The Conrad Consequences

by Richard Campbell

The Helpline

This is not a Conrad story but because of its setting I decided it belonged here

"National Elf Line. How may I help you?"

The tone was weary, hardly surprising considering the nature of the job. In contrast, the answering voice was soft, young and impossibly sweet.

"I'm an Elf…"

"I assume so, as you're calling the Elf Line. What is your difficulty?"

If anything, the tone was even more weary. It always took ages before the caller would admit what the real problem was and in spite of more than adequate training, those who manned the helpline frequently found it hard to maintain the requisite calm, supportive and helpful manner. Some, after several frustrating calls, even lost their tempers when it all became too much for them, had to be retired early, never really recovered and spent their remaining years in Care Dells brooding over their wrongs and muttering awful expletives under their breaths.

"Well you see," the caller said tentatively, "I'm an Elf…"

"Yes, you did mention it but there must be something more. After all, Elves are not so rare these days and it's not as if you're a member of an endangered species."

"I just don't want to be an Elf!" the caller stated in a rush.

Wow! This had to be a record. No Elf ever just came out and confessed like this. It usually took hours, sometimes days, before they could bring themselves to even skirt around the subject. Perhaps this wasn't going to be such a bad day after all. So, into SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) straight away.

"You need to understand that you are not unique…"

"Yes I am," the interruption was surprisingly forceful. Elves tended to be either wayward and outgoing or just the opposite, particularly the young.

"I assure you that many if not most of the Elves that call us have a similar problem. It's almost built into the Elven psyche. No-one fully understands it but some authorities are of the opinion that Elves have a…"

"Will you be shut up and listen? Isn't listening what you're here for?"

Wow again!! A rude Elf! It was unheard of. Mentally he began outlining a thesis on the subject. Carefully written it could bring real recognition to a service that didn't seem to have much relevance to anyone.

"I'm sorry. Of course I'm here to listen to what you have to say. Please carry on."

"I don't want to be an Elf. I don't like being an Elf. I'm inadequate as an Elf."

Hold on, this was something new.


"Yes, I'm inadequate. Different."


"Do you always repeat everything?" the Elf demanded with more than a touch of asperity.

"Sorry, it's a bad habit I picked up from someone. Do go on. In what way are you different?"

"Well, I'm young, small, and impossibly cute…"

"All young Elves are small and impossibly cute. Well, those that are not wayward, that is. Are you more so—or even less so, come to think of it?" It was hard to imagine.

"Rather more so than the average, I'm told."

"Is that a problem for you?"

"Partly, but it's mainly something else."

Now we're getting to it!

"Please explain."

"I'll try. Most young elves are small and impossibly cute but I don't," you could almost hear the blush in his voice, "get much, er, bigger."

"I see. How big are you, er, normally?"

"It's hard, the mortals are always changing things, but I think about fifty."

Hmn. Fifty would be about two before metrification. Not very big.

"And how much bigger than that do you get?"

The blush was even more apparent. "Only about sixty five when I'm, well, excited."

Again, not very big, but on a small Elf…Time to administer comfort.

"You do know that it's not the size that counts but what you do with…"

"I'm told that all the time—by people who are all bigger than me. How do you think it makes me feel?"

"Not good I imagine, but sadly there's nothing that can be done about it. What we need to do, you and I, is find a way for you to accept that it's just the way you happen to be."

"I understand that nothing can be done for me as an Elf, but if I were something else, it wouldn't matter so much, would it?"

"What you're saying is impossible. No-one can change what they are. You're an Elf and you will always be an Elf, no matter what you would like to be. Please don't be taken in by anyone who claims they can change you—it's simply untrue and you'll be the poorer for it."

"I know," came the depressed reply. "But I thought Good Fairyland might have a spell that would work. I'd love to be a Fairy fairy boy, rather than an Elf fairy boy."

"I'm truly sorry, but Good Fairyland doesn't have any such spell, and don't even think of approaching Bad Fairyland!"

"I already did. I went right to the top." The ensuing silence was deeply eloquent. "But I'm not going to talk about it."

Thank goodness! The wickedness of the Queen of that region was legendary, and what she might have done to an Elven fairy boy was too awful to contemplate.

"I wondered, I mean don't the mortals do enhancement surgery? I'm sure I've heard stories…"

"They've never been particularly successful in that area, in fact I'm not sure they've even attempted it. And don't forget that any technique, if there is one, would be aimed at their own species, although they do like experimenting on others. I don't think you'd want to be the subject of a research project would you?"

"Definitely not."

"But why are you so worried about it? You may be a little on the small side, but you're perfectly adequate."

"That's what people think until they get a close look at me, then it's thanks but no thanks, and not even a see you later!"

"How many times has that happened?"

"Well, once."

"Only once?"

"But you should have heard what he said. He went on and on about how all his life he wanted to meet an Elf fairy boy and when he finally did it was someone inadequate."

"Don't you think that if you explained that it's the way you were born and gave him a bit of time to get used to…"

"Why should I? My ears may not get much bigger when I'm excited but he doesn't expand much when he's excited either. You see he's a Elephant fairy boy, and I was hoping so much…but his nose never got even the tiniest bit longer!"

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