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Big Huge Blow Out Liquid Dynamite Sale

Monsters tamed the west. Or they made it wilder. Depends on who's asking and who's telling. Zort just did his part while wearing a dirty suit with a bolo tie and a top hat made to fit a man six-foot-tall let alone a little goblin with green skin, sharp teeth, and standing knee high to a horse. A revolver swayed on his hip, one that he'd hold like a rifle if he intended to shoot, which he wouldn't for the lack of bullets. Can't afford the luxury of self-defense, only its feigned intentions.

He sat atop the jockeybox of his wagon, clutching the reins attached to the donkeys leading the way. The side of the wagon read, "HEALTH DRAUGHTS AND ELIXIRS," in red painted letters.

Zort rode into Crete, home of the finest dirt roads in Nebraska, while the rickety wheels of his wagon kicked up a dust cloud something awful. If you were a poet you might note the beautiful way the dust reflected the setting sun into scintillating red hues, but if you were a normal hombre, trying to breathe, you'd have said, "Damned goblins."

The donkeys stopped at mid-town with two saloons in hollering distance. Zort tied up the reins on the chair and stood up on the jockeybox, cleared his throat, and began in his best human baritone.

"Ladies and gentlemen, bearkin and lizardfolk, does your chest ache? Whether from unrequited love or too much hot sauce, I've got your remedy. Potions, tinctures, and elixirs for anything that ails you."

The downright dumbfounded stares from the nearby folk spoke volumes as to their vocabularies.

"Snake oil!"

The blank stares flashed into something resembling sentient faces. Oh, right. I know about that.

They lined up for their one on one consultations and purchases. A bearkin searching for a cure to her mange, a lizardfolk searching after a tail regrower, and just before Zort got to the humans that might actually have some money, a woman's voice rang out, "Wait, I know you. You made my husband's pecker fall off."

The goblin held up his claws with innocence, the fake baritone crackled apart into his natural rasp, "What? No, you must have me confused with some other gob."

"No, you're the one alright. Gave my husband a love tonic. You said it'd get him readier than a horse, but it just made his gosh darn member shrivel up and fall off!"

"Heh, well we can't have perfect results all the time," Zort managed before the crowd started shouting. As soon as he heard some fellah asking about how to tie a noose to fit a small neck, the goblin started up the wagon and the crowd parted for his donkeys.

Maybe he'd have better luck in the next town and besides, peckers falling off sounded mighty bad for business.

Zort made camp a bit off the trail, hitching the donkeys and parking the wagon in such a way that nobody with a mind of robbery would find him through the night. He slept inside the wagon on a small cot next to a desk and, of course, enough glassware to host an Irish family reunion.

As the night grew ripe for mischief and he dreamed of whatever goblins dream of (eating raw meat, that's what), he awoke to the rustling of a teeny tiny something on his desk. He launched himself off the cot, landed onto the desk, snatched up the little critter, and trapped it in the miniature jail cell of his claws.

He peeked inside to examine his catch. A mouse stared back with eyes so big they would have been a better fit for an owl. It made no attempts to escape despite being an arm spasm away from becoming a midnight snack.

Something stopped the little goblin from devouring his guest. He almost felt like it was a person. Not that he had a problem eating a person if it was already dead but a small tug in his chest made eating a living person feel, well, like a plain wrong thing to do.

"Your lucky day." Zort set the rodent back down and sat in the chair while the mouse skittered over to a small nest it had made in the middle of the desk. "Not the best of spots." The mouse just nudged the pile with its nose, not treating it much like a nest at all. It wasn't comfy. Some lavender, a carrot, and some shavings of metal it must've made with its teeth. "Worst nest I ever seen."

The mouse shook its head and skittered over to an empty bottle. It tapped it with its teeth and then stared at the goblin with wide expecting eyes.

"You wanna make snake oil, then?"

The mouse nodded.

