"Here's your place," the elf muttered grumpily as he slammed open the door letting the cold air and light powdered snow drift into the tiny room. "Your assistant will be with you sooner or later. You know where the feed trough is I assume. If you need anything else call the main desk; maybe they'll find someone who gives a fuck." Without another word he turned around and stomped off into the blowing snow.
David Hurwitz sighed and stooped down to enter under the short door frame. As usual he still banged his head but stifled the curse that came naturally to his lips. It wasn't that he thought it sacrilegious to swear in Christmas Town; if that were the case every elf indentured by SC would have been struck dead thousands of years ago. Foul creatures elves, he thought to himself; they have to be the nastiest things the Big Guy felt compelled to create. He must have been drunk that night, partying with Bacchus again more than likely and had a bit too much of the vino. What other possible reason could there be for creating a race of beings that had the hygiene of teenage boys and copulated like crazed weasels tripping on ecstasy? Shit, about the only thing they wouldn't screw is a ... Then he paused in his thoughts... No, I suppose they'd even fuck one of those if someone held its head. He sighed over the futility of thinking about elves and their personality disorders.
Taking two steps over to the low, unfinished and poorly constructed table, elf sized of course which meant it was too short for a normal human and uncomfortable to use, he set his laptop down. Taking off his overcoat he shook it out and hung it on the peg next to the door. He wanted to get out of his traveling clothes and into something more comfortable but naturally his luggage hadn't arrived yet.
"Probably lost it, again," he muttered. Sighing again he sat down in the chair next to the table, banging his knee of course, and flipped the laptop open. The unit hummed for a bit and then connected to the eternal-net. Typing in an address he was soon rewarded with the face of his supervisor, Ma'at, the Goddess of Truth and Balance who was consequently the head of the Eternal Auditing Corp. She had classic Egyptian features but had long ago given up the antiquated headdress and robes in favor of impeccably tailored Parisian dress suits. More than anything she reminded David of Suzanna Hoffs in The Bangles' music video Walk Like an Egyptian from his youth. Pretty yes but a bit demanding as a boss and a little older than he generally preferred his women, about five thousand years older.
"Ma'at here," she said briskly. "Oh, it's you, Hurwitz. What do you want?"
"I'm just reporting in," he said. "Just got here and I'm starting to set up. I won't be ready to start for a little while yet; my stuff hasn't all shown up yet."
"Lost your luggage?" she snorted. "You know after a couple of thousand years that joke gets a bit old. What's this? Your third time? Forth?"
"Sixth, actually," he corrected gently. "I'll call and complain and in a day or two they'll find it."
"Elves," Ma'at muttered. "Worthless creatures. The only thing they're good for is making the lists and putting together shoddy toys and it must be by divine intervention they're able to do that."
"They shit and fuck in the snow pretty well too," David added brightly.
"There's a bullet for your resume," Ma'at chuckled. "Anything we can do for you on this end? Sorry you got stuck with Christmas Town again but you know how it is."
"Low man on the totem pole," he shrugged. "It is what it is."
"Good boy," she nodded. "At least you don't bitch about it like some of the others. I'll remember that when the next assignment comes up."
"Anything special I should be looking for, Chief?" he asked.
"I'm getting some bad vibes from the lists and how the Christmas Spirit is being doled out," she said after a slight pause. "Nothing specific just a feeling but when you've been at this as long as I have, you learn to go with your feelings. Don't worry too much about the financials for now. I already know that idiot Cringle has them so hosed up I'm not sure even the Big Guy could figure them out. I'm going to send a special team in there after the first of the year to give the accounts a proctologic look over. I'm not one to second guess but if it'd been me I'd have looked for someone with a little more managerial skill and a little less of the fat and jolly.
"But that's not my call, nor our problem," she continued. "Dig into those lists and give them the once over. If you find anything, give me a call."
"Will do, Chief; Hurwitz out," David sighed as he hit the disconnect button. There wasn't much else he could do until the rest of his gear finally appeared so he made the obligatory call to the Help Desk and as usual was accused of lying about his lost luggage and cursed soundly for bothering them but finally obtained their grudging pledge that a search for his missing bags would be started immediately. Eternally the optimist David hoped this time it was actually true although he privately thought the chances of that were about the same as finding a lawyer or politician in Heaven.
