“I don’t like my name,” said Cheep.
“Tough,” said Pegasus. “Your name’s your name.”
Cheep watched as Pegasus went through the leather with a fine tooth comb. It wasn’t an ideal tool but beggars couldn’t be choosers, as Pegasus said. Pegasus said a lot of things. Sometimes it seemed to Cheep that he just talked for the sake of it. Like that time when he said the only way an elf could make a name for himself was to end up in a fairy story. But that didn’t make sense, because Pegasus didn’t believe in fairies.
Cheep tried again.
“I’m not saying it’s not my name. I should be allowed to change it if I don’t like it. That’s all.”
Pegasus pushed a needle through the leather and, pulling the thread through, he bit it in two.
“Was Snow White allowed to change her name? Or Red Riding Hood? And what about Rumpelstiltskin?”
“What about him?”
“Tricked the human. Won the lot. Lost everything because he had to give up his name. If anyone should be allowed to change his name, it’s Rumpelstiltskin. Pass me the blue thread.”
Cheep sat down and rolled the skein along the table.
“It’s alright for you. Your name suits you.”
“I don’t have wings or four legs.”
Cheep rolled his eyes. “Not like that! Your name’s got grandeur, mystique, excitement. People hear you’re coming and they say – oh, Pegasus! What will he be like? Your dance card is always full and if there were any fairies they’d want to meet you. But when they hear Cheep…”
“They ask who’s brought a budgie?”
“It’s a quandary, I grant you that.”
“So what do I do?”
“You don’t do anything. You’re an elf. You make one half of a pair of shoes per night and speaking of which, you haven’t even started yet. Don’t you know the drill by now?”
Cheep lifted a piece of leather and looked at it dispassionately. Leather smells, he thought. He looked at Pegasus.
“You know who I blame?”
“Tolkien. He put ideas in my head. Elves are graceful, he said, they’ve got perfect aim, they run along branches. I’ve never won a game of paintballing in my life and the last time I stood under a tree, it got struck by lightning. And don’t even get me started on his names.”
Pegasus lifted a shoe and examined it. His face curled into a frown.
“You know, I think the shoemaker’s clients have gotten even worse since yesterday. Look at this old shoe he left out for me to follow. He’s got a nerve.”
This isn’t the internship I signed up for.
Cheep ignored him.
“Legolas. Leg-o-las. Is that fair? He gets Legolas, I get Cheep. No wonder they got Orlando Bloom for the movie. I daren’t ask who they’ll get to play me.”
“Hammer please. Why would they get anyone? It’s not as if you’ve done anything with your life.”
“Yes, I’ve had my highlights done. Because I’m worth it.”
Cheep stared at the mantelpiece to control the mass of fury he felt rising inside him. The fire reminded him a bit of Peter Jackson’s portrayal of Mount Doom blowing its top but he wasn’t sufficiently over his anger yet to praise the special effects so he put the image out of his head.
“I’m going to do an expose. ‘My life as an elf’. Lift the lid on the lot. The leather, the unions, the stale biscuits the shoemaker leaves out for us. And the inflation. Every night this week he’s increased our workload. Four pairs he wants tonight! Four! Like we have no homes to go to.”
Pegasus shrugged. “It’s a living.”
“Is it? Didn’t JK Rowling cover that as well as everything else anyone could ever write about? Hermione freed all the elves. I read it AND it was in the film. I know because the girl beside me was following it page by page with the flashlight from her iPhone.”
“We’ve talked about this, Cheep. Reality. We’re going to try and stay there.”
But Cheep was determined.
“You know what would work? If the shoemaker made us a present of some clothes. Automatic freedom, that is. It’s like constructive dismissal for the fairytale age.”
Pegasus shook his head.
“He’s too clever for that. When he got me to deliver his dry-cleaning, he made me sign a renunciation of freedom rights document first. It was nearly twelve pages long. No wonder he doesn’t have time to make any shoes. Now just forget about it and get on with your work.”
Cheep sulked and picked at some stitching. And suddenly, he had an epiphany. Or at least, a very long thought which was nearly as good.
“Here’s the thing. How do I know that someone isn’t just running my life and having a laugh at my expense, telling my story but refusing to put the proper time into coming up with a name that recognises my talents? Like the way I can enter a room with only twenty per cent of the people in that room seeing me? That means if there were ten people in there, only two of them would look up. You do the math. Maybe three on a bad day, but still. That’s got to count for something. I have stealth, and that’s really useful in our business. But maybe someone is just sitting there, tapping away, too lazy to even hold a pen. Lying in a hammock and thinking about mixing a pre-dinner cocktail, and leaving me stuck with a bad name into the bargain?”
He stopped, because it was getting late and he really did need to start thinking about the heels. They were always the most awkward part.
“We’re elves,” said Pegasus in a chirpy voice. “It’s best to just toe the line.”
“His name was Cheep….”