Quit Putting Dragons on Clocks

dragon clock

© Jade M. Wong

Charlie Wise had been stopping by the Curiosities Shop every Thursday afternoon for the past ten years. This time he saw something different.

“Antique clock, Phineas?”

“I have a terrific new repair guy working for me.”

“Yeah, but a dragon?”

He keeps adding dragons to everything.”

“You know, I’d buy the clock if it didn’t come with a dragon.”

Phineas leaned on the counter and pushed up his bifocals. “Come around next week. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Okay, Phineas. Have a good day.”

“You too, Charlie.”

After closing, Phineas went into the back, took out his keys, and opened up the workshop.

He was still hard at work.

“You know, I could have sold that clock you worked on today if it didn’t have a dragon on it.”

Everything he’d worked on had a dragon on it.

The old Elf, who had been starving after becoming stranded outside of the Fantasy realm, looked up. “Sue me. I like dragons. Everything you have me work on is so…ordinary.”

Phineas slammed the door shut and locked it.

He muttered to himself, “I’d toss that pointy-earred bum out on the street again if he wasn’t so good at refurbishing antiques.”

I wrote this for Sunday Photo Fiction – April 16th 2017. The idea is to use the photo prompt above to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. Mine came in at 196 (after quite a bit of editing). I realized that the natural response to the photo would be to have the dragon come to life. I decided to try a different approach.

To read more stories written for this prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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23 thoughts on “Quit Putting Dragons on Clocks

  1. If the pointy-eared old bum keeps putting dragons on everything he touches, pretty soon they’ll seem as ordinary as everything else. Much like the problem of gargoyles on medieval structures, they become less than quaint and old-fashioned over time, and become merely grotesque. Even the magical fiction that sometimes brings them to life, rarely makes them anything but horrible — because that was their purpose from the start. They were intended to scare away evil, but their nature is to become so. Similarly, normalizing dragons won’t rehabilitate them, though there *was* a fantasy series by Anne McCaffrey that tried to make them useful on an alien planet where their genetically-engineered fire-breathing capabilities could destroy another deadly invertebrate space-borne organism whose orbit periodically intercepted the planet to precipitate onto its surface. One *can* imagine functional uses for properly-tamed dragons, but sitting on a clock doesn’t seem to be one of them.

    And regrettably, in our space-time reality, the most ancient adversary of both humans and their Creator has frequently taken the form of a dragon or similar reptile, making all related species suspect, even guilty until proven otherwise of being dangerous and antagonistic toward humans. That tends to reduce their decorative fashionability immeasurably.

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    • That’s for that, PL. I say the Elf is grumpy because he’s stuck on Earth and he’s putting dragons on things to vent those feelings. I suspect if he and Phineas developed a better working relationship, the Elf’s work wouldn’t have to include dragons anymore.

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  2. Feel quite sorry for the elf, stranded on Earth and then locked away in the back of an antique shop. Seems like slave labour, unless he wants to be locked in a workshop refurbishing!

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    • The Elf and Phineas have to work on their relationship. In the expanded version of the story, Phineas finds the Elf half-starved in the alley behind his shop and takes him in. The Elf was expelled from the Fantasy realm for reasons I haven’t thought about, so Phineas took him in and, discovering his talent, gave him a job. The Elf knows he can’t go out and let people see him, so he stays indoors. He’s passionate about his work and he has little else to do, so he works long hours and sleeps in the workshop.

      He has discovered he likes Thai and Vietnamese food, so Phineas regularly provides that type of food for the Elf’s meals. Other than that, the Elf (I haven’t made up a name for him) finds our world pretty dull.

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      • Hmmph! One may wonder if this is how Santa Clause got his workshop started, employing earthbound elves who needed meaningful work to feel their existence justified (and to keep them from becoming Rumplestiltskin-like exploiters of desperate human women) — though Phineas appears to be a far cry from a Santa. Was Santa the Elf’s former employer? Was the Elf discharged and exiled because he insisted on inappropriately decorating toys with magical dragons, contrary to their more-ordinary design specifications for use in a non-magical world by non-magical children? I know you said you haven’t explored these reasons, but where is this expanded version of the story you cited? As for Iain’s question about slave labor; it’s virtually impossible for an individual craftsman like this Elf to find protection in a union, especially considering that the question of fair compensation for elfin labors cannot be based in the standards developed for a human society into which they cannot or do not wish to integrate. Presumably, Santa’s elves, and the Keebler bakery elves, worked in environments managed by enlightened employers so that questions of union protection were entirely unnecessary. We may hope that Phineas may become a similarly-enlightened employer who can overcome the disgruntled attitude of his elfin employee charity case. Maybe if he could find additional elves to comfort his lonely exile, attitudes would improve? Maybe he could obtain his Elf’s assistance to contact an elfin Advocate in the Fantasy realm and seek to resolve the problems that engendered the expulsion? [Maybe I’ve just followed this bunny-trail too far already…]

