A King's Ransom

 Will Sparrow is a lean, mousey-haired individual, and Will Sparrow is soon to be in trouble. Not currently [at least not that he isn't already aware of], but his trouble will become apparent in the last paragraph. Will Sparrow is, actually, becoming increasing aware of his problems. First, he is clinging to the inside of a wire basket scaling the side of a skyscraper. That's a problem. Second, he isn't particularly fond of heights. An even bigger problem, considering the preceding sentence. Which would also explain why his eyes are clamped shut.

Dave, a veteran window washer and the one at the controls of the basket, gives Will Sparrow a sad look and shakes his shaggy head. "You don't much like heights, do you?"
"Er, no," the guitar slung around his neck shifts and clangs against the thin basket frame. "In fact, you could say I detest, I loathe, and I abhor heights."

"I think you mean grounds. They're the ones you should worry about." Dave nods sagely.
"Oh, thank you sooooo much for that, sir." He grips the side of the box tighter, lacing his fingers in the mesh. "I will certainly remember that next time I find myself 32 stories above street level in a basket, sir."

"You plan on pulling this stunt often, then?" Dave shrugs. "You're the one said it's this grand romantic gesture to win your girl's heart; the man serenading his lady love outside her window." The basket stops. "Here's your floor, kiddo."

Will unfolds, staring ahead, only ahead; that or up, anyway. His long frame is reflected full view in the bluish glass of Elsie's apartment building; along with Dave reclining against the corner of the box, watching the traffic below. "Ooookay. Right."

"Right," Dave agrees.

"I can do this."

"You can do this."

Will puffs out his chest and swings his guitar into his hands. "I can ask Elsie to marry me."
"And serenade her below her 32nd story window."

"That too, yes."

"Quick question, though." Dave scratches at a white stain on the basket's steel rim. "How's your lady love gonna hear you?"

His thin shoulders fall. "Er."

"Oh, wait, I know." Dave the window washer squints at Will over his sunglasses. "She's supposed to see you and swing the window open, the wind tugging at her skimpy dress. Right?"


"Then you'll scoop her up and you'll spin her around in slow motion to a violin solo. She'll whisper 'I do' in your ear all breathy like Marilyn Monroe, the camera will pull out and it turns out we're really on a beach and some priest's just said, 'you may now kiss the bride'." Dave arches a thick, peppery eyebrow and chuckles. "Right?"

"Er?" Will peers over his shoulder. "Kind of. Yes."

The man steps forward, swings a heavy arm over Will's shoulders. "Reality check, buddy. Think of me as the voice of reason in that rose-tinted brain of yours." He waves at the glass before their noses. "One: See those windows? Inch-thick, quake proof panes. They don't open. Two: You start spinning on my platform and I'll throw you off, don't doubt it. That goes for dancing, too. Three," he blinks, "Oh, hey, look - there she..."

The two men's eyes bulge.

"Oh... er." Dave blushes and reaches for the basket's controls. "Going down."
Will Sparrow is a lean, mousey-haired individual, and he is is almost in trouble. Currently, he is bent at the top of a rickety ladder, head grazing the dry plaster ceiling, as he meticulously adds pink frosting rosettes and the candy couple to a massive wedding pilaster. Its layer arch gracefully up, mimicing the waves of the fountain the couple first met under. He squints, painting a miniscule bow tie on the groom's lapel with a thin, black, sugar water ink.

Behind him, past the gleaming steel ranges and white plastic countertops, is a pastel green bar. A scruffy, moustached man with a sparse beard snarfs down a cruller over his plate as the television affixed over the bar bursts into fanfare. The man looks up, a bit of pastry clinging to his facial hair.

"Breaking news tonight out of Salt Lake," the plastic-faced newswoman reads. In ticker tape below her face is the name Elsie Mark. "Young King Nadir Naiad of Dysprosia has been kidnapped." She turns to the next camera as a small promotional logo featuring a caricature of a crown and the words 'A King's Ransom' moves into the right side of the screen.

The scruffy man sticks a cruller coated tongue out at the face on the screen. "Miss Elsie's on the TV again, Willy!" he calls back enthusiastically to Will.

"Mm?" the baker lightly dots the bride's green eyes with a steady hand.

"She's talkin about the king a nowhere!"

"You told me about him already, Scrubby," he screws the lid back on his sugar paints and climbs down the ladder. "King of two mud huts and a sheep, remember?"

"Thas right," Scrubby swipes his mouth with a grubby sleeve. "I rememer cuz I told you."
Will Sparrow [wait for it, you impatient people, he's almost in trouble] emerges from the back, wiping his hands on a towel tucked in his belt. There is a smudge of flour on his nose. "What's the news then, Scrubby? He on another talk show?"

"Nope. Somebody snatched 'm." He chugs the rest of his milk, sighs, and clunks the glass on the counter.

"Oh. Ok?" Will takes the man's dishes to the sink.

"I ever tell you I was incarnate in King something-a-whatsit's court?" Scrubby licks his finger, smooshes up the crumbs on the pastel bar, and sucks on it.

"You probably have, actually," Will answers honestly, returning to the front.
Outside the sun hangs low, melting like sherbert on the mountain tops of Salt Lake City, Utah. The lights come on in a million homes, off in a million shops. The pi symbol over Will Sparrow's shop glows dim green over the street. His shop is the only one still open, or at least lit.

"The sheep oughta be happy, though. He didn't even have to rebel." Scrubby screws up his face in a thoughtfulish look.

The bell jingles cheerily over the pi shop door and a teen in a black hoodie and jeans enters. His dark eyes scan the shop, settling on Will Sparrow behind the counter. "We're closed, sorry. I was seriously just about to lock up," Will calls.

"You are the baker?" He forms his words carefully, pronouncing each syllable delicately.

Will Sparrow smiles crookedly. "Yes?"

He smirks and steps forward. The baker catches a glipse of shiny material beneath the nondescript hoodie. "My name is Nadir Naiad, baker, and you have now officially kidnapped me. Any attempt to contact the police would be, how do you say, counterproductive on your part."

Will Sparrow is now most definitely in trouble.

The End

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