The adventures of a garden gnome
By Suzy Stueben
Zilla the garden gnome stood guard under the scraggly evergreen shrub by the front entrance of the small house. She was cute and, in her own mind, fierce — very fierce. Zilla watched over this house and the family that lived here day in and day out, keeping all safe from any invaders, such as puppies, salespeople, burglars and other nefarious creatures. This night she was embarking, whatever that meant but it sounded good, on her first vacation.
Zilla was busy making arrangements with the smart phone the owner of the house had given her. Zilla had worked very hard without a break for over 800 years to protect her family from harm and now Zilla was going to take a vacation. She was going to visit friends for a whole week of fun. Just imagine it! Zilla was going far away from the pesky puppy from across the street. Her suitcase was packed. She was ready.
The neighbor cat popped an eye open and purred softly from her perch in the upper branches of the shrub. “Where are you going on this excursion, darling?”
“Never you mind, Purr.”
Zilla was so focused on her preparations for the trip she’d forgotten about the cat.
“How are you going? You can’t drive.”
“I have a ride coming this evening.”
“What? A pumpkin pulled by mice?”
The cat licked her lips in anticipation. The cat knew Zilla was a magical creature and so guessed she might use a magical vehicle.
“No snacks for you, and you’ll see when it comes. I’m going to have an adventure.”
Zilla was so excited she was practically vibrating, which is very unprofessional for a garden gnome. Garden gnomes should be very still and look intensely cute while protecting all they survey. Zilla hoped no one would see, and if they did, they would understand and forgive. Well, seriously, she didn’t care! She was going on a vacation!
The cat was the only one who knew she was going. Purr had guessed this morning when she found the suitcase under the bush. She had immediately decided to use it as a perch on which to nap and keep an ear out for the little dog across the street. She then realized it was too close to the ground to be safe and moved to the upper branches of the scraggly shrub.
That creature from across the street loved to jump on Zilla and chew on her face. She was a pain in both their lives. A thought struck the cat. What would she do without Zilla? While the annoying dog licked the gnome silly, she, the cat, escaped up the half dead tree struggling to survive at the corner of the house. Without Zilla, the nasty doglet would have no distractions and come straight for her!
“Zilla, darling, vacations are much more fun if you share with a good friend.”
The cat inspected the bottom of her front paw for something interesting. “You could share this adventure with me? We have such good fun driving the rat-sized dog across the street crazy. Why not enjoy each other’s company on an adventure?”
Zilla sighed, “Purr, you are the one having fun laughing in the tree while I get munched.”
“Darling, at least she can’t dent your stone surface.”
“Won’t your owners miss you if you’re gone for a week?”
“They won’t know I’m gone. They completely ignore me and I them. It’s the way of the cat. That’s why I like to come here and chat with you. I do appreciate you letting me sit here and nap safely under your protection.”
“Well, I suppose you can come. You are good company. Are we friends?”
“Of course, unless you leave me here alone and then I’ll help that canine play fetch with you.”
Zilla did enjoy talking with the cat and it would be fun to share her memories during the long, hot summer days while sipping ice tea, if she could sip ice tea.
“Are you sure they won’t miss you?”
“Oh poosh,” the cat licked the end of her tail, “It can take a week before they realize I’m not around and then they’ll just talk about it.” Purr jumped down from the bush and headed next door.
Zilla stood guard wondering how this had happened and arranging for the additional cat.
As the sun was going down, Zilla made her way to the curb using her copter hat. That’s why gnomes wear tall pointy hats. It’s to hide the whirly blades when not in use. She was joined by Purr wearing a very festive backpack.
“It belongs to the child’s doll.”
“It suits you.” They sat down to wait. Well, Zilla would sit if she could but being stone it wasn’t possible. The cat looked up and down the street watching for a large, round, pumpkin shaped vehicle pulled by a large number of well fed snacks.
Suddenly they heard yipping noises. Zilla and Purr hissed, “Noooooo!” It was the evil, nasty, mean, cute, little, itty, bitty puppy from across the street.
