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The donkey’s name was Quick.

His front hooves were neat and dexterous and opposable, and his back hooves were the size of dinner plates and had unassuming steel shoes. He had a pale grey hide and pale pink nostrils, and ears like enormous fringed fans, and if you lifted up his cowl far enough, you would find large, slightly worried brown eyes, with the devastatingly long eyelashes reserved for beauty queens and large ungulates. He was a small, neat-footed donkey who kept his elbows tucked in and could vanish into a crowd much more easily than a bipedal donkey wearing a yellow robe with checkerboard edging had any right to do.

He had a goldfish in a plastic bag. She was a small, neat-finned goldfish with kinder eyes than are usual among fish. Quick was only guessing about the “she” pronoun. He wasn’t sure how to tell the difference, or if it mattered one way or the other. Well, it probably mattered to another goldfish. He wasn’t sure if the kindness of the goldfish’s eyes was really there, or if he was starting to go—-well, not crazy, per se, but a little off, the way people get when they haven’t talked to another person in a long time, and the things inside their head start to take up entirely too much space. It had been a stressful few weeks. He wasn’t sure how many weeks, but he was definitely sure they had been stressful.

He wasn’t sure of much else, these days, particularly not how the ripe pear and the assassins fit into the whole situation.

He was quite sure that he’d heard the fish talking the first time, though. The other times, yes, it had been dark and a little crazy and if you shoved a copy of the Book of Muses under his hoof, he couldn’t have sworn to it. But that first time, when he’d seen the forlorn little plastic bag laid out on an aging carpet, the fish had definitely spoken to him.

The aging and dingy carpet had been in an aging and dingy bazaar, with an aging and dingy man sitting cross-legged on it. The carpet was an indeterminate grimy red and frayed badly at the edges, and the man had thick half-moons of dirt under his fingernails, and toenails that looked more hoof-like than Quick's. The rest of the carpet had been taken up with elaborately curved knives with paste jewels and cheap Pakistani steel, and large, ill-defined contraptions of brass and nozzles and looping hoses. Amid all the dirty brass and gold paint, the goldfish had been so non-onstentatious that she stood out immediately, like a single peahen in a flock of peacocks.

Quick did not need a tourist knife, and suspected that if he knew what the multi-nozzled brass contraptions were, he would not need one of those, either. He definitely didn’t need a goldfish, which is the worst possible sort of pet for a desert. He had only slowed down out of surprise at seeing a goldfish bag on a carpet, and his hooves were carrying him past the carpet with the cheerful clink of steel shoes on cobblestones, when the goldfish spoke to him.

“Are you pins?”

Quick paused. The voice had been right there, as if someone had leaned over and whispered directly into one long white ear, without stirring the delicate fringe of hair that lined them.

“Are you pins?”

It was a very odd question to ask someone, thought Quick vaguely, although “pins” might conceivably be slang for just about anything. Are you looking for a good time/a bad time/drugs/a live chicken/a dead chicken/a political revolution/a new religion/a game/a room for the night/a budget assassin? Are you pins, man?

“Are you pins?” the voice said again, a small, sad, female voice. And then, “No, you’re not. I’m sorry. I can’t see very well. Where is pins?”

Quick wheeled around, his ears swiveling, and yet there was no one there. There were people in the bazaar, but not a crowd—-it was too late in the day, getting on dusk, and not yet getting busy again with the tavern crowd.

“Who said that?” he said, almost to himself.

“Me,” said the voice, with a watery, glurghing rush of a noise. “Is pins there? I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

Ah, thought Quick, Pins is a person. One mystery solved, although where the voice was coming from was still anyone’s guess. He turned around in place with a clitter-clatter of hooves. There was still no one there.

The man with the dirty fingernails opened one eye, looked at Quick with vague disinterest, and closed them again, exhausted by this effort. The odds of such a meek, feminine little voice emerging from that scabbed and unwashed throat did not seem good, although Quick had heard stranger things in his life, and didn’t feel it was his place to judge such things.

