By Justin Teerlinck
Fuggin pulled open the door to a large wooden wardrobe. He bent over and began throwing clothes over his shoulder. “No,” he said “Not this one. No, that isn’t quite right. Aha!” he finally concluded. “I have it.” He giggled excitedly like a girl on prom night and darted into another room with a bundle under his shoulder. When he emerged, he wasn’t dressed like a gnome anymore. Dorpin looked at him dumbfounded. Fuggin was dressed like a talk show host from the seventies.
He was wearing a lime green polyester leisure suit. The pants were form fitting to his rump but flared into bell bottoms at the ankles, with sequins protruding up and down the sides. The suit jacket was also lime green, with a collar bigger than a pterodactyl’s wingspan. Underneath it he wore a beige shirt with huge ruffles in the middle from top to bottom. It was unbuttoned at the top, which allowed ample bales of white chest hair to pop out of the top.
The shirt and jacket were as tight as the pants, and the shirt did not cover Fuggin’s large belly, which bulged out beyond the elastic waist of the pants. His shoes were outsized platform clogs with bells at the heels. He was unrecognizable without his gnome hat. His long, flowing white hair and beard cascaded over the shoulders of his outfit. He bowed in a ridiculously stately manner to Dorpin and smiled wide, revealing a gold tooth.
Dorpin had difficulty hiding his shock. “Is this what humans wear?”
“Well, it was when I went there 40 years ago!” he said enthusiastically. “They only change styles every 100 years, so this will be help us blend in and save money too. Here,” he said. “This is for you. Hopefully it will fit your man-half.” He threw Dorpin a black t-shirt with a picture of what looked like an angry peach with green hair sneering and raising its middle finger. “That’s from a concert I went to in ’77. They were an L.A. garage band. Can you believe I got to see Irritable Peach live?” Dorpin beheld the odd bit of cloth, more perplexed than ever. He’d never seen a t-shirt before. With a great deal of awkwardness, Fuggin helped him put it on. Thankfully, it fit. “Now we have to cover your lower half. Even though you are part horse, you can’t just walk around with your dingle dangling, teeheehee.” With that, Fuggin tossed Dorpin a horse-sized bikini bottom with the stars and stripes of the American flag on it.
“I hate the t-shirt,” he said, “but this loin cloth is truly fit for a warrior! I shall wear it with pride!”
Fuggin gave Dorpin one last piece to his costume—a black ski mask and goggles. “This way, no one will behold your challenging visage,” he said. “No one will think twice about us now!” They looked at themselves in a floor-to-ceiling mirror, striking various poses, flexing their biceps, and projecting various facial grimaces and affectations. Fuggin Nuffin’s irritability returned, and he stated they had no time to lose, since portals were very expensive to open and close, but if they opened an Earthbound portal during peak commuter times they could use his Interdimensional Your Way Pass, but they needed to hurry.
Dorpin helped Fuggin climb on his back and he galloped to a fairy ring in the woods, a circle of fly agaric mushrooms as big as houses. Fuggin pulled out what looked like a credit card and slipped it into one of the mushrooms. “One centaur and one gnome for Earth, please,” said Fuggin. The mushroom smiled, grew twice as tall, and a door opened in its stipe, revealing a long, dark tunnel. Without a second’s hesitation, they leapt in and the door closed.
A vortex surrounded them on all sides. Stars whirled past them. Then, in the blink of an eye they were standing on a busy street corner in a large, urban area. There were skyscrapers all around. Planes flew overhead. Cars whizzed by. A group of people stood next to them in a partially enclosed structure. Some were sitting on benches. Others were standing. “Where are we?” said Dorpin. “This land seems to be under attack.” He turned to the people beside him. “Excuse me, humans. Where may we procure weapons and strong drink.”
“Yo, you wanna shoot some dope? I feel you brother. Let’s take our biz behind the station. Too many cameras. You got your kit? Needles extra.”
“What are you crazy?” said Fuggin, cuffing Dorpin on the flank. “This man is a common miscreant. You cannot travel with swords here! You already look like an executioner from the before-times.”
“Step off the tracks and mind the gap!” yelled someone in uniform. It was then they realized they were standing at light rail station. They jumped off the tracks and onto the platform just as the train rolled in. The doors opened and a soothing, automated female voice said, “All aboard King’s Hill Station, next stop Goose Hollow.”
