The snow is crispy and crunches when I hop on it to my guard station. I take my duty of watching over Mrs. Walters very seriously. She rescued me from that tacky lawn art place. All those concrete creatures with no life staring at me all day, made me feel very creepy.
“Lex, you should tell me about your life in the old country before you came here. Why did you come to the New World? I bet you were placed high up on some important cathedral in France. You must have been an impressive sight, a gargoyle looking down on all the people below.” It’s Gramps the Goblin behind me. I think he’s lonely so he follows me out here. I don’t mind. He helps the time to pass. Not much really happens around here unless Mrs. Walters starts something. She tends to blame me.
“Actually Gramps, I came from England. The English decided to put wings on us so we could fly around protecting them at night. The gargoyles in France are downspouts that channel all the water and other stuff off the roof. Gargoyle comes from the word for gargle.”
“Ah, interesting. Why did you leave England then?”
“Back in the 1800’s, the manor house I was protecting was sold to an American who shipped it to the Hudson River Valley in New York State. It was his summer home.” I sigh at the memory of the lovely trees and the river flowing south. I should ask where he’s from – show some interest, change the subject. “Where are you from? How’d you get here?”
“Ah, glad you asked. I was a shoe maker in Magdeburg making the very best shoes with shiny buckles and long supple boots, comfortable to wear on long marches. Slippers for the feet of lovely Frauleins graced the shelves of my shop. I made the baby boots for all the little princes and princesses.”
Scanning the yard and street with my eyes and ears, I think about him bent over his bench working leather into foot wear. It’s a quiet night.
“I came here with the Baron to make shoes for the army under Washington. They had nothing when I arrived. The army it marches on its feet, bah about the stomach. Soldiers can march with empty stomachs but they cannot put one foot in front of the other over rough ground unless they are shod. Imagine them trying to sneak up on the enemy going ‘ouch, ouch, ouch’! Shoes, I tell you, make the army.”
A car comes down the main street, turns the corner into our road, and then pulls into the neighbor’s driveway. The daughter’s window flies open and a leg dangles out followed by the body of a young man. He falls into the bushes below. Clothes sail out as the window shuts and the room lights come on. We can hear shouting.
“I remember the time my future wife’s vater caught me in her sleeping nest,” Gramps muses. “It was not pretty and I carry the marks to this day.”
“He’s not moving. Do you think he’s hurt?” My ears crane forward searching for any indication of life.
“Probably lying low so the papa won’t find him. That’s what I tried and,” he sighs, “it didn’t work. What about you? Did you ever have a sweetheart? Were you ever caught in a bad situation by her vati?”
“I was promised to an ugly widow at Durham Castle. Instead they boxed me up and sent me here. In some ways, I feel rescued.”
“We must fix this. I’ll ask around and see what I can find for you. A nice, young gargoyle of good family would be perfect for you. Someone with a good personality. You could have lots of little gargoyles running around here helping you keep watch. Goblins, we breed like the rabbits. We’re every where! Like the Chickenman.”
Chicken man? Do I really want Gramps trying to hook me up? Chicken man? Good personality? That’s the sure sign of ugly.
The window guy’s still not moving and all I can hear is a high pitch squeaking sound. “We’d better check on the young man.” Maybe this will get Gramp’s mind off finding me a mate. With any luck and enough time, he’ll forget. Yes! Good plan!
“I’ll go invisible and you do what you do. We’ll slip over there, go under the bushes and make sure he’s ok. You got that Lex?” Gramps is on a mission.
“Sure! Let’s go.” Who put him in charge? I’m the watch gargoyle. I lower myself as close to the ground as I can, tuck in my wings and move with great stealth across the yards.
“Crunch, wheeze, crunch, wheeze, crunch.” Gramps is invisible but not silent. We make our way to the shrubs under the neighbor’s window.
“I don’t care if you love him! Not in my house! Not in the car! Not anywhere! You are grounded for the next twenty years!” It’s the voice of angry dad above our heads.
A pause… Must be the daughter’s response.
“Don’t you sass me you hussy!” Hussy? Where do they get these words? Twenty years? Does this man ever want grandkids?
We have arrived at the youngster who will never father children if her dad catches him. I smell blood, human blood. I begin to drool a little bit. Humans are so like pigs in smell, the image of bacon drifts across my mind. I want to ignite and grill him up into ham steaks. A bit of fire drips into the snow with a hiss.
Gramps elbows me in the side, “Shut it down before you set the plants on fire and give us away.” This from the goblin who crunch, wheezed all the way over here?