“Whatcha doin’ Whatcha doin’ Whatcha doin’ Can I do it too? Can I? Can I?” the nasty, evil and very annoying but really, adorable puppy ran all around them several times jumping and barking.
“We’re leaving,” the cat said, “on a vacay and no you can’t come.”
The puppy, a very small puppy, sat down. Her ears did a kind of half-mast thing straight out from her head instead of upright and focused like they usually were. “You’re going away? You’re leaving me?”
“Yes!” Purr and Zilla said together.
“But I want to come toooooo. Please! Please take me toooo! I’ll be good. I’ll be good. I promise I really will. I will. Pleeeease.”
“No!” Purr and Zilla shouted together.
The little doggy flopped flat and looked up at them with huge brown eyes. “I promise I’ll be good,” she whispered. “I’ll be all alone here by myself with no one to talk to or anything. Why can’t I come?”
“Because you’ll be missed.” OK the argument hadn’t work the first time with the cat and well why should it work a second time with the puppy. It seemed reasonable to Zilla that it should work, but no.
“No one will miss me. They left days ago, took everything and locked me out of the house. I haven’t had any food or water and I’m all by myself and I’m so hungry and I feel lost and why did they leave me here all by myself and no food anywhere and I don’t know what to dooooooooo.”
Purr thought about having to share the plump little snacks coming to get them and then she thought about her expanding midsection. OK she really could share. She didn’t want to but she guessed she could share a few, one or two, well one, at least or maybe just a half of one.
Zilla looked at the puppy more closely. She could see ribs. “When did you eat last?”
“Yesterday I found something but it tasted awful and I don’t feel so good now.”
“You’ll have to come too. We’ll get you some medicine and food.”
“What!” squawked the cat, surprised she could sound like a bird. She realized her peaceful fun vacation was now a rescue mission for the very animal who’d been tormenting them for months really just weeks.
“Maybe we’ll find you a good home far away from here.” Zilla continued.
The clever, as she saw herself, cat realized what Zilla was doing and asked, “What do they call you?”
“The people called me Chummy, and said I was their bestest friend.”
At that moment, a large, to the cat, round vehicle came around the corner. It was not pulled by many plumb little snacks to the cat’s dismay. There were flowers painted all over it. It had a strange horn hanging off the side that it used quite a bit. When it stopped the doors opened and six clowns fell out.
“How good of you to come! We have an extra person. I apologize. Is that OK?”
“Wow a puppy we can train for the act! Sure! Hop in! We’re going to have a great time!” laughed the clowns and they all squeezed back in and drove off down the street to the home of The Totally Terrific Traveling Tiny Top Circus.
“Circus?” Purr asked.
When they arrived at the circus the clowns led them to the veterinarian’s tent and had him look at Chummy. The animal doctor looked the puppy all over and gave her some shots. Purr, remembering her visits to an animal doctor, stayed by the door ready to exit quickly should he start walking in her direction.
“ Chummy should be OK now. Just see that she gets some good food and keep it bland.” The doctor pronounced.
The cat thought this was good. She would not have to share snackies after all.
“The cat needs to lose a few pounds.” The doctor pointed to Purr. “Stay on weight loss cat food and get some exercise.”
“Who me?” meowed Purr.
Then they went to the mess RV and enjoyed a wonderful supper that, alas, did not contain plump little snacks for the cat but she did make do with cheese.
After supper they wandered toward the show tent where the circus people were practicing their acts.
It was great fun to see the elephants parade, the ponies prance, the camels walk, the clowns juggle and the trapeze artists flying through the air. The three of them laughed and clapped.
Then Purr thought she saw some snackies lurking under the seats and went off to investigate.
Zilla and Chummy decided to find where they were staying. It was late for the small puppy and she needed some rest. As they came around the corner of a camper, they heard a hissing sound. Zilla stopped short and the puppy ran into her. “Oof,” grunted the puppy. Zilla listened attentively to the sounds around them. “Pssst!” came from in front of her. “Zirra!” The voice was gravelly. A dark shape with large wings and fangs appeared in the darkness. “It’sssh been ssssoooo looonnng sssssince we lassssst met.”
