Dear Auntie Ora,

I was wondering what would be the best way to remove lard-stains from a wood-grain sofa?


Sibyl stared over her pince-nez at the creature sitting in front of her.

"Household hints, Mr. Sanditon?"

Her customer squirmed in his chair like a five-year-old child. A particularly ugly five-year-old child.

"Gar."

"I thought we had a housekeeper for that kind of dilemma. Or is that connected to why we have greasy deposits on our comfy wooden chesterfield, hm?"

"Nnn. Gar."

"Mr. Sanditon?"

"Bloody woman. She never let me alone! Her and her damned hats!"

"Hats?"

"Always made me wear a hat. Damned stupid things. Make me look like a damn fool."

"I see."

"The wood sprites would always snicker behind my back. How can anybody expect to be taken seriously as a troll when the damn wood sprites are laughing their fool heads off? Eh? They'd scare the goats off with their bedamned titters!"

"I thought Mrs. Willowby didn't like you hunting the farmer's goats, Mr. Sanditon."

"Gar. There's that too! Damned bloody woman."

"And so... the stain, Mr. Sanditon?"

"..."

"Mr. Sanditon. Did you -- eat -- Mrs. Willowby?"

"No! Damned impertinent cheek! No, dammit. Well, yes."

"And so ...?"

"She looked stringy, dammit. How's I supposed to know she's all full of grease?! You think that's good for my heart?!"

Sibyl sighed. "Oh dear. Oh... oh dear. Mr. Sanditon, this cannot continue. I am aware that with your - special needs - we are the only agency capable of finding you a housekeeper. But this behaviour is unacceptable. Housekeepers are to serve you snacks while you watch the telly, not serve _as_ snacks."

"Damned woman had it coming."

"Be that as it may... I am afraid that I am reaching the end of my tether. I will give you one final chance, Mr. Sanditon, and should things not work out to everyone's satisfaction, I am afraid we will have to end our business relationship."

"Grr."

The troll scuffed his feet against Sibyl's desk. He scraped the arms of the chair with a bony fingernail. He thrust a finger into an oversize nostril and rooted around. Sibyl looked away in consternation.

"Pegleg'll serve me. He told me he'd get me someone who'd let me eat goats whenever I wanted. And chase cats. And piss on bankers."

Sibyl drew herself up.

"'Captain' Pegleg no doubt has told you many things, Mr. Sanditon, all of which are complete fabrications."

"Said he'd charge me half what you harpies do, too."

Sibyl suppressed a smile. She always had one sure-fire hook into this creature.

"Surely, Mr. Sanditon -- but consider, why would such a scallywag as Captain Pegleg wish to lend you a housekeeper, hm? Someone who would have a free run of your house. Poking into every nook and cranny. Maybe finding where you've hidden your /gold/..."

The troll straightened up. His eyes, already saucer-like, assumed the proportions of serving platters.

"WHAT? Pegleg's after my gold, is he? Bastard! I'll tear his scrotum off from the inside! I'll -- GAR! Get me a housekeeper, woman! I'll do whatever you ask! Just as long as it's somebody TRUSTWORTHY!"

She allowed her lips to turn up ever so slightly at the edges. It worked every time.

"Very well. I am afraid that I've reached the end of my list of potential housekeepers. Keep in mind I have no other choice."

She push a button on the intercom.

"Pythia, dear, would you mind stepping in?"

A second later the door opened, and Pythia stepped in. She jumped back in alarm.

"CRIPES! Sibyl, get down!"

She pulled a sawed-off shotgun from her back-pack, and with a whoop swung it towards the troll, who in turn gave a cry of his own and dived off the chair.

"PYTHIA!"

The two adversaries faced off in the middle of Sibyl's office.

"There's a bloody troll in your office, Sibyl!"

"Mr. Sanditon is a very long time customer of the firm, Pythia! Put that away."

"But- "

"Put. It. Away."

Reluctantly she complied. Sibyl managed to coax the troll back into his chair with the jar of jellybeans on her desk. This, she thought, was going to be very difficult.

"My deepest apologies, Mr. Sanditon. Pythia... Mr. Sanditon is in need of a housekeeper."

"A what? A housekeeper? Well, what's he doing here then? We're not bloody Molly Maid."

"Mr. Sanditon is a special case."

The troll glared at Pythia and shoved two handfuls of jellybeans into his mouth.

"So what, you want me to find an housekeeper for the li'l bugger, then? An unemployed zookeeper or something?"

"Not exactly..."

She gave Pythia a meaningful look.

"You don't mean -- BLOODY CRIPES!! Sibyl, if you think I'm going to clean up after this lecherous little orangutang, then you're out of you're f--"

"Pythia, it's not permanent. Just see Mr. Sanditon through the transitional period while I find someone else." And whip him into shape in the interim, she added silently.

"No bloody way."

"I don't want this damned lunatic in my house!"

"That's enough, Mr. Sanditon. Pythia, Mr. Sanditon is a very important client. We depend upon him. Our resources - in particular the expense accounts - would be vastly smaller without him."

"Sibyl, there's no way that you can convince me to.."

"Pythia, your 'Weaselator' ammunition bill alone has eaten the profits
of the past three clients.."

"He's smelly, and God only knows what his bath looks like..."

"..and let us not forget that you still owe that restaurant for that study on 'crustacean aphrodisiac research' during the Orca research trip..."

"Uhm, yes, well, I suppose that..."

"..and this order of Duck a la Ferengi you had delivered last Tuesday..."

"But I left some in the kitchen fridge, Sibyl, you really should try..."

"..and I won't even bring up the partner counseling bills we've gotten from the Western Heroes treatment center..."

Pythia didn't say a word. She crossed her arms and simply glared at Sibyl. Sibyl, unfazed by the assault, simply continued to tap the several inch thick pile of bills with her pen.

"We'll discuss it later, Sibyl."

"Very good. Mr. Sanditon, I'm sure you'll find Pythia to your liking."

"Fat chance."

"Mr. Sanditon?"

"Oh... all right."

"Splendid, would you take Mr. Sanditon out to see Cassie, and sign the proper forms?"

Pythia glared at her. Next she turned and glared at the troll.

"Move."

The troll hissed at her. As he gallumped out the door, still in possession of Sibyl's jar of jellybeans, Sibyl added...

"And Mr. Sanditon? You'll find that sandpaper with a number five grit, and a little elbow grease, will get that stain out nicely."

"Gar. I didn't save any of the elbow."

Sibyl cringed. "That's not what I meant."