“We don’t eat humans. We don’t eat humans. We don’t eat humans. He’s got a big cut on his leg and I think a head injury. We don’t eat humans.” What is he wearing? Are those little hearts on his underwear? He’s got to be cold in only his briefs.
“Let’s get him back to the house. Maybe Mrs. W can fix him up with a spell.”
“Ah the only spell she really knows is a revenant one so we better haul him back fast because if she weaves that one and he’s dead …”
“Has she ever managed to make a zombie?”
“She gets very upset when anyone mentions the one up in Crown Point.”
I grab the lover’s good leg and begin to drag him out of the greenery. Gramps grabs the other one and we move him across the yards to Mrs. W’s with his head and arms bumping along behind. The snow makes a squealing noise as we go. Apparently, father and daughter are too busy having a scream fest to notice. When I look back I see the curtains move a bit. It’s the mother, and she nods to me. What does that mean? Must not want to clean up the mess if her husband gets his hands on him.
We stop at the front stoop. “Pick up his head, Gramps, so we don’t kill him getting into the house.” I ring the bell and pick up both legs. She Who Must be Obeyed When I Feel Like It opens the door and we haul the young man into the foyer and on into the kitchen where we drop him on the floor.
“What the hell?” I never said she was a lady. Lester the littlest goblin is behind her and peeking out at me. I give him a wink and he smiles. Sid and Cheri are poking our guest in his wound. I shoo them away. Tootsie Too is sniffing his head.
“Can you fix him Mrs. W?” Gramps begs. He’s been there and thinks he knows what the young man is going through. I read this in his mind.
“I can try,” Mrs. W sighs and begins to weave a spell with her fingers. Molly, who’s been doing dishes at the sink, begins to sing in a very pleasant voice. She Who Is Never Really Sure of Her Skills sings along in her beautiful soprano.
The young man begins to stir. His wound is closing over, healing before our eyes. I go to stone and the goblins hide. His eyes open. “What the hell?” He’s not a lady either. Romeo tries to cover the red hearts with his hands.
“Apparently, you jumped out of a window and landed in some bushes. Some people were concerned and brought you here.”
He sits up the better to cover his heart adorned jewels. “Oh yeah. Her dad is going to kill me.”
“Only if he wants to go to jail.”
The door bell rings and Tootsie Too goes into full barking mode.
“I’ll be right back.” She Who Seems to be Taking This Very Well answers the door.
It’s the mom from next door. “Is he all right? I brought his clothes.”
“Come in. Come in. He’s in the kitchen.” Mrs. Walters looks out the door to make sure the neighbor is alone.
“I’m so sorry Austin.”
We have a name, yippee!
“He’s just impossible at times. Are you okay? I was so worried about you. I have your clothes.”
“I’ll be fine Mrs. Shippers. Really. This nice lady is patching me up. I should be going.” Austin grabs his clothes and struggles into them. “I’m so sorry. How’s Bailey? Is she okay? He didn’t hurt her did he?”
“No. Your shirt is backwards.” Mrs. Shippers drops her shoulders. “He’d never do anything like that to her but we have to talk.”
Mrs. W is looking from one to the other. I’m getting the impression she thinks this is bizarre. It occurs to her to offer them a cup of tea. She Who has Many Talents makes very special teas. I get the impression the good lady has one of her unique brews in mind. I send her an image of our guests throwing up or maybe sleeping. She smiles and signs no with her fist.
“Please sit down and let me get you some nice hot tea. Cookies?”
“We’ve taken up too much of your time. It’s very kind of you to help Austin.” She looks at the window escapee. “We should go.”
He nods and makes his way to the door. “Thanks ma’am.” He mumbles, tugs at his pants that seem to be a bit crooked, and leaves.
As the neighbor exits the house, she looks at me and smiles. Mrs. Shippers sends me an image of Austin and her daughter getting married. A second image shows them surrounded by many little children.
I find the words Thank you floating through my brain.
This person has more to her than meets the eyes.
“Mrs. Walters, perhaps we can do tea sometime soon. I’ll bring the cookies.” She closes the door.
“How interesting!” Mrs. Walters looks at me. “Did you sense something odd about her?”
I smile and nod.
“Well I think we should be careful until we figure this out. Oh, and will you please stop dragging every wounded creature home. One of these times it’s going to go really badly.”
I try to look really contrite but I won’t leave them to fate and she’ll keep helping me because that’s the way we are.