“Excuse me?” said Quick politely. (He was a very polite donkey, having been raised by a redoubtable tyrant of a greataunt, who wielded courtesy with the lethal weight and pinpoint accuracy of a three-hundred pound ninja with a sledgehammer.)

The man ignored him. The brass contraptions gleamed inscrutably.

“Pins…” said the little voice sadly.

“Did you say something?” asked Quick again.

The man with dirty fingernails, without opening his eyes, spat with remarkable precision on Quick’s left hoof.

“I said it,” said the voice, and the goldfish jumped into the inch of free air in the top of the plastic bag and fell back with a small gloop!

“Excuse me?” he said, almost to himself.

“Me! Here!” said the voice, and the fish jumped again, and circled agitatedly inside the bag.

Quick found that he had nothing to say. Either the goldfish was indeed talking, or it had been a bizarre coincidence, or someone was playing an elaborate joke of inscrutable purpose, or, entirely without warning, he’d gone stark raving mad.

No matter which it was, he found himself at a loss for words.

“I haven’t seen him in days,” said the goldfish mournfully. “I want to go home.”

Quick stared down at the goldfish. It was an unremarkable goldfish, remarkable only for being a goldfish, in a climate more suited to camels and lizards and bat-eared foxes. It thrashed its translucent tail and turned its back on him.

“How much for the fish?” he heard himself ask.

The man with dirty fingernails spat, again with closed eyes and great accuracy, on Quick’s right hoof.

“Sir,” said Quick, with tight control, “I would like to buy something. How much is the goldfish?”

“In’tfrsale,” the man muttered. His voice had a thick, bubbling quality, forced up through clogged and unhealthy lungs, nothing at all like the goldfish. If there was a ventriloquist about, it probably wasn’t him. Of course, the bazaar, despite being half-closed down, was full of faded tents and thick hangings, heavy pots and baskets and half-empty wagons, and could have hid an entire army of rogue ventriloquists, and any pet elephants they happened to have on hand.

Unseen in the depths of his cowl, a faint, irritated line formed between Quick’s eyes.

“What about this...brass thing...on the end, here?” One hooved hand emerged from his wide sleeve and pointed at one of the brass contraptions at random.

“Sixhun’red suls.” The man did not open his eyes to see which one Quick was looking at, which was admittedly a neat trick.

“I could buy most of a camel for that.”

“G’buy ‘unthen,” gurgled the man.

“I’ll give you three hundred for the brass thing, if you throw in the goldfish.”

“No.”

“Four hundred.”

“No.”

This isn’t like me, thought Quick. I don’t need a goldfish. I don’t have any place to keep one. I have five hundred and twenty suls to my name. No possible good can come of me buying a goldfish. “Five hundred for the goldfish, and keep the brass thing.”

“N’tfrsale!” said the man again, getting incensed enough to actually open one eyelid.

“Why not?” asked Quick reasonably. “Why do you have it out, if it isn’t for sale?”

“Dwantn’buddystealin’it,” gurgled the man angrily, and hawked again. Quick, having heard the sound twice already, sidestepped, and before he quite knew what he was doing, he had reached down, snatched up the top of the plastic bag, and taken off at a dead run.
This isn't a finished story. I don't know what happens next. I may never write another word about it. Some stuff I can crank out, some stuff comes when it wants to, and not before.

On the other hand, crazy stuff happens sometimes. Perhaps I'll know what happens next tomorrow, or next week. I promise nothing!

