Chapter 1 : The Globetrotting Garden Gnome
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Firstly, there’s the fact that you always drag me out of my comfortable home in what surely must be the loveliest hedge in England, swing me around until I can’t see straight, and throw me away. In case you didn’t know, I’m quite small. Being thrown on the ground hurts! And furthermore, while I’m not too familiar with the courtesy of humans, amongst us gnomes, throwing someone out of their home is considered quite rude.
Don’t even get me started on the little humans – thankfully, most of them have gone from where I live now (although, occasionally, there is a new one running around in the backyard; we all just hope that she won’t get too settled in, as we’ve all enjoyed the peace and calm around here lately), but back when they were still around, life could be a handful. There were two identical ones who loved chasing us and pulling at our feet – until a sister of mine bit one of them and put a stop to it all, that is. And of course, there's the girl who once kidnapped my own son and pretended he was her baby. We all came together that afternoon and attacked the little nest she had set up under some trees in the garden, and she never dared touch any of us since. Also, de-gnoming was much more frequent back when the youngsters were still around. Nowadays, the lady only asks her partner, and he, being one of the few kind human-beings I have met in my life, does it half-heartedly, meaning he’ll act like he’s sending us away, while he’s really sneaking us left-overs from dinner (I said I disliked humans, not their food!)
However, as much as I may dislike your kind, I also have you to thank for the greatest adventure of my life. You see, most of us garden gnomes never get to see more than a simple garden, but I am quite sure have seen the whole world.
There was a big party going on amongst the humans, and I came up with the brilliant idea to finally perform a couple of songs in front of an audience (yes, I am more than a simple gnome – I am also a choirmaster). And so, we went over our songs a few times before sneaking out from the safety of the hedge and beginning the show.
It seemed like one of the identical ones – there used to be two of them, but don’t ask me where the other one went – was the centre of this party, and he was very grateful for our contribution. His mother, however, wasn’t quite as happy. Can you believe it – she yelled at her husband for not having thrown us out, even though he was supposed to, and then she made all of the other humans get up from their seats and help scare us away!
Yeah. Humans, I tell you. Not my favourite kind of creatures.
Luckily for me, my chaser was none other than The Kind One, and while he didn’t have any of that delicious food in his pockets, he at least let me off easily. He pretended to get distracted, and I seized the opportunity and jumped in a big, brown sack of some kind that lay there, nearby. There were all kinds of things in there: soft fabric (the kind that they wear on their bodies, I think), a bunch of small bottles with contents that smelled absolutely wonderful (yes, I poured it all over my head), and some other, non-identifiable objects that nearly pointed my eyes out (later on, the girl used one of them to smooth out her hair – humans, I tell you. They do the weirdest things.) Anyway, those sharp stuff aside, it was very comfortable. And it had been a long day. You can’t blame me for falling asleep.
I didn’t wake up until after dark, when someone picked up that bag and began swinging it around (for a moment there, I thought it was another case of de-gnoming, but thankfully, nobody threw me away this time). It still wasn’t very pleasant, though, but given what it led to, it was worth it.
I don’t know how long I was stuck in there for. I only know that the next time I saw the light of the day, I was in a new place, somewhere I had never been before, and I nearly scared the life out of the poor girl who opened the sack to get a change of clothes. She screamed, and the identical one – the one that remains, that is – came running in for her rescue. Apparently, they are partners now. In all honesty, even though I don’t like them, I wish them the best and hope that they have as many gnomes in their garden as his parents do (and that they learn how to appreciate the presence of my kind – sadly, very few humans do).
“You little bastard!” said The Twin. “You snuck into our bag? Thought you’d take a trip to Italy, didn’t you? Wanted to crash our honeymoon, eh?”
I didn’t grant him a response – once again, I was baffled by the rudeness of humans. Was he really blaming me? I, who had not only contributed to making their wedding unforgettable by having my choir perform an auspicious medley of love songs, but also only ended up in his so called bag because his parents had been chasing me!
"And look, he got shampoo on all of our clothes!" said The Girl. "We're throwing him out, right?"
