“I've got a large box here for Doctor L Ron Heeler,” the man dressed in brown called out.
A slender, blond man of indeterminate age walked into the reception room through a storeroom door at the far side. “Sorry. I was just getting the dog food rearranged. Where do I sign?”
The delivery driver maneuvered the box off his two-wheeler letting it drop the last six inches to the floor with a heavy whomp. “Right here,” he said, handing him the electronic tracking pad and pulling out its attached stylus.
The man signed, returning the pad to the driver who looked at the screen.
“What's your name? I can't read your signature and we have to know for our records in case the sender needs proof of delivery.”
“Oh, sorry, it's Findel, Doctor George Findel. I do tend to scrawl. Do you need me to re-sign?”
“No, that's fine. Have a nice day, Doctor Findel.”
The bells over the door jangled off-tune as he closed it behind him. Glorfindel walked over to the box to take a closer look. “What the hell?” he muttered. “Ron. RON!” he called out. “You'd better get out here. You've got a package that's taking up the whole entryway. If I'm reading the label right, it's from Callie.”
“Hang on a minute; I just need to finish getting this dog's blood pulled.” A growl sounded followed by a yipe. There were no further objections from the back room and in a short time the lab door opened and Elrond walked out.
“Much better. That's done. Now what were you saying about a box from Callie?” Elrond walked from the lab door through the short hallway that led from the back room past the four examination rooms. Walking into the waiting room, he glanced contentedly around noting its computers, file cabinets and the lacquered receptionist's desk. It had taken some time and effort, but he had built a successful veterinary practice here in Eden Prairie, a first-tier suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Elrond worked out regularly at a local gym and still cut a fine figure even after the many ages since his birth on the far shores of flooded Beleriand. To blend seamlessly with humans he had undergone cosmetic surgery to round the tops of his ears. His hair was fashionably short and he wore it with an off-center part and a fringe of bangs swooping across his forehead. He was wearing a white lab coat with a stethoscope slung around his neck, the chest piece nestled into his breast pocket. A precisely placed nametag across the top of the pocket said L Ron Heeler, DVM.
He walked up to the box and scanned it from top to bottom. “Well, I'll be damned, I think you're right. It is from Callie. Here, help me move it away from the door. Good thing it's a Monday morning and we don't open for another two hours.”
The two elves rotated the box until the correct side faced up as indicated by arrows and words spray-painted on the box sides that said “This Side Up” and “Fragile”.
“I guess deliverymen don't learn how to read,” Glorfindel mused as he looked at the signage, which had previously pointed toward the floor.
“Or more likely they just don't give a damn,” Elrond answered as he walked around the box searching out the best way to open it. He walked to the receptionist's desk and opened a drawer, pulling out a box cutter, a hammer and a large screwdriver. As he started cutting the tape and chiseling apart the wooden framework of the sturdy, sealed box top, Glorfindel opened a “Packing List Enclosed” protective envelope, stapled to one of the wooden struts. He removed a piece of paper written in Tengwar.
“Ron, she put a letter in here for you. Want me to read it while you cut and tear?”
“Sure. She's got nothing to say that needs to be hidden after all this time. What's she up to these days?”
Glorfindel cleared his throat and began reading.
My Dearest Elrond, or should I rather say L Ron …
“Hmmm, she's already starting out a bit on the facetious side, isn't she?”
“Well, nothing new there. Keep reading, George.”
As you can tell from the label, I am currently in San Francisco. After a search of many years, I finally found where Nerdanel set up her new studio and have started taking classes in sculpting from her. I feel I am finally finding my inner elf and it's SO exciting!
“Really? Inner elf?” Glorfindel commented. “I don't remember Celebrían being this shallow when we all lived in Imladris.”
“No, she really found her lack of depth when she sailed West. Like most of us, she had high expectations of what Valinor would be like. She was devastated to discover that the West was actually just another land mass and that the Valar were getting ready to leave Arda for their own world. It took many years before she finally healed from her tortures. She seems quite comfortable with modern life, though; loves all of the conveniences like microwave ovens and cell phones. What else does she have to say?”
San Francisco is a bustling city with a flavor all its own. I walk up and down the hills and ride the cable cars, I take the BART from the city across the Bay to Oakland and back, and I wander the shops of the Mission District (where I've found the cutest, quaint little apartment to live in). I adore the shopping and the food – oh, the food!
Another plus - Mother is only a few hours away in LA, and we plan to try to get together a few times a year for some quality 'girl time'.
“Speaking of Galadriel, have you seen her latest film, Ron?”
“No, not yet, although I hear it's getting good reviews.”
“She's done a good job of acting in this one, actually allowing some emotion to show every now and again. I hear there are rumors of a supporting actress Oscar in her future.”
