Fool’s Errand

This was written for a contest for 7th Titan Press, it did not win, but my awesome sister did, so go check that out!

Eric generally liked his job, it was better than staying at home and listening to his mother complaining all day, and his coworkers were fairly nice. Normally they left him alone to clean the shop or asked him to run small errands. Like today, right before lunch, Daniel called him over to his workstation. Eric had been busy sweeping the sawdust from around the lathe, and quietly humming to himself the tune Evelyn taught him the night before, so his boss had to call him twice before he noticed.

“I need you to go get me something,” Daniel said, not looking up from the chest he was carefully sanding. The box was going to go to the chief councilor’s daughter for her wedding next week, and it was beautiful. Eric wanted to touch it, but knew better than to let Daniel see him do it. He wasn’t supposed to touch any of the products.

“Sure, boss,” Eric chirped, he was always happy to be useful. “What do you need?”

“I need you to go down to Gillespie’s and get me two gallons of the pink polka dot colored paint for this chest.” He still did not look at Eric, which he should have found odd, but he rarely noticed that kind of thing. It was part of the reason everyone thought he was so strange.

“Sure, boss.” Eric did not hang around to ask any more questions. It seemed straightforward enough, but the other guys had been snickering and laughing as he left the shop. He couldn’t understand it. Was it because the man at Gillespie’s was so mean and they didn’t want to talk to him? Maybe it was because they thought he would be caught in the rain on the way back. The clouds were looking a little heavy and dark, but Evelyn had assured him that it would not rain until after the sun had set. Evelyn was always right about this kind of thing. She was right about everything, really.

His walk to Gillespie’s was uneventful, but Arnold, the owner’s son was clearly mad at Eric for some reason. He told him to try the dry goods store by the river since there was no way he was going to carry any such thing, even after he explained that Daniel had told him to come here specifically. It was the same story at his next stop, and his next. Everyone had a different place he needed to try, but no one had the paint. The day was wearing on to evening, and Eric still had no paint. He did not want to return to Daniel empty handed, but he did not know what else to do. He was dragging his feet and watching the clouds of dust swirl away in the hot wind. He did not want to go back to the shop and hear his boss yell at him for failing, but then he heard a familiar high-pitched voice.

“Why so glum, Eric?” Evelyn appeared in front of his face, her little lavender wings beating frantically. “Why don’t you come and play?” The little fairy was always trying to get him to go play. He liked her a lot, but sometimes she got him in trouble by telling him it was OK to go with her instead of where he was supposed to go.

“I can’t right now, Evelyn,” Eric said sadly. “I have to go tell Daniel that nobody has the paint he wants. It’s for the Councilor’s daughter’s wedding chest too, so he is gonna be mad.”

“Why don’t they have it?” Evelyn bounced around in front of Eric as he kept walking; she darted and wove around his face trying to keep his attention.

“The last guy said there was no such color. Said paint don’t come in polka dots.”

“It doesn’t?” Evelyn looked confused. “Surely it does. Why don’t you go back and get a can of plain white paint and I’ll meet you back at the shop. Daniel and the guys will be gone now.”

“He doesn’t want white, Evelyn,” Eric protested.

“Quit whining,” the fairy scolded. “You go get the white paint and meet me there, we’ll get this taken care of and then we can go play. I found a new mushroom ring!” With that, she was gone, and Eric had no choice but to go buy the paint from Arnold. He hated to go back in there today, the man was never happy to see him. Eric much preferred Arnold’s sister, Abby, but sadly, Abby was never there this late in the day. However, if Evelyn said he needed white paint, he needed white paint. Never question a fairy.

The next morning dawned misty and cool. The storm had broken just after sunset and the streets were now muddy and slick. Daniel was in a foul mood by the time he got to the shop to open for the day, and was even more annoyed to see that the door was already unlocked. Swearing at which ever of his employees had left it open, he kicked off his boots at the door and stomped back to his workbench.

Daniel froze. There, in the pale dawn light was his exquisite box. The box he spent the last 6 weeks perfecting. The box he was going to present to the chief councilor this very afternoon. The box that was now painted pale pink with bright white polka dots. Next to it sat an open can of paint that was clearly, if improbably, pink polka dots.

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