Special Agent Keith Curry did not excel at shopping. Unless it was for kitchen equipment. Or rare punk rock on colored vinyl.
But books? No, he’d never been too much of reader—not even as a young child. His boyfriend Gunther, however, had established a bibliophile identity before he had adult teeth and vigorously maintained a well-used library account ever since.
He even had a special book from his childhood that he loved, The Little Golden Book edition of The Hidden Goblin.
“That story could have been written about me,” Gunther had said the previous night. “It was about a goblin boy who has been transmogrified to be like a human. He lives with his mother and father, who are goblins living in the human realm.”
“Was he sizzling hot like you?” Keith asked, absently. He was making himself a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. Gunther had picked up a bucket of fried chicken for himself, which he was steadily working his way through.
Gunther rolled his eyes, poured himself a shot of kerosene and took a sip. “He was just a little boy. But he did have dark hair and blue eyes like mine.”
Keith nodded, he was constantly amazed at Guther’s ability to remember the tiniest details of his childhood and also at the ingenuity of the trans-goblin community. Most had emigrated to the human realm as refugees from tyrannical rule by the sidhe. They’d gone from life as mercenaries living on snowy mountaintops to working as bank tellers or recycled sweater salesmen. Yet, like other emigrees they held fast to their goblin traditions.
Or most of them. Eating humans had necessarily been crossed off the list of traditional goblin solstice activities. But Guther’s mother insisted she’d never liked hunting and eating humans anyway so it was no great loss.
“Anyway,” Gunther said, “this boy gets rejected by the other goblins because he looks different. He has fingernails instead of talons and his eyes are blue instead of red. And his teeth are tiny and square and all on the inside of his mouth.”
Gunther paused to eat a chicken leg, bone and all then continued, “Then a fairy comes with a magical mirror and sees that the boy is sad. She shows him that he’s still a goblin inside, even if he looks different on the outside.” Gunther sighed then “I loved that book so much! It’s why I want to give it to Audrey for her baby shower on Sunday. It’s not easy to understand being one thing on the inside and another on the outside when you’re a little kid.”
“Why don’t you buy a copy then?”
“I’ve tried! I can’t find it anywhere online. And no bookstores in DC have even heard of it,” Gunther said, exaspterated. “I think it might be out of print.”
“It could be that you have to visit the Grand Goblin Bazaar to find a copy,” Keith remarked.
“I don’t have time! I have to be out on maneuvers all Saturday with the rest of the strike force.”
Now Keith understood where all this nostalgia had been headed. “I’m off Saturday. Do you want me to pick one up for you?”
“Could you?” Gunther asked.
Which was why it pained Keith to be standing in his living room, late Saturday night having visited all seven layers of the Grand Goblin Bazaar and still come home empty handed. Even the famous vampire booksellers, whose stores of texts were so vast that they extended miles into the realm of darkness, shook their heads at him.
The one goblin bookseller he’d found had simply said, “We don’t have any golden books. Just ones made of paper.”
Gunther came home freshly showered, as he always did after maneuvers. He dropped his gym bag on the sofa and pulled his best men’s-magazine-cologne-ad smile.
“Did you find it?” he asked. Keith shook his head no. Gunther frowned and tapped a cigarette out of his packet. He chewed the end despondently.
“Are you sure you have the right title?” Keith asked.
“I think so,” Gunther replied. “But I can always check.”
He stood and went to the bedroom closet. From the top shelf he removed an old cardboard box. Inside, beneath a couple of stuffed toys and an undersized baseball mitt, lay a book.
What became immediately obvious about this book, to Keith, was that it was absolutely not a real Little Golden Book. A new cover had been pasted on top of the previous one and the pages had been replaced as well with well-drawn but obviously hand-written text. Gunther examined the book curiously, as though he’d never noticed these details about the slim volume before.
“Well, that explains why you can’t find another copy,” Keith ventured into the silence.
“I think my Mom must have made this,” Gunther said. “It’s her handwriting.”
“That’s a fair bet.”
“How did I never notice this before?” Gunther wondered aloud. “I mean, the character’s name is even Gunther.”
“You were a little kid,” Keith said, with a shrug. “My question is: why take apart a Little Golden Book? Seems like it would have been easier to buy a blank one and write in it.”
“All goblins love gold,” Gunther replied.
“You never wear gold.”
“I have that tie-tack and cufflinks. It’s a small hoard but it’s mine. And it’s not like I’m a dragon or anything.” Gunther dismissed Keith’s contrary observation with an impatient wave. “Anyway all the other human kids had golden books. I remember specifically asking her for a golden book, like everybody else had.”
Gazing down at the homemade book in Gunther’s hands, Keith found himself getting unexpectedly choked up at the thought of Gunther’s human-hunting mother meticulously studying dozens of children’s books then replicating the details to make a special story to help her son feel better—a story just for little goblins like him.
Once all danger of sounding teary had passed Keith said, “I guess we’d better get to work.”
Gunther glanced up, eyes a bit shiny as he, too, fought to retain his manly composure.
“Doing what?” he asked.
“Finding an all-night copy store and a Little Golden Book,” Keith said, grabbing his coat and hat. “We’ve got an arts and crafts project to do.”
The Little Golden Book of Goblin Stories is a teeny short flash-fic extra featuring the main character from Cherries Worth Getting. Check out the book trailer Nicole made:
Three audiobooks (or regular digital books in case the winners don’t want audio) of Cherries Worth Getting featuring the first appearance of Special Agent Keith Curry.
Don’t forget to enter the massive QRM physical book giveaway pack!
Nicole’s Queer Romance Recommendations
I love comics and manga with an insatiable passion so my recs for romance this year are:
What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga
Legend of Bold Riley by Leia Weathington
Ze by Yuki Shimizu
About Nicole Kimberling
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series and editor for Blind Eye Books.
About Magically Delicious
Occult attacks against NIAD agents aren’t remotely Keith Curry’s department. But when his lover, Gunther, is assaulted, Keith refuses to just sit back and fill out paperwork. He’s on the case—even if that means enraging powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, or braving dinner with Gunther’s goblin parents.
Magically Delicious features in the Charmed and Dangerous Anthology by JCP Books