Short Story: A Good Word

This is a short story I’ve had simmering within me for a while.  I wrote most of the first half about a month ago, but I had the wrong main character.  Yesterday, I reworked it so it would be more entertaining.  I hope you enjoy it.

“Everything seems to be in order,” the hunchbacked minion sniffed.  He shuffled his papers and folded his glasses into his pocket, glaring in the boy’s direction.  When he turned to his master, his attitude changed from haughty to humble.  It was like seeing a fox turn into a worm; even his hunch grew less offensive.  “The supplicant is ready,” the minion said.

The chief examiner, a blue-hued silhouette in the window, turned his head.  He spoke softly.  “He has passed all the tests?”

“He is intelligent for his age; he is fluent in three dead languages and has killed a fourth.  He has a suitable pocket watch, though it isn’t the finest example of timekeeping I’ve seen.”  The minion sniffed again.  “His name is Mor, which technically begins with ‘Mor’, but that seems to be the full extent of it.”

“And the last test?”

“I watched him make the spaghetti myself, m’lord.”

“And did you taste it?”

The minion sniffed, as if loath to give another compliment.  “It was excellent, m’lord, though it wasn’t the finest example of culinary work I’ve seen.”

The chief examiner glanced at the boy, Mor, who fidgeted slightly in his seat.  The testing process always felt long, especially for the supplicants.  Mor looked over his shoulder at his minion, who didn’t make eye contact.  That was probably better for both of them.

“How much longer can we draw this out, Minion?”

“Law dictates we must add another few thunderclaps and a smokescreen.  You haven’t even begun on your quota for evil laughs, m’lord.”

“Haha,” tried the silhouette.  “How are we now?”

“We’ll work on it, m’lord.”

“You say he passed the tests?”

The minion sniffed.  “Yes, m’lord.”

Mor sighed in relief.  The chief examiner turned toward him, but remained in the blue light of the spotlight outside.

“Come here, boy.”

“M’lord!”  The minion handed him an official-looking paper.

“Sorry, Minion—I meant, let the supplicant come forth!”  His voice boomed through the room.  He saw the boy flinch.

Mor rose.  He almost fell back into his chair, but his minion held him up until he could position his crutches and move slowly toward the window.

“Kneel,” said the examiner.  Mor blinked in the bright spotlight.  “Or… just do your best.”

Mor stayed where he was, leaning on his crutches.

“Not the finest example of kneeling I’ve ever seen,” muttered the minion.

The examiner waved him away and cleared his throat.  “By the powers vested in me, thrust upon me, and pounded into me by falling meteorites—“

“M’lord!” hissed the minion.

“I know,” the examiner hissed back.  “It’s just so dull, sticking to the script.  By the powers blah blah blah, and with the big stick of evil—“  He waved it.

“The scepter of maleficence!” croaked the minion.

“Yeah, that, I pronounce you a junior member of the Evil Genius Organization, with limited rights.  These include the right to combat goodness, virtue, and nobility of spirit with all that is within you; the right to attend all official EGO conferences, at which you must show your junior member’s badge.”  Without looking up from his paper, he waved a laminated card.  “And the right to swindle just about anyone in the city, apart from fellow members of EGO.  Only full-fledged members get to do that.”  The chief examiner offered Mor the badge and his hand, which Mor shook, carefully balanced on his crutches.  The minion snapped a picture.  “Congratulations, Mor,” said the chief examiner.  “You’re all set.  Now let’s pack up and go home.”

“Yes, m’lord.”  The minion scurried from the room.

Mor sighed again and licked his lips.  “Slave, go help our guests find everything they need.”

His minion made a few rapid signs with her hands.

“No, I’m fine,” said Mor.  “I’ll get myself something later.”

Expertly navigating past the furniture, his minion disappeared from the room.

“Again, congratulations,” said the chief examiner.  The room suddenly went dark as the spotlight behind him switched off.  “I don’t think it’s a surprise to you that you’re one of the only cripples in EGO’s history.”  Mor winced.  “Because of that, you’re easy to pick on.  People aren’t going to like you much, so you’ll have to work harder than anyone else to be flawless.  That reminds me: this is for you.”

Mor took the book from the examiner’s hands.  Before he could open it, his minion appeared holding a glass of water.  She presented it to him, but his hands were full with the book.

“Oh, you’re so thoughtful,” said the chief examiner, taking the glass.  He emptied it in a swallow and gave it back.  “Thank you so much.”

The minion left, probably satisfied that her master was no longer thirsty.

“You have a worthy minion there,” said the examiner, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief.  “How does it navigate, may I ask?  It has no eyes.”

“Smell,” said Mor.  “Her sense of smell and hearing are powerful.”

