Thursday 11 March 2021

Fiction- Serial by Will Nuessle


 

BARRY BOTTER AND THE SORCEROUS PHONE 

by W. C. Nuessle 

copyright 2021


Part the First

 

            It was the opposite of a dark and stormy night; a rather gorgeous, sunny day, which was remarkable for England in high summer. As he closed the door of his gleaming silver Lexus, putting the key fob in his pocket after hearing the pleasing shirp shirp sound of locked doors, Barry Botter sighed happily. He was the captain of a cracking football club that would shortly decimate the final opponent of the year, had a lovely girlfriend to celebrate that victory with, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

            There was, though, an unpleasant odour. Ever after Barry would kick himself for not ignoring the scent and continuing on into the lockers, but then—fate has a way of inevitability, idn’t it?

            Looking around, wrinkling his usually well-ironed Roman nose, Barry found the source of the problem. A large, enormously bearded man, framed by destiny, or at least the door of the Port-A-John he was exiting.

            In the grand British style, Barry immediately tried to avoid eye contact, but it was too late.

            “You Barry Potter?” The large man rumbled, a wave of noxiousness rolling off him.

            “Who’s asking, then?”

            The man laughed heartily. It was unpleasant. “They told me you’s a smart one. I’m Haggard.”

            “I can see that,” Barry replied noncommittally.

            Haggard stepped closer, unfortunately. “I’ve come to find ye, lad.”

            “Did King’s College put you up to this?” It would explain an awful lot. “Those bounders.”

            “We’ll be boundin’ soon enough, Barry. I’ve come some distance to find ye, tell ye the truth about yerself.”

            This ought to be good. While he cast about for Security, Barry thought he’d best keep this nutter talking. “What truth is that, then?”

            “Yer a whizzard, Barry.”

 

That word, whizzard, struck a chord somewhere deep inside staid, confident Barry Botter. More an alarm bell, really. His search for a security guard redoubled. “Come again?” Perturbed, he ran a hand through his thick, wavy blond hair, looking at this interloper with his piercing blue eyes that had never needed glasses of any kind. “Who are you?”

            The large man scratched his beard, at least it might have been his beard, he was so hairy it was hard to tell where any specific part of hairiness left off. “Haggard, as I said.” Several creatures of indeterminate origin tumbled out as he scratched, quickly secreting themselves amidst the folds of the man’s remarkably disgusting robe.

            “Yes, well, that’s very nice but I’m due on the pitch any minute. I’m Forward against King’s,” as if this fellow didn’t know that, “they’re my uni’s rival.”

            “Uni? Oh, unicorns!” Haggard laughed uproariously, causing several passing women to swear off ever having children. “You’ll see lots of them where I’m taking you.”

            “And where’s that?” Barry asked politely, trying to remember his self-defense training.

            “Hogwash.”

            “I beg your pardon?”

            Haggard looked surprised. “Hogwash School of Whizzcraft and Wichery.”

            “Well, yes, that sounds lovely but I really must be going,” is what Barry meant to say, and got as far as “Well, yes—” when Haggard strode forward and grabbed him, perhaps only intending a friendly noggin rub, however the large man’s distinct funk proved overpowering at close range and Barry collapsed.

            

            When he came to, with quite the start, Barry found himself on a bench, an ad for The Crystal Maze slipping past his eyes. He blinked, and realized it was pasted to the side of a double-decker. “Where are we?”

            “Awake, then, are ye?” Haggard guffawed. “I like to take midday naps meself. Can’t say as I blame ye. But come on, now, we’re short on time.” With a friendly if undeniable hand on his shoulder, Barry stumbled along next to Haggard. “And we need to get you your wand.”

            “My what, then?”

            “Your wand. There’s a lovely shop on Punctu Alley; hurry now!”