“Aha! I know where we are,” said Fuggin. We are in the Land of Ports. This carriage will take us to the hospital where we will find the dermatologist. This place is known for its eccentric human freaks. No one will question our doings here. But you need to stop conversing with the locals. That man was trying to sell you drugs.”
“Ooooh, drugs,” said Dorpin. “Drugs, not hugs?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“It was on another t-shirt you had.”
The train took them through tunnels, past car dealerships, past farms. There seemed to be no centaurs, gnomes, elves, trolls or goblins in this land. Fuggin Nuffin explained everything as best he could, but it was a very alien world. Cars were carriages powdered by things called “engines,” and although a horse could not fit inside even the largest one, they were judged in terms of “how many horses they had,” or “horse power.” Dorpin brushed aside his mop-top bangs and scratched his head in confusion.
Finally, they reached their stop in a place called Hill’s Burrow. Just as they were exiting the train, a lady in uniform approached them and said, “Show me your tickets please.” It was clear she was a constable.
“Let me handle this,” said Fuggin Nuffin. “Here you go, Miss,” he said, handing her his Interdimensional Your Way Pass.
“Sorry, we don’t take those here. You need a Trimet ticket or pass, or I’ll have to arrest you and bring you to Train Court. ID’s please.”
“We don’t carry ID’s where we are from,” said Dorpin, smiling. “But we will obtain them if you wish. It’s okay. We’re hip.”
“I’m afraid that’s not good enough. You need to come with me.”
Fuggin elbowed Dorpin in his horse ribs. “Okay, far out, far out. I feel your vibe. It’s groovy,” said Fuggin. He turned to Dorpin. “If we use their vernacular, they will respect us more. Like the clothing styles, it never changes. Get ready to run when I say so,” he whispered.
“I heard that,” said the Trimet Officer. “Trust me, you don’t want to do that. I’m going to have to place you in handcuffs now. Please turn around and face the wall—er, window.”
“Okay,” said Fuggin. “I feel you. That’s far out.” He then whispered to Dorpin, “Get ready!”
As soon as the doors opened to Hill’s Burrow, Dorpin squatted down low enough for Fuggin Nuffin to hop on his back. Dorpin took off at a full gallop with the train cop in hot pursuit, but she broke off the chase after 50 feet, seeing that there was no way she could catch up to a determined gnome riding a centaur. No one believed her report until later, when the security camera footage was reviewed.
They made their way to the hospital and once inside, Fuggin grabbed a couple of long, white doctor coats from an unattended wardrobe. The coat was far too long for the wily gnome. The coat trailed on the floor several feet behind him looking like a cross between a wedding train and a monk’s robe. The coat that Dorpin wore was far too small, only covering his man half. Fuggin grabbed an extra coat to drape over Dorpin’s back so his ponytail and bikini bottom would go unnoticed. They nicked a couple of stethoscopes for good measure. They made their way furtively down the hospital corridors, nodding and smiling at the orderlies who eyed them suspiciously before moving on.
As they neared an interior entrance to the emergency room, loud beeping sounds came from within, along with scuffling and shouting. The door sung open and a doctor emerged looking frantic. He looked down at Fuggin. “I paged you an hour ago!” he said. “I need an assist on a complex case. He’s had a cerebral vascular accident, a possible blockage in the anterior cerebral artery and I couldn’t get a line in. You’re from neuro right…Dr. Grisnilov?” said the doctor, reading the monogram on Fuggin’s lab coat.
“Here, I’ve got an extra mask. You need to scrub in right away and get me a crash cart, stat! Some idiot forgot to stock the one we’re using, and the AED is dead. Come on, hurry up!” The doctor pulled Fuggin into the operating room by the coat sleeves as Dorpin stood with his mouth open, wondering what to do next. The centaur couldn’t read or write, and there was no way he could find the dermatologist on his own. He found a doctor walking at a brisk pace and stopped her.
Mercifully, she took him to the dermatology department. When he arrived, he walked up to the front desk. A bored looking receptionist wearing horn-rimmed glasses didn’t bother looking up, but said, “Appointment time?”
“I don’t have an appointment, but I need to see a dermatologist right away.”