The examiner ignored it.  “And it is dumb as well as blind?”

“Speech doesn’t equal intelligence,” said Mor.

“Don’t worry, I’m not trying to insult you,” said the examiner, sensing his irritation.  “It’s an extraordinary creature, I’m sure.  You have a good minion.”  The examiner pointed to the book.  “That’s a collection of rules and penalties EGO has set up to keep everyone obedient to the organization.  Usually you would get this once you graduated to a full member.  We like to watch all the juniors mess up, you see.  You would not believe how many times I’ve seen a junior walk into a conference without appropriate headgear.  But since you’re a cripple, I figured I could do you a favor and let you have this.”

Mor nodded, but didn’t thank him.

Try to do someone a good deed and they just nod at you, thought the examiner.  Young people these days.  The examiner slapped Mor’s shoulder roughly, almost knocking him off his crutches.  “You’ll do fine, boy.  Just play it safe.”  Whistling softly to himself, he left the room.

Down in the driveway of the suitably evil-looking mansion, his minions were just packing the large speaker system into the back of the truck.  He climbed into the back of his limousine.  It only had one speed: ten miles per hour over the speed limit.  Taking out a piece of paper and an extremely leaky pen, he practiced forging politicians’ signatures until his minion arrived in the front seat.

“Take me home,” he ordered.  “We must begin preparations for tomorrow’s EGO conference.  I am spokesperson, after all.”

.

“I am proud to announce that we have four new members with us today!” the chief examiner said into his microphone, smiling at the applause.  “At least, I hope they’re with us.  They might be in jail, working on their full rank qualifications already!”  The audience laughed.  “Their names are Morecoffee, Morbid Dude, More-evil-than-you, and Mor.  Please, welcome our new junior members!”  Applause rose up again like a dedicated hero.

“Next, I would like to announce the latest addition to the EGO rulebook: ‘Automobiles may not be painted in flamboyant colors unless in direct opposition of all righteous laws.’”  There were several groans from the audience.  “All automobiles found to be violating this new rule will be destroyed immediately.”  The parking lot outside came alive with many car alarms, which were abruptly silenced with the shriek of twisted metal.  “As you were warned a few seconds before the law came into effect, all pending lawsuits will be ignored.”

The examiner cleared his throat.  “Now for some rather important business: we—”  He stopped and checked his microphone as his voice stopped going through the speakers.  “We need…”  The audience couldn’t hear him.  He glanced over at his minion, who was jumping up and down and waving his arms.  He shrugged at it, and it pointed behind him.  He turned.

Mor climbed laboriously onto the stage.  He raised a microphone, hastily taped into the speaker system, to his mouth.  “Hello, everyone.  My name is Mor.”

“Hi, Mor,” the audience chorused.

“I was just made a junior member of EGO yesterday.”  Applause.  “I have sought to join your ranks for years and years, ever since I met my first hero.”

The crowd cheered.  They loved hero stories, as long as there was a happy ending for the villain.  The chief examiner sat down to listen.

“That hero came into my town, killed my father, and left me crippled in the middle of a road because he claimed we, as beggars, were polluting the town.”

The crowd was silent.  The chief examiner shifted in his seat—this sounded too much like a good deed.

“My father owned a respectable inn.”  A few boos from the back.  “When he lost all his business, he sold the inn and was turned out into the streets.  We begged here and there, but we never stole.  My father was too honest for that.”  Several more boos.  Mor ignored them.  “But then, a man came into town with an enormous voice and bigger self-esteem.  He stirred up the crowd with righteous talk of freedom and purity, and then began by eradicating the contaminants from their midst.”

The chief examiner rubbed his forehead.  Too many good deeds!  He would get a headache if this kept up.

“So they went out, burning witches and building bridges and killing people with strange hair.  I don’t know where the police were that day.  The last thing the hero led them to was the destroying of beggars.  The crowd had gone along with him until that point, but when they saw my father and I, they stopped.  But the hero didn’t.”  Mor swallowed.  “That day, my slave saved me, and we decided to oppose that hero and everything he stood for.”

The crowd cheered again.  Now they were on familiar ground.  Spiting heroes was always a respected occupation.

“So I applied to join your ranks, with success.  And that man,” Mor pointed at the chief examiner, “gave me my license to do evil.  And then he told me something very important.”

The chief examiner wracked his brain, trying to remember what he said.  He had just signed Mor in, hadn’t he?

“He told me I had a good minion.”

Silence in the hall.  All eyes turned to the chief examiner.

“I looked it up in the rulebook that night: evil is forbidden to consort with good.”

The chief examiner pinched his nose.  There went his job.

“It was a test, I realized later.  A test requiring me to do away with my slave in order to continue to your ranks.”

