Strap thought she was the most beautiful nymph he had ever seen. She had long, golden hair, which swept down from the back of her head onto her neck, glinting in the sun like a pattern of raindrops; blue eyes and a ready smile. He could not stare at her—it would never do for a good Yodden kobold boy like him, fresh from Daemon Yeshiva, to even glance at a Greco Nymphian girl, and so, he had to content himself with stealthy glances from time to time, while pretending to laugh at Coxnbox’s old jokes, jokes he remembered from longago first- grade days in the North Side Norah Center.
And yet—and yet—he could hear the tinkling laughter of her and her friends, as they moved under the trees of Leprechaun Street: the July sun (it would be Av soon), and the buzzing of Coxnbox’s voice, along with the other kobolds, died down to a murmur in the background. He struggled to overhear the girl-nymphs’ gossip:
“…And then, what do you think that over-muscled, small-brained satyr did?”
“Oh, tell us, tell us, Nightingale!”
--He couldn’t hear; it all dissolved into girl-talk whispers, along with giggles, and much pink-and-blue wing-flutterings.
At last, the demomnibus arrived, all black iron and silver fittings, GOTHIKARIUM glinting on the front in blood-red letters. The steps hissed out of the side, worn brassy things, much in need of polishing, and the kobolds, elves, dwarves, and other earth- and sky-dwellers moved to climb, flutter, or slither onto it. The nymphs, centaurs, and satyrs moved to the back, as the Law required. Strap moved onto the front platform with his friends, the other shedochrim, demon-scholars, from the Daemon Yeshiva—that was where the Yodden were to go—but thought, I must stay with her—perhaps she’ll notice me! And said to Karkadal, his nearest shade, “Let me go out back—the breeze feels so fresh today!” And ran off to the back platform, Karkadal staring after, and wagging his head in wonder: “Air? Full of steam and smoke; the air of Old Kroy City’s unfit for breathing—and Leatherstrap hanging off the busback, like a common dwarf?”
“Leave him be, Karky,” said Coxnbox, “Have I ever told you the Tale of Drabbi Layzer and the Witch of Splendor…?”
The steps hissed back underneath, and the giant Caterpillar-Bus groaned its way up to the skies, all the creatures hanging on. In the front, the werewolf-driver rawrked at a pixie who had shown to him her empty flower-petal pouch, bare, except for some stale drops of Pixie Dust.
“Three schillers!” growled the ‘Wolf, and the hapless fay shook her head, saying in a voice all of sweet accord, “I have no money, Sir Wolf—if you let me pass, I will grant you three wishes….”“Wishes! Blast you to Acheron with your wishes!” snorted the ‘Wolf, and, turning the massive wheel with his left hand, backhanded the pixie with a massive, horny right-claw. The stunned fay ricocheted off the isinglass window of the door, spun about three times, and disappeared, poof! In a cloud of pink smoke. The other passengers pretended not to notice; the werewolf driver licked his lips, sneezed from the pixie-dust, and turned back to the steering handles.