Skinny arms drew back the bowstring with strength that belied their weak appearance. The golden bow and red-fletched arrow didn't waver a millimeter as Clarence took careful aim. He was here, and she was here — now was Clarence's moment.
The bowstring twanged — the missile flying straight and true. Clarence smiled, watching her face for the telltale signs of love blooming within her heart. Unfortunately, her expression was something quite the opposite.
Thinking it must be an optical illusion caused by his nose getting in the way again, Clarence turned his head slightly. Not only did trying to refocus his cross-eyed gaze not improve the situation, it also made his head hurt badly.
With a disgusted squeal, Andra lurched into the wall and swung her purse at the dog grasping her leg. "Oh my god, get off me!"
The crowd on the street began to back away, many breaking out into laughter. Not a soul moved to help her, although quite a few people paused to watch.
Clarence's mouth fell open, and his eyes slowly lowered to the offending animal. Sure enough, protruding from its hindquarters was his arrow. "Oh, bugger," he muttered, fumbling over his shoulder for another arrow.
Andra continued to jerk away from the black and white dog, swinging her purse. Finally, she landed a solid blow right on the moon-shaped patch of white fur over the canine's right eye. The animal yelped, and scurried away from her. Almost immediately, the dog found another leg with which to amuse itself.
When the amorous animal approached Alan, as he exited the chocolate shop, he put his hand on the mutt's head, preventing it from wrapping its paws around him. "Whoa, boy. I think you're a little confused." Looking up at the retreating redhead, he thought, You've got good taste, though. Damn, she's beautiful. Too slow again, Al. Story of my life — missed another chance to play knight in shining armor to meet a beautiful woman.
Clarence finally managed to draw another arrow, but as he knocked it and turned back toward Andra, he found that she was no longer where he expected her to be. Quickly scanning the crowd with his cross-eyed gaze, he muttered, "No, no, no, no... You can't be gone. I'm going to be in so much trouble."
A flash of red hair on the next block revealed Andra's location, and Clarence sped off after her as fast as his wings could carry him. Invisible and intangible to the people around him, he hurtled over their heads, keeping bow and arrow both in hand. Unfortunately, he wasn't intangible to the world, most notably the awning that he misjudged in his skewed vision.
Caught in the chest by the awning, Clarence's momentum carried him forward, tumbling head over heels. With a painful smack, he hit a light pole, and slid slowly down to the sidewalk. If anyone could have seen him, the onlooker surely would have expected to see birds circling over his head after the cartoon-like misadventure. None could, though, and so they passed by — and even through him — without a single glance.
At least on Earth...
Andra wiped the dog drool off her leg, her face burning bright red with embarrassment. She only glanced back once, to make sure the canine wasn't coming after her again.
Tossing the handful of tissue into an overfull waste can, she turned and descended the steps into the subway. She was already running behind, and the episode with the dog had only delayed her more. She needed to get to her office before George did — or said — something that would derail his entire campaign. He was a wonderful man, with ambition and vision, but he was simply helpless in front of the press. The vultures from the media swarmed around the poor man constantly, hoping to draw another humorous quote from him, boosting their sales at his expense.
Reaching the platform, Andra breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the train pull up — she hadn't missed it. Filing in with everyone else, she took the first available seat. As the train lurched into motion, she noticed that an overweight man a seat or two up was doing his best to see up her skirt.
Cursing the rush that had caused her to select the shorter skirt during the whirlwind of activity this morning, Andra put her briefcase in her lap and pointedly stared the man down. He offered her a twitch of his eyebrows, and a smile. He then turned to leer at a woman across the aisle who was displaying ample amounts of cleavage.
Andra closed her eyes and shook her head for a moment, thinking that it was a toss up whether the lecher's stare or the dog earlier was the more disgusting.
Alan watched the beautiful redhead until she vanished from view in the distance, amongst the crowd on the sidewalk. Sighing, he patted the dog on the head once more. The dog looked up, its tongue lolling out in an expression that Alan thought looked almost like laughter, and then the animal took off running full tilt down the street.
Shaking his head and chuckling, Alan crossed the street to his building. Stepping into the elevator, he headed back up to his loft apartment to attack his current manuscript one more time. He was fighting a bad case of writer's block, and knew he was going to be in trouble if he didn't get this novel done soon.
