“Gandalf! You ran me over!” said Frodo Baggins’ slightly muffled and squashed voice from the mud. (And this is exactly who you want shaping your fortune, right?) Gandalf the Gray, Not-so-Wicked-Wizard-of-the-West, quickly backed up his old fashioned cart and looked down. “Oh thank goodness it’s only you, Frodo. I thought I might have run over a fuzzy woodland creature.” He looked extremely relieved and pulled the now rather flat Hobbit to his feet. At that moment, there was a loud yelp and a person who looked very much like Indiana Jones raced out of the forest, being pursued by spear brandishing natives. Frodo and Gandalf sighed and exchanged looks that plainly said ‘not again…’ “He hasn’t changed at all, has he?” Gandalf asked.
“Nope. That’s reliable old Sam for you. Always chasing after some treasure or another. He’s a dear friend, but still, folks do gossip…”
“Have you heard the one about Pankok Palace?” Gandalf questioned over the shouts of the natives as Sam brandished a revolver at them.
Frodo nodded. “Yes, from Sam himself… do you think we should help him?” The wizard shrugged, so they strolled over to help. After a short struggle, the natives went racing back into the trees.
“Well, that was close,” said Sam, wiping a few small beads of sweat from his forehead. “Thanks guys! Hey, mister Gandalf, when did you get here?”
“Just now,” Gandalf explained with an apologetic look at Frodo. “What were you trying to steal from the natives this time?”
“Well, there’s this local legend, and don’t tell anyone I told you this because the Nazis—” Frodo quickly changed the subject upon seeing the look that had come over Gandalf’s face. “Well, Sam that’s very interesting” *cough*psychotic*cough* “but Gandalf has to be going! I think…”
Gandalf quickly caught on. “Oh! Yeah! I have to be going to the pet shop!” Now it was Sam’s turn to exchange glances with Frodo. The two of them were well aware of Gandalf’s luck (or lack thereof) with pets. “Er, Gandalf? That may not be the best idea.”
“Well, do you remember Hedwig the owl?”
“And Pigwigeon the owl?”
“And Earl the poisonous toad?”
The ugly, squashed orange face of a Persian cat poked over the edge of Gandalf’s wagon. “Earl I remember,” he said sourly. (Of course they all
remembered Earl—that had been… messy.) Sam gave a yelp of fear upon seeing the cat. “Gandalf! You brought that… that monster?!”
“He’s not a monster! He’s just Crookshanks!” Gandalf snapped, a little defensive. Crookshanks yawned, showing teeth like daggers. “These killing sprees really take it out of me,” he explained in a whisper that only Sam could hear, then added, “One bag of catnip and I’ll let you see the bodies.”
* * *
At the pet shop…
“Why don’t you get a ferret?” Frodo suggested. One of the sleek creatures gave him a suspicious look.
“Because they’re walking germs,” supplied Sam. “Parrots are way better. They can talk.”
Frodo rolled his eyes and went to stand beside Sam and examine a colorful bird. “Nonsense. They just drill a couple of words into them at the pet shop and they never learn anything else. Cute, but stupid.” He gave the bird a half-hearted smile.
“CUTE BUT STUPID!” it repeated loudly.
“Yikes!” Frodo jumped a few feet in the air. Blinking in amazement, he leaned toward the cage, examining the parrot as it bobbed its head pleasantly. An unfamiliar voice spoke. “Perhaps you should leave those two alone. I sense a real battle of wits shaping up.” Gandalf and Sam quickly turned around. A guy who looked (and acted) a lot like Bob Wiley was standing there, his arms folded over his chest, watching
Frodo and the bird sizing each other up with a mildly amused expression.
“Meriadoc Brandybuck!” Gandalf exclaimed joyfully. “You work here now?” He glanced around at the pet shop, which Merry had always said was a breeding ground for viruses like salmonella, infectious mononucleosis, malaria, and many others. “Here?”
“Yep,” said Merry, producing a spray bottle full of bleach and beginning to wipe down the ferret cage meticulously. He held a tissue over his mouth and nose as he did so. Gandalf smiled. “Something’s never change.”