“Sorry,” she said. “We don’t do walk-ins. What’s your insurance, hon?”
“My assurance? Aha! I assure you that I will provision you with 10 sticks of the 33 sticks I stand to inherit when I claim what is rightfully mine. That is nearly one third of three thirds of my inheritance. You see, I can do maths.”
“Meth? Okay hon, that’s the substance abuse department, downstairs to the right, and over the…”
“Miss, I really must insist. This is an urgent matter.” With that, he took the mask off his head, revealing the purplish bump on his face, even larger now than before. “You see, I do not jest. I foreswear on my honor that I will provide any form of payment.”
“My goodness, sweetie you really are in a bad way. Look, Dr. Nelson only does boils and papules anyway hon. Are those things on your head uh…boils?”
Dorpin thought for a moment. “Yes, Miss. They are the biggest boils ever made. Dr. Nelson will love them. Look, if you like, I will sign a consent form so she can write about me and become famous, just like my gnome friend Fuggin Nuffin asked me to do.”
“Look, hon, I want to help. I really do, but Dr. Nelson is very particular about her schedule and you don’t have any insurance. We’ll need a check or credit card up front.” Dorpin snorted and stamped a hoof.
“Then you have consigned me to a living death. Did you know that I was stoned by my own people?”
“I believe it…no offence but you look a little stoned. Hon let’s get you down to our substance use department. They’ll get you on a 12-step program...”
Just then, Fuggin Nuffin threw open the door to the dermatology waiting area, with blood spatters on his doctor coat. “What is this nonsense?” he bellowed.
“The doctor has been waiting for us. She’s doing this one off the books, if you know what I mean.”
“Alright already, sign here then, sweetie?”
“With my hand or hoof?” asked Dorpin.
The receptionist knew to jump when a doctor said jump, even if it was for something out of the ordinary. Doctors bent the rules all the time in ways that would get mere mortals strung up. She promptly buzzed them into the back room of the clinic. It was complicated to take Dorpin’s vitals, because they could only weigh half of him at a time on the human-sized scale, and two different heights were recorded, one for his head and another for his rump.
And because centaurs have two hearts (in the man half and the horse half) no one knew which set of blood pressures to log into the medical record. After the measurements, they took him to an empty exam room. It was full of goodies. Fuggin already had a white hospital sheet fashioned into a large bag, half full of hospital goods. He immediately started prying open cabinets and clearing them out of everything he could lay hands to, rubber gloves, stethoscope, blood pressure cuffs—even paper towels. Dorpin just rolled his eyes. Gnomes were notorious thieves, especially when it came to shiny objects.
After a few moments, the door to the exam room swung open as Fuggin was closing the last of the cabinets he’d been pilfering. It was a woman with short, brown hair and glasses in a lab coat. “Hello gentle…men? I’m Dr. Nelson. I was told there was an emergency?”
Dorpin removed his mask and said nothing.
“Aha! I think I can see the source of the problem…but the question remains…is it a boil or a papule?” said Dr. Nelson. She pulled out an instrument and began poking at the bump. “How have you been treating this?”
“With elixir of mandrake, Mrs. Right Away’s Face Saving Salve, Goody Goblin’s Face Dissolver…”
“Hmmm…I’m not familiar with those. Let me consult Muller & Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology. I’m not sure that centaurs are my scope of practice. Also, my secretary says you haven’t paid, and you have no insurance.”
“Dr. Nelson, I promise that you will be compensated beyond your wildest imagination.”
“Well, I have a fairly wild imagination,” she warned. After consulting her books, she decided that Dorpin merely had some uninhibited sebaceous cysts. She lanced and drained them all in just a few moments, put some gauze around his face, and gave him a bottle of antibiotics. Dorpin looked in a mirror when she was finished and saw himself again—his real self. Dr. Nelson assured him that even if there was some residual drainage there would be no permanent pitting or scarring.
Fuggin took Dr. Nelson aside and they stepped out of the exam room for several minutes. When they returned, Fuggin no longer had a beard, not even a bit of stubble. His face was smooth as a newborn babe. Dr. Nelson looked at the gnome fondly. “Now I can retire early,” she said. “If you need anything, anything at all, come back. I’ll be here…at least until I move to Fiji or the Bahamas.”
“You saved me,” said Dorpin. “Thank you.”
