Title: Of War and Taters
Author: Ashley Chappell (@AshleyNChappell)
Aside from the occasional kitten in a tree, Stanley Grace's biggest challenge as Sheriff of the tiny town of Merit has been his heiress wife and her thinly veiled attempts to speed up the ‘til death do us part’ clause in their wedding vows. However, that peace ended when the national news picked up a local story about a violent gang war in Merit. Unfortunately, the story ignored that the rival gangs are in the 4th grade and actually best friends. Stanley and the town get shoved unwillingly into the spotlight as national media, celebrities (including the recently dead), and a visiting circus pounce on them wagging the national finger in shame over the supposed race-related violence.
But when danger follows behind the chaos in the form of a bloody uniform found just outside the town, Stanley finds himself facing bigger problems than just the entire country calling his town racist. Armed with a cup of luke-warm coffee, his smelly dog, and a little supernatural help, it’s up to Sheriff Stanley to save his town from newshounds, killers, and circus clowns alike.
“Watch where you’re backing that elephant up, boy! I don’t have time for another shower, so kindly point him the other direction, thank you!” Cyrus barked his commands proudly. No one could bark quite like Cyrus. “You, over there! My, you’ve got something of a marmoset face, don’t you? Never mind, just get that bear to put down the damned poodle and get him back in his cage after he does his business. And will somebody tell me where the damned dwarves are?”
As ringmaster and commander of Sir Cyrus Cleansby’s Myriad of Marvels travelling show, he surveyed his collapsible realm with the pride of a pharaoh watching his pyramid being erected. The Egyptians might have been onto a good thing with the sphinx, but it was a shame that such a gold mine should be stuck out in the middle of the desert going to waste. If he’d been pharaoh he’d have built one that could be torn down and rebuilt as a summer house in Alexandria over a weekend. A grunt from about waist level brought Cyrus’s attention back down to earth.
“All right, keep moving! And remember, five minute breaks are for the unemployed!” He turned his attention back to the matter at hand. “Now for you two—”
“Excuse me?” Sir Cyrus was very unaccustomed to being interrupted.
“I believe you called us ‘dwarves’ a moment ago. ‘Little people’ is the preferred and accepted term.”
“Is that a fact?” Cyrus chewed the end of his soggy cigar. The rain pouring in under his scant office tent made it impossible to keep it lit, but he felt having it in his mouth added to his air of authority. If he’d had a mirror he’d have realized that having a drooping, dripping cigar impeding your speech only added to your air of absurdity. “I’ll try to keep that in mind,” he continued with the tone of one who intended no such thing.
The more diminutive of the two little people seemed to recognize familiar stormy waters in his boss’ demeanor. “Is there something we can do for you, sir?” He nudged his politically minded partner into silence.
“Well, I’m so glad you asked that. Snow White sent word to me five minutes ago that she refused to perform again as long as a certain dwarf—oh excuse me—little person,” he spat the phrase, “was employed here. Now would either of you like to tell me why that is?”
The taller of the two, whom Cyrus had mentally named Slappy, was already reddening.
“She started it! She said she’d hang me up by my ankles and see if she couldn't stretch me into a man!”
“Really? That’s just terrible! Why do you think she’d go and do a thing like that? Don’t you even think about going anywhere!” He added to the other little person who’d begun edging away from the conversation after learning that it didn’t have anything to do with him. He flinched and stopped in his tracks.
“Well,” began Slappy, “I gave her flowers yesterday, kinda as a joke, you know, but I think she may have taken it the wrong way.”
“No kidding? Would these, in fact, be the flowers trimmed out with ladies’ safety razors that are lying on my desk right now?” Slappy’s nod was barely perceptible. “Imagine that. I can’t think of any reason why Snow White the Bearded Lady might take that the wrong way! Now, I want you to go apologize to her this minute and take her this box of chocolates. These have never failed me before. Now go!” He shoved the box of Belgian truffles into Slappy’s hands as the little person took off at a dead run.
“As for you,” he addressed the other one who’d managed to edge all the way to the tent flap again. “You seem much smarter than your little friend. What’s your name?”
“Big Joe, sir,” he replied quietly.
“Ah, I see, one of those joke names. Irony, right? Because you’re so short.”
“Um, not exactly, sir. The name has nothing to do with my height, actually.”
Cyrus looked thoughtfully at Big Joe. “Son, you know this is a family circus, right?”
Big Joe wondered if his face were actually on fire or if it had suddenly just gotten much hotter in the tent. “Yes, sir.”
“From now on, if someone asks you that while you’re in my show, it’s because of the height thing. Got it?”
“Good. Now here’s your job. Keep an eye on Slappy for me—”
Cyrus cursed his habit of mentally tagging people in place of remembering their names.
“Oh, the one who just left. What’s his name?”
“Little Joe, actually.”
Cyrus looked at him again. “Because of the height thing, right?” He asked slowly.
Ever the quick learner, Big Joe replied, “Exactly sir! Because he’s so short, yes. Nothing to do with anything at all but his height.”
“Good. What I want you to do is watch Little Joe for me. If he gets it into his head to pull any more of his pranks I want you to come right back and tell me all about it. I can’t afford to keep buying these blasted chocolates. Go on now, get started!”
“Yes sir!” Big Joe practically saluted Cyrus in his excitement to be finally released.
“Whoever heard of a prima donna with a beard, anyway?” Cyrus asked the empty air after both Joes had left.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Ashley Chappell is the author of Of War and Taters (World Castle Publishing), an irreverent paranormal romp set in the fictional deep south. She is also the author of the young adult fantasy Dreams of Chaos series (Alice Will, Tilt and A God of Gods) which has been hailed by readers as “Darker and more entertaining than the Heroes of Olympus Series.” The series is set in the sentient god-universe Chaos where a teenage goddess is forced to contend with the destructive habits of her dysfunctional godly elders.
Upcoming releases include: The Hotting, a Dreams of Chaos spinoff adventure for younger readers; and The Editors, a new adult urban fantasy. Other works in progress also include outlining the script for her first comic The Harrows, a gritty adventure in which Hell is a job. She is also the creator of Core: A Game of Gods, the pivotal game played by the immortals in Tilt: Dreams of Chaos #2 that combines the best parts of Risk and poker with an element of role playing. The board game will be debuted in Spring 2015 (est) and downloadable boards and instructions will be available on her website for anyone adventurous enough to test their skills against the gods.
Ms. Chappell currently resides in Huntsville, AL with the love of her life. During her writing time her cats sometimes share her lap with her computer, should they choose to allow the usurpation at all. When not writing, reviewing, or burying her nose in one of her well-worn Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman novels, she can be found sailing with her fiancé on their boat ‘Dupracity’ (Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will want to ask her what that means).
Social Media Links