Resigned to at least a day or two without his things, David opened his small carry-on bag and pulled out the thermal underwear he'd stuck in there for just such an occurrence; he could at least use them for pajamas. Hanging his suit in the tiny closet he shivered as he changed into the therms and crawled into bed. He was sure that for elves the bed was big enough to have a grand old orgy in but for him it was too short and of course didn't have enough blankets. Another thing he'd have to ask for in the morning.
The soft beeping from his travel alarm woke David up and he stuck his head out from under the covers into the frosty chill of his little room. Shivering, he dashed to the shower hoping beyond hope there would actually be hot water for once. It wasn't hot but he was willing to bet that any water free-flowing had to be warmer than his room. It wasn't just luck that he had a couple bars of hotel soap in his carry-on but experience and proper planning. He'd caught on after his second trip that the blank stares he'd received from the staff elves when he'd requested that particular item weren't from malicious and deliberate misunderstanding, not that he'd put it by the little buggers, but the fact was he'd asked for something completely beyond their ken. Soap wasn't just a four-letter word to elves; it was a four-letter foreign word.
Muttering while trying to dry himself with the one, semi-clean towel, he'd call it a hand towel or maybe a washcloth, and chiding himself for stupidly for not taking his thermal underwear into the bathroom with him he walked out into the cold room looking for the aforementioned garments.
"If you're trying to impress the help it ain't working," a voice like the tinkling of water in a rocky brook said sarcastically.
"Ack!" David screamed in surprise covering his crotch with the inadequate towel and turning around three times looking for the owner of that voice.
"Over here, dumbass," the voice continued from the direction of the table. Sitting on the edge next to his laptop was its source. Long pale blonde hair almost to the point of being white with hints of blue and green streaks flowed over her shoulders and down her back; huge sea-green eyes that seemed to envelop him even from across the room; the long tapered legs crossed at the knees would have been the envy of a swimsuit model and a chest so disproportional to her trim waist that it had to come from mythology or a Hollywood plastic surgeon. She was wearing a pale green dress that hugged her curves like it was painted on and looked like it barely covered her ass while her feet were encased in dainty little slippers the same color as the dress. She was without a doubt the most beautiful woman David had ever seen. She was also about eighteen inches tall.
"Got a good look or do you need to take a picture, shithead?" she quipped after a couple of minutes of silence had passed. She was frowning and those beautiful green eyes narrowed.
"Uh, sorry," he muttered and hurried over to pick up his thermals turning his back on her to pull up the bottoms. "You – uh – surprised me, that's all. I didn't expect to see anyone this early especially an elf," he said pulling the top over his head and reaching for his suit.
"I'm not a fucking elf, you moron!" she screamed. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw she was standing on the table shaking with rage.
"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to offend you," he said buttoning his shirt and wrapping the tie around his collar.
"Do I look like a fucking elf?" she screeched.
"Ah, I suppose not," he admitted. "You're – shorter and pretty and – clean. You're right, I should have known better but I don't think I've ever seen anyone up here other than elves. Well maybe the reindeer but you don't look much like a reindeer. Do you mind me asking who you are, what you're doing here and exactly what you are?"
"I'm a sprite, dipshit," she fumed. "A water sprite to be exact and I'm your assistant for this little boondoggle of yours. As for how I got here," her frown deepened and she sat down in a huff crossing her arms under her large breasts, "let's just say I had a little too much icewine one night while playing cards with some frost giants and the bastards took advantage of me. Got me to bet an indenture on an inside straight and then sold it to fat and jolly before I could sober up."
"Sorry to hear that," he said sympathetically. "So you're my assistant. I suppose it could be worse--at least you smell good."
"Yeah well keep your smeller back over there, asshole. And you can keep your slimy paws off of me, monkey-boy! Just because you got a tiny dick doesn't mean you get to stick it in my treasure. That ain't in my contract!" she snorted.
"Hey, it's cold in here!" he protested. "Don't worry your pretty brainless little head, munchkin. For one thing you're a little south of my minimum height standard by about four feet and from what I've heard so far your personality is about as ugly as your outside is beautiful. That mouth of yours isn't exactly a turn on, you know."