Zort, thinking that perhaps he imbibed some of his ether stash just before bed, pinched himself and then ground up the ingredients. He started up a fire outside, poured some water into the glass and held it with tongs above the fire after pouring the ingredients in. The mouse gave him orders through a bunch of chirps and squeaks that wouldn't normally make sense except that, well dadgum they just did.

"Done yet?" He tilted the glass slightly.

Mouse gave a short chirp: Yes.

Zort brought the glassware away from the fire. Bubbles still gathered at the edges and danced to the top like a nice beer. The liquid had turned a burnt orange, like the sun shone through it from behind.

The mouse tilted its head back with a squeak: Drink.

"Drink? This?"

Squeaks: Yes.

The goblin brought the bottle to his lips and drank about a fifth of the contents. He waited a while before his head became itchy.

"Worst magic mouse I never met. Dadgum snake oil just gave me a scratchy head." Zort slashed away at his poor scalp.

Fetch your mirror.

He obeyed, getting the little hand mirror from inside the wagon. He'd normally only used it to spot leftovers stuck between the daggers in his mouth. Still scratching, he angled his head down and tried catching the light just right to see the top of his head.

"Holy smokes!"

Zort, like most goblins, had been bald his whole life. But right there on his head sat a big brown puff as if a family of squirrels had just left their fur on his head and moved to Mexico.

"Hair! Dadgum hair!" He danced around the fire. "Do you know what this means? I could sell this by the cart full in Omaha. Imma be the richest goblin in Nebraska."

The world, Zort. The richest in the world.

In the world? He could throw his birthday party on a steamboat down the Mississippi. His momma always said he'd amount to nothin, but richest in the world? Momma was stirring in her grave wherever that was.

The pair headed on up to Omaha, stopping at every collection of buildings with a saloon: Milford, Lincoln, and Springfield. It wasn't just a remedy for balding, but Squeaks taught that goblin how to make genu-ine love potions, and even liquid dynamite for selling to them industry folk. All sorts of less marketable but handy products too (don't mean to lead you on too much but that'll be important later). They'd be gettin money from every corner of the ol west.

They raised the price up each time they stopped, and folks in Nebraska knew who they were even before they got there.

When a goblin makes as much money as he was, it would stir some evil in the hearts of some folks. As Zort preached the good word of Snake Oil from atop of his wagon, Gregory Wintermaul, a giant bearkin, stood at the back of the crowd trying to figure out what's what.

"Now what you suppose this greenback is peddling?" Gregory asked his smaller companion, Duff. Brown fur covered Gregory but with a strange white patch over one of his eyes because his polar bear grandfather. Ain't no way you mess with a polar grizzly mix unless you've got a death wish. Or unless you play dead well. Not sure why that works.

"Snake Oil, boss. Works too. Cousin got cured from the mange. She's fuzzier than a pie left in the cupboard now," Duff replied.

"You don't say," Gregory said, a pensive paw resting under his chin. Something you ought to know about the ol bearkin. He's got his eyes on bein the richest bearkin in the whole world. He got the majority ownership of Bearkin Bank by eating his brother and sister. Was about to incorporate too and it ain't hurt to diversify ways of becoming the richest.

"Fetch me a meeting with that goblin, Duff. I'll have a word with it."

And it was so. Zort met Gregory in his office in Bearkin Bank, the one at the bottom of a small hill. Zort sat next to a fancy black and white photograph where Gregory and his wife stood expressionless in their funeral best, Zort examined all the other material belongings of a person that had done well for himself as Zort planned to do. A rifle signed by Buffalo Bill hanging on the wall. A glass sculpture of two mustangs frozen forever in a race, wild and free. These are the things that a rich person has.

Zort noticed the white splotch on Gregory's face. "You got weird fur," Zort said.

"I'm part polar," Gregory said.

"Oh, I got a cousin who's part polar. Takes medicine for that. Evens out his moods," Zort said.

"Not bi polar. Part polar. Like the bear?" Gregory snout wrinkled into an annoyed snarl. Having peeved the bear in the room will make any conversation feel something awfully awkward.

"Sure. Of course," Zort said while avoiding eye contact. Was he supposed to play dead now?