Popping one of the chocolates in his mouth as the elevator doors opened, he sighed in pleasure and hoped the magical little treats would do the trick. He had no idea why it worked, but chocolate had pushed him through a brain freeze like this many times before.
Sitting down at his computer, he had another of the sweet confections, and then maximized his outline to look over it again.
Floating on a cloud, Lellor uncovered his eyes with a groan. The woman walked down the subway stairs, and the man walked into his building. Clarence lay on the pavement, unconscious from his fall.
"We're in so much trouble."
Clarence roused slowly, his eyes even more crossed than usual. For a moment, he swore each eye was looking directly at the other. The increasing heat of the day told him he'd been out for a while, and he knew that Andra wasn't likely to be anywhere near.
Picking up his bow and arrow, Clarence considered his problem. He knew Andra would be at campaign headquarters, and Alan would surely be in front of his computer. The only saving grace Clarence had at this point was the predictability of his two charges. He had to get them both in the same place again, in order to pop an arrow into Andra and get the two together.
An idea occurred to him, and Clarence smiled. Quickly speeding off, he opened his mind and searched for what he needed — a muse.
Andra swallowed hard as she turned the corner. Standing right in front of the building where George had set up shop for his campaign was the last person in the world she wanted to see.
For a second or two, she contemplated just calling the police and waiting until they told him to move along. Shaking her head, she decided to just confront him and get him out of her life forever. She wouldn't have really had a choice anyway, as he spotted her and started walking in her direction.
"Andra, Baby, I'm sorry. I was an idiot. I was drunk, I didn't know..."
"Go to hell, David. You slept with another woman, in my bed. I don't care if you were drunk. Just go away, I don't ever want to see you again."
Smiling, David reached out a hand toward her, "Come on now, you don't mean that. I found her for us. Remember how we've been talking about getting with another woman — about how hot that got you?"
Andra's face flushed red. "Shut up. I said that if that happened, we'd do it together. Get away from me, you bastard!"
"Is everything okay, Andra?"
Andra turned and smiled in relief upon seeing Emily standing in the doorway, scowling at David. "David was just leaving — permanently."
Emily put her hands on her hips and said, "He'd better be, because otherwise I'm calling the cops. The city police have endorsed George, so I'm sure they'll be glad to come right out and take care of this little problem."
David growled, "Fucking bitches. Probably licking her snatch aren't you, Andra? That's what your problem is, you're going fucking lesbo. Fucking sick bitch."
Emily flipped open her cell phone and started to dial.
"Fine, fucking lezzie whores, I'm leaving." David turned and stomped off down the street.
Andra sighed and hung her head, praying that nobody inside had heard the conversation, and that there weren't any of the vultures from the press nearby. If he went to the press, they'd just ignore him, but if they actually heard the exchange, it could be bad for George's campaign. She'd probably have to resign, and she had no idea how George would survive without her help.
"Come on, get in your office and calm down, Andra." Emily opened the door as she said it, holding it so Andra could walk through.
Fortunately, Emily was the only one in the office so far. They crossed the foyer and quickly closed the door to Andra's office behind them. As Andra moved to her desk, Emily fought to keep her eyes off the redhead's shapely behind. I wonder if she really is into women? God, I'd love to get in bed with her!
Andra sat down heavily, putting her head in her hands. Emily walked over and sat down in a chair in front of the desk, saying, "Maybe you should get a restraining order."
Looking back up, Andra shook her head. "That would just be potential bad press. I just changed the locks and stopped calling him after I threw him out. Now that I've told him to go away, he'll leave me alone."
Andra shrugged. "No, but I have too much to deal with as it is. We have to get a press release out to counter that latest attack ad — quickly. Mattheson is such a scumbag."
"Do you think we should comment on the reports he had an affair? Maybe we need to start fighting fire with fire," Emily suggested.
"No, we're going to run a positive campaign, no matter what. If anybody asks, we say that we have no comment, and that it's up to the voters to decide whether they think such allegations are relevant."
Emily smiled, "Okay, get started on that press release then. I'm going to call Joe and see if he can't put a man in the area to keep an eye out for that guy. I'm not quite as optimistic as you."