But I hope you enjoy what's there anyway.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconglassdragon42:
glassdragon42 Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I love this story! Quick, the goldfish, and Pins are all interesting characters fleshed out quite well by the few pieces of them you have. I wonder what happened to the goldfish to separate her from Pins...
Reply
:icontaren14:
Taren14 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2011
Well of course someone's gonna steal it if you leave it out where they can see, idiot!
Reply
:iconmusewithamotive:
musewithamotive Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2007
That's it. I am filled with sympathy for a goldfish. I give up. You win. :)
Reply
:iconchildsnake:
Childsnake Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006   Digital Artist
*Sigh* So beautiful. Your skill in imagery is amazing, although calling a hoof a hand stumped me.
Reply
:iconreymonkey:
Reymonkey Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2006   General Artist
Awww... Poor Quick, an honest fellow, became a felon for the sake of the goldfish.
My goldfish died yesterday, I can sympathize.
Reply
:iconpigeoncrowz:
PigeonCrowz Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2006
Awesome story! I love the way you write things.
Reply
:iconssejbat:
SSEJBAT Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2006
the style reminds me a little of terry pratchett! very inderested in reading more :D
Reply
:iconcozie:
Cozie Featured By Owner May 17, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm interested in finding out what/who Pins is. :D
Reply
:iconknap:
Knap Featured By Owner May 16, 2006
That's wicked :D
Reply
:iconekranday:
Ekranday Featured By Owner May 14, 2006
Very cool. You're very good at imagery and sneaking humor into things.
Reply
:iconthepinkpirate:
ThePinkPirate Featured By Owner May 11, 2006
Me thinks me needs to make a yellow cloak with a checkerboard edging...
Reply
:iconnazmeischter:
nazmeischter Featured By Owner May 10, 2006
really wonderful story, its captivating! i do hope you continue it, want to find out about the lil fish. i love how the grimy guy doesnt want anybody thieving his fish then quick just runs off with her :P
Reply
:iconzasu:
zasu Featured By Owner May 4, 2006
looking forward to anything further you might wish to add... at some point in the future, if you, you know, end up feeling inspired again :D
Reply
:iconjh2tc:
Jh2tc Featured By Owner May 1, 2006
I can sense a definate Pratchett influence here, but the goldfish makes me think of the bodiless girl in 'The man with two brains' rather than a manifestation of the god Om. Excellent donkey too.
Reply
:iconshanree:
shanree Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2006  Student
The goldfish reminds me of that one snack. ~~the snack that smiles back, Goldfish!~~
Reply
:iconanimist:
Animist Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2006
You should put the picture by itself into your gallery so that those who don't read the story can see it.
Reply
:iconshanree:
shanree Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2006  Student
HAHAHA! Yeah, I would, but usually, I'm worried that people wouldn't read the description so they may think I drew the picture. Man, that'd be something. :D I might suggest it! ^^*
Reply
:iconjoelee88:
joelee88 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2006
wow... nice
Reply
:iconlibriangoober:
LibrianGoober Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2006
Save the fish!
Reply
:iconttethys:
Ttethys Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2006
Aww the goldfish is so sweet
Reply
:iconthatpalechick:
thatpalechick Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2006
That is so awesomely random and wonderful. I just hope the fish doesn't die from being shaken up in the bag. That happened to me once...I mean, it happened to my fish. Obviously, no one put me in a bag and shook me up....Great story.
Reply
:icongoldensalamander:
goldenSalamander Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2006  Professional Traditional Artist
I saved this until I had time to read the story. Um, when's the next installment? As for Quick's portrait the hood does seem to interfere with us getting a good feel for where muzzle ends, face and eyes are going. I think that's what makes the muzzle seem lacking (otherwise I feel like his notrils need to be larger and higher up, but I suspect that higher up is actuall the bridge of the nose moving up toward those gorgeous eyes hidden under the hood. I have this urge to draw him!
Reply
:iconmotorkat:
MotorKat Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
hmm... he kinda looks more like a kangaroo shrew to me, but i'll go with the white donkey :crazy:
Reply
:iconelindith:
elindith Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2006
very cute, and smart too...
Reply
:iconfirretayl:
Firretayl Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2006  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yay for donkeys! :D

Very well written... :)
Reply
:icontimmythemule:
timmythemule Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2006
Very lovely. Well done.
Reply
:iconsnotrag:
SnotRag Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2006   Writer
This is the sort of writing that makes the reader delighted, and fellow writers jealous. As a reader, I was entirely taken in by your wonderful, readable style. The humor was satisfying in every aspect produced. The story itself was quirky enough so as to keep a weird aura of suspense up, even if nothing was explicitly to be expected. As a writer, though, I am indeed jealous. ;)

Fantastic stuff. Easily a Fav. +fav
Reply
:iconfrosted-icing:
frosted-icing Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2006
I do so love Donkies. :3
Reply
:iconartoveli:
Artoveli Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
I would definitely buy such a book!
Reply
:icontizera:
Tizera Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2006  Hobbyist Photographer
:faint: :heart:
Reply
:iconthomcomstock:
thomcomstock Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You are, as always, awesome. I absolutely love your artwork Ursula, but I really keep coming back for the reads.
Reply
:iconkatimazie:
Katimazie Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2006
Wow.