Elrond rolled his eyes and cleared his throat. “Oh good grief! The letter please.”
“Okay ... okay!”
Anyway, I know you're just dying to know what I'm creating with my art, so I thought I'd send you one of my sculptures. Nerdanel guided me, but it's the first piece that I molded and cast totally on my own and I'm quite proud of it. Nerdanel said I did an excellent job, but when I offered to let her keep it in her sculpture garden, she seemed quite insistent that I give it to someone else.
“Ummm … why am I suddenly getting the feeling that Nerdanel wanted to get rid of this as quickly as she could?” Elrond sighed as he pulled the last of the protective wrap away from the cast bronze, revealing a sculpture of two dogs engaged in a sexual exchange. The breeds were indeterminate, but the activity was unmistakable. He stepped back from the sculpture, shaking his head.
Of course, I thought of you immediately. You have an exercise yard at your practice and I think the sculpture, which I call 'Oromë's Dream', will go beautifully there. I've put a protective coating over the bronze to help keep it intact despite your irritating weather.
If you get a chance, please phone and let me know it arrived in one piece. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Kiss, kiss...
Glorfindel looked up sharply at a choked sound coming from his friend. “Now, don't worry, Ron, she'll come back to you eventually, after she's found her 'inner elf'.” He looked carefully at the sculpture. “Is that really?”
“Pardon me for asking, Ron, but is it really as bad as I think it is?”
“Oh yes.” Elrond sighed deeply and then burst out in semi-hysterical laughter. “It's more than bad, George, it's really horrible! The proportions are all wrong; there is no understanding of the underlying musculature. And look, over here. She has this leg twisted in a direction that would cripple the poor animal. Of course that's not even mentioning the actual sexual act that the two dogs are in the process of performing. Oh my God! VALAR! I just can't stand it!” Tears began streaming down his face as he tried to contain his shrill laughter. “Honestly, it's so bad; I just can't imagine what I can realistically do with it.”
“I suppose we could always melt it down,” suggested the former warrior as he walked slowly around the sculpture, eyes bugged out as he took in the details of the sculpture. “Jeez! Is that a dog doing that? Or maybe it's a warg?”
“I admit it is difficult to tell the difference with Callie's level of sculptural expertise,” Elrond said, shaking his head as he followed his best friend's example and walked around the sculpture again to examine it from all angles.
The bronze was large – easily three feet long and an equal distance high from the base of the pedestal to the top of the male's hackles. It depicted two dog-like creatures engaged in sexual congress. The larger of the two, quite obviously a male, hunched over a smaller female. His fur cascaded in clumps that resembled the jagged offset branches of a juniper bush. He was snarling, his teeth bared with pools of drool at the base of his gums. The female underneath the male was much smaller and resembled a shorthaired hunting dog, similar to a greyhound. It was cowering beneath the body of the larger animal and looking up at it in fear. The entire scene was making Elrond extremely uncomfortable.
“It looks like Callie is still trying to work out issues remaining from her captivity and torture hundreds of years ago,” Glorfindel said as he stood back and looked at the sculpture as a whole.
“Yes, I'd have to agree. Nonetheless, while we may look at this as an example of how poorly Callie has adapted to her new life in the West, we still need to find a place to hide this monstrosity before we open our doors to patients in less than an hour.” Elrond began reviewing possible hiding places in his head. “We can't let any of the staff see this. They'd have nightmares for weeks.”
“We can throw one of the blankets over it and put it in the storeroom or at the back of the lab,” Glorfindel suggested as he started collecting the cardboard for recycling and breaking up the wooden framework of the box into smaller pieces for the trash.
“No,” Elrond answered. “It will be too obvious in the lab. Someone will be curious and peek under the blanket. We need a better hiding place than that.”
He walked around the statue again, shaking his head as he realized how truly bad the sculpture was. “I suppose I'll have to compliment Callie on what a wonderful job she did with this piece of trash,” he muttered. “I need to figure out what I can say that will be truthful without making her feel that she has any real talent for this medium. I could talk to Nerdanel, but I have a feeling she would spend the conversation trying to coax me into helping Callie find a different sculpture instructor.”
Glorfindel laughed hearing Elrond admit that. “Although that's probably true, it still doesn't help us get rid of this thing.”
“I have an idea but I need to make some phone calls before I can go any farther with it. Right now, help me carry this through the back door into the yard. We'll wrap it tightly with several exam sheets. It'll be too heavy for the staff to pull the sheets from underneath and will be hidden from direct view.”
The two elves lifted the statue and maneuvered it through the hallway and the lab door into the back yard. It was an early spring day, cold but with the early grasses and first flowers just starting to emerge. Winter was finally gone. Most of the mountains of snow in shopping center parking lots had melted, and the trees were budding and would soon be in full bloom. The elves took deep breaths of the spring air as they wrapped several examination sheets around the sculpture, anchoring them underneath the cast bronze base.