Gregory leaned back in his chair and rested his paws on his giant fur draped paunch. "Now listen up here, Gobby. I invited you here today to talk a bit of business seeing as you is the most successful, genu-ine snake oil distributor in this here great state."

"Reckon that's true."

"When I seen you peddling your wares, I thought to myself, 'Now there's a greenback who knows how to maximize profits. To capitalize on an opportunity."

"Mighty fine of you to say that."

"That's why I know you'll find it in your own best interest to partner with me. I have the resources to send your product across the west. Maybe even back east coast if those damn humans will let us in on the market."

Zort had to think about it. "So... you want to ride on the wagon with me?"

"Not exactly ol greenback. We form a partnership. You share your snake oil recipes with me and you could make more money. Faster than you ever could riding from town to town."

Zort sat in silence. A small noise peeped from inside of his top hat. Quite a curiosity.

Gregory hated quiet. Not during a deal. "What do you say? I'd get 90 percent, of course, on the count of costs and the value of my connections, you see? That's only fair."

A mouse dipped out from underneath Zort's top hat and perched on his shoulder. It squeaked and chirped and hollered as loud as something so small could do. It sounded mighty mad. Zort nodded as it went on its high-pitched spiel before looking up at Gregory and saying, "No. And if you don't mind, we'll be on our way." Zort grabbed a biscuit from the desk, broke off a piece to feed to the mouse, and passed by Duff on the way out of the door.

Gregory sat back with a smile on his face.

"What you happy bout boss? That didn't seem to go your way at all," Duff said.

"Oh? Well, I think I found the brains of that operation." Gregory sat up straight and grabbed a pen from the ink well and began writing a letter. "Duff, I'm going to need you to apprehend that little mouse for me and bring it back here."

"What about that greenback?"

"You're a creative sort. I'm sure you'll find out if greenbacks can breathe under six feet of dirt or maybe hanging from a tree. I don't reckon they can but suppose you found out. For the good of Omaha."

"Betcha I can do that," Duff said.

"Oh and have you and the boys wear scarves or handkerchiefs."

"Why?"

"So, on the count of you not being recognized by nobody. This type of activity is not exactly on the shiny side of the sheriff's badge if you catch my meaning."

"Oh, I gotcha boss. I got you."

"Good. Now go on and do right be my and the community." Gregory waved a paw towards the door and Duff left to carry out his business.

Gregory stood up and stared out the window, a toothy grin pierced through the fur on his face. He skipped two straight hibernations and his hard work was about to pay off. He imagined one grizzly and one polar bear combing his fur while he ate salmon skins before falling into the deepest sleep filled with dreams of honey and unguarded human babies.

He watched Zort waddle his way down the street while a black bear, not so stealthily, ducked behind columns and walls, peering around each corner.

Zort made his way back to the wagon before leading it out of town and down a pig trail to a creek where he liked to make camp each night. Quiet like. Also, where he felt like he could talk to a mouse and nobody judge him for it.

The goblin made camp for the night and decided to sleep outside on account of the weather and general lack of buzzing pests, made far more annoying from having ears as long as a rabbit's, when he heard a rustling in the bush, the kind of sound you'd expect to hear just before a gang of bears jumped out at you. And what do you know, that's what it was.

They appeared one by one in the glow of the fire, an assortment of plaid shirts and torn pants, cowboy hats and the strangest of all, fancy multicolored scarves looped around each neck. Some carried nets. Zort saw one black bear that was awfully familiar standing in the middle of the group.

"You that bear working for the banker, ain't ya?" Zort asked.

"How can you recognize me, greenback? We even wearing scarves," Duff growled.

"Oh, I think you supposed to wear something around your face. Ain't you ever seen a wanted poster?"

The bears all glanced at each other and shrugged, many of them ripping off the scarves and stomping on them into the dirt.

