted the lunch he packed for his son to his left shoulder.
The monotone sounding tour guide led the rambunctious group towards an Indiana Jones exhibit. Bored out of his mind, Mark climbed into the Delorean and pressed a few random buttons. Beeping resonated from every area of the vehicle while lights turned on all across the dashboard. With a sudden jerk, the car took off on its own.
Seconds later the Delorean ground to a halt somewhere other than the museum. Green hills surrounded him with no signs of civilization to be found. Only a lone man sat on the adjacent hill. Mark exited the Delorean and cautiously approached the man who had something on his hand.
“Excuse me, may I ask you a question?” Mark inquired.
The man looked up and looked him over. A puppet of a blonde man was on his left hand. Realization dawned on Mark that this man was a ventriloquist. Mark prepared to ask his question again when the man spoke.
“Ah, a traveler. Been a few moons since I have seen one,” he said.
“Better late than never,” a high pitch voice chimed in combined with a shaking motion of the puppet.
“Where am I?” Mark asked, ignoring the puppet.
“Why, you are here. Where else would you be?” The puppet asked.
Before he could rephrase his question, a deafening screech drew his attention elsewhere. Once Mark’s eyes glanced up to the sound of beating wings his jaw dropped. Slowly landing was a Griffin that stood well over eight feet tall. Both bird like eyes were staring him down intently. Slowly he stepped away from the ventriloquist while not removing his focus from the mythical beast.
“A Griffin!? What should we do?” The ventriloquist asked his puppet.
“He looks hungry, I have a very bad feeling about this.” The puppet replied.
A ray of light dawned over Mark as he reached into his sons lunch and removed a small Ziploc bag with a peanut butter and banana sandwich. He cracked the bag open and waved it back and forth and noticed the mythical beast follow every motion. After one last sigh he threw the peanut butter and banana sandwich toward the ventriloquist and bolted towards the Delorean.
Adrenaline left him pushing every button with no effect. With one anger filled punch to the dashboard, the Delorean reappeared back at the museum. Mark sighed and looked out the driver side window to see three angry security guards staring at him. Glancing right he noticed his sons sandwich splattered on the passenger window.
“This is going to be a bad day,” he mumbled.
The Last Con
“Then, I fell to my knees with my hands clamped over my ears to muffle the griffin’s terrible scream. I tried desperately to squeeze my eyes shut, too, but they felt as though they were glued open, forcing me to track the horror rising through the sky above us.
“The woods woman who sold us the nestling griffin had warned that it would one day require a sacrifice of its own choosing, and that we would not know its nature until it had chosen.
“The beast beat its enormous wings and climbed higher, Adam held by the shoulders in its talons, while its powerful hind legs ripped at his milky white bird chest and flabby belly.
“I looked on helplessly as Adam was torn to ribbons. Adam, my best friend since we were 12 years old, who I used to help clean the sheets he had peed on so his parents wouldn’t know. Adam, the so-called ventriloquist, who consistently failed at impressing girls with his talking peanut butter and banana sandwich. Adam, who liked to complain about saving ‘every cent’ he earned from his crappy bank job to build a Back to the Future Delorean replica so we could take it on our annual trek to Dragoncon, but who never actually spent any of the money he’d saved. Adam, the 29-year-old virgin, who—“
“Alright, you jackass,” Adam growled good naturedly. “Save your lousy storytelling for the Con. Why is it always me who dies terribly? And by the way, I do not have a bird chest, and my belly isn’t that flabby. Also, I only peed the sheets the time we had the milk-drinking contest. And stop calling my job crappy! I make like ten times as much money as you ever will, Mr. Assistant Librarian. I’m also married, and we get it on all the time.”
“Like MaryJane would ever consummate her marriage to your nerdy ass,” I responded. “She only married you to get her hands on your money.”
I turned around and grinned at MaryJane, who returned my smile wickedly and leaned forward to reach around Adam’s car seat and grab his chest as he guided the Rav 4 through the convention center parking garage.
“Oh, we consummated, alright,” she purred as she gave his chest a squeeze. “And it was 90 seconds of marital bliss, Honey. Don’t you let Greg tell you otherwise.”
“I should have known better than to marry my best friend’s sister,” Adam sighed, then exclaimed “Finally!” as he spotted an empty spot ahead to the left, pulled in, and turned off the car.
“Ready?” he asked.
I smiled, and thought briefly that this, our tenth Dragoncon together, could be our last for the foreseeable future. Adam had just accepted a promotion that would take him and MaryJane to Asia, where they planned to start their family.
“Ready!” said MaryJane.
We got out and walked together up the ramp, and took up our traditional chant.
Kevin, Age Six
I raised my shield and ducked behind the big, silvery rock. The half-bird, half-lion flew over my head and screeched really, really, really loud. “Quick, quick, come on!” I shouted to Stephen. Stephen was my best friend. Even though he sometimes took my juice during lunch, he always gave me his pudding cup, so it was okay.
But right now, we were hunting griffins. Not Griffin, that red-headed kid from class, but big half-lion, half-birds with claws bigger than my arms, and a mouth that could swallow me up like a Oreo.
Stephen ran from behind the Shultzes’ bush and ducked behind the big silver rock with me. “What’s the plan?” He looked scared, even though it was just pretend. I liked that about Stephen, he took his pretending super serious.
“I’m gunna go that way,” I pointed left around the big rock, “And you do a sneak attack through here.” I pulled at a secret switch in the rock, and pulled open a secret passage. “When you see me charge, go through the magic door through this tunnel, and surprise it, kay?”
“Kay. May the Force be with you.”
“I’m not Stephen, ‘member? I’m Han.”
“Sorry, I forgot. You ready to go?”
Before we could go and attack the griffin, a big green rock rolled onto the path and stopped. (It wasn’t a rock, it was Jenny’s car, but we’re pretending, ‘member?) Jenny and Mack-yeah-belly (that’s her ‘special friend.’ She is like a wizard. She can make Mack-yeah-belly come alive and talk and everything, but only when he sits on her lap.) came out of the big green Taurus rock and looked at me and Stephen and rolled her eyes and walked into the Temple of the Gods.
I looked back at Stephen. “Still ready?”
“GO!” I ran around the big shiny rock, holding up my shield and my spear, and yelling. The griffin turned and looked at me. Its big claws dug into the grass, and its ears stood up like a puppy’s ears, and it growled at me. I was scared, but I kept going. Stephen would pop out of the secret tunnel, and we could be scared together. We would get the griffin, and we would have a barbecue.
Stephen popped out of the secret door and ran forward, but he was pulled back. His spear was caught in the seat in the shiny rock. He tried to yank it out, he pulled really, really hard, and finally it came out. Stephen fell backwards onto the ground and started to laugh. It was pretty funny, so I laughed, too.
“Boys, come in and eat! I made sandwiches, just the way you like them!”
My mom is the best mom ever! Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are the best sandwiches ever! I jumped up and ran to the house.
“Uh-uh,” my mom said. “Close up the car first.”
I closed the car and me and Stephen ran inside to eat our sandwiches. The griffin got away, but that’s okay. It was only pretend.