If you haven’t had a chance to read George and Jockular’s previous two stories, I suggest you click the links below to read those first. I think you’ll enjoy this piece more if you know their backstory.
The hilarity of watching Jockular try to wedge himself into the passenger seat had all but worn off. Worry ate at George now as he realized the barbarian’s presence at the restaurant would spark unwanted questions. He broke into a cold sweat, his heart pounding, and a tingling numbness spread across his face.
I’m such an idiot! His clothes alone are going to draw attention! Should I just say he’s a friend from LARPing?
With his mind racing, George failed to notice Jockular’s body tense up as the car stopped at a traffic light. The barbarian growled.
“Georgie!? What devilish magic is this?”
“Yar wagon’s stopped, lad!”
“I know. Light’s red.”
Jockular snarled, raising his hand in a warding gesture.
“Georgie! That lone red eye’s castin’ some fell hex on yar wagon. I’ve heard of such things. Never faced one, though. Is it a hag or one of the fey folk? They can be quite treacherous when angry.”
“No, it’s a traffic light.”
“I’ve never heard tell of such a beast.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s not alive.”
“But, yet this menace has halted yar wagon. How does this firelight burn with such power?”
“Bah! You’re talking magical gibberish as usual.”
“It’s a kind of lightning.”
Jockular stared uncomprehendingly.
“You know… the bright, booming flashes of light in the sky.”
George tried to make the sound of thunder.
“Oh… that’s formidable magic from the gods themselves, lad.”
“Now stop and listen to me! I’ll try to explain it in another way. See the road crossing this one? That traffic light keeps cars…er…wagons from crashing into each other. It’s not our turn to cross. It’s the other road’s turn.”
George could see only confused irritation in the barbarian’s eyes.
“Look, Jockular! We can’t cross while that light’s red!”
“But, we need to get to the tavern, lad! Don’t ya be thinkin’ I’ve forgotten ya promised ale! And ya’r forgetting Lady Stacey. It’s unwise to keep a noblewoman waitin’, Georgie.”
“I know. I know. Unfortunately, this is an annoyingly long light.”
“How long is long? We best be crossing now. Surely, a wizard of your stature must know some way to counter this enchantment.”
Tired of the incessant questions, George stopped trying to explain.
Fix it, Georgie! You’re a wizard, Georgie! What am I supposed to do? Does he expect me to draw a green light?
George decided it was easier to simply play the part. Mouth dropping open, he smacked his forehead in mock surprise.
“Yes, of course! How silly of me! You’re right. All this talk of Lady Stacey has addled my brain.”
“Aye, women will do that do a man.”
“Thank you for bringing me back to my senses, Jockular.”
“That’s what friends are for, laddie.”
“A wizard needn’t bow to the whims of a mere traffic light. I’ll dispatch the blasted thing straight away!”
George outstretched a trembling hand and began to chant nonsensically. The barbarian waited impatiently.
“Georgie?! Nothing’s happening!”
“Ok, ok! This is a tough one! But, fear not. I will overpower it.”
“Would it help if I tried to distract the fiend with my legendary battle cry?”
“No. Just tell me when the traffic light yields to my demands.”
George closed his eyes, feigning strenuous concentration, and chanted louder.
“But, how will I know?”
“The red fire will turn green.”
Feeling the light would never change, George stole a quick glance to see Jockular crouched forward, eyes wide as he peered out the windshield.
“Are you watching?”
“Aye! Aye, lad! Nothing yet!”
“Stay vigilant. I can feel it weakening.”
The car jolted as the barbarian startled with a surprised cry.
“Gods! Look at that!”
George opened his eyes and smirked.
“Phew! That was a tricky one!”
“But, you’ve done it, Georgie!”
“Yes, I have. Sometimes I surprise even myself.”
Jockular slapped George on the shoulder.
“On to ale and Lady Stacey then?”
“Yes, we can proceed safely, now.”
Jockular crowed triumphantly, breaking into song as George stomped on the gas pedal. The barbarian’s mood was contagious. George still didn’t know what would happen at the restaurant. But, the anxious pit in his stomach had fled. In its place, George felt a growing confidence. He suspected he could handle anything with the barbarian by his side.