"Unusual time for business. Don't think I've got enough wares for all these bearkin," Zort said. He got an uneasy feeling in his stomach like those times when you riding through a canyon, high walls on all sides and any moment some bandito might stick his gun over the edge and end your trip to Denver right then and there. By then, the mouse perched on Zort's shoulder and let loose a worried squeak. Not good. They both knew they had their hair in the butter now.

Duff brought his maw down low to meet eyes with Zort and unleashed a yellow, tobacco stained grin. His teeth weren't sharper than Zort's, but they came along several hundred more pounds of goblin crushing muscle packed loosely under a smelly carpet. "We ain't here for snake oil, gob. We're here for," then with the speed of a rattlesnake, the kind a quickness that a bear had no business or right to have, Duff snatched the mouse right off Zort's shoulder and encased the critter inside of two paws, "this!"

Duff walked back to one of his pals with a small case to contain the mouse while Zort climbed up Duff's back. One of the other bears took one swipe at Zort, careening him into the dirt, feeling like all his bones been turned into Mexican strawberry soup.

The black bear climbed inside of Zort's wagon and emerged with his briefcase full of snake oils. He carefully plucked out a few select bottles before picking up Zort by the collar with one hand. "Time to see how well you can sink." Then he shoved Zort into the briefcase, locked each end, and tossed it into the creek. The bears made jokes about the smell of wet greenbacks and other epithets as they picked through the wagon.

Zort, stuffed into the briefcase, had a few moments to think as the murky cold creek water seeped through the crack. Ol Zort wasn't quite ready to hang up his fiddle yet. Now he had a bunch of very handy elixirs that if only he could reach he might be able to save his green hide.

He reached behind his back and managed to squeeze a bottle around the corner, having no light to see, drank its contents without reading the label. He felt the sudden urge to romance a sweet significant other but right then wasn't the time nor the place.

The water crept up to his mouth as he tried another, feeling like his heartburn done went right away but little good that would do just then.

With the briefcase almost completely full, Zort puckered his lips to suck in that last pocket of air before there weren't a drop of breath left in there. He figured he had one last chance. Either the water breathing or the super sizing product would help save his hide.

He reached behind himself, clawed at one last bottle, brought it back 'round and pressed his lips straight to it so that no water would make its way in. He didn't grow twice his size immediately. So... maybe...

Zort took in a lungful of water as if he was breathing some fresh prairie air. Now obviously, it wasn't. The dirty, muddy water made Zort cough up something awful but after a few minutes he figured he wasn't dead (or at least Hell was a lot like being stuffed inside of underwater luggage).

Despite the temporary gills of a fish, Zort still had to get out before that elixir wore off. He tried oil after oil, just waiting for the one that would either explode or give him the strength to break out. Like a game of Nebraskan roulette. After drinking enough tonics to relieve a lifetime of the backdoor trots, Zort eventually drank the oil that gave him enough strength to burst out of that case and swim to the surface.

By then the gang of bears was long gone, his wagon turned into a sty. Donkeys still there so that was something at least. He had to come up with a plan but he wasn't used to schemes unless they involved selling snake oil.

That's when it hit him. He would have one great big huge liquid dynamite sale.

About two weeks passed and ol Gregory grew madder by the minute. He had starved that mouse but rather than spill trade secrets only squeaks and chirps escaped from its little mouth. Maybe the secret to the whole thing was a goblins ears but he had some of his own greenbacks come by and swear they could hear nothing worth listening to. The whole proposition seemed lost.

Gregory sat in his office, paws on his paunch while leaning back in his chair when Duff barged right in with a face like he was just slapped by a dead fish.

"Boss, that greenback is from the dead. Standing outside talking about making a deal."

Gregory stood up, grabbed the rifle off the wall. "You best not be fibbin or I'll put you right in that creek where you shoulda left him."

"He's right outside. Wants to talk to you only," Duff said.

A posse of bears headed on outside of the bank (at the bottom of the hill, remember), holding rifles and pointing 'em at the crazy greenback with a soiled suit and top hat. He was holding a ball of something, but it was hard to see. It was as hot as a whorehouse on nickel night and Zort was sweating all over while the bears panted like dogs on the count of having no sweat glands.