The examiner looked up slowly.  It hadn’t been a test; it had been a slip of the tongue.  That idiot was saving him.

“I thought about it all night and decided: if that’s what was required of me, it wasn’t worth it to me.  I might not like what that hero did—“

Someone cheered weakly.

“—but I won’t agree to what you require of me.  I’m handing in my badge.”

Mor tossed the badge, the rulebook, and the microphone down on the stage.  Those three sounds echoed through the hall as the boy’s minion helped him down from the stage.

The chief examiner stood, deliberately smoothing out the creases on his pants.  His minion motioned to him—they had gotten his microphone working again.  He cleared his throat and smiled weakly at the audience.

“Oops.”

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89 Comments

  1. *laughs, laughs, laughs, and laughs*

    Liam. That was genius. Just…genius.

    I loved this line: “Only full-fledged members get to do that.” 😛 You’ve got a wonderful sense of humor.

    Reply
    • The first half is awesome, I know– but what about the second half? After the scene change.

      Reply
      • Maybe I’m dumb, but I had trouble following the action in the second scene. It got a little slippery and I’m not entirely certain of Mor’s motivation. He was tortured by an imaginary conundrum, decided that it was better to quit and save his minion, and then realised it was a slip-up and quit anyway? Or he never realised, and the line “That idiot was saving him” is meant to indicate the examiner was to be saved, and by turning in his badge, Mor inadvertently doomed him? Am I over-thinking this?

      • Thanks. You’re overthinking it a little, but Mor was weird from the outset. The conundrum made him quit, but he never found out it was a mistake on the examiner’s part. In fact, now I’m confused.

      • Yeah, that was a little confusing to me, too. I think I got it eventually, but…yes.

      • Oh ah. That makes…sense? I think. What, then, is the purpose of the line, “That idiot was saving him”?

      • By saying that the examiner had said something was “good”, Mor was condemning the guy. But then, spinning it as a test instead, that idiot was saving him.

  2. I had a bit of trouble understanding the second scene the first time round, but then I reread it and understood it. They were both very funny, the second one just required a slower reading since the humour was more subtle and complex. I also got a bit confused between the chief-examiner’s minion and Mor’s minion, but I think that was my fault.

    Some of the things in that story reminded me of hilarious skits I saw at a linguistics conference last week ; )

    Reply
    • That too. About the minions.

      Reply
    • Yes. It was my fault, actually, by using “minion” for both minions. Mor calls his minion “Slave”, but the examiner calls everyone’s minion “minion”.

      The second scene was going to fail anyway in comparison to the first. I love the first.

      Reply
      • Terribly familiar sounding.

        Do tell Quirk that he’d better write his will before he dies in a couple hours. That coffee his “slave” gave him was poisoned.

        Oh, and my character now owns the word “indeed.”

      • He doesn’t drink coffee. And we still own it, thank you.

      • Mhmmmmm. Suuuure. Like I believe that.

        Why’d he ask for it, then?

      • He wanted to kill one of his enemies, who happens to love coffee.

      • I see. I still don’t believe that, but who cares. My character and I will find a way to kill Quirk once and for all eventually.

      • And you? Then I shall join with Quirk in destroying your character.

      • Yes, and me. And good luck with that. She’s battled world villains before. You don’t want to know what happened to them.

      • You know what’s happened to Quirk’s enemies.

      • Actually…I don’t. I’m not caught up. At all.

      • …Quick reality check: Are we really going to war to destroy each other’s characters over the word “indeed” and the possession thereof? Or is there a deeper, underlying issue here?

      • Your attempt on my character’s life. If that was based on your covetousness of the word “indeed”, then indeed, we are.

      • *is taken aback* that wasn’t ME. That was my character. I’m just assisting her because…uh…I’m bored of working on my story, so I feel like it.

      • Write Quirk into your story.

        I forgot you hadn’t read it. But suffice it to say that they all die in agony.

      • I can’t. I don’t steal people’s characters. That’s horrendous.

        Although I may go and write some sort of nonsense story…just so it can have swordfights. If a swordfight showed up in my WIP, I’d be dead. Killed by annoyed readers.

      • Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

      • I knew it. You want my readers to kill me. *sigh*

      • Hey, this is just a first draft! In the second draft, you get to pull it into another century to justify everything.

      • What if I don’t want to justify everything? What if I want it to make sense without me trying to justify swordfights?

      • Then you take out the swordfights and add gunfights. Or clubfights. No matter what the era, there is always a way to fight.

      • Maybe no matter what the era, but not no matter what the genre. You can’t just kill people off in this story. It doesn’t work.

      • *shrieks* GRACIOUS, NO! It’s just contemporary fiction. ROMANCE! AAAAAAH!

      • Contemporary fiction… There are still opportunities for fights.

