Let me cheer you up, lighten your mood. This whimsical and hopefully humorous story was all written in one sitting, no notes or previous ideas, no inspirations, just me writing. The story involves a petty criminal and his run-in with the small folk.
For those of you who don’t know, garden gnomes are statues of little people with pointy hats and rosy cheeks, usually used as lawn ornaments. The practise probably originated in Switzerland or Germany, but soon spread across Europe. We Brits, as we often do, took them to heart and put our own spin on the little people. You can now buy a wide variety of garden gnomes in lots of different designs, including some bawdy types and some just outright ‘adult’.
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Danko had driven by the house several times, noticing it stood alone a short distance back from the road and was inhabited by an old lady who lived alone. The front garden was, in his opinion, over-loaded with garden gnomes. Along the path, around the front door and even spread among the lush foliage was a wide selection of them. Some were standing, some pushing wheelbarrows, some smoking long pipes. And some, well they were doing things they probably shouldn’t have been doing where everyone could see.
Later that night when it was all quiet and had stopped raining. Danko returned, this time parking down the road and approaching the house from the rear. There was no fence, just a tall hedge with many gaps in it. He squeezed through and stood on the long grass beneath the apple tree, looking up at the light in one of the bedroom windows. About ten minutes later the light went out. Danko waited another ten minutes for the old woman to fall asleep, then approached the house.
The back door was old and warped, held closed by a single lock. Danko took out his jimmy and slipped it into the gap. The whole frame moved when he applied pressure, allowing him to open the door without unlocking it. As he took a step forward, he noticed a sign fixed to the wall.
‘Caution – Guarded By Gnomes’.
Danko shook his head. People really were obsessive.
He proceeded through the kitchen and into the front room. The tiny space was crammed with ornaments large and small. More gnomes lined the windowsills and stood in the hearth of the wood fire. Apart from a small and ancient television in one corner, there wasn’t a sign of technology anywhere.
Great, he thought, after all that effort there was nothing worth taking. Danko moved closer to a shelf and scanned it for anything of value. Some of these small items might make his trip worthwhile, he thought. He picked up a model of a castle, which turned out to be quite heavy. When he turned it over he nearly gasped out loud. ‘Solid Gold’ it said. He quickly put it in his pocket.
There was a noise from the windowsill. One of the gnomes had fallen over with a clatter. Danko grabbed a crystal paperweight and ran. You make any noise and you get out, that was the rule. He ran out of the back door and ducked through the hedge, then dashed back to his car.
“I ain’t scared of no gnomes,” he said and laughed. Then he noticed his tyre was flat. He didn’t have a spare, just a pump and some wheel gunk. He was walking around to the boot when he saw lights coming down the road. He ducked down behind the car, staying hidden as the vehicle approached and then slowed. There was the unmistakable sound of a short-wave radio as the car stopped.
Danko rolled down the bank and into the ditch as the police officer got out. Frantically pulling his boots out of the sticky mud he’d landed in, Danko scrambled through a fence then set off running across the dark field. The two heavy items jumped from his pocket as he ran. He frantically grabbed at them, but only managed to catch the castle. The crystal paperweight dropped to the ground with a dull thud and rolled away into the night.
With a death grip on the gold castle, Danko kept running, his breath rasping in his lungs. He couldn’t see his hand in front of his face but knew he had to escape. The solid gold castle would be worth a fortune if he could find the right buyer. A large shape appeared suddenly in front of him. With no time to react, he ran straight into it face first.
The rising sun, a sharp headache and a powerful stink woke him sometime later. He opened his eyes and saw the sky, the face of a curious cow, and the castle still gripped in his hand. Relieved, he checked it to make sure it was safe. Underneath, he noticed the writing. ‘Solid Gold’ it said. He smiled despite his pain and the rotten smell. A ray of sunlight cut across the field and glinted from the castle. The words writhed and squirmed and before his eyes, changed. It didn’t say solid gold now. It said ‘Souvenir of Windsor’.