Chummy blinked and gasped. The creature was made of stone like Zilla. It was gnarled and weathered with blank stone eyes and clawed feet. Wings arched from its shoulders like bat wings in place of arms. It was very scary and the little puppy stayed out of site behind the gnome.
“Oh for pitiable sakes!” gasped Zilla “How long has it been Walt?” The gnome smiled and would have thrown her arms around the gargoyle in a big hug if she could but being made of stone it wasn’t really possible.
“Toooo looong my verry dearr frriend.” A bit of dust drifted down from the gargoyle’s face. “I haven’t had much chance to talk and I’m afraid I’m out of prractice. These fangs get in the way too. Are you still guarrding the ducal family?”
“Oh yes,” Zilla replied. “Eight hundred years. Of course, the castle is a small house now. Those were the days,” she sighed, “with armies going in and out of the castle. What are you up to now?”
“I guarrd this cirrcus. It’s fun and we get to travel to all ssorrts of interresssting places. I caught three pick pockets last week.”
“Oh how exciting. Not much happens where I am. I get to watch the children grow up and not much else.”
“Well I’m very glad you arre herre. Perrhapsss you can help usss with some thingssss?”
“I’d be happy to help. What did you need?”
“Therre’s a rather sssshhhady charracterr lurking arround the cirrcus that’s causing Norm and I sssome concerrn.”
“Norm’s here too? Oh how wonderful!”
“He’ssss on loan forr the week from the museum in Frrance. We’re trying to trransssport sssomething of value to a place nearr herre and we think this crreaturre isss afterr it.”
“What can I do to help?”
“Keep an eye out for a small fuzzy crreaturre with fourr legs, a long furry tail, earrsss that ssstand up from its head and hasss the rregrrettable habit of barrking at every thing.”
“Why that sounds like Chummy!” Zilla turned and looked at the puppy trying to hide behind her. Chummy tucked her long furry tail under her and set her ears at half-mast.
“Who me? I know nothing.”
“Who iss thiss?” growled the gargoyle leaning in for a closer look. “Can she be trusted?”
Zilla looked at the puppy.
“This is Chummy the Puppy and she came with us.”
“Us?” asked the gargoyle.
“Purr the Cat is with us also. She’s looking for snacks under the bleachers in the show tent. I’ve known her for years and she’s very much her own cat and really only talks to me. Chummy is from across the street and I will vouch for her.” Zilla gave Chummy a stern look.
“They could be very helpful in helping ussss locate the crreaturre afterr the Egg.”
“The Egg?!? You have the Egg here? Whatever are you thinking to have the Egg here?” gasped Zilla.
“Egg?” wondered Chummy who was thinking eggs are good to eat and licked her chops much as Purr had earlier.
“It’s an Egg of the Gargoyles, Chummy and it’s made of stone.” Zilla told her. “Every so many hundred years an Egg of the Gargoyles appears and it has to be closely guarded until it hatches out a new gargoyle. The baby gargoyle then has to be trained properly to take up guarding duties on a museum, church, castle or other place.” Turning to Walt the Gargoyle, Zilla commented, ”It does seen strange to find a gargoyle watching over a circus. Usually you watch buildings.”
Chummy sat up straight and cocked her ears to full attention. This was serious. She must protect the Egg with Zilla and Purr.
“The cirrcuss iss the perrfect transssporrtation vehicle for us. So I guarrrd the cirrrcusss and transssporrt many magical thingssss.”
“Ah I see.” said Zilla “Where do you want us to begin?”
“If you and Chummy the Puppy could walk arround the cirrcusss and keep an eye out forrr the sussspiciousss charrracterr, we would deeply apprrreciate it.”
So Zilla and the puppy moved from camper to RV checking each for signs of the suspicious character. They looked inside the vehicles and under the benches. They poked around behind things and investigated the interiors of the trash containers. Chummy was particularly good about making sure the refuse bins were empty of anything questionable. Of course, she had great fun making a mess and that’s what puppies do.