      • Okay, but not in my story. That’s what I said. I didn’t say not in my genre, just not in “this story.

        And you insulted me, by the way.

      • Sorry. I couldn’t remember what you had said a while ago about character deaths, and romance seemed one of the genres that had that qualification. Very sorry.

      • *Sigh* that’s okay.

        I guess we’re not at war anymore.

      • I wasn’t seriously insulted. Just vaguely.

      • Oh, and I’m done trying to kill your character. My apologies.

        Coffee?

      • Ha. No. Have you read my post about coffee?

      • It was supposed to be a joke, Liam. Since you said Quirk didn’t like it. I don’t, either.

        Chocolate?

      • I’ve read it now, and I applaud you.

        And why not? You can’t say you don’t like chocolate because of what happened with you and Robyn a couple posts ago…

      • I never said I didn’t like it, I just said no.

      • Why not?

      • Apparently you’re going to ignore that.

      • No, I just haven’t been on in a while.

      • Okay then. Answer it.

        By the way, I know you were ignoring it. You answered lots of other comments since I said it.

      • I was not ignoring you.

      • Are you going to answer or not?

      • Because you are wont to poison my drinks.

      • Hey. I said I wasn’t going to anymore. And how could I kill the Head Phil if he’s already dead?

      • I see killing myself off was a good idea.

      • Maybe. And besides, I’m done warring with you.

      • Reposting this here: It couldn’t have been me, since my character gave Quirk the coffee.

      • I don’t really care where you put it.

      • Yes, maybe you don’t, but everyone else might like to see it and have it make sense.

      • So it can make sense. I already answered that.

      • No, why would anyone want to read comment threads?

      • If no one would want to read comment threads, why do you bother commenting? And how are we having this conversation in the first place?

      • Well, except for the original comment authors.

      • Okay, then. We’ll see if anyone else ever reads this.

        Hey, everyone else! Do comment and tell Liam that yes, other people do read it. Thank you! 😉

        Small side note: I read other people’s comments and jump into the conversation, do I not? You’ve already said so yourself. Obviously when I do that, I’m not one of the original comment authors.

      • Of course you do. And of course other people do. But usually people read the first few comments, which are still relevant to the post, then skip to their own comment.

      • True. I will agree with that. But not everyone, and it was for those few other people that I went and “moved it” as best I could.

      • *scrolls through comment chain*

        Quirk wasn’t trying to kill me, was he? (I happen to love coffee.)

    • Robyn Hoode

       /  April 17, 2013

      Either you or me, Seana… but I thought I was on more friendly terms of enemy than that. Must be you, then. Just by logic alone it would have to be you. Unless someone else drinks coffee. Percival maybe?

      Reply
  3. Excellent! I agree with my fellow commenters that the second half was a little harder to follow, but it wasn’t all bad. I also agree with Leinad about the fact that I had trouble keeping track of which minion was which. (It also took me a moment to realize that Mor’s minion had no eyes, so you can tell that my brain’s a bit scrambled right now.)

    Reply
  4. Robyn Hoode

     /  April 15, 2013

    I liked the short story. I thought it was good (or was it evil?). I thought it was interesting how the boy left EGO for a “good” reason. And I liked the line about four dead languages and killed a fifth.
    I did I have a bit of trouble at first with the two minions.
    I think the “hero” in Mor’s story sounds a bit like Javert. At least as far as I’ve read of Les-Mis, he does.

    Reply
  5. This is wonderful! Mor’s speech is really quite moving, but it doesn’t jar at all with the overall humour of the piece. You didn’t overdo the humour either – fantastic work!

    Reply
  6. Erin

     /  April 16, 2013

    Wonderful story! I had a bit of trouble distinguishing the two minions, but after reading it through a second time I could tell one from another.
    I am slightly confused as to why Mor wanted to join EGO in the first place when he left it in the end. Maybe I’m missing something…?
    Also, I enjoyed you poking fun at villain names always beginning with “mor”. Your humor was creative, clever, and entertaining as usual, Head Phil.

    Reply
    • Everyone had trouble with the minions! ARGH!

      Mor wanted to join, then realized it wasn’t worth it, so he left. I short.

      I’ve got a post on the “mor” name coming up soon.

      Reply
      • Erin

         /  April 16, 2013

        Don’t worry, I got it after reading it through a second time…Oh wait. That probably doesn’t make you feel any better…Shutting up now.

        Okay, that’s what I thought, but I wasn’t sure if there was a deeper reason.

        Cool. I look forward to reading it.

      • I understand.

  7. For some reason my email did not inform me of this post when it was posted. Grr.

    Hahaha, nicely done! All my thoughts have already been stated by the other commenters, so I shan’t repeat them.

    Reply

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