Andra's voice was full of resignation as she responded, "I wish we could have a police patrol to keep all men away from me. All I seem to be able to find are jerks. I'm done with it all — no more men for me. I have too much work to do anyway."
Emily seized the opportunity without even a second thought. "Well, then we'll have a girl's night out tonight. I know the perfect place, and I'll keep the guys away from you. You need to relax a little. Come with me when we close the office up?"
A half-smile crossed Andra's face. "I'll think about it. I probably could use a drink or two."
Emily stood up and said, "I'll go call Joe. Just yell if you need me."
Standing next to the hovering Clarence, Ambrosia the muse's expression revealed uncertainty. "I don't know. He certainly could use some inspiration, and your idea might work, but he's not mine to inspire. I don't know if I like the idea of inspiring someone for reasons other than pure creation, either."
"Come on Ambrosia, every inspiration has other motivations. They want to sell books, songs, win their true love, or something. Nobody creates just to create, really," Clarence suggested.
"You're wrong," Ambrosia disagreed. She sighed then, watching Alan stare blankly at his monitor. "It's so hard to leave him like this, though. Okay, I'll do it, but you owe me a favor, Clarence."
"Thank you! This means so much to me. I'm going to be in big trouble if I don't get these two together."
Narrowing her eyes, Ambrosia warned, "Don't make me regret this." She then walked over and whispered into Alan's ear.
Alan stared at the manuscript in front of him, absolutely nothing coming to him. Maybe I should just scrap this whole idea. I guess I just don't know enough about politics to really write this.
The story was simply too good to throw away, however, and Alan couldn't bear the thought of scrapping weeks of work because of a single scene that refused to congeal in his head.
Maybe I need to learn a little about politics. It's election season, I could go check out the bustle at some candidate's office. Maybe I could even volunteer or something. That will give me some experience with what goes on.
Feeling inspired, Alan stood up and rifled through the mail, looking for the campaign mailings that had been appearing in his mailbox, on his door, and everywhere he looked for the last several weeks. He'd just been piling them up, too busy trying to get his new novel moving to bother bagging them up for the trash.
One caught his eye, a flyer from a grass-roots candidate who had started to make big waves recently. He was polling high, causing both the incumbent Democrat and the Republican challenger to direct all their energy toward derailing his campaign.
Decision made, Alan looked into the mirror, ran his fingers through his wavy brown hair and then looked around for his keys and wallet.
Clarence whooped with joy.
Ambrosia rolled her eyes. "Remember, you owe me a favor, Cupid. I've got to go. If I don't give some people some ideas soon, they're going to make another awful incarnation of Star Trek, and Gene is beside himself in Heaven as it is, after the last one."
"Yeah, no problem. Whatever you want. Thank you, Ambrosia," Clarence muttered, keeping his off-focus gaze locked on Alan, as the author prepared to leave the house.
Shaking her head and looking to the heavens for a moment, Ambrosia vanished from the room.
Emily sighed, her nerve failing her already. Her initial plan upon suggesting Andra go out with her tonight was to take her to a lesbian bar, and see what happened. Most of the women in the bar were far too aggressive for Emily's tastes, but she'd had some fun with a couple of girls she'd met there before. Most of them balked when they found out she was only bi, and still dated men regularly.
Lamenting the lack of courage that was going to keep her from giving such an overt sign, Emily started thinking of other places they could go. Maybe she'd find the inspiration in a few drinks to hint that she found Andra attractive.
She doubted it, but she could always hope. Andra's conversation with the jerk outside earlier, and her current attitude toward men at least offered a slight chance that something might be possible between them.
Speaking of men — yummy! Emily thought when Alan walked into the office, looking around curiously at the people manning the phones, the posters on the walls, and the bustle.
Quickly flipping open a compact, she checked her blonde hair and makeup in the mirror. Crossing the room, she approached him and said, "Can I help you?" Her smile was radiant.
Alan smiled back and replied, "I hope so. My name is Alan. This is probably going to sound a little crazy, but I'm an author, and something I'm writing has an important scene revolving around a heated political campaign. Unfortunately, I've got writer's block. Actually, it's more like writer's Great Wall of China. I thought that maybe if I hung out here for a while, and maybe helped out a little, that I might get some inspiration to get me moving again."