“Hmmm,” Zilla mused “I don’t think this is getting us anywhere. We need to make the creature come to us. Maybe if we set out some food and water and hide near by the creature will come to us.” She promptly put some of Purr’s diet cat food in a metal bowl and some water in a similar bowl next to it. She and Chummy went behind a crate and waited. It was a long wait. The night wore on and there was no sign of the creature.
After a while, a whiff of something trailed across Chummy’s nose. She opened an eye and swiveled her ears around searching for a sound to go with the smell. She sampled the smell and tasted all of it finding various undercurrents of forest and garbage and warm fur. She rose silently up on her paws and moved very slowly to the corner of the crate. Her ears picked up the rustling sound of something rummaging in a food dish and then sloshing in the water bowl. She eased carefully, soundlessly to where she could see what was there looming in the near dawn darkness busy with the metal bowls.
“Purr? What are you doing? Aren’t you supposed to be on a diet? What about the snackies you were hunting?” Zilla hissed. She’d been watching Chummy and knew to check the dish. This puppy was proving very useful as well as a good companion.
The cat leaped straight up into the air and squawked like a chicken. She was getting good at that. Her fur stood out in all directions. “It was just there and I couldn’t just let it go to waste could I?”
“SSSShhhh! Get over here hurry up! You probably chased away the bad guy we’re trying to catch!”
“But… But… the food will go bad.”
“Now! Besides it’s your diet cat food.”
Purr slunk over spitting diet cat food out as she went. “What is going on? Yuck!” She picked a piece out of her teeth and muttered something about putting the doctor on diet cat food.
“The gargoyles are here with an Egg! Something is trying to steal it and we are trying to catch the thief.”
“Oh fantastic! We’re hunting! Why didn’t you say so sooooner. You know I love to hunt. What are we after – the Egg or the crook? What do Eggs taste like?”
“The Egg is stone and you cannot eat it without breaking a tooth.” Zilla said very quietly. Purr looked a little disappointed. Chummy looked a little disappointed also. She was beginning to understand Purr’s point of view about food.
“We are guarding it. It’s what gargoyles and gnomes do.” Zilla whispered.
“And puppies,” added Chummy and her ears perked up. A sound had floated into her ears from the direction of the dish followed by a kind of gamey smell. She put her nose to the ground and followed the scent. A little human like hand smacked her on the head. “Stop that snuffling sound. Some of us are trying to eat.” Growled a creature with a mask across his face rummaging in the food dish.
“Who are you? What are you?” Chummy growled back.
“I’m Rafael the Raccoon, Thief Extraordinaire and you are disturbing my breakfast. Oh wait is that cat I smell. Cat is my favorite meal. Especially when prepared just right.”
Purr jumped to Zilla’s head wrapping her limbs around her and digging in with her claws. “Save me!” she yowled.
“Excuse me but I’m only 18 inches tall and I’m not much good for saving you at that height.”
“A gnome! I haven’t seen a gnome in years, two years I think. What are you doing at the circus?”
“We’re on vacation. What are you doing at a circus?”
“Well I heard there was quite the valuable and rare Gargoyle Egg here. Thought I might ‘borrow‘ it for awhile. ”
“OK why are you really here?” Zilla knew a thief would not actually tell her what they were going to do unless it was to distract her into thinking that they weren’t going to do that very thing or they were just plain stupid. Her head was beginning to feel unstable but that could be from the cat hat she was now wearing. The cat hat that kept hissing and spitting and had her claws dug into her stone skin. That might hurt if she could feel pain. How did the raccoon know about the Egg?
“Food,” said Rafael matter-of-factly. “Circuses are great sources for food the attendees drop or throw in the trash. Although I’m not really liking this cat food, is it diet or something? Tastes awful.” Rafael kept working his way through the bowl. Purr decided this raccoon should be encouraged to continue consuming the diet cat food so she could focus on snackies. She stayed on top of Zilla’s head but stopped hissing and spitting. “Also, I’ve never seen a gargoyle egg and the crows were talking about it. So I thought I’d ramble by and check it out and get a nice meal rummage while I’m at it. Have you seen it? Do you know where it is?”
“No I haven’t seen it or know where it is. I was asked to keep an eye out for a raccoon. Well you enjoy the food. Purr doesn’t mind sharing I’m sure.”