The doors to the clinic were unlocked, the remainder of the staff arrived, and both Doctor Heeler and Doctor Findel were busy helping animals and soothing their owners until late that night. As Elrond locked the door behind the receptionist shortly after 8:00 p.m., he turned and leaned exhausted against the door.
“Whew! What a day. That Pekinese of Mrs Newcombe – I've never met a small dog so certain he was a Great Dane in my long years. He really needs an attitude adjustment.”
Glorfindel laughed as he put the last file away and began walking to the lab to check on two dogs they were keeping overnight for observation. “Oh, Poopsie isn't that bad, just spoiled rotten by his owner. When you can separate the two of them, he's a really nice dog.”
“Well, I'll take your word for it,” Elrond called down the short hall. “I've been thinking about our statue.”
“OUR statue? I distinctly recall the shipping label only said 'Heeler', not 'Findel and Heeler', Glorfindel called out from the lab.
“Well, you work here and live with me, so it's your problem too. But, I may have a solution. I need to make a phone call. Let's see if I can manage a small miracle.”
Elrond walked into his office and settled himself behind his desk, dialing a number on his cell phone. “Hello, Lee? Ron here. Yes, it has been far too long. Say, I've got a problem that may be right up your alley. You're in town, aren't you? Oh, you and Tom both? Excellent. For the week? Even better. Tell you what, why don't the two of you come over for dinner one night this week? We can walk over to the clinic after dinner. I can show you what I need, and you can let me know if you have any ideas.
“Perfect! Wednesday night would be great. The clinic closes at 6:00 p.m. So how about our place at 7:00? I'll buy some steaks to grill, along with some veggies. Excellent! We'll see the two of you then. Yes, I'll tell him.”
Elrond disconnected and turned to Glorfindel “Lee says he's looking forward to picking up where the two of you left off. What exactly does that mean?” he asked, one eyebrow arched.
“Oh, nothing much,” smiled Glorfindel. “We were arguing about the quality of each other's blond hair when Tom walked through the door and told us that we were both wrong and that his hair was better than either of ours.” The two elves chuckled as they locked the door and began the five-minute walk from the clinic to their home.
* * *
Wednesday night soon arrived and Elrond had just turned the grill on to preheat when the doorbell sounded. Glorfindel went to admit their guests while Elrond made sure the wine was ready to serve and the table was properly set..
“Tom, Lee,” he called out in welcome. “Come on through to the back.”
In a few seconds, Thranduil and Legolas had walked into the living room and onto the deck to join Elrond as he put the steaks on the grill. The meat sizzled as it seared. After Elrond moved them to a different shelf on the grill, he closed the lid and turned to welcome his dinner companions.
“Tom, Lee,” he said as he embraced each one. “It's wonderful to see you again. Let's eat then we can discuss why I need your help.”
Over dinner, Thranduil and Legolas talked about their success with plant biology and genetics. “It's why we're in town, actually,” Legolas said. “We're presenting at an agricultural convention hosted by the University of Minnesota's Agricultural Division. Lately our work has focused on directed genetic mutations of food crops, a hot topic right now. We're each chairing a round-table discussion tomorrow and then on Friday we'll each present a research paper. We'll fly back to California early Saturday.”
“Do you think Tom and Lee can help us with the sculpture?” Glorfindel asked.
“Sculpture?” Thranduil asked. “Tell me all about how a sculpture and plant biology will work together in your mind.
“If you can come to the clinic with us, we can show you,” Elrond replied. “Or, if you prefer, why don't you drive us over there and when we're done, you can drive back to your hotel and we'll just walk back home.”
Within an hour the four elves were gathered in the garden of the clinic. Glorfindel and Legolas began unwrapping the cloths from the statue, as Elrond turned on the backyard lights. Thranduil leaned against the clinic's wall and watched them work.
“I'm hoping to take advantage of your knowledge of plants, Tom,” Elrond said as he rejoined him. “In the old days, I probably would have asked Yvanna for seeds that would grow overnight to cover this, but since the Valar are no longer on Arda, we're more or less on our own now. I'm really glad you two are in town, it's much easier to show you what I'm dealing with than to text you and send you a photo.”
Legolas stood back from the statue and burst out in laughter. “This … this is atrocious, George. Where did it come from?”
“Callie made it and sent it to Ron as a gift. Apparently, she's working under Nerdanel's tutelage now and this is her latest creation. It's really terrible, isn't it?” Glorfindel replied.
Elrond walked to the statue glaring at it. “What I need to know is if the two of you know of any fast growing plants we could put around or on top of this 'thing'. I want to cover it so completely that people looking at it will never guess what's underneath the foliage. I'm desperate, guys. My only other alternative is to melt the thing down into slag, but I don't want to admit to Callie that I purposefully destroyed her masterpiece.”
