The Deal

Stuart Townsend suffered from insomnia. Most nights he was lucky to get a few hours of sleep, but on this particular night he decided to try something new. Earlier in the day he read a long-winded article online on holistic remedies for disorders with unknown cures—insomnia happened to be listed at number four. In the article, Dr. Jeffrey Holland, a leading researcher on the affects of all things holistic, explained how the use of five ingredients made for better success when coping with stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and erectile dysfunction. Doing a quick calculation in his head he realized he may be suffering from more than one, but who’s counting? He just wanted sleep.

When he got home from work, Stuart searched his cabinets and drawers and found two of the five ingredients. He’d have to go to the store for the rest. No problem though, the local pharmacy was right down the road next to Le Peep, the best bakery in town. Maybe he’d stop and get a donut or two, he thought. Then again, the sugar probably wouldn’t help.

Stuart got home at eight o’clock that afternoon. He made a few pit stops on the way back because he was already out. He stopped at MacGruber’s for dog food and a new box of Greenies, treats that guaranteed fresher breath and cleaner teeth. The treats were expensive but his dog, Frito, loved them. He helped Mrs. Doran get the frisbee unstuck from a tree for her grandson, Billy. He used a broomstick handle from her garage to pry it loose. Mrs. Doran offered him a twenty, but after careful consideration, he refused. His final stop was Pauline’s, his ex-girlfriend, but she wasn’t home. No big deal, except she was supposed to be there so he could get his class ring back. The reunion was coming up and he wanted to wear it. He’d been asking about it for a while now—maybe another time.

Unloading the car and heading inside, he placed the groceries on the counter and the box of donuts on top of the stove. There was something about the girl behind the register at Le Peep, he thought. She was very convincing. Or maybe it was her elegance and allure; she had a gripping appeal to her. Or maybe it was the fact that she had the tightest tush in town, and like most men who visited, left with more pastries than bills in their wallet. He took a bite of a chocolate glazed donut and continued to unpack.

Toweling off from a shower, Stuart thought about the book he was writing. The novel was a futuristic, psy-fi thriller on what would happen if people found out their President was actually an alien looking to sell their land to other civilizations from distant galaxies. It was a work in progress.

After he flossed and brushed his teeth, Stuart decided he couldn’t wait any longer. He went to his kitchen, gathered the ingredients and headed back upstairs.

On his nightstand, Stuart set down an 8 ounce glass on top of a digital kitchen scale and put the rest of the accessories on the bed. He took out his phone and scrolled to the instructions, which were bookmarked.

Step 1: 5 grams of beet juice

Stuart grabs the glass container of Lakewood’s Organic Beet Juice and pops the top. He measures 5 grams without it spilling onto his white bedroom carpet and considers that a win. On to the next.

Step 2: Halve a lemon and squeeze juices into mixture.

Seems a little much, but Stu continues, no problem. He thinks of how sour this concoction might taste.

Step 3: Peel and add 1 gram of lemon zest. Cut into fine pieces.

As if there wasn’t enough lemon, he thinks. Stuart peels and finely slices the outer part of freshly squeezed lemon and sprinkles it into the glass.

Step 4: Essential Oils - 5 droplets of Eucalyptus, 3 droplets of Ginger and 2 droplets of Rosemary.

Stu hesitates, he never knew you could consume essential oils, but he adds the drops anyway and continues. It’s for the best.

Step 5: 5 grams of apple cider vinegar.

As Stu unscrewed the cap, a pungent odor lifted from the mouth of the bottle. He gagged slightly. Hopefully it’s masked by the other ingredients, he thinks. Then pours in 5 grams and quickly covers the lid by screwing on the cap and tossing it aside.

With all the liquids together he got a light brown, unappealing mixture. He lifted the glass to his lamp and gave it a swirl, observing the bits of lemon zest floating near the surface. Holding the lip of the glass below his nose, Stu gave the odd potion a sniff. It smelled better than it looked. He cheers’d to his dog and shotgunned the entire thing in one large gulp.

Once settled, Stu found it difficult to get comfortable. The stress that came with agreeing to a hard deadline was mounting. And the book was hardly half finished. As the hours passed he deemed the attempt less and less hopeful. He needed a distraction. At 2 o’clock in the morning it was too late to call anyone to talk to. In moments like these, which for him were every night, Stu would cast ideas for new books. What if the rabbit hole in the backyard was a portal to another dimension? He thought. What if a boy with chicken pox actually turned into a chicken? What if—

Stu shut off his brain and sat up in bed. All that ensued was silence, but he swore he heard something downstairs. The dog was fast asleep. Weird because the dog would usually growl at something like that. Stu stayed put, upright for a minute or two and relaxed back to his mattress. Maybe a branch fell on the deck, it was a bit windy outside earlier. He closed his eyes and tried to empty his mind. Then, like water droplets hitting the shower floor, the faint sound of knocking echoed through the foyer, up the stairs and to his ears. This time he was sure he heard something. He sprung from his bed, grabbed his robe, tossed it on as he headed down the stairs and proceeded to the front door. About to unlock and open the door, he hesitated. Who could it be? What did they want? Why so late? A burglar wouldn’t knock, he thought. Maybe it’s the police, or maybe someone has a flat or needs gas. Only one way to find out. Stu slide the lock slowly and twisted the knob, cracking the door just wide enough to poke an eye through the opening.