            Figuring he might as well play along until he could find a nice bobbie to help him, Barry



did his best to keep up. Haggard turned happily down what he called Punctu Alley, though best as Barry could see it was just a small collection of shops off Swinton St. “Too bad we’re so short on time,” Haggard was saying. “There’s so many lovely streets here in the Magic district. Nutrition Alley, health food shops; Occasion Alley, ‘course that’s only open sometimes; Theoretic Alley’s gonna be finished any day now.”

            Something of a pattern nudged at Barry’s confused cranium. “Theoretic… Alley? Punctu Alley? Next you’ll be telling me Politic Alley is where they hold” —what had he called it— “Whizzcraft Parliament meetings.”

            Haggard stopped dead in the street, looking stunned. “Cor, they told me you was a smart ‘un, but I never! Honest, how’d you suss that out?” Now the overlarge man looked suspicious. “You sure you never been here before?”

            “Let’s just go,” Barry murmured, seeing the attention they were drawing and, being British, not caring for it.

            “My favorite’s Immor Alley, you want to know, but yer much too young for that street, I’ll tell ye,” Haggard continued as he lumbered along. “Ah, here we are. Olive Juicer. Best wand-maker in the country.”

            It looked like a Taco Bell to Barry, and he said so.

            Haggard guffawed. “It’s all part of the disguise, idn’t it? We can’t let the Marbles know about the magical world, can we?”

            “The…marbles?” Barry was certain he was losing his. This is all going to turn out to be a horrible dream any moment, he told himself for at least the forty-seventh time.

            “Yer, the non-magical folks. The ones what think the world is normal.”

            How Barry loved those folks. He didn’t say so. Out loud he only said, “Olive Juicer?”

            Haggard beamed at him. “Ah, well, that’s sweet of yer to say, Barry; I love you too. No need for the sir.” While Barry was still wrapping his mind around this, Haggard pushed open the door of Olive Juicer’s secret wand shop made up to look entirely like a Taco Bell. It was a very convincing disguise. If Barry didn’t know any better, and he most certainly didn’t, he would have thought that it really was just a Taco Bell, right down to the manager who walked over briskly the second Haggard came in. “No, no, no—I have told you a thousand times, sir, you are not welcome here!”


Haggard laughed indefatigably. “It’s all right, Olive, the lad here knows all about Whizzcraft, you don’t need to keep up the pretense.”

            Barry, who was not a foolish youth, had started to figure out a little about this brave, new world, and spoke up before the poor fast-food manager could get more upset. “You know, you’re right—but obviously Olive’s trying to tell us” he made big eyes at the manager behind Haggard’s back “that what we’re looking for is outside, eh?”

            ‘Olive Juicer’, whose nametag cleverly read Emil, seemed quite happy with Barry’s suggestion. “Yes, yes, go outside for your games.”

            For his part, Haggard seemed content. “All right, Barry, I’ll follow yer lead. Yer the Chosen One and all.”

            Barry picked the least disgusting-looking square inch of Haggard’s robe and pulled him back out of the door before anyone reported the moving health-and-safety violation. In the strip of grass next to the restaurant was a scraggly tree, and under the tree… “Aha!” Barry exclaimed, swooping down upon a sturdy looking stick, roughly a foot in length. Whether or not his ploy worked, he felt like having some sort of weapon would be a plus in his current situation. “See, a lovely wand.”

            “Well bless me,” Haggard exclaimed, “they’re just leavin’ wands lyin’ about on the street, now? What’s the world comin’ to? But I will say, that’s a lucky find, Barry—suits you to a tee and that’s good because we don’t want to be late.”

            “Late for what?” Barry asked with another sinking feeling. He’d been getting a lot of those in the past hour.

            “Late for the train, lad. Come along.”

            More drug along than following, Barry kept tight hold of his new wand as the unlikely pair set off down the street.

            (Chapter Two: ‘The Hogwash Express’, coming soon!)

 



Will Nuessle holds a third-degree brown belt in ninjitsu; rides a Harley; primary caregives a five- and two-year-old (with the third arriving in April) and claims to be able to recite the alphabet backwards in less than ten seconds. He also writes occasionally.



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