Thranduil pushed away from the wall and began walking around the bronze. After looking at the sculpture, he walked over the yard, humming tunelessly as he walked. He stopped several times with his head cocked as if he was listening to a conversation. “Yes,” he said, nodding his head decisively. He turned back to the other three who were grouped together while they watched him.
“Well, I think we can help with this, Elrond, but the grass wants the statue over in the northwest corner of the yard. Let's move it there and cover it again.” The elves moved the statue to the corner Thranduil had designated and Glorfindel and Legolas began replacing the exam sheets around the bronze.
“I'll send you some seeds that are fast growing and will start giving it good cover within two weeks of their planting. Get some black dirt, 2-3 cubic yards should do it. Cover the statue with the dirt and then wrap it with burlap. Sprinkle the seeds all over the wrapped dirt-covered statue and on the ground around it too. Water daily for two weeks if it's not raining, then it will do fine on its own. By the 4th of July, you'll just have a bush. You can shape it into a decorative topiary next year.”
“Thanks Tom, that sounds great,” Elrond said, shaking the other elf's hand. “Callie might be upset if she ever visits and wants to see her bronze, but the rest of us will be happy that we won't ever have to look at it again.”
“It's alarmingly bad, I admit,” Thranduil said as he looked over at the covered statue once more.
“Why did you have us move it to that corner, Tom?” Glorfindel asked. “What's so special about it?”
“Well, the corner has the right light for the seeds I'll be sending, but also the grass said that it didn't like the soil in that corner so it seemed to be a good location to have a different type of plant. The grass will grow up to the bush, but won't fight its growth.”
The four elves exchanged embraces and back thumps and Elrond and Glorfindel walked the two wood elves back to their flex-fuel SUV rental car. The two plant biology experts drove off as the two doctors returned to the clinic to make sure everything was locked up and that the one dog staying overnight after surgery was comfortable.
Before leaving to return home Elrond sat down at his desk and stared at the phone. With a sigh, he reached over and, hitting the speaker, dialed Celebrían's cell phone.
“Hello?” a light, female voice sounded from the phone speaker.
“Callie? It's Ron.”
“Ron! How are you? Did you get my box?”
“Yes, we got the bronze on Monday; I've just been too busy to call you earlier. It's quite a remarkable sculpture Callie. We've put it into the back yard and we'll be planting flowers and other green plants all around it. In fact, Tom and Lee are in town and joined us for dinner. We showed it to them and they gave us some wonderful suggestions for plants that will grow quickly and look fantastic around it.”
“Oh, that sounds just marvelous, dahling. So, tell me. What do you think about 'Oromë's Dream'?”
“It's quite unique, my dear, I've never seen anything like it before. Of course we had no idea what would be in the crate and it was quite the surprise once we got all the wrappings off.”
“I had such a wonderful time making and casting the piece, dahling. You simply can't imagine how much fun it was. Nerdanel is a wonderful teacher... simply wonderful.”
"I'm sure she is. Are you planning to stay with her for long?"
"Oh, no. Not for much longer. I searched for her for years, you know dahling, but I learned a lot on my own during those years too. No, Mother has invited me to join her in LA for a while. Apparently, she's working on a film where she thinks I might get a small walk-on role. So I thought I'd wander down and stay with her for a few weeks.”
She continued babbling on about the movie part and Elrond tuned her out, suddenly jerking to attention again with her next change of subject.
“I thought I might drop in and see you for a couple of days in mid-September while I pass through on my way to New York. I have a line on some studio space in Manhattan and the lease starts on October first. As I recall, September's just about the only time your weather is decent."
"Well, you're probably right about the weather, Callie and our guest room is always open for you. I've got to get going, but have fun and good luck in LA. If you get a chance, give me a call now and again."
"Oh, I will my dahling Ron. Oh! Before I forget, the boys passed through last week. I think they were heading out your way, so be on the lookout."
"Haha, thanks for the warning. We'll keep our eyes peeled. I'm sure the boys will call before they end up on our doorstep. Take care."
"You too, dahling. Kiss, kiss…"
Elrond replaced the phone and looked up at Glorfindel who was shaking his head.
"Oh, I was just thinking that if we're really lucky the plants will have covered the statue before Loren and Dan arrive. Only one disaster at a time would be a nice change of pace."
"Yes, it would,” Elrond replied. “Ready to head home, George?"
"Come here, Ron." Glorfindel grasped Elrond's hands and pulled him close. He kissed him chastely on the lips and said, "You're a good elf, Elrond Eärendilion." Keeping their hands intertwined, they left the clinic and their worries behind as they began the walk back to their home.
"I wonder what the boys have been up to this time?” Elrond asked.