Just... wow.

Just... everything! The flow, the descriptions, the imagery....

Wow.

You are truly a woman of many talents.
Reply
:icon109cita:
109cita Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2006  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I am totally missing said 'voodoo doll' somehow.
Is it visible? Is it in the story?
I've read it twice looking and stared and stared.
I'm beginning to feel daft!
I see the pear and well, one would assume
that the assasins are not seen.
The best assasins are NEVER seen.
But a voodoo doll?
:O_o:
Reply
:iconmozaki:
MoZaki Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2006
*sigh* another nice one; they are so immersive and charming. :)

Bonus that this one is based of my all-time FAVORITE picture/character of yours and it is nice to get to know him better.
(Donkey and Goldfish 1 & 2, of corse)
Reply
:icondaemon-duck:
Daemon-Duck Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2006
Ripe pears and asassins? Your crazy stuff is so darned crazy, I am seized with a longing to know what happens.
Reply
:iconinkthinker:
Inkthinker Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006  Professional Digital Artist
You keep writin' it, and I'll keep readin' it. :D
Reply
:iconkeight:
keight Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
Thank you, Ursula.
Reply
:iconch3-co-o-ch3:
CH3-CO-O-CH3 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
he i wonder what will happen next...
Reply
:iconaleera-keeya:
Aleera-Keeya Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
I like Quick. I think he is cute, and the story . . . . . . what can I say . . . .I NEED MORE. I like it a lot.
Reply
:icontenko72:
tenko72 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
This is wonderful!
Reply
:iconrandomlyabstract:
randomlyabstract Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
Wow, I unexpectedly got into that story. Then it was abruptly cut off, like a preview. You better write more. :P
Reply
:iconhyenateeth:
HyenaTeeth Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
DONKIES ROCK! HOOOO!

also, the story is awesome. i do hope you write more. <3
Reply
:iconstacib:
StaciB Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ah..you know, i am a huge fan. i think a good percentage of my favorites are yours :P
and since you are so pro i feel a bit timid to give you some criticism, but this is the internet. its not like you can slap me if you are offended right?

his snout confuses me...i understand his eyes are buried somewhere under his cloak, but maybe they should be a little visable? right now it looks like his nostrils are his eyes :/
and the color of the inside of his cloak (right arm) is odd..i couldnt really tell he was carrying a fish until i studied it for a minute..i thought he had some kind of sheathed blade or melting..stuff?

anyhoo..LOVE your imagination..you are truly inspiring m'dear.
Reply
:iconohtheinsandy:
ohtheinsandy Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
I love your writing style -- and the lovely illustration. I'm hooked. I hope you write more. :)
Reply
:iconcomputer-faerie:
computer-faerie Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006  Professional General Artist
...I have new respect for donkeys.
Reply
:iconcacopheny:
cacopheny Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
Your writing style is just the best. I could read your stuff for days and always find something else amusing, interesting, and/or thought-provoking in it.

The line about "pet elephants" is just so descriptive in such a random fashion that it really sticks with you.
Reply
:iconjon-wood:
Jon-Wood Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006  Professional Digital Artist
When I saw this on your LJ, I thought it was an origin story for Red Fireflies. Coem to think of it, I'd like to see an origin story for a male. I'd suggest a shy, but well-endowed equine(sp) of some sort, but that sounds far too much like some unsavory fanfics I've read.
Reply
:iconconfusedkitten0854:
confusedkitten0854 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
Very cute Donkey :aww: I want to hug him. I loved the story very much.
Reply
:icontechraven:
techraven Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
I'm hooked.
Reply
:iconfaggus:
faggus Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2006
:( Couldn't hack it past the first paragraph or so.
SP - Dextrous
very creative use of adjectives.
Reply
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The Written Word by fortysecondarcha


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