I was walking down the street, swinging my shopping bags and looking at the displays in the shops when I thought I heard something.
Now, hearing something in downtown Toronto is not a hard feat to accomplish. So I kept going. I ignored the sounds that seemed to follow at my feet, little scritching noises, the sound of tiny claws on concrete. My dog at home makes the same racket when she runs across the driveway. I checked behind me. Nope, no dog there.
I kept on walking, but the noise grew louder, and louder. I was starting to become very unnerved. I turned at the next block, and again, and again. The noise followed, and seemed to be catching up.
I'm not a nervous person. I'm very stable, very calm. I pride myself on being practical and rational. But even a steady person like myself would become a little unnerved by the following sounds. Nothing could explain it.
I paused, to catch my breath, when I saw the manhole cover in the middle of the side street start to quiver. I caught my breath: was something coming up?
The lid flipped up, and a small man got out. He was maybe three feet tall, and had a long gray beard. He also had a tiny pickaxe. I surmised that it was the pickaxe that had been making the scratching noises. I sat down on the brick edge of a raised flowerbed as the little man walked over to me.
"Hello," I said. He stopped in front of me.
"Fair damsel, I have come to get your help. My country is in dire need." He had a deep, gravelly voice, and was down on one knee.
"Your country?" I asked.
"My country is far beneath yours, fair damsel. I come from a land of gnomes."
"Yes, and we need your help. Come with me, and save my country." he repeated, looking up at me for an answer.
Well. That had to be the strangest pick-up line I had ever heard in my life.
"Sorry," I said. "But I have to go to work tomorrow."
"You will not help my country?" the gnome pleaded.
"As much as I would like to, I've got a big meeting tomorrow." I shrugged. C'est la vie.
The tiny man looked downcast, and shuffled back to the manhole, slipping below the streets. I continued on my way, no longer bothered by the sounds that had been following me.
(About two weeks later a newspaper reported that a girl, around seventeen, who had been missing for that two weeks had been found. She said that she had been helping gnomes free their country from their evil overlords and now had a wealth of diamonds and rubies in her backyard. All I can say is that I hope she can cash them in for her psychiatric bills. I mean, really. The weirdos that keep coming out of the woodwork these days...)
Katherine closed the glass patio door and clicked the lock down. She shook the rain out of her silver hair, and took a moment to look out to her backyard, and the new flowerbeds she had been working on. She knew it was a lot of work, especially at her age, but it would so pretty when it was done.
She turned and started towards the kitchen when she heard a tapping noise. She turned, and looked out. She couldn't see anything. There was another tapping noise. She realised it was coming from lower down.
It was a small garden gnome, tapping on the glass.
Mechanically, not really aware of what she was doing, she unlocked the door and slid it open. The small gnome walked in, shaking itself vigorously.
"Oh!" it squeaked. "That's a nice downpour. It'll help with the weeding tomorrow, huh Kate?" It sauntered off towards the kitchen, and Katherine followed, dumbfounded.
It took a tea towel from off the rack and dried itself off, then wrapped the tea towel around its chest and walked into the living room. It climbed up on the couch, settled in, and sighed.
"This is the life," it said. Katherine realised it had a feminine sounding voice for a clearly male gnome. "Fancy a cup of tea, Kate?"
"Sure, I'll get it." Katherine said slowly. She really wanted a shot of something a little stronger, but put the kettle on regardless.
The gnome wandered back into the kitchen, its tiny cap off, in its hands, and it was twisting the water out of it. "Milk and sugar, please." it said, climbing up the kitchen chair and sitting down.
"Of course. Biscuit?" Katherine heard herself asking.
"Oh, no, thank you. I'm on a diet." it said, patting its round tum. It took the cup and sipped delicately, its small face hidden behind the human-sized mug.
"So you live in the garden?" Katherine asked, attempting to sound like she was making small talk.
