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Despite the persisting grogginess and foul breath, Johnathan Crick always did like mornings. He hadn't quite been able to determine just why; perhaps it was the decidedly spectacular view of the rising sun that his hilltop cottage afforded him. Or maybe it was that marvelous sense of satisfaction he always got when he managed to singe his toast just the right shade of charcoal black - it really is an art, you know.

Deciding to give the matter more thought at a later time, Crick settled down to enjoy his early morning breakfast of bran and bur- erm, singed toast. His spoon at the ready, quivering in the air, ready to submerge itself in the flaky goodness below, Crick halted his assault at its apex, quizzically cocking his head at the cupboard to his left.

The cereal momentarily forgotten, Crick sat rigid, staring intently at the cupboard, waiting for some sign of movement. Several minutes later, apparently satisfied at the lack of a foreign presence at the room, Crick continued his meal, now considerably disgruntled - lost in the moment, he not only allowed his beard to dip into his bowl, his bran was now a soggy mess as well. He had considered shaving; really, he had. But it had been so long since he had even seen a raz-

A crash from the cupboard. All thoughts of breakfast, shaving and mornings forgotten, Crick lept to his feet, pointing at the cupboard and muttering an oath under his breath. Immediately, a blanket of frost began to materialize and creep its way across the varnished wood. As the ice finished its work, crackling faintly as it hardened, Crick approached the door, donned an oven mitt, grasped the handle, braced himself, and pulled. Instantly, the metal hinges, now frozen, shattered, dusting the floor with frost and bits of iron. Crick muttered another oath (this one considerably more profane) before peering into the darkness of the cupboard, faintly illuminated by the light from the room flickering across the ice.

Squarely in the middle of the cupboard was an imp, rooted in the frost along with the chunk of bread clutched in its claw of a hand. The two locked eyes, staring at each other for several seconds, before Crick slowly raised his hand to his forehead and breathed a sigh of bemusement. His age really was beginning to show; he had summoned the little demons to perform a few mundane tasks for him while he traveled to town for the day. Apparently this one had managed to lock himself inside the cupboard, avoiding the dismissal.

Crick reached inside, picking the familiar up by the nape of its neck. Still frozen, the imp simply stared at him with a look of curiosity. Crick drew a deep breath, muttered a few words, and blew into the imps face. In a brief flash, the creature collapsed into a mound of dust. Crick walked over to his kitchen window, threw it open with a flourish, and released the dust into the morning breeze.

With a sigh, he closed his window, stepped into his morning slippers, and made his way to his front door. Perhaps there would be something of interest in today's paper.

I was inspired to write this after reading Zephronias's excellent short story Never meddle in the affairs of wizards, especially before they have their coffee. I thought it would be a little crude to use his character without asking, so I invented my own wizard instead.

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