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      • I suppose he might be more sympathetic as an escapee or refugee, but I thought you had implied that he was more of a rogue, a deportee, possibly a fugitive, or something at least marginally sinister and disreputable … such as a former employee discharged for cause. I can understand trying to avoid facile Christmas clichés in connection with elves — rather to view them as an alien species, a bit more like Tolkien though less noble or more fallen, perhaps more like Grimm’s Rumplestiltskin. But without this ready-made image of the toy-craftsman employee (or the bakery elf), one must create a broader cultural backstory for their society and for this particular elf’s rogue status. On the other hand, it offers more cause to treat the notion of a “Fantasy” realm, so-called by humans, as an alternative reality in the multiverse.

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      • Other themes might pop up in any case, though I’m with you in your original impulse to avoid Christmas associations. That opens the door to a sequel history millennia after Tolkien’s noble elven race departed for other realms westward. Perhaps some remained behind in the ruins of their former high civilization, or became hidden among humans like Prince Caspian’s childhood tutor in the Narnia chronicles (oh, sorry, I think he was a dwarf rather than an elf). Nonetheless, that could offer one form of backstory for the origin of your elf craftsman, and a myriad of possibilities for how he might have come to be banished or fugitive, not to neglect the question of whether he had to cross some barrier between multiverse realities, or craft forbidden “magic rings” (advanced tech) in order to transit an intermediate way-station junction between worlds, as in the Narnia Chronicles’ “The Magician’s Nephew”.

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      • Never make it home? Why are you making him sound like a lost little boy? Didn’t you describe him in terms of a banished fugitive? I thought you pitched him as a character with a fairly dark (though unspecified) past, rather than as any sort of victim. I would think that reminders of “home” would be the last thing he should want. Shouldn’t folks in this reality be somewhat suspicious of his motivations to sculpt or carve dragon figures? I shouldn’t think they are very “homey”, even for an alien reality that was originally his own natural elven habitat.

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      • Well, it seems to me that a serious challenge exists to envision what sort of events or internal psychological processing may bring this elf character to a crisis of decision and push him past grumpy self-pity and onward to true regret and repentance and resolve to seek change, in the manner required of any sentient being. Then he will need to search for answers about his place in the cosmos, and whether there may exist spiritual redemption for a non-human — in this case, an elfin sprite. Unlike a human neshamah, does a “sprite” have a “spirit”, or is he only a spirit? Is his emotional/spiritual condition fixed or variable? The latter is a basic requirement for redemptive change. What guidance may he seek for such change, if possible? His condition would seem to be yet one step farther removed from the redemptive plan that was established with Jews as a covenant, which might then be embraced from the outside by non-Jewish humans. Could a repentant elf then embrace *that* from yet further “outside”? If non-Jews are already on uncertain territory because of not having the assurance of a covenant, how much more uncertainty must an elf overcome? In some ways this would seem to resemble the anxiety felt by the mermaid in Hans Christian Anderson’s original tale of “The Little Mermaid”. She sought to become human precisely to become eligible for redemption. Might an elf do similarly, or at least try to live thusly for a time, for much the same motivation that has driven numerous non-Jews to emulate Jews and to envision themselves as if they were also members of the covenant? Perhaps there is little enough harm to do so briefly, as a step toward gaining familiarity with HaShem’s redemptive principles; though with maturity non-Jews must recognize that they cannot usurp such a condition that is not theirs, and that they must fit themselves into the household structure or bicameral ecclesia established by the G-d they seek to honor. Would the inclusion of elves establish a tri-cameral ecclesial structure? Would it behoove an elf to learn redemptive principles by emulating and associating with redeemed humans for a time? Could his employer Phineas serve as a mentor for such a process, or does he have too much to learn about the redemptive process for his own sake? Could he and the elf discover and explore this learning together? And then, of course, there would remain the conflict that exiled the elf from his native reality, and the search for resolution of *that* conflict, be it legal, moral, or both. I see quite a bit of story potential to be explored, here.

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