‘Almost as adorable as some dwarves I know.’
‘My doors are open to Emma and her companions.’
– The Wardrobe
‘Next time I go to grandma’s house, I’m stopping by the gnomes’ garden’
– Red Riding Hood
‘Why do I not have gnomes? Bring me gnomes, immediately!’
– The Red Queen
‘Nobody else, not even these clever gnomes, are coming into my garden. It’s my garden, mine all mine!’
– The Selfish Giant
‘Give us a kiss!’
– A frog
Gnomes in the City
THERE THEY WENT, FIVE OF them walking behind each other down the street, each carrying his own little umbrella. What? Why would gnomes leave their sheltered suburb? Today, for the very first time, the gnomes had left their garden. Things had gone too far, even for patient little gnomes. The garden’s owners had gone away on a long journey and not checked the gnomes before leaving. Now the gnomes had almost lost their waterproofing!
So on this day, water-drenched, they went out into the world. Only the elder gnome had ever been out of the garden before, so he led the others. He was the oldest and wisest, which is not always necessarily the case. The gnomes had steadily made their way past many gnomeless front gardens. Some had bird pools, others pink flamingos, but none had handsome gnomes like our proud group now nearing the town centre. All but the elder gnome looked up in awe as they passed the towering blocks of concrete, steel and glass that stood in the centre of the town. It was windy in between the towers and the gnomes had to hold on to their little red caps. The people were very rude and several of the gnomes got knocked by briefcases and shopping bags because the busy people didn’t see them. One working man was particularly unhappy with his life. He would use every opportunity to vent his anger upon anyone who crossed his path, especially if they looked as different to everyone else as the gnomes.
‘What’s with you gnomes?’ bellowed the angry man. ‘What makes you so special, eh? Bet you think you do a particularly important job standing in the garden all day.’
The gnomes were quite taken aback by this sudden verbal attack. They weren’t used to it in their sheltered garden suburb.
‘You may think we gnomes are ordinary, but we are different to you,’ said the elder gnome proudly. ‘We take care of the garden, and make it more beautiful. We consider ourselves deautiful.’
‘Oh, get knotted you silly gnomes,’ replied the stranger, pulling a face at our little red-capped friends.
‘Jealousy will get you nowhere,’ shouted the elder gnome after the hurriedly departing stranger.
WHEN THE GNOMES ENTERED THE city park, they saw a girl sitting on a bench. The girl’s name was Emma, and her day had not gone well. She sat with her head in her hands, elbows propped up on her legs. The elder gnome asked if there was anything wrong. Emma lifted her head and saw what to her were a bunch of little kids dressed as gnomes. They looked just like the ones she had seen earlier that morning whilst gazing out of the classroom window. Emma and her best friend Charlie, had spotted them while sitting bored in Bio class.
‘It’s okay, just having a grotty day,’ explained Emma.
‘Trouble shared is trouble halved,’ said the elder gnome.
‘You kids really want to hear it?’
‘We are gnomes, you know.’
‘Oh yeah, right…sorry,’ added Emma in disbelief, just playing along to please the kids. After all, they were friendly enough.
‘The older one really does look aged. Must be the make-up that goes with his costume. Very realistic,’ thought Emma to herself.
‘Okay, here’s the whole drama. So this morning, I take my bike to school. First time this year, hoping the weather will be good. You know it’s been raining so much lately, but this morning started out great.’
‘You’re not the only one, who got caught out like that,’ interrupted the beardless, youngest-looking gnome.
‘I’m half way to school when I get a flat tire. Next, I’m repairing the tire when it starts to rain buckets. I’d only taken an umbrella which was not much use on a bike — I was still in Metro-travelling mode from the winter. So I get to school late, of course…what else…and walk into Bio class looking like a drowned rat. The stupid Bio teacher gives me a speech about being punctual. She wouldn’t believe me about the flat tire.’
Emma takes a moment to catch her breath, then takes a deep sigh.
‘I fully understand. We’ve been having lots of trouble with the rain lately ourselves,’ responded the elder gnome.
‘That’s not all though,’ continued Emma. ‘Next, during the first break, me and Charlie are standing in the hallway. We’re just chatting ‘n’ stuff, minding our own business, when Janey Farcourt, Princess Snob Royale, walks by. You wouldn’t believe what she did.’
‘Anyway, at this point I still look like something that just emerged from the riverbed, well almost. I’d borrowed a hairbrush from a friend, not Charlie though, I don’t think she believes in them.’
A smile ran briefly across Emma’s face.
‘So Janey walks up in her arrogant way. She slows down as she passes me, and gives me an up-and-down glance as though I was literally something the cat had dragged in. I felt just like punching her snooty little nose, but I’m too much of a coward. Besides, I don’t want to get expelled because of her.’