George’s life was literally an endless, boring routine of wash, rinse, and dry. He was dishwasher at a local restaurant.
“George! Running low on plates again!”
Perhaps, Mr. Witherson, if you shelled out some money to buy more plates, we wouldn’t be constantly running out on a busy Friday night.
“Right away, Sir!”
His current job at “Rodeo Ribs” was the latest in a long line of menial gigs. Never lasting, he either quit or was fired within a couple of months.
This job rots. My hands are perpetually pruned. I leave every night drenched down to my underwear and I smell like an old sponge.
Despite being intelligent, college was a disaster. Failure to focus, when disinterested, was a constant. George dropped out after a semester. Retrieving a rack of dishes, he climbed upstairs.
And who puts the dish sink in the basement of a restaurant?
George wasn’t completely devoid of ambition, however. He had two passions; his art and role-playing. Drawing was intimately connected to creating fantasy characters to play. He enjoyed putting his imagination on paper. Recently, he discovered LARPing. Now, his entire world revolved around it. When live action role-playing, he felt authentic and truly alive. His alter-ego was a bold, brawny, swamp barbarian named, “Jockular of the Murky Fens.” His character wasn’t the brightest, but compensated for this flaw with stupendous strength. The barbarian’s legendary battle-rage filled even his most formidable opponents with dread.
“George, I said plates!”
“I’m working on it, Mr. Witherson.”
George sputtered and skidded back through the hectic kitchen to the top of the stairs. Rushing, he nearly fell on the way down.
Really need some non-slip shoes or I’m gonna kill myself.
George whistled happily, daydreaming about his upcoming weekend. His LARP group was hosting this month’s regional adventure weekend. It was called, “Taming the Titan’s Tempest!”
Two whole days of play. Can’t wait to show off the new armor I’ve constructed. Good chance of winning MVP, if I effectively deliver those new jokes and taunts I’ve been rehearsing.
His barbarian’s name was a play on the word, “jocular”. Feeling particularly clever, George enjoyed explaining the name’s pronunciation accentuated the character’s ubiquitous laughter and prodigious sense of humor. Jockular gleefully sought any opportunity to taunt his adversaries with gruesome puns foreboding impending doom. George also never forgot to mention the spelling of his character’s name alluded to the barbarian’s athletic prowess.
Look at all these dishes! Jockularwould never tolerate having to while away the time scrubbing at dirt and grime like some kitchen wench. Ha! No need! He eats with his fingers!
“George? Mr. Witherson is going to have a coronary. You have those plates yet?” one of the waitresses called down.
Hefting a load of fresh plates, George hurried to deliver them. Taking the stairs two at a time, he failed to make proper contact with the last stair.
He fell with a tumultuous clatter. Plates shattered everywhere as George landed with a sickening pop on the basement floor.
“George?! Are you ok?”
The waitress clamored down.
“Ow, ow, ow!”
George heard Mr. Witherson yelling upstairs.
“What was that noise? Was that plates breaking?”
George racked with pain, ignored the shouting above.
“Damn! Oh, God! Oh, God!”
“Your forehead’s bleeding!” the waitress exclaimed.
George swiped at his face. His hand came down slick with blood. Scrambling to get up, his right foot erupted with an agonizing explosion of pain. He crumbled to the floor and threw up.
“Somebody help! George is hurt bad!”
Mr. Witherson begrudgingly allowed a busboy to drive George to the emergency room. An x-ray confirmed his ankle was broken. George was sent home, sulking with a cast and a bottle of prescription painkillers.
Once home, beginning to feel the dull throb grow, George defeatedly collapsed on the couch. Reading the instructions on the prescription container, he tossed it on the cluttered coffee table in disgust.
Ugh. Next pill in about four hours.
Rummaging about George found his sketch pad. Gingerly propping his foot up, he began to draw.
Thank God, I didn’t break my hand. I’d die without being able to draw.