"Well fuck you too," she sneered. "And don't get started with any of those dumb blonde jokes, jerk face. I got more brains in my ass than you got in your whole head. And you can cut the munchkin shit or I'll report you to the Guild."
"Oh yeah?" he started and quickly stopped himself. To begin with arguing with a mythical was a waste of breath and besides even if she was as irritating as a jock strap made of sandpaper at least she was easy on the eyes and smelled better than an elf. Of course a pile of horse-crap smelled better than an elf. He paused, held his breath for a five count and continued, "Whatever, Barbie," he shrugged. "Tell you what: if you're supposed to be my assistant then why don't you get busy assisting. The sooner I can get done, the sooner I can get out of this hell hole and we'll never have to see each other again."
"Who the fuck you think you are comparing me to some plastic toy with a fucking painted on smile and an anatomically impossible figure?" she yelled.
David just cocked one eyebrow and looked down at her huge jutting breasts. She glanced down to where he was looking, quickly folded her arms across her chest and glared at him.
"Anyway, Barb," he continued. "If you want to get rid of me you have to help me do my job and get out of here. The first thing you can do is help me find my luggage."
"Do I look like some hotel bag-monkey?" she scoffed.
"No," he replied calmly. "You look like a miniaturized Playboy Bunny. However unless you can get me a download of the last—oh, let's say, five years of the Naughty/Nice list you'll probably be more help finding my clean shorts."
"Download? You mean as in digital? Where you hell do you think you are, sucker?" she started laughing. "It's all quill, parchment and about a zillion miles long!"
"Great," he muttered. "That means I'm going to have to scan it all in. Wouldn't you know Christmas Town is the only place left in the world that isn't computerized."
"I figure good old SC is too lazy to do it himself and the elves are too stupid to find the on button," she shrugged. "Maybe the reindeer could do it but their union is so strong and they won't allow any non-contract assignments without pretty sizable compensation."
"Well that tears it then," he sighed. "I have to get my luggage first; I've got my scanner in it."
"I suppose I could do that," the sprite admitted grudgingly. "Just to get you out of here quicker of course. I'll go see the desk elf, bend down and show him a bit of cleavage and he'd give me his first born male child if I ask him."
"He'd have done that for a nickel let alone a glimpse of those beauties," David chuckled.
"Probably," she admitted. "Hey, stop talking about my boobs!"
"Sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean to sound uncouth but like the rest of you they are pretty amazing."
"Yeah, well, you can look but don't touch and I'm not too happy you talking about them either," she replied somewhat mollified. "Hey, you're human ain't ya? I didn't think humans were allowed in Christmas Town. Every once in a blue moon maybe a kid or two but not a full grown human."
"Special dispensation," he smiled down at her. "I'm an auditor with the EAC." She looked puzzled so he continued. "The Eternal Auditing Corp." She still looked puzzled. "Look, you know Karma is the goddess in charge of eternal balance, right?" She nodded. "Well, we work for her. It's our job to uncover the imbalances in the world. Ma'at is actually the head of the EAC but she works for Karma."
"So you fix the imbalances in the world?" the little sprite actually looked somewhat impressed.
"I wish I could lie to you and tell you I do," he sighed. "But I only help uncover or discover them. There are other departments that take care of the actual balancing." He shivered just a little. "I know what I do is boring and we don't get the glory the balancing guys get but..." he shivered again. "Some of those guys are really scary and I'm happy to be where I am."
"You're like some fucking bookkeeper then?" she wrinkled her nose.
"That's exactly what I am," he chuckled. "I'm an accountant. Numbers, figures, books and ledgers. I know it's not very exciting but I like to think what I do is important."
"I suppose if you didn't do your job the other guys couldn't do theirs," she replied slowly.
"Could be worse," he shrugged. "At one time I was thinking about becoming a lawyer."
"So what happened?" she asked.
"My soul wasn't tainted enough to pass the LSAT's," he responded
She laughed and then cocked her head looking at him. "Hey, you said you wished you could lie to me. Does that mean you can't?"
"Yeah, I can't," he muttered. "We auditors are under an enchantment I suppose you could say. We can't lie. Auditors have to be completely honest and reliable. We can not answer a question or maybe answer only part of a question but whatever we say is the truth to the best of our knowledge."