"You got a snake oil that brings you back from the dead or somethin?" Gregory yelled.

Zort kept a cold face. "Listen up. Give me back my friend and I'll give you all my wares and recipes," Zort hollered. A crowd started gathering round now. No sheriff in sight. "That's a fair trade, I'd say."

"Friend?" Gregory smiled, teeth forming perfect sharp peaks in his mouth. He pointed upstairs to Duff. The black bear went up, fetched the mouse, brought it back, and let the mouse loose. It skittered along the floor, up Zort's clothes, and under his top hat.

"Now," Gregory began, "Where are these wares and recipes? Don't go backing out on a deal with me now."

Zort smirked. "Let me bring it down for ya." He lifted his arm revealing a ball of string with a trail leading up the hill where his wagon sat, left parked atop by a single rock, wrapped in the twine, nudged under one of the wheels. As Zort pulled, the rock got yanked away and the wagon started heading slowly down the hill, but faster and faster yet.

Before long, the crowd parted and screamed as the wagon barreled down the hill and towards the bank's front door. The bear posse split but only a bit, unsuspecting of what would happen next. Most thought the wagon would splinter and there'd be a bit of a mess but not much else.

What they saw was the best fireworks show that no Nebraskan had ever seen, before or since, as the wagon full of liquid dynamite jars exploded into an inferno that even the devil hisself woulda been proud of. Bear fur caught on fire and they scattered left and right, all over. Duff got the worst of it, bursting into flames and letting out a howl like a coyote being cooked alive.

Ol Gregory somehow survived, crawling his way down the street. He turned over and gazed back in horror as Zort stood above him and the barrel of a gun pointed down to Ol bearkin's face.

"Now... Zorf was it? Now, I's sorry for what I'd done to you and your, uh, friend. You don't need to do nothing else. Just let me go." Gregory held up his hands in one last gesture of surrender.

Zort pulled the trigger. The hammer of the revolver slammed down. Click. Nothing came out. He had never owned a bullet in his whole life.

Now nobody in Nebraska ever saw that particular greenback ever gain. Gregory went on to keep making more banks and more money but he wasn't ever the same. Humans never did let him make a branch in New York, being a particularly prejudiced bunch themselves.

Zort left Nebraska for good. But many years later if you was in a particular part of San Francisco. You mighta seen a little girl walk into a medicine shop, an ol goblin sitting behind the counter. Bottles and other knick knacks lining the walls.

Perusing the wares, she grabbed a bottle that said "Pain Pain Go Away" and put it back.

"What you looking for, sweetling," the goblin rasped.

"Ma's really sick. Doctor say she don't got long," the girl said.

"I see," the goblin said. "Let me get you something else then. Those is just for show, you understand."

He stood up and with a cane made his way to the back door. While it opened, the girl could swear she heard hundreds of mice squeaking in the back. The goblin came back with a small glowing vial. "Here you is. Just don't tell nobody," the greenback said with a wink.

"Uh, thanks. How much?"

"No charge if you can keep a secret."

The girl smiled. "Thank you mister. I hope this helps."

"Oh, it'll help. Don't you worry about that," the greenback said.

She left the store, eyes beaming. The ol goblin took off his hat, a full head of grey hair falling down around his face and almost covering his ears. Most green folk was bald.

A white mouse, rickety bones and all, crawled out of a hole in the wall and climbed up the goblin until it sat on his shoulder next to his ear.

Never did make you the richest goblin in the world.

"We done fine, little friend. Just fine."

About the Author
Joshua James Jordan is an almost-serious writer of escapist fiction. You can find his other stories at www.JoshuaJamesJordan.com, though his tale "The Divine & Infernal Top-Secret Mission to Stop the False Apocalypse" best matches the style of "Big Huge Blow Out Liquid Dynamite Sale" published by Empyreome. He has a Twitter account covered in cobwebs (@JoshuaJJordan). You can also find him online at www.JoshuaJamesJordan.com.