As the charcoal pencil danced across the paper, a figure gradually emerged. George sketched a burly man clad in furs, wearing a scaly, green, armored breastplate. Elk antlers protruded dramatically from either side of the barbarian’s helm. His face was ringed with a golden mane of unruly blonde hair. George smiled down at the image he had created of Jockular blithely, brandishing a bloodied, double-bladed battle-axe. Gradually, he retuned to thinking about this weekend and all the fun he was going to miss. George frowned.
Damn! Whole weekend is ruined!
Disgusted, George threw the notepad and pencil across the room. The sketchbook skidded to a stop just outside the kitchen. Breathing heavily in anger, he closed his eyes, listening to the grating sound of his pencil roll across the linoleum.
Ugh! I hate my life!
Lying still, feeling sorry for himself, George heard something. It was the sound of rustling paper. Quietly listening, attempting to identify the source, he was startled by a loud crash from the kitchen. His foot adamantly protested as he sat up quickly.
“Dragon’s Piss!” someone whispered loudly.
Alarmed, George painfully hobbled toward the kitchen, arming himself with a pillow. Reluctantly, he edged closer to the muffled commotion in the next room. Pausing, just around the corner, panic took over. He froze.
Oh, God! Oh God! Come on George! You need to look!
He managed to peep, ever so slightly, into the other room. He was instantly paralyzed again by the sight. In the middle of his kitchen was an unnaturally large beast, back turned to George, doubled over, picking up the shards of glass from a broken pickle jar. The refrigerator door was glaring, wide open. Food littered the countertop. Initially, mistaking the figure for an animal, he realized it was a man dressed entirely in an assortment of furs. Regaining control of his body, George stepped backwards, placing the entirety of his weight on his bad ankle.
Eeeeeyy.” he squealed involuntarily.
The man spun around.
“What ar ya doin on yar feet? Ya’r suppose to be restin!”
Disregarding his pain, George skittered backwards, bumped against the wall and slowly slid to the floor. This hulking man standing before him was exactly how he imagined Jockular. The fur, the long hair, the antlered helm, even the green, dragon scale breastplate; it was all there. It was as if Jockular had climbed straight out of George’s drawing. The man sighed with exasperation.
“Now, I was fixin’ to whip ya up a thing, a healin’ thing. Does me ever so much good when I find meself feelin battered and bruised from battle. Trust me! It’ll work ya wonders. Ya’ll be on yar feet in no time.”
The stranger folded his arms and laughed loud and long. George stood stock-still, gawking. Catching George completely off guard, the huge man lunged forward, his hands outstretched.
Effortlessly, he plucked George up off of the floor and schlepped him back into the living room.
“Quit yar belly achin’ lad.”
Depositing him onto the couch with care, the giant stuffed a pillow gently underneath his injured foot. Grasping a nearby blanket, the stranger then clumsily tucked it around George.
“Thar! Snug as a bugbear.”
He chortled to himself, striding back to the kitchen. Stopping abruptly, the behemoth bent down.
“Oh. Ya dropped this.”
Holding up George’s sketch pad and pencil, he walked back over.
“Har’s yar quill n parchment. Oooh! That quill looks magical. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just touchin’ it. Mind ya, I ain’t afraid. Seem to remember haring of things such as this. Is it a quill of eternal ink?”
George lay staring up, eyes wide as saucers. He was in shock. Receiving no response, George’s new and unexpected caretaker returned to the kitchen.
“Ya’v cared for me many a times, Georgie. My turn to return the favor. I don’t spect ya’ll thank me none too soon tho. This ol’ shaman’s recipe, me Mam taught me, tastes of pig shit.”
The man snorted and guffawed as he returned to the kitchen.
Coming to his senses with the giant out of view, George dared to quietly flip his sketch pad back to the page he been working on.
The sketch was gone.
The page was completely blank.
“Balderdash! Ya seem to lack some of the necessary ingredients. Not to worry! I’ll forage about. Shouldn’t be hard findin’ some goat snot. Course, now that I think on it, Mam did say I can always use me own.”
“Jockular?” George whispered to himself.
Jockilar leaned his head suddenly back into the room.
“Oh! Georgie! When ya’r feelin’ better, perchance ya’d draw me some trolls er goblins to practice me fightin’ moves with. Whatcha ya think?”