‘She sounds like a very unpleasant girl,’ said the elder gnome.
‘You have no idea…and you don’t want to. Charlie…aka Charlene…did I mention she’s my best friend? Well, Charlie, she really did want to punch Janey. I had to hold her back. She really did have a fight with her once two years ago. Hey, needless to say, Charlie won. Only she got a serious warning from our Headmistress. She’s likely to get expelled if it happens again. So…I had to use all my strength to hold her back. It wasn’t easy because I felt the same way she did.’
‘Well done! I agree with that,’ said the elder gnome. ‘I don’t think hitting a person like Janey is a good strategy at all.’
‘Yeah right, you need to be more, umm…’
‘Resourceful?’ offered the elder gnome.
‘Right, more resourceful. I was going to say sneaky, but that’s what she is and I don’t want to be like her,’ said Emma thoughtfully.
‘You certainly had an exciting morning. At least it wasn’t boring,’ said the elder gnome.
Emma laughed briefly, then added ‘Yeah, looking on the bright side, it wasn’t boring. Oh! but that’s not all of it.’
‘There’s more?’ asked the elder gnome, inquisitively, but remembering the gnomes were on a personal mission they had yet to complete.
‘As if the morning hadn’t been embarrassing enough, I got caught dozing in class…which I swear has never happened before…,’ explained Emma.
‘The dozing, or the getting caught?’ interjected the elder gnome, raising an eyebrow.
‘Umm…well, I may have daydreamed a little before…doesn’t everyone? I mean especially in Bio class…but I haven’t ever nodded off and been caught.’
‘Mmhhmm,’ is all the elder gnome offered in response.
The youngest gnome grinned, knowing that the elder gnome acts just like a teacher much of the time towards him.
‘So there I was, having the most gorgeous daydream,’ continued Emma. ‘I was lounging in a rowing boat on the lake. I had one hand trailing in the water. But the best bit…Andy was with me in the boat.’
‘That sounds like quite a nice dream. What was wrong with it?’ asked the elder gnome.
‘It wasn’t the dream, it was the teacher. Why do dreams always end just when it’s about to get really interesting? It happens even when you don’t get interrupted by some teacher, who thinks their lessons are more important, than the romantic star of your dreams.’
‘I don’t quite follow,’ said the elder gnome.
‘Sorry, back to my story. So I’m there in the boat with Andy, he’s rowing and I’m enjoying the view. The sun is shining. Suddenly I hear Emma! Emma! It was Ms. Trudge, our Bio teacher. Caught me dozing. I was pretty startled by it all, didn’t know where I was for a moment. All I could see were a bunch of faces from the front rows looking back at me, with loser written all over their grinning faces. I’d really had enough after that. So I came straight here to the park after school. You know, just to see something different,’ concluded Emma.
‘Well, that wasn’t nice being exposed like that, but I must say you shouldn’t be sleeping in class either,’ responded the elder gnome sternly.
The youngest gnome rolled his eyes at the elder gnome’s teacherly ways.
‘Anyway, I’ll be glad when the summer holidays start, but that’s another three months. Life and school have just been a total drag the past few weeks. I’m bored with it all. So anyway, now you know why I’ve been sitting here,’ explained Emma.
The gnomes conferred and came up with a suggestion.
The elder gnome addressed Emma and said ‘Maybe you need to do something silly, something which most people would consider useless. Have you ever tried standing on that bench, on one leg, at precisely four o’clock in the afternoon, and opening an umbrella?’
‘Well no, to tell you the truth, I haven’t…but I suppose I could give it a try,’ responded Emma.
The gnomes nodded to say farewell and walked off.
Emma sat stunned for several moments, not sure how to react to meeting with talking gnomes. She looked at her watch. It was three fifty-five. A light spray of rain still filled the air, but Emma didn’t have her umbrella open. She liked the rain when it was soft. Emma got her folding umbrella out of her bicycle basket, and waited a few minutes. At four o’clock, Emma got up on the park bench, stood on one leg, and opened up her umbrella. After a few seconds of swaying from side to side as the wind pulled under her umbrella, she began to smile at how silly it was. She burst out laughing so hard that she lost her balance. Then she toppled off the side of the bench, just catching her fall as she landed on the grass behind the bench. Thud!, Oomph!
‘That hurt,’ thought Emma as she landed on her backside, waiting a second for the world to come back into focus. It did so only partly because the tears of laughter in her eyes made everything look soft and strange. Emma sat there on the grass, legs outstretched, propped up on her arms, and her head tossed back, as waves of laughter burst from inside her. When she caught her breath, she felt elated, as though she could walk on air. Still letting out sighs of laughter, she saw a streak of sunlight shining between the clouds, illuminating a rainbow. Emma stared up at the sky and smiled.
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