The pair exited the hospital and prepared to return to the Realm of Dot, but not before Dorpin pulled something he had stashed in his bikini bottom. It was a stained pair of sweatpants wrapped around a cheeseburger. “Where did you get this?” said Fuggin Nuffin.
“A few of the hospital workers made an image of me with them, while you were temporarily distracted. They called it a ‘selfie.’ In exchange for that, they obtained this human largesse you seemed to be so fond of. They procured it quite easily, I’m told, but maybe they were just being polite. These things would be worth hundreds of sticks in the Centaur Dominion.”
“I too, have a gift for you,” said Fuggin.
He pulled out a piece of paper. I had your DNA tested at Chromopony again, and the results came back while Dr. Nelson was draining your papule. It says you are 100% centaur, just as I suspected. Furthermore, I discovered that your devious brothers bribed a worker at Chromopony to fudge the results so they could steal your inheritance. When we return, I will represent you as your lawyer before your Village Law Person. We will contest the inheritance, and you will win. There will be no more pool parties for Skippi and Gronk Dipsaloo.”
“That is very generous of you my little friend, and I will give you all of my share of the sticks to which I am entitled. But you cannot be my lawyer. You need to write up the case study which will bring you fame and glory.”
“No, Dorpin. I do not want your sticks. They’re yours. There will be no case study. That door has closed. What I must find now, is a new home.”
“Why? What happened to your beard, by the way?”
The gnome sniffled and a tear tumbled from one of his eyes. “I shall miss them all, especially my nieces and nephews.” Dorpin stood, his mouth agape. “Come,” said Fuggin. “We have a train to catch. If we’re lucky, the train cops won’t spot us, and we can make it to the portal before it closes.”
When they entered the portal, it dropped them off directly in the Centaur Dominion. Dorpin and Fuggin went before the Village Law Person, and presented the words of D-NA, the true words of DNA. He won the case and was offered his share of the sticks but chose not to claim them. Now, his village could buy the perpetual chocolate fountain they had always dreamed of. There was ale for all. Dorpin Dipsaloo was no longer an outcast, but Skippi and Gronk wore the Garland of Shame, and no one came to their pool parties anymore. Fuggin Nuffin and Dorpin Dipsaloo made ready to say their goodbyes. “Can I visit you in Gnomeland again?” asked Dorpin.
“You will not find me there,” said Fuggin. “You will never find me there again. You see, I am no longer welcome there. A gnome is nothing without a beard. Our beards grow very slowly. Mine took almost 200 years.”
“Why then, did you allow yourself to be shorn?”
“I did it to pay for your dermatology appointment, and our fines with the Land of Port train police. You see, gnome beard hair makes the softest shaving brushes in the world, and they are extremely valuable. Not only are they soft, they never wear out, and they make the user look twenty years younger. Dr. Nelson agreed to help you in exchange for my beard. She will then sell it to a shaving brush manufacturer and easily get enough gold to never need to work again. I must now roam the land and find my fate elsewhere.”
“But Fuggin, I never would have wanted you to make such a sacrifice. It’s too much. I can never repay you.”
“Stop it, before you make me weep. The only thing more pathetic than a shorn gnome is a weeping shorn gnome.”
“I cannot grow you a new beard,” said Dorpin. “But I promise you will never be alone as long as I live. Let us leave this place and roam together. The Centaur Dominion holds no more joy for me.”
“I couldn’t ask you to leave your people, not after you fought so hard to not be an outcast yourself.”
“I’d rather be a freak with you than just another centaur here, especially if all that I am judged by is a single piece of paper (no disrespect to the Mighty D-NA).”
The two friends did roam together, and it wasn’t long before they ended up at Bunnypillar Meadow, where the bunnypillars welcomed them to share their warm cocoons, and dance with their pupa. Dorpin and Fuggin built a house there and became flatmates. They didn’t always get along. Sometimes Dorpin wore an apron and burned the sausages he was cooking, and sometimes Fuggin drank all the ale and farted without excusing himself. All the while, the bunnypillars were working on secret project. It took years, but they pooled their bunnymilk silk and created an artificial beard for Fuggin. He was moved by the gesture, and sometimes he wore the beard to special events and select parties, but after a time he wore it less and less, and then not at all. He no longer needed to. He was among friends.