Sam walked up and down the grocery store aisles, a plastic basket crooked over his arm. “Not like the good old days,” he said, scratching the top of his graying head with his empty pipe. “This country’s gone to rot. Where in the name of Gandalf is the bleeding pipe weed?” Sam stopped and stared with red eyes at a wall of freezers. Everything from frozen ready-to-roast meals to ale popsicles stocked the shelves.
“Did you call on me, Master Samwise?” said a very tall person who was stepping out of one the freezer doors. “So nice to cool off a bit. They call it climate change, but honestly I feel like we’re virtually melting nowadays.”
“Gandalf?! I haven’t seen you in what, fifty years!”
Gandalf stroked his newly trimmed goatee. “Has it really been only fifty years? Seems like an eternity. Yes, well, the Grey Havens were getting a little grey, if you know what I mean. Too many elves. They sing constantly – after a while, an old wizard like me would like to wake up naturally, not to a multitude of conceited angels shrieking to the sunrise.”
“But what are you doing here?” asked Sam. His empty basket had crashed several moments before on the tile next his sandaled feet.
“Just checking up on things. Looking around. Taking a vacation, of sorts.”
“Well, things have changed quite a bit. All these new aboveground boxes selling everything under the sun. Everything but pipe weed, apparently.”
“If you must know,” said Gandalf, looking behind him before continuing, “all the pipe weed has been either smoked or burned since the government ban several weeks ago. It looks as though it has finally taken effect in the Shire.”
“Just what we need – another ban! We’ve only had to wear these blasted shoes indoors for a couple weeks, and already I’ve had hundreds of blisters!”
“Really, Sam, you’ve always been so prone to exaggeration. But you are right, the Gondorians have become rather overprotective.”
“To say the least! I can’t even grow my own vegetables without registering with the bloody Minister of Fruitation!”
“Eh-hem…” A smallish person with big round glasses and bulging beer-belly-in-progress emerged from the next aisle carrying a very large pumpkin and a six-pack of butterbeer. “Pardon me, but I couldn’t help but overhear. I’m a bit ashamed really, but I’ve always wanted to meet you. You know, you were always my favorite character, Sam. May I call you Sam?”
“And who, might I ask, are you?” Sam asked, growing more agitated the longer he went without pipe weed.
“Oh, sorry. Thought you would know me. My name’s Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived and all that rot. Me and the Sorceror’s Stone, Me and the Chamber of Secrets – oh, and my personal favorite, Me and the Goblet-”
“Right-o! Of course I know you!” said Sam, a smile breaking out on his wrinkled face. “I’ve read your books to my grand-hobbits. Maybe you could sign a copy for me-”
“Oh, I don’t really do that anymore. Publicity isn’t good for my health, you see. But I’m very glad to meet a fan.”
Gandalf eyed the pumpkin suspiciously. “What do you have there, boy? Not delving into Black Magic, are you?”
“Of course not – why does everyone keep asking that? Actually it’s more like Purple Magic – very freeing and individualistic. I’ve never felt more accepted than when I hang out with Purple Magicians.”
Gandalf cleared his throat and arched a crooked eyebrow. “I see,” he sneered. “I really must be going; so very nice to chat, Master Samwise. You should consider retirement – Gray Havens has quite a vacancy!”
Sam watched as Gandalf skipped down the aisle and disappeared.
“Damn it all to Sauron, I meant to ask him about Frodo!” Sam said, quickly recovering his agitation as he remembered that he was no nearer to getting more pipe weed.
“Oh, haven’t you heard?’ whispered Harry, as if covering up a juicy secret. “Frodo’s left the Grey Havens. Joined the Sith, so they say.”