The knock at the door surprised me. I sat my laptop in the plush chair beside the huge fireplace, left the library, walked to the front door, and opened it. No one was there.
I heard the knocking again, this time behind me. I turned around and opened the coat closet, thinking the broom had fallen against the door. The little guy inside was a complete surprise, and yet, he wasn’t.
When Aunt Adelia bequeathed me her home in Yorkshire England, she left a note saying to be kind to the hobman and he would keep the house clean. The only rules: always have cheese and bread available, don’t thank him, and don’t give him clothes.
I had thought it was a joke. A reminder of all the stories she told me as a child that fueled my love of fantasy. Yet, here he was, young looking, with pleasing features.
He pushed past me muttering, “Silly American. Leaving the front door open. An unwelcome might walk in.” He closed both doors and continued his tirade as he walked down the hall. “Locking me up in the closet when there’s work to be done. She is a foolish one.”
I raised an eyebrow, but didn’t speak. I should have been wary of this strange man, but my thoughts returned to Aunt Adelia’s assurance that the hobman would clean for the price of bread and cheese.
As the days turned into weeks I discovered I could write without worrying about household chores. I practically lived in the library. Aunt Adelia had wonderful old books and just sitting there fueled my creative mind. I began to think of Hobman as Hobs and found myself making comments aloud. “My, the kitchen sparkles today.” Or, “I love to see a shiny window.” I was always careful not to thank Hobs directly. I didn’t want to chance his leaving.
A month or so later, just before tea time, I heard a knock. I had met a few of my new neighbors and without thinking, opened the front door. It wasn’t a neighbor. It was a hobgoblin. I knew this because after I met Hobs, I had researched all manner of fairy folk. Larger than a hobman, and much more mischievous, hobgoblins were not creatures that should be in the home. Although, if a hobman became angry, it would be best if they weren’t in the home either.
I pushed the door closed at the same time the hobgoblin pushed it open. He was the stronger, even though I outweighed him by at least seventy-five pounds. The force of his push sent me flying into the open broom closet. The hobgoblin shut the door and locked it. I yelled and banged on the door to no avail. I quieted when I heard the first crash. The hobgoblin was destroying my home!
I felt around in the dark for the string that turned on the closet light. Once found, I pulled, and the light came on. I grabbed my escrima sticks. Although it had been years since I formally studied karate, I still practiced my forms as my morning exercise.
I kicked the old closet door, expecting it to give way. Nope. The door was solid wood. I fell into the shelves while hopping on one foot. Rubbing my poor toes, I regrouped while listening to the sound of more crashes. It was then I noticed the hinges were on my side of the door. It was the work of a minute to remove them and let the door fall.
I stepped out, ready for battle with an escrima stick in each hand, and stopped short. Hobs and the hobgoblin were fighting in the library and some type of lightning moving between them. When Hobs was thrown into the book shelves beside the fireplace, I stepped in and delivered a one-two punch with the sticks and followed up by using both sticks together like a baseball bat. The force of my swing sent the hobgoblin crashing through the window.
Doors off hinges, windows busted, coffee table cracked, and knickknacks broken, I considered it a win since Hobs and I were fine. I looked at Hobs, suspecting we would now talk directly to each other. No.
Hobs waved his hand and the window was repaired. Another wave and the doors were hanging in place and closed. A third wave and the broken furniture and knickknacks were repaired. I had always wondered if he cleaned by physical labor or magic. Before today, he didn’t clean if I was in the room. As Hobs moved around the house, setting things right, he muttered, “Silly American, opening doors without checking to see what’s on the other side. Good in a fight though. I’ll let her stay in my home.”