"I don't think that would be a problem, provided you're not just with one of the other candidates here to spy on us." Emily gave him a questioning gaze as she finished speaking.
Alan laughed, "No, I'm not a spy. I haven't been paying too much attention — I usually don't until right near Election Day — but at this point, I'm in agreement with the polls. I like Kline's ideas, and he's not an insider. With all the indictments in this city recently, that sounds like a good thing to me."
"Well then, I sure could use a hand scanning all the papers. We have to make sure there's nothing we need to respond to in any of today's articles. Speed is critical when something comes out that we need to answer. I already have people locked on every TV channel, but it's just me dealing with all the newspapers." Emily gestured to a stack on her desk, most of the newspapers obviously as yet unread.
"Just tell me what to look for," Alan responded.
Clarence sat impatiently atop a shelf, an arrow knocked in his bow, waiting for Andra to make an appearance. He'd managed to get Alan here, and now she was nowhere to be found. The door to her office was closed, so he assumed she must be inside.
She'll come out eventually. You can do this Clarence. Get in nice and close, aim carefully, and get the job done. Show them all you're not an embarrassment.
Settling in, he kept his bow pointed at the door to Andra's office, determined that he was going to hit his mark this time.
A commotion outside caused Emily to look up from the newspaper she was reading. A quick glance outside prompted her to moan, "Oh no, not him."
Andra's now ex-boyfriend was outside, raising a commotion. Emily muttered, "Thank heavens," when she saw an officer approach him. Though nobody inside could make out the words, it was obvious David wasn't willing to be moved, even for the law.
Alan stood up, looking outside and asking, "What's all that about?"
Emily said, "It's not good."
David turned and tried to get in the door. Without thinking, Alan moved toward the front of the room, intending to assist the police officer trying to keep the man outside.
As he pushed through the door, David screamed out, "I've got a right!"
"Hey now, buddy, calm down," Alan warned as he approached.
Emily opened the door to her office, saying, "What's going on out here?"
Clarence muttered, "Bugger," noticing that Alan was about to push the yelling man out the door, and the blonde woman was moving to push Andra back into her office. Drawing his bow, he lined up his shot and let fly. His eyes locked on Andra's face even as the arrow sped on its way. When he saw the first bloom of love emerge in her eyes, he did a somersault in the air.
Turning back to Alan, he saw surprise and delight in the man's expression. It only lasted a moment, however, as the yelling man outside grabbed Alan, jerking him out into the street.
The momentary delay wouldn't matter, however, as Clarence's arrow had obviously done its work. Buzzing out the door before it could close, he soared upward, waving down at Alan and saying, "You're welcome, big guy, go get her!"
Alan couldn't believe his eyes — it was the redhead from the street this morning. Lady luck, you must be smiling on me today!
He reconsidered that a moment later, as powerful fingers grabbed him by the shirt, jerking him out the door and into the arms of the man he'd just helped to push back outside. Alan managed to get an arm up in time to deflect a punch, and then the police officer was there, grabbing Mr. Irate and hurling him into the wall.
Snapping handcuffs onto David, the officer turned to Alan and said, "Thanks for the help. Come down to headquarters and press charges, it will help put this fellow in his place. Word is he's stalking one of the ladies that works here, and I'd like to see him behind bars, at least until he makes bail."
"Yeah, sure, no problem officer," Alan said, turning around and seeing the door the redhead had emerged from close. He sighed, but his frown quickly reversed when he realized he knew where to find her now, and he already had a reason to return.
Clarence sat outside his supervisor's office, whistling a merry tune and wondering what was taking so long to get him in. Perhaps they're trying to find the right words with which to thank me for completing such an important mission, he thought. Deciding that must be the case he returned to his whistling, daydreaming about how sheepish everyone would look when they found out what he'd accomplished today.
The clouds parted, and Lellor's voice sounded from the space beyond, "Clarence, get in here."
"Yes sir," Clarence responded proudly, hovering up from his seat and flittering quickly through the opening.
Lellor gestured, "Sit down, Clarence. I told you how important the mission I gave you is, didn't I?"