Purr nodded and waved her paw. “ Be my guest.”
Chummy wagged her tail and cataloged the smell of raccoon in her database of smells. The trio, well Chummy and Zilla with the cat riding on her head, walked back toward where they had last met the gargoyles. “Crows,” mused Purr, “How did they know about the Egg?”
Chummy yawned. She was tired. The nap wasn’t nearly long enough. “Perhaps Purr,” Zilla suggested, “You should take Chummy to our camper and rest up. Take a catnap or something. I’ll keep an eye out for trouble.” The cat yawned and jumped down from Zilla’s head.
“Of course.” Purr knew Zilla was asking them to leave her alone to do further investigations. “Come Chummy let’s go curl up. You will let us know what you find out won’t you Zilla?”
“Sure. Rest well.” Zilla went looking for the gargoyles.
Stone creatures don’t have to sleep unless they decide to skip a few centuries. Something Zilla hadn’t really had to do much in her long life. She did miss the old castle perched high on the peak of a mountain. On a sunny, bright day in winter she could see for miles from her station on the wall. She could see out over the valleys and fields to other mountains. There were forests and farms and tiny little roads with teensy carts pulled by oxen and, sometimes, great armies. She must keep her mind on what had to be done but the memory of the sun on her stone surface so long ago felt so good. She turned a corner and found the gargoyles whispering.
“Everyone knowsss we have it! It’sss just not sssafe here!”
“I know! I know! What elssse can we do?”
“Sssshe’ll keep it sssafe and who would know? A vacationing gnome – it’s perfect.”
Zilla made a grating noise. She was trying to clear her throat but being stone it came out funny. “So our meeting here at the circus was not about seeing my pretty cute face and renewing our friendship?”
“Ah yesss and no,” said Norm.
“We kind of have a prrroblem,” said Walt.
“Would it be that the crows know about the Egg and have told everyone including Rafael the Nefarious Criminal making it unsafe to keep it here?”
“Well yes. The crows know? Ouch!“ Norm flinched at the thought of the crows knowing. They would and obviously had spread the news everywhere! “We do want to visit with you and catch up.” He smiled innocently, “How is your garden growing by the way?” It was a cruel question and he asked it to distract her. Zilla had never been much of a gardener for a garden gnome. She decided to let it pass out of friendship but she added it to her list. She wasn’t sure what the list was but one of her employers kept yelling it at the other employer so she guessed she should have one too.
“Fine.” Zilla said and thought in her mind ‘for a scraggly bush and a half dead tree.’ She was really going to have to do something about this situation soon.
“We would like,” Walt sort of licked his lips something hard to do when made of stone, “For you to help us out with something not involving plants.”
Zilla tried to roll her eyes but being stone failed.
“We would like you to become a Keeper of an Egg of the Gargoyles.” The two said together with deep solemnity.
Zilla was speechless. What would it mean?
“To be a Keeper of an Egg of the Gargoyles, you must be a person of stone.” Walt said with gravity.
“Check!” said Norm.
“To be a Keeper of an Egg of the Gargoyles, you must provide a peaceful garden setting.” Walt continue.
“Check!” said Norm and muttered “Sort of…”
To be a keeper of an Egg of the Gargoyles, you must be able to protect the Egg of the Gargoyles at all costs – while being adorably cute.” Intoned Walt.
“Check!” said Norm.
“You made that up.” Zilla would have furled her brow and looked fiercely disapproving, if she could. She settled for looking the part in her mind.
“Yes but just the last part about being adorably cute. You are adorably cute and a fierce protector.” Zilla tried to roll her eyes and quietly lamented the issues with being stone and not all that expressive.
“We just put the Egg on your cute little feet under your skirts and no one need know it’s there. You go home and back to being normal. When it’s time to hatch we’ll come to get it.” Norm promised.
“This could take years or decades or centuries.” Zilla tried to frown and failed, of course.
“Not really, we checked it yesterday and it’s about to pop. So maybe a week or two and the Little One will arrive.” Walt told her.
