Garbol played peek-a-boo with a warty doughnut troll hiding behind a chair and took the last bite of a French cruller when IRS agent Max Feldman walked into the Dunkin’ Donuts, flashed his credentials, and sat down. The wizard leaned his pool stick against a tall corn plant.
“Pleased to meet you.” Garbol pointed two fingers at the box in front of him. “Care for a doughnut?” The wizard discreetly shooed the troll away. Darlinkee the troll was an old and dear friend that he’d trained years ago to work for her doughnuts instead of raiding the shelves and trashing the place.
“No, thank you,” said Max.
“Your loss. Those blueberry cakes are to die for.”
“I’m trying to cut down.”
“Take some home if you like.”
Agent Feldman shook his head. “It might be seen as influencing a government agent.”
Garbol laughed. “For a doughnut? How far into nonsense we’ve fallen. I can’t even extend a common courtesy.” He grabbed the blueberry. “Don’t mind if I do. What can I do for you, Agent Feldman?”
“Yes. Um… maybe I will have some coffee.”
Garbol went for his wallet.
Max held up his hand. “I’ll get it myself.”
By the time Max sat back down, Garbol finished the blueberry and started in on a plane glazed. Max set down a folder.
“Just Garbol. Or Mr. Wizard. I like ‘Oh Great One,’ too, but few people are comfortable with that kind of truth.”
“Mr… er… Garbol, I’d like to speak to you about the value of your magic.”
“Don’t worry about what magic costs, I don’t bill that way. If you’ve got a problem, I’ll bill you for the job, regardless of the power involved.”
“But certainly the magic has value beyond just solving a given problem, don’t you think?”
“Of course, but it doesn’t matter.” Garbol talked through a mouth full of glazed. “You tell me your problem, and I’ll set the price accordingly. What’s the matter? Zombie maggots in the databases? Mummy’s curse on your calculators? Ghost in your briefcase?”
Max drummed fingers on his knuckles. “Mr… Garbol… Sir… I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood the intentions of this meeting. I’m not here to engage your services, I’m here to audit you.”
Garbol dropped a Boston cream back in the box. “What? You what?”
“Why? I barely make enough to keep up with the doughnuts.”
Max stuttered. “It came to our attention that you may be misrepresenting the value of your magic.”
Garbol furrowed his brow and shook his head. “What the hell are you talking about? How do you put a price on magic?”
“Let me ask you, Mr. Wizard—”
“I was kidding about that—call me Garbol.”
“Let me ask you. Do you get any publicity from the use of your magic?”
“Sometimes, I suppose. Why?”
“We can compare the publicity you get from a particular exploit with equivalent costs from a publicity agent.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you charge police officers for making a bust?”
Max hit his stride, his stuttering gone. “What about the conveniences it gives you. Did you not use your magic recently to expedite your travel through traffic during the rush hour?”
“To rescue people from a femoblister!”
“Yes. And it got you publicity that would’ve cost the Kardashians millions.”
“Ten more minutes and they would have digested alive.”
“Consider all of the benefits you’ve enjoyed on the cheap because of your magic. Transportation, special treatment, hotel rooms, extra police protection… I could go on.”
Garbol closed the doughnut box. “You can’t have any.” The wizard licked his lips and scowled. “Why would you do this?”
“It comes down to fairness. No one else in the world benefits from magic the way you do, and it’s just not fair to the magically challenged. Why should you reap rewards that they cannot? You either have to pay for it, limit your use, or both.”
“In spite of my magic benefiting everyone else?”
“Isn’t that true of every job, Garbol?”
“I changed my mind. I forbid you from calling me anything other than ‘Oh Great One’ or ‘Your Greatness.’” Garbol grabbed his pool cue and touched him on the shoulder.
“Why’d you do that, Mr. Garbol.” Max jumped out of his seat and yelled, “I love to snuggle with doughnut trolls.”
“That’s why,” said Garbol.
Several patrons glared at him.
The agent shook his head. “What the hell was that?” He sat down.
“Look, I’m not going to call you ‘Great One’ or ‘Greatness,’ sir.” He popped out of his chair and yelled, “I love to snuggle with doughnut trolls.”
A guy with a Redskins cap shot back. “I like to spoon with unicorns, but I don’t brag about it.”
Max stared at Garbol.
“Your Greatness,” said the wizard. The troll peeked from behind the chair and Garbol gave her an imperceptible nod.
Max sat back down. “Uh. Yeah. Your Greatness, we are going to have to categorize, value, and itemize all of your magical feats for the last three years and track them for the rest of this one, so please compile a list that we can go over.” He took a smug sip of his coffee.
It’s not every day a man gets to stare down a wizard, but Garbol knew that even he would not be a match for the IRS.
Max closed the folder and tapped it. “We’ll of course collect news reports to reconcile with your list, so please—”
Darlinkee the troll slipped her hand under his arm and over his collarbone from behind.
Max dropped his coffee on the floor. “What the…?”
Darlinkee wrapped her rubbery lips around Max’s shoulder and chewed lightly. He struggled, but could barely move from the trolls powerful grip. “What is it doing? Stop it! Get it off me.”
Garbol grabbed his pool cue, stood up, and tucked the doughnut box under his arm. “She’s harmless.” He walked toward the door.
The troll pulled herself onto Max’s lap and kissed him on the cheek, then grabbed his arm and started eating the polyester suit.
“Wait! Don’t leave me like this.” He pushed on the troll with his free hand, but she wouldn’t budge. “Please, Mr. Garbol—” He jumped up, the troll hanging on and yelled, “I love to snuggle with doughnut trolls,” then fell heavily back into the chair. “Please help me, Your Greatness.”
“How can I help you?” asked Garbol.
“With your magic. Put a spell on it to go away or at least to take a breath mint.”
“I’m sorry, Agent Feldman. I just can’t afford to.” Garbol pointed his staff. “Words of truth about yourself will set you free from the ugly elf.”
“What? What words?”
Darlinkee wrapped her arms around his neck, gave him a big squeeze, and farted.
“Aaagh! That’s horrible. Please wiz… please, Your Greatness—what are the words?”
Garbol walked to his car and whistled the old Pilot song ‘Oh Ho Ho It’s Magic.’ He vaguely wondered how long it would take Agent Feldman to figure out the words ‘I’m a naughty little troll hugger.’