"Um hm." the gnome replied from behind the teacup. It set the cup down on the saucer. "But I thought I'd take a break. It can be awful tedious just standing by the flowers. Pretty, but a bit boring." The gnome leaned forward, as it was sharing a state secret. Katherine found herself leaning forward as well.
"I'm not supposed to do this," the small creature said. "But the rain--well, it was the last straw, know what I mean, dear?"
"Of course," Katherine replied politely.
"So if you don't tell, I'll help you out. Weeding, perhaps?" the gnome offered.
"That's a lovely offer." Katherine said.
"So you'll let me in when it rains?" the gnome asked. "And you won't tell?"
"I won't tell a soul," Katherine agreed.
"Good." The gnome smiled, and finished its tea, hopping off the chair and heading back the living room to take a nap.
And so Katherine's life continued. It was easier than she realised, as she lived alone, to forget about the fact that a gnome was now living with her. The gnome did help a lot with the gardening, and the roses had never looked so good. She had never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The door chimed. "Welcome to Eduardo's--" Adam started, as he heard the door open. It was his job to welcome all customers who came in, as well as to do general chores for Uncle Eddy.
He looked around, but couldn't see anyone new in the shop. In fact, the only person who was in the front was Rose Macy, who had come for her monthly perm and was reading her magazines under the dryer.
"Hello?" he asked, a little uncomfortably. "Did anybody, like, come in or something?"
"I did," said a voice from just beyond the counter. Adam looked down, to see a small, gray bearded man, about two and a half feet tall. "I'd like to make an appointment, please."
"Woah," Adam said to himself. "You want a haircut?"
"Yes," replied the small man. "My name is Grimblesnacks and I need to get my beard trimmed."
"Okay," Adam said, nodding. He flipped open the day book. "Uh, Uncle--I mean, Eduardo is, like, free right now, if you'd like, Mr., uh, Grimblesnacks."
"That'll be fine." Grimblesnacks replied. "Shall I sit down and wait?"
"I'll just go talk to him now," Adam said slowly, excusing himself and slipping around the corner to the back of the shop.
"Uncle Eddy!" he called.
"Eduardo" came storming out from the supply room. "Don't call me that!" he snapped. "It's bad for business."
"Sorry about that, Uncle--I mean, Eduardo. But there's, like, a--"
"A customer?" Eduardo snapped. "Let me finish up my inventory and I'll be out in a moment." He stormed back into the supply room, grumbling about lazy nephews. Adam sauntered back to the front.
"Yeah, he can take you in a minute." Adam said, nodding to himself.
"Very well." Grimblesnacks sat himself down and started reading a Chatelaine.
Eduardo yelled something from the back. "No, it's not Mrs. LaPaz," Adam yelled back. "It's a little dude who wants his beard trimmed."
"Excuse me," Grimblesnacks got up and stomped over to the counter. "I am not a `dude'. I am a gnome."
"Oh." Adam said dully. "Sorry about that."
He leaned back around the corner and yelled: "The little gnome dude wants his beard trimmed!"
"You can like, get your beard trimmed, now," Adam said pleasently, after a moment.
"Thank you," the gnome said sourly, heading around the corner.
Adam was flipping through his magazine (it was "Totally Weekly" that Adam insisted the store subscribe to, for like, you know, the ladies to read while they waited for their perm to dry) when Grimblesnacks sauntered around the corner, looking pleased with his trim.
"Thank you," he said to Adam.
"No problem," Adam said, filling out the bill. He handed it down to the gnome on a plastic tray. He heard a clink, and then the gnome handed the tray back up.
On it were two rubies and an emerald.
"The emerald is your tip," Grimblesnacks offered.
"Woah. Thanks." Adam frowned at the two rubies. "But, like, I think this goes way over the ten-fifty for the hair-cut." He leaned around the corner. "Uncle Eddy! Do we have change for two rubies?"
"What?!" came Eduardo's response.
Grimblesnacks chuckled. "Don't worry about it," he said, as he left, the bell in the door chiming.
"Woah," Adam said to himself again. He put the rubies in the cash register, then went back to his magazine.