The mayor’s house, a lovely wooden building from a more elegant time, had two entrances: there was the personal door, which was open on evenings, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and every other Monday; and then there was the business door, which was opened all other times (save for the times when neither door was open, such as when the mayor was sleeping or during the semi-annual Losing of the Keys).
The business door – designated by an elegant knocker and the words “business door” – led directly to a small flight of stairs which led to an alarmingly small waiting room. It contained two chairs, a door, and a wall-mounted stack of papers on which to write your name and business. A human would feel cramped in the room. A minotaur would have to crouch. A giant would fill the room entirely.
So although he had at times wished he were a minotaur or giant, on that particular Sunday morning Donovan Allman was quite happy to be a human. However, by the time he’d finished filling out his appointment form and sliding it under the door, any happiness he felt over being human was quickly overshadowed by the frustrations of his morning. He’d been on Skymoore less than twenty-six hours and already things were going poorly.
Donovan tried to assuage his concerns with reminders that his life down on Solkin was behind him, but rationality did little in the face of annoyance, so he instead picked up the book of brainteasers lying beneath his chair. He had finished a page of trivia, three mazes, a number puzzle, and a game of Match Famous Warlords to their Favorite Shade of Blue, when the door to the waiting room opened at last.
“Mayor Dew will see you now, or whatever,” said a young gnome with an undercut and nose ring. She traded places with Donovan, muttering something to herself about how sitting in on meetings was boring and how her mom and dad were so unfair.
Looking at him closely, one could easily mistake Mayor Gendry Dew for a human. He had mostly human-colored skin (perhaps a little greener than most), he had a very neat human-looking haircut, and he wore very human-like business attire.
Looking at him from a distance, however, made it very clear that Mayor Gendry Dew was in fact four-inches tall and partially submerged in a small mound of soil. The soil sat atop a stool atop the chair at his human-sized desk, which was adorned with pens, inkwells, and papers that he could not possibly reach. And even if he did manage to reach them, he could never hope to make use of them.
When Donovan entered his office, Mayor Dew was dictating a letter regarding the filling of a pothole (these were especially dangerous in Skymoore because one man’s pothole was another man’s mile-high death drop). In the corner of the office, a bespectacled dwarf was furiously copying down his words.
“Donovan Allman!” the mayor greeted. The dwarf continued scribbling away. “I trust your first day in Skymoore has been pleasant?”
“It has,” Donovan began, but he was interrupted by a startled grunt from the dwarf who had just then noticed Donovan. They ceased their writing.
“Take a seat,” Gendry insisted. Donovan did. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“Well, it’s about my business.” Gendry nodded. “It’s silly, actually. Just a clerical error. You see my business partner filed our company as ‘Odd & Ends,’ but it should be called ‘Odds & Ends.’”
Mayor Gendry’s brow furrowed. “What’s the difference?”
Donovan explained it as succinctly as he could. “I know it’s silly, just…it’s important to me.”
The mayor was now leaning forward, propped up on the desk by his elbows. He was still knee-deep in soil. His fingers drummed against the table thoughtfully. His smile never wavered. “I’m afraid this isn’t entirely in my power.”
“But you’re the mayor.”
“Yes, I’m the mayor. But I still answer to others, you see.”
“But isn’t Skymoore autonomous?”
“Autonomous, yes, but not anarchists. We have rules you see, Mr. Allman.”
“Okay, well. Who do I talk to?”
Mayor Gendry Dew pushed himself back up to his feet. “Well, you actually do start with me. I’ll need a request form. And then I’ll send the request form to Sue Peridan, head of Formal Requests. Sue will then need clearance from the tail of Formal Requests, and if that all goes well your problem will be reviewed by the Lower Office of Business and then the Middle Office of Minor Business Inconveniences. If it makes it through there, a randomly-chosen gladiator down on Solkin will be given the opportunity to fight in an arena for the chance to have your request seen by Delgoth, Dread Lord of Business Name Oversight. Then all that would be left would be for the Chairman of Repainting and the Council of Sign Ghosts to agree on the fee of your new sign, and voila, problem solved.”
Donovan was dizzy. “And…how long should that take?”
The mayor shrugged, still smiling. “Two weeks, six tops.”
Donovan nodded slowly. He could be the owner of Odd & Ends for six weeks. That wouldn’t be so bad.
“There is one catch, though,” the mayor added. Of course there was. “It’s just a small matter. In order for the request to go through, we have to revoke your business license under the name ‘Odd & Ends.’ It’s a bit of a gamble, because someone could take that name while you’re waiting for your new name to be assigned, and if you get rejected, well…you see where I’m going.”
“Wait, so I can’t open my store for six more weeks?”
Mayor Gendry Dew just smiled helplessly.
“Okay, never mind. I will just keep the name as is.”
The mayor clenched his teeth in a bad imitation of a smile. “Well…about that.” He gestured to the now-empty back corner of the room. “My assistant is probably already on their way to the Government Express Demidragon Courier. If you want to catch them…”
Donovan Allman, the semi-proud semi-owner of the magic shop now called Odd & Ends, was sprinting through the waiting room before the mayor could finish his sentence.
“Have a nice day, or whatever,” the gnome assistant murmured as he ironically finished a crossword puzzle.