|The Lip-paint Warrior chatted happily of her journey through the Forest
of Lost Souls and the sabbatical project to collect humorous sites that
had brought her there.
"It is such a kick to run into a colleague in a place like this, isn't
it?" she said with a smile that made her whole being sparkle. "Say, are
you hungry? I know the best little pizza place."
Conan had to admit both to hunger and to being glad of finding a colleague.
Reynard was delighted to meet anyone who offered him pizza. Soon they were
seated at a table covered with a red-checkered tablecloth and scrutinizing
a long list of toppings. As they waited to order, Conan briefly recounted
his mission to return the stolen AACR2s to the temples of the three kingdoms.
"Oh, yes!" The Lip-paint Warrior exclaimed, "everyone has heard of your
defeat of the sorceress Meta, and there was a picture of you presenting
the AACR2 to the High Priestess at the Royal Conference on Valuable Information."
"Are you, like, ready to order?" A waiter in a starched white shirt
and black bow-tie, with a complexion that resembled the bill of fare, interrupted
"I'll have my usual, Jason," the Lip-paint Warrior said.
"Cool. And you, sir?"
"Bacon bits, beef, beetles and cheese," Conan replied.
"You can have five toppings, sir."
"Golf balls," Reynard barked.
The waiter looked at the fox for the first time. From his chair, Reynard's
nose barely reached over the edge of the table.
"Oh, wow," the waiter said. "A fox. Don't let the manager see you, little
dude, he'll go postal. There's been, like, a new gathering place for foxes
set up around here somewhere. They're always, like, coming around and stealing
golf balls from the kitchen."
When the waiter left, Reynard turned aside to Conan. "I must find this
new fox box," he said, "not that I have not enjoyed our time together..."
He sniffed the air as two large pizzas were delivered to the next table,
then continued. "After we eat, of course."
"So you're using humor to shortcut into the Third Kingdom," the Lip-paint
Warrior said, "I have always found it to be a potent weapon. Remember our
panel discussion on the image of the information warrior? I made the point
then, but I couldn't tell if anyone took me seriously."
She paused as their pizzas arrived. Conan and Reynard dug in and found
the pies tasted as good as they smelled. Their companion took a dainty
bite, her expression still deep in thought.
"Would you believe people sometimes hate me just because I'm beautiful?"
the Lip Paint Warrior asked suddenly, putting both fists on the table.
"Honestly, a female information warrior simply can't win against the stereotypes.
Everyone outside the profession expects you to be grim and drab, to always
tie your hair back as for battle, to wear your sensible leather boots and
armor no matter what the season. And always in brown, too, although very
few people can wear brown successfully, don't you think?" She took a bigger
bite of pizza, tearing it with her teeth and gathering in the long strings
of cheese with her fingers. After swallowing, she continued, "Everyone
in the profession decries this stereotype, of course, but go against it
and you're accused of not taking the profession seriously, or worse, of
bringing ridicule upon it. Yet I say the only way to fight stereotypes
is to be your own person, do your best work, and not take yourself too
seriously. Don't you agree?"
Conan, whose main contribution to the panel discussion had been to argue
against wearing concealed weapons, simply nodded and ate his pizza.
Just then, a fox dashed from the kitchen through the dining room with
a golf ball in his mouth and an angry man in a chef's hat, waving a pizza
slicer at his heels.
"I had best be going, too," Reynard said, snatching another slice of
pizza in his mouth. "Good luck with your journey!"
And in a blur of red fur, he was gone.
"I hope he finds his friends," the Lip-Paint Warrior said.
"I have no doubt he will," Conan replied.
© 1998, by Hadley V. Baxendale