“Who’s there?” he said shakily.

All he could make out were the stairs leading up to his front porch and the sidewalk that led to his driveway in the background. No car or bike or sign of any transportation was visible as he cracked the door further and stuck his head out like a turtle from its shell.

“Down here.” a loud voice called out.

Stu flinched and retracted his head back inside, whacking it against the door with a THUD!

Peering back out and glancing downward, Stu made out a tiny, mannish looking dwarf-like creature with large feet and a puffy white beard. A shrunken-down version of Santa Claus, no taller than your average garden gnome.

“Uhh, can I help y—“

“Rudy Pennygrove, at your service!” the rosy-cheeked fellow said cheerfully. He held his tiny hand to the brow above his eyes and gave a salute.

Stu opened the door all the way and took a step back to get a better view. He rubbed his eyes as if he were imagining things. Maybe he was dreaming. He began looking up, down and to the side, hoping to spot any signs pointing to an alternate universe. But there was none. He stood still, face to face with his odd new reality.

The little gnome-like man fished out a tiny white card from his pocket and cleared his throat.

“Stu, Jesus, relax. You act like you’ve never seen a small person before. I’m actually kind of

offended.“ Rudy joked.

“No, it’s not that, I—“

“I’m just busting your chops.” Rudy added. “Say, you got a light?”

He produced a thin, long stogie and placed the butt into his mouth.

“I don’t smoke.” Stu replied.

“Well what good are ya, Stu?” Rudy said bluntly.

“I’m sorry, I’m confused, who are you?” Stu’s face became quizzical.

“Who the hell do I look like? The Easter Bunny?” Rudy said mildly.


“I’m the Sleep Fairy, moron! Here’s my card.” Rudy extended his arm and handed Stu the white card. “And wipe that stupid look off your face, I’m here to help.” Rudy took a step through the doorframe and into the foyer.

Stu turned on the foyer light and held the card up close to his face. The writing was small, and in big capital letters said: RUDIFORD H. PENNYGROVE and below that were the words: SLEEP FAIRY. The word “FAIRY” was X’d out with what looked to be red ink and the word “GURU” was etched in its place.

Rudy observed Stu squinting at the card and offered some advice, “Call me a fairy and I’ll punch you in the nuts so hard your teeth’ll fall out.”

“You’re going to help me sleep?” Stu said, ignoring the vicious comment. His eyes were bright with an overwhelming sense of delight. This was the answer, Stu thought. No more long nights of sleepless dread, slowly dragging him down to the pits of insanity. A joyous chorus of euphoric melody played loudly in his head—eureka, finally.

“It’s gonna cost ya though.” Rudy said, looking around and noticing Stu’s high-hanging chandelier.

“What do you mean?” Stu looked down from the card and his grin disappeared slightly. “Are you asking for money?”

“No, not necessarily.” Rudy added. “Although it doesn’t look like you’re hurtin’ for cash.” he said, poking his head into Stu’s dark, mahogany office.

Rudy continued, “No I’m more of a give and take sorta guy. I give you something, you give me something in return. Make sense?”

“Yeah, but I—“

“I like you, Stu. You seem like a standup guy. Hell of a writer, too. I’ve read some of your work, my wife and I love your stuff.” Rudy said convincingly.

“Thanks.” Stu responded.

“I’ll make you a deal.” Rudy said.

Stu nodded as he listened, intrigued.

“You hand over your talent for writing, and in return, I’ll give you the ability to sleep every night for the rest of your life.” Rudy said.

At first, Stu was mortified by the inquisition. Who did this fairy think he was? It was a rotten, no-good deal not even worth—

Sleep, he thought.

It tickled his insides like a tiny feather. His mind was thinking one thing, but his heart was thinking another. You need sleep, Stu—the voice in his mind started to sing. It was angelic, almost poetic. It glimmered and tingled and danced on him until his skin produced goosebumps. But how could he give up writing, it was everything to—

“Deal.” Stu blurted out. He stuck out his hand, insinuating a shake.

“I can afford it, I’ve got other talents. I can find a way to make it work I guess, right?” Stu was more so talking to himself it seemed, a desperate attempt at feeding one’s own ego.

“Pleasure doing business with you, Stubert.” Rudy conjured up a smile so sharp it could cut through glass.

“May the victor go the spoils!” Rudy added loudly. And before Stu had time to think, Rudy’s tiny hand swung instantly into Stu’s, generating a deafening clap of thunder. The room started spinning and everything went dark.

Stu woke sometime later, feeling nothing.

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