"That must make it hard picking up chicks," she laughed.
"True," he admitted. "Since most women seem to want to be lied to."
"So if your old lady asked you, 'Does this dress make me look fat?'..." she grinned.
"Yep, I'd be dead meat if she didn't want the truth," he chuckled. "Luckily I don't have to worry about that. No wife and no girlfriend."
"Yeah, well no surprise there." She narrowed her eyes and glared at him for a moment. "Okay, I'm going to go find your shit so we can get this abortion over with." With that she seemed to transform into bubbly sea foam which popped and dissolved into nothing but a damp spot on the table. He shook his head, sat down, opened the laptop and began creating the files he expected he would need.
"Thanks for getting me my stuff, Barbie" he said putting the strap of the laptop over one shoulder and the strap for the pack holding the scanner on the other. "You coming with me?"
"What? It's fucking cold out there, you moron!" she screeched. "I'm a water sprite you fucking idiot! I'd be an ice cube within five steps!"
"Oh, sorry," he blinked. "Well, do you just want to meet me over there then?"
"I suppose I could," she mumbled a little embarrassed. "But that takes a lot of magic and..."
"And I don't have much left, okay?" she fumed.
"What happened?" he asked. "You're a magical creature. You should have magic coming out your ying-yang."
"It's none of your fucking business what's coming out of my ying-yang," she spat. "But it just so happens..." She stopped and he stared at her until she finally continued. "Okay, so I got this really hot tip on this seal in the third race and..." her voice petered out.
"He lost?" David chuckled.
"He didn't even finish!" she screamed. "The mother-fucker drowns! A mother-fucking seal drowned!" she wailed.
"That is bad luck. Do we have a little gambling problem?" he asked trying to contain the laughter but he was able to contain it after seeing the look of almost pure hate she was shooting him. "Okay, none of my business. You stay here and I'll be back when I can."
"No," she sighed despondently. "I have to go with you. Say," she perked up, "you don't happen to have any bourbon in that bag of yours do you? I could use that as an anti-freeze. That might get me there in somewhat less than stiff-as-a-board condition," she said smacking her lips.
"Sorry, no drinking allowed when on assignment," he said shaking his head. "But I'll tell you what, Barbie: You can get into the inner pocket of my coat here and that should keep you warm enough till we get there." He opened his coat displaying the empty compartment.
"Oh you'd fucking like that," she sneered but even as she said it gossamer wings unfurled behind her back and she gently lifted off the table and flew towards him.
"Yep, my own little pocket pixie," he grinned as she settled feet first into the deep slot.
"You know, I'm going to be really close to your balls," she mused looking up at him.
"Oh, yeah," he coughed. "Sorry about that, won't happen again. Shall we go?"
"This is booorrring," the little sprite sighed as she sat on the edge of the table.
"I get that," David snapped without looking up. "You were bored when we were scanning the lists. You were bored when I converted them optically. You were bored when I was translating them into the spreadsheet and now you're bored when I'm running the data analysis. Okay, you're bored! Now would you shut the fuck up so I can get my job done?" He paused when he realized what he'd said and looked over at the little sprite who was staring back at him with her eyes wide open and mouth hanging down.
"I'm sorry," he sighed. "You didn't deserve that. It's just when I get in my groove ... I get a bit focused and I can be a bit of a prick when interrupted."
"You're right, you are a prick," she agreed then stood up and wandered over to where she could see the screen. "But that doesn't mean I didn't deserve it. So, what are you doing now?"
"Looking for anomalies," he replied feeling bad. The little fairy could be an annoying bitch but she wasn't in the most pleasant of situations either and he didn't need to make it worse. The big hourglass was rotating on the screen confirming it was crunching the data as he'd ordered it.
"Look, I really am sorry," he said again. "Hey, this is going to take awhile with all the names and numbers it has to process. Is there somewhere you'd rather be? If you can't get there I'll be glad to take you."
"Naw, that's okay," she waved him off. "Nothing but elves and fucking seals around here anyway. The reindeer are too snooty to give ya the time of day and the snowmen ... Well if there is one thing even dumber than an elf it's a snowman. All they want to do is get you on your back in a snow bank. They only got one pickup line, 'Hey, you want to see my carrot?' It gets a bit old after the first few hundred times. And the seals ... The only thing they want to do is either fuck you or eat you! As for the elves ... Let's just leave it at that. I don't think I could ever be that desperate."