The Twin stroked his chin, and then he shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
And he opened the door to the balcony, grabbed me by the feet and put me out there.
Okay. Up until that moment I may have only disliked humans a little. But oh dear, that was my breaking point. You see, this Italy place they were talking about turned out to be nothing like England, nothing like the place I knew, nothing like anything I would have enjoyed.
First thing: the heat. I thought I would melt into a pool of gnome-fluid right there on the spot. It’s a miracle that I’m still alive and well, I tell you. My uncle once sneaked into the house back home and got burned when he tried to steal food out of their cooking cupboard, but I swear, there is no way it hurt as much as Italy did. Why would anyone in their right mind want to spend their honeymoon there?
Second: no hedge in sight. Things did not look promising.
Third: little humans. Everywhere. They were running around, screaming, jumping into some unnaturally blue pond and splashing water everywhere, and I just knew that they were all worse than the pair who had just locked me out of their burrow.
So I began knocking on the door. “Lemmein! Lemmein!”
Being the highly dislikeable kind that they are, they ignored me.
This went on for two days and nights. How did I survive, you may ask?
Well, The Twin wasn’t as bad as I had thought. It turned out that he took after his father. After a few hours, he opened the door again, threw me a piece of some weird, yellow food and said: “I hope you like Italian pasta!” I ate it, but I must say I prefer the food we get in England.
Once, The Twin drenched me in water. At first, I planned on jumping at him and sinking my teeth into his ankle, but then I realised: for the first time in hours, I wasn’t hot. That moment right there was my favourite part of travelling!
Then, as he simply couldn’t resist my charms (I assume), he began taking me with them on their daily trips. Of course, he never told his wife about this, but I’m not one to talk about honesty in marriage – my own missus still doesn’t know the truth about the time I accidentally let the kids run into the humans’ garage, and how they got stuck in there for almost an entire night. She slept all the way through it, and I saw no reason to bother her with it in the morning, since they had already returned.
How were these little trips I was secretly brought on, you may wonder, and I’ll tell you this much: if you know how de-gnoming feels, you need ask no more. Being dragged away from comfort, that sums things up pretty well. The humans wanted to look at buildings, eat at loud places, stroll down narrow streets, and their kind was everywhere (no gnomes in sight, though, but I suppose we're too intelligent to stay for very long at a place like that). When they sat down to eat at one place, a little human caught The Twin sneaking me food and began babbling nonsense (why not just use English, I told him, but he only began babbling louder). This was also the part where The Girl realised that I was there. Things got intense for a while. The Twin had to shove me down his little sack and run out of there, and his partner followed. They both laughed, but I don’t see the humour in being tossed around inside a small sack, still hungry because in the chaos that emerged, The Twin had dropped the food he was going to give me on the floor.
“I thought you threw him out”, said The Girl as they walked us back to the burrow that we stayed in every night.
“I know”, the Twin replied. “But what if he has family at home? I have to take him back.”
“You’re so much like your dad”, said The Girl. “You don’t always show it, but you are.”
And thank you, King of Gnomes, for that. Had his mother had too much influence on him, I would have never made it home again.
But I did make it home. There was a lot of tossing around, dizziness, nausea and, to be honest, cursing the existence of humans. And then they opened the sack, and I was in England, in that lovely garden of ours, by that absolutely beautiful hedge! I was welcomed as a hero, because they had all thought I was dead. I told them of Italy, and then I crawled into a hole in the ground with the missus.
“Tell me about travelling”, she asked me. “Was it any good?”
“It was good for one thing”, I said “If anyone ever complains about living here, about the horrible human woman who keeps wanting us gone or the little humans running around, then I’ll just tell them of my trip to Italy, and they’ll never be discontent with life in England again.”
She fell asleep shortly after, but I stayed awake. It began raining. Rain! Never had I felt such joy at the sight of those drops of water, sometimes big enough to kill one of our newborns! At that moment, however, I welcomed them with open arms; oh England, you sweetest of places, I will never leave you again.