Seasonal Work

by Mistral Amara

Hoggle looked at the calendar as he waited for his morning kettle to boil. October the fifteenth. He closed his eyes and thought longingly of trees turning gold and red and orange, cider presses running at capacity, men and women scurrying to make preparations for harvest festivals. A proper gardener would be raking leaves and deadheading flowers at this time of year.

He, of course, was far from being a proper gardener. He'd given up any chance of normalcy when he'd agreed to be the caretaker of the labyrinth--so long ago now, he couldn't even remember what foolish argument had driven him to leave his home and family, nor what desperation had made him accept Jareth's offer of employment. Far too long ago for regrets. No, he was content enough. If there was anything he missed, it was the orderly march of seasons.

The kettle's whistle broke his train of thought. He poured his tea and buttered his toast and set them on the table, then drew back the kitchen curtains and sat down to break his fast and plan his day.

He dipped his spoon in the jam pot and considered the view. Blue sky, sun warm but not hot, green grass, and a patchwork of brilliant flowers. Late spring, then. Hoggle shook his head. Working for someone who could change the seasons at a whim was more than a little unnerving. Still, he'd wanted to be a gardener, and a gardener he was. If that made him a misfit among other dwarves, it was no more than he was willing to sacrifice. Who needs friends when you have work that you love?

And he did love his work, even if the seasons were all jumbled together like prizes in a grab-bag. Late spring. What had he done the last time it was late spring? Oh, right--trimmed the hedge maze and fertilized the bloodthorns. Which meant it was probably time for a bit of pest control.

He swallowed the last of his toast and tea and put the dishes into the sink. Then he rummaged in his tool cabinet until he found his spray gun. He sniffed the nozzle. Fairy-B-Gone. Right, then, he'd start by spraying the fairies.

He opened the door and strode, smiling, out into the bright spring morning.