As Merry finished his job, he looked up and grinned. “So, I’m going to guess you’re here to buy a pet, Mr. Gandalf? Well, we have goldfish here.”
“Really?” Gandalf looked eager.
“Right this way.” Merry began to lead the way through rows of cages, but
Frodo, looking up, called out to him. “Hey, where’s Pippin?”
“He’s over there,” Merry replied, pointing toward the window where a tall dude (well, for a Hobbit) in a dress was examining some gerbils.
With a last, mistru!@#$l look at the parrot, Frodo walked over to stand beside Pippin, who, oddly, looked much like Luke Skywalker.
Peregrin Took, or Pippin, as he preferred, was a Jedi, and everything the name entitled: self-controlled, pure of heart, blah, blah, blah. It got
annoying after a while. Frodo had spent many a summer trying to find something about his friend that was not perfect, and each time he had failed miserably. Until he realized that the answer was staring him right in the face.
“Hey, Pip,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “Nice dress.”
Pippin rounded on him, glowering. “For the last time, Frodo, it’s a robe. NOT a dress.” Frodo started to respond, but was distracted when Gandalf called out to him.
“Frodo! Come look at my new goldfish! His name is Gil!” The old wizard triumphantly held up a little plastic baggy. Inside it, Gill the goldfish
opened and closed his mouth cheerfully.
“Er, see you at Uncle Bilbo’s party,” Frodo muttered awkwardly. Pippin nodded and went back to staring thoughtfully at the gerbils as Frodo made his way back through the rows of cages again.
“…That fish is eighty cents, tiny little fake glass tank included,” Merry was saying cheerfully. Gandalf paid the proper amount, and he, Frodo and Sam walked out the door.
“Crookshanks, I’d like you to meet Gil,” said Gandalf proudly.
“Yeah, good ole’ Gil,” said Crookshanks menacingly. “Good-ole’-your- days-are-numbered-as-soon-as-Gandalf-turns-his-back-Gil…”
Gandalf didn’t hear him, but Sam did. “That monster is planning to assassinate your goldfish!” Crookshanks blinked angelically.
Frodo quickly changed the subject. “Are you all going to my uncle’s birthday party?”
“Of course! It’s not every day your young man turns one-hundred-eleven!” exclaimed Gandalf. Gil opened and closed his mouth with surprise.
* * *
“I feel good; I feel great; I feel wonderful,” chanted Merry. “I feel good; I feel great; I feel wonderful.”
“What’s up?” asked Pippin.
“I’m getting ready to go to Bilbo’s birthday party,” said Merry. “My physiatrist told me to do this before I go anywhere.” At that moment, his cell phone rang. He answered it. “Hello?”
“Merry!” said a slightly rushed and terrified voice. “I’m leaving town now. If you follow me I’ll call the police. I’m referring you to Dr…” there was a rustle of paper, “Greenleaf.” Lightning flash and thunder rumbled. Dogs howled with fear. Merry didn’t seem bothered. His psychiatrist continued,
“He’s a very professional Elf from Mirkwood. You’ll meet him in Rivendel on October the twenty-fourth, okay? He’s going to be your new friend.”
Merry looked puzzled. “New friend? What’s wrong with my old friend?”
“Nothing, nothing…I just got a very important job at a…a…garbage disposal!”
“Oh, that’s great!” said Merry encouragingly. “So, just to make sure I have the facts straight…I’m meeting Dr. Greenleaf” (thunder crashed again) “in Rivendel on October twenty-fourth?”
“Yes! I have to go now, Merry. I’m very busy.” He hung up.
“Who was that?” Pippin asked.
“My old physiatrist. I have a new physiatrist now. And I’m supposed to met him in Rivendel on October twenty-fourth.”
“That’s a long, long way away,” Pippin pointed out. “I think I’ll come with you for extra credit in the little green dude’s class.”
Just then, a bunch of spear brandishing natives emerged from the forest and surrounded the unsuspecting friends.
“Oh man, it’s the third time this week!” said Pippin as they were tied to a long stick and carried away.
“Oh no…put me down! My bladder is feeling funny! I have convulsions! Ohhh…”
To be continued…