Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jenny, Sweet Jenny

Again, this is another Unicorn & Gryphon Pub tale from the universe where humans and other species attained sentience together and the bartender is human. The first tale is Sheila: A Morality Tale that I released yesterday and if this is your first U&G story that you've read from me, you might want to read the introduction and story there first. Again I release this, with some trepidation, in the spirit of Halloween.

Jenny, Sweet Jenny
A Tale From The Universe The Next Door Over
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(Author's note: British mothers in the Middle Ages kept children away from the dangerous edges of ponds and streams by telling them of Jenny Greenteeth, an ugly fairy-goblin who waited just under the water to grab little children.)
Warm light and friendship illuminated the Unicorn & Gryphon Pub. A portly, mustachioed human bartender stood behind his bar and wiped wine glasses clean with a soft cloth. Around him, pretty barmaids of various species served ginger beer to dragons, gryphons, equines of all flavors, wolves, foxes, and other canines as well as the rare human who chatted amiably with lions, tigers, bears and ohmyes.

The evening proceeded like one hundred evenings before and would probably proceed like the next one hundred, but life, regardless of the dimension it finds itself, has a tendency to be unpredictable at best.

The first sign that something amiss loomed on the horizon presented itself as an overpowering odor of rot and decay. Conversation in the pub stopped abruptly as individuals began to gag and cough and look askance at their neighbors who blamed others for the phenomenon.

Suddenly, the door to the pub opened and in walked an apparition from a demented child's nightmare.

The creature looked as if it had laid in the bottom of a bog for the last decade. Copious strands of algae formed its only clothes as well as dangled from long, wiry arms. Wet, dripping hair failed to hide most of the waterlogged features of a ravaged female face.

Leaving scum-flecked puddles behind, it walked over to a bar stool and sat upon it with a loathsome, squelching sound.

"Bartender!" it croaked, "Service. Now!"

The pub remained silent as everybody simply stared.

The creature looked around at the shocked faces with some annoyance. "What? What?" it growled. "You never saw Jenny Greenteeth before?"

Nobody dared to respond.

"You never heard of Jenny Greenteeth or is it you just don't like me?" she cackled, a grin revealing the source of her name. "Oh, yes, we all like the foxes don't we? We like the horses and the tigers and the bunnies, but nobody ever likes Jenny Greenteeth, do they? Jenny's too scary, eh? She that eats little children that wander too close to the water's edge, eh?"

She put hands up in mock surprise, speaking a few octaves higher. "Oh my babies!" she squealed. "Don't get too near the water or mommy will worry and Jenny Greenteeth'll get ye!"

With a cackle, she turned back to the bar to come suddenly face to face with the bartender.

"I'm sorry, miss, but we can't serve you here," the bartender said firmly. "You see, it's just that I know what your kind likes to eat and all and we just don't serve children here."

"Pah!" Jenny said with an annoyed wave of her hand, "I had to give up on eating children. Doctors said they was too high in cholesterol and saturated fat. And the feisty ones give me heartburn something fierce."

She pointed to a large cookie jar. "Just give me one of them gingerbread cookies over there."

With a sigh, the bartender fetched her a large gingerbread cookie inn the traditional shape of a man. Not to often do gingerbread men form part of a normal pub's menu, but the foxes did love them so. He lay the cookie on the top of the bar in front of the fairy-goblin who eyed it hungrily, licking what was left of her lips.

With slimy, trembling fingers, she carefully arranged the gingerbread man on the bar, making sure it was precisely where she wanted it to be. Then she got off her stool and slid below the bar.

"Ooh," she said, her voice drifting up from the floor. "Does ol' Jenny Greenteeth hear a little child above me? Did some naughty darling disobey his mummy and wander too close to the water's edge? Bad, naughty, little boy!"

She peaked over the edge of the bar at the gingerbread figure ignoring the shocked patrons who stared at her, her watery, green eyes staring intently at the sweetmeat. "Ooh! He's a naughty little boy, isn't he? He's a scrumptious little thing, isn't he? Wandered too far from mummy and daddy to the water's edge, didn't he?"

With a roar that made everybody jump, Jenny leapt over the bar and grabbed the gingerbread man with both hands. Cackling shrilly with diabolical glee, she stuffed the large cookie in her mouth, spraying crumbs and pond water everywhere. Her high-pitched squeals brought tears to the eyes and pain to the ears.

After a moment, she stopped laughing long enough to glare at the barkeep. "Another one, please?"

Suddenly, one of the dragons spoke up. "Hey, Horse," he said the barkeep in a loud voice, " tell her about the life-sized gingerbread boy you have."

Jenny whirled about to face the dragon fast enough to miss seeing the puzzled look on the barkeep's face. "Gingerbread boy?" she asked. "Life-sized, you say?"

"Yeah," the dragon said casually. "It's kept in there." He nodded toward a thick, oaken door complete with large lock and key behind the bar. "You could say it almost looks completely lifelike."

Jenny spun about to face the barkeep. "I wants it," she demanded. "I wants it now!"

The bartender simply spread his hands with a puzzled look.

"Don't worry yourself, Horse," the dragon said. "Allow me." With that, he got up off his seat and walked behind the bar.

Jenny shook with eager anticipation.

"Now when I open this door," the dragon said in a stage whisper, "you run in and get him."

Jenny cackled, grinned, and rubbed her slimy hands together.

Suddenly, the dragon grabbed the handle and opened the door with a sudden jerk. With a shriek that froze the marrow of all those who heard, Jenny dove off her stool in a demonic leap right into the darkness beyond the open door leaving behind a puddle of brackish pond water and the cloying smell of decay.

The dragon slammed the door, turned the key, and leaned against the door.

The bartender walked up, worry etched in his face. "L.D.," he said. "Fun's fun, but I can't keep a customer in the walk-in freezer, no matter how obnoxious she may be."

He held out his hand for the key.

The dragon looked at the barkeep, then looked at the key. With a shrug, he tossed the key into the air, caught it between his jaws and swallowed. "Oops!" he said with a toothy grin. "Looks like you'll have to put the cost of the key on my tab."

Hours later after the barkeep removed the door, he found that Jenny's attitude toward the bar had grown cold...downright frozen, in fact.

The next October found the U&G pub the talk of the town. The celebrations of All Hallowed Eve were made even more complete with a life-sized ice statue of Jenny Greenteeth in disturbing detail.

Trapped in the icy prison of her own body, Jenny sighed with satisfaction. She might be cold and stiff, but she could still scare the kiddies.

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