"I can't believe you would ever be desperate at all," he said without thinking. His mouth snapped shut and he glanced over at her muttering, "Sorry."
"That's okay. I know I got nice tits," she grinned.
"You've got nice everything," he said. "Your breasts are only a small part of it. Surprisingly you're not bad company either." Then he snorted and barked a laugh.
"What's that all about?" she demanded.
"Nothing," he replied. "Well, I just remembered a joke about seals."
"You know a joke?" she acted surprised. "Will wonders never cease. Is it an accounting seal joke?"
"Yes, I know a joke," he grumped. "I happen to know a lot of jokes and no it has nothing to do with accounting."
"Okay, let's hear it," she said sitting down and folding her legs under her body.
"All right," he started.
"You see this penguin was driving into town one day when his car started smoking and running rough... "
"What kind of car was it?" she interrupted.
"I don't know, a penguin car," he replied. "It doesn't matter."
"Okay, go on," she prompted.
"His car started smoking and running rough so he pulls it into the town garage. The mechanic said he'd have a look at it but it would be an hour or so. Seeing an ice cream parlor across the street the penguin heads over there looking for some ice cream. Of course there are very few things in the world a penguin loves more than ice cream..."
"They do?" she asked. "I know a lot of penguins and I've never heard one of them mention ice cream before. Fish guts, yes; ice cream, no."
"It's just part of the joke," he pleaded. "Go with it, okay?"
"Okay," she grumbled. "But I don't see how this can be funny if the underlying premise is so absurd." David glared at her as he continued:
"So he walks into the ice cream parlor and orders up a triple scoop cone of vanilla."
The little sprite started to say something but David iced her with a nasty glance. She shut her mouth and settled back down on her legs again.
"Now, penguins love ice cream but their little wings just aren't made to handle an ice cream cone so of course he gets it all over his face. It was quite a mess. By the time he was finished it was time to see about his car and he didn't have time to clean up. He walks into the garage and the mechanic looks at him while wiping his hands.
"You blew a seal," the mechanic says.
"Naw," the penguin replies brushing at his beak. "It's just a little ice cream."
For a moment the sprite stared at him blinking twice. Suddenly she started howling with laughter and rolled over on her back showing him she had on pale green panties the same color as her dress. For a couple of minutes she shook there helplessly until she could finally roll up again and look up at him.
"Okay, that was pretty good," she admitted as she wiped tears from her cheek. "I honestly didn't think you had it in you."
"Just because I have a boring job doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor," he replied.
"Yeah, my mistake," she chuckled. "Okay, so how did such a comedian get to be an auditor for the infernal powers?"
"That's eternal powers and I got offered the job after I was killed." She raised her eyebrows in question and he continued.
"You see I was coming home from work one day when somebody called me," he continued. "My cell phone slipped out of my hand and when I bent down to pick it up I didn't see the truck that swerved into my lane and bam! I was here."
"You shouldn't be taking on a phone while driving, Einstein," she chuckled.
"No shit, Sherlock," he replied. "But anyway I hadn't been bad enough to be sent to hell but only good enough to get into heaven's slums. You know, sitting around all day in a Lazy-boy watching Gilligan's Island reruns and drinking beer made in Detroit."
"Sounds like hell to me," she commented.
"Oh no, hell is a lot worse," he quickly informed her. "They only have reruns of the Jerry Springer Show and the beer is made in Pittsburgh!
"Anyway it was that or take the job with the EAC," he admitted. "Actually I kind of like it; you do get to meet some interesting people."
"Like me!" she shouted holding her hands above her head. This made her breasts jiggle in a most interesting manner.
"Like you, Barbie," he grinned.
"So, you know what hell is like," she continued. "Does that mean you've been there?"
"Once," he nodded. "One of the auditors assigned couldn't make it and I got slotted to fill his spot."
"So you did such a good job they gave you Christmas Town as a reward?"
"Actually Christmas town is the worst job we've got," he sighed. "Unfortunately I'm the junior man and get all the shit jobs."