Clive held his nose, and his eyes watered as the beat-up 1971 Pinto drove on the car assembly plant’s lot, the tarry smoke oozing of brimstone and burnt oil. Garbol the wizard disentangled himself from the driver seat and grabbed his pool cue. He sported a grey T-shirt with lettering and background on alternating black and yellow saying ‘FAILURE IS ALWAYS AN OPTION.’
He greeted Clive with a nod. “Where is he?”
“He didn’t want to meet you out here,” said Clive. “He said to…”
Garbol turned back to his car and opened the door.
“Wait! Wait!” said Clive. “Let me get him.”
Garbol stopped, and Clive sprinted to the entrance. Inside, Mr. Rhodes, commanding in his three-piece suit, pointed his cigar at foreman Hanefeldt’s chest and dressed him down about something.
“Mr. Rhodes, he’s leaving!”
“What? Why?” Mr. Rhodes strutted toward him.
“Come on. Hurry.” Clive went back out.
Behind him Rhodes said, “Don’t ‘come on’ me like—”
The morning sun rose just above Garbol’s head, a breeze shifting his messy brown hair, a few garbage bags dangling out of his pocket. He propped the cue stick on the ground, holding it outward at an angle, the cue peeking over the top of his grip. Well over six feet tall, pale skin, ratty jeans with holes in the knees. He was the most resplendent man Clive had ever seen.
Clive strode up to him and nervously looked back as Rhodes caught up.
“I’m glad to see you back, Mr… er… wizard.” Rhodes pointed his cigar. “The job’s not finished.”
Garbol glared and Mr. Rhodes cigar exploded. Rhodes jumped and threw the stub to the ground.
“This is how you welcome he who comes to your aid?” asked Garbol.
“I wrote you an apology. What more do you want?”
“I want a commitment,” said Garbol. “Twenty percent increase and once I start, I complete the job. No backing out for any reason.”
“Your out of your freaking gourd, magician,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes pulled another cigar out of his suit coat pocket and stuck it in his mouth. “Yesterday you said a ten percent increase.”
“That was before you failed to greet me this morning.”
Rhodes grabbed his cigar and poked it at Garbol’s chest. “I don’t know what you have up your—”
The cigar exploded. “What the…” said Rhodes. “It wasn’t even lit.”
Garbol pointed his finger right up to the bridge of Rhodes’s nose. “I know there are few people who give a damn about respect any more, and I’m just a jerk with the power to transform your face into a Venus flytrap with the wave of my hand, but I’ll be a mud slurping hellbender before I put up with one more insolent word from you.”
The wizard spread his fingers, then turned his hand and crooked his pointer. Mr. Rhodes stiffened and arched his back, his eyes popping out. “These are the terms. As the contract says, I will rid this assembly plant of any and all pests, especially gremlins, that are deleterious to the well-being and profitability of your company. I will finish this task to the end, or I will not do it at all. Understood?”
Rhodes nodded. His posture relaxed.
“One more thing,” said Garbol. “If you refuse the contract, I will bar the guild from sending anyone else. You’ll be bleeding money within the year.”
“Sir, you can’t expect—”
An explosion went off in his suit coat.
“Okay. Okay.” Rhodes rubbed his head. “I’m up against the wall here. I see that now. No need to cause any trouble with the guild. Fine. Fine. Do the job. Twenty percent is absolutely fair. Thank you. Welcome to my factory.”