Zilla raised her skirts up enough to show her trim little ankles and the gargoyles slipped the Egg in place. She lowered her skirts and settled them about the precious Egg.
“Thanks!” Norm and Walt kissed Zilla on her adorably cute hands. “We’ll feed that raccoon and the crows false stories to get them off the scent. You enjoy your vacation and we’ll see you soon.” With a little cough they disappeared.
The Egg nestled in on Zilla’s too cute for words feet. Zilla felt like she had a secret friend as she made her way back to her buds.
Later that morning, after a nice breakfast, Zilla, Purr and Chummy found a small ball in the grass outside a tent. Since they were on vacation after all, they began to play. Then they started to teach Chummy tricks; Roll over, sit, stay, jump, chase the ball, dance, walk on her back legs and many others. One of the clowns came over and started to teach the puppy even more tricks. Soon Chummy was jumping through rings and over small goats. The clowns dressed her in a frilly ruff and hat. Chummy did back flips and somersaults and was very happy. The clowns laughed and cheered and had great fun.
Zilla’s favorite puppy trick was sit and stay.
The clowns asked Chummy to help them with their act and each night Chummy was in the center ring. The Ring Master announced their act, “Laaaadies and Gentlemeeeen, Pleeeease welcome to the center ring the renowned Kelly Emmett clowns and their talented guest Chummmyyyyyy the Notoriously Adorable Puppy!!!!!”
The clowns ran out into the ring and bowed. Chummy, dressed in a hot pink tutu and feathers, followed them and jumped onto the back of the first clown and then to the back of the next one until she reached the end of the clown line. Then she jumped onto the back of a miniature horse all decorated in feathers to match her. Around the ring they loped as the clowns set up the next part of the act. The act continued as the clowns juggled rings and Chummy jumped through them. After several more stunts, the clowns walked on their hands in a line with Chummy following, walking on her forepaws, out of the ring. The audience went wild with applause and laughter.
Zilla took many pictures with her smart phone and Purr wore a Cheshire smile the whole time.
“This was a lovely idea for a vacay. I almost don’t want to go home.”
“It is lovely.”
“What will we do about Chummy?”
“I don’t know. She can’t stay here even though she’s having a great time.“ Zilla needed to puppy to help her guard the Egg. “I’d miss her too much.” Zilla didn’t trust many creatures but she did somehow trust the little puppy with her excellent nose and ears to help her guard the Egg.
“Maybe I could teach her to hunt and she can stay under the bush with you?”
“I could order food and medicines and vaccines off the web for her. Get her a nice bed to sleep in and a collar. You think maybe a pink sweater? Maybe we can get her to entertain us in the evenings with the tricks she’s learned.” Purr saw them playing happily in her mind and smiled. Yes this could work.
The happy, fun-filled week came to an end and the clowns pulled up in the funny round vehicle. The three friends crammed their way inside. It was quiet on the way home. They’d had a great time but now they had to face the troubles they’d left behind. Zilla would have to be extra vigilant to guard her new responsibility.
The clown car pulled over to the curb and let them all out. The clowns drove off – the friends waving after them. Well Purr and Chummy waving their tails with Zilla doing her best with stone limbs which wasn’t much.
“Well, I guess we have some shopping to do Chummy. What color would you like for your new bed?” and the three walked back to the house. “We could get you one of those nice doggy houses. That should keep you warm and it will fit under the bush with me to guard you, while I look totally cute, of course. Purr could lie on top of it and keep us company.”
“Where will we go next year?” asked Chummy as she raced around them in circles.
“Somewhere with snackies,” purred the contented cat.
The Egg of the Gargoyles felt safe at last, too.
The End – Maybe
The puppy lay beside the gnome under the scraggly bush happy for the first time in a long time. She wanted the gnome and cat to be her family safe in a loving home. Chummy wished it was true. The adorable puppy was so sorry she had been a pest. Chummy just wanted to be friends. She liked to play. It’s what puppies do. The tiny canine fell asleep. The best sleep she’d had in days. She wasn’t cold or scared. She wasn’t sure what would happen; but, for now, Chummy felt safe and needed.
© 2014 by Suzy Stueben