Once upon a time, deep in the woods, there was a village of gnomes. No one knew quite how to get in, but there was a small gate at the entrance kept by a family of gnomes. Gatekeeping was a poor, low-paying job done in shifts. Each brother had his turn; Norman usually got the night shift. After a while, Norman got tired of getting the short end of the stick. He wandered up the long staircase to the castle. The king was surprised to get a visitor, so he immediately welcomed Norman. In his charismatic and caring tone, the king discussed how Norman could free his family from gatekeeping duty, and how he could have his guards do it instead. The only problem was Norman had to travel into the real-world, the one with humans. He was to bring objects on a list and deliver them to the king. He quickly agreed. As he wandered home, he passed a few of his brothers: Snowman, Candycornman, Gnome on a Sledman, and Booman. He told them about his adventure. They all supported him, at least outwardly.
Late one Saturday afternoon, Snowman was called to the castle for a secret meeting. An observer watched in the distance as Snowman returned from the castle. He scurried off the stairs and into the opposite direction of his home. The weight of the gold was heavy in his shoulders. He soon returned home to his family. They were caught up in Norman’s tale. Some kind of silly quest, and that is when he knew he had made the right choice.
I enthusiastically told my parents that the king requested me, Norman, one of the smallest gnomes, to go on a great adventure. I was to see the humans, collect various objects, and return to a bigger home and gold. The first object was a plastic fork. I honestly did not even know what that was. I wandered down the wooded path with only a small backpack. A long while later, I stumbled upon a place called a TOWN, or so the sign said. Soon I saw a cute little cottage, with a window fairly close to the ground. I made my way over there, using buckets as step stools to get to the window. I waited patiently for someone to appear. A little old lady wandered to the cottage window and looked at me curiously. She wandered outside a little shaken, thinking she’d heard a gnome speak. I thought she was going to fall over once she saw me open my mouth (which is hidden by a beard).
“Hello, my name is Norman and I am on a great quest to find a plastic fork.”
By this time, the old lady changed from a look of surprise to laughing. “Just a plastic fork? Are you sure that’s all you need? Come to my house, you can take a rest.” She stood there as I waddled a few steps, then she scooped me up and we went inside. I was a little scared; this old lady was over one hundred sizes larger than me. Being the curious little gnome I am, I asked the old lady what she did for a living. She continued to tell me her whole life story as I gazed at her. It was amazing this lady could do all she had said. It made me really admire humans. She let me stay the night. In the morning, she tucked the fork away in my bag and told me to be careful. I was happy; if this is how all people are, this quest should be fun, I thought.
I walked for miles. A dirt path turned into a very hard stone. I see a sign in the distance on a hill. A big sign that says CITY. What on earth is a city? Is this why it is called a city, because it is so loud and buildings so close together? Man, there would be millions of gnomes in this place if they lived here! I heard rustling in the bushes inside a neat little park I was walking through. I quickly brushed the rustling leaves off until I heard a loud growl. A small animal, well very large to me, came out of nowhere and started attacking me. On top of that, I saw a small creature, only a bit larger than me. I could not see who or what it was before the animal ran off. My clothes were torn and I was hurt. I just lay reeling in pain on the cold hard ground.
I woke up the next morning in a familiar place. I was wrapped in some kind of cloth. It was not stretchy or comfortable at all. The old lady came out and said, “That’s a nasty scratch you have there, and that’s gauze all around you. Keep it on until you heal.” What a sweet old woman.
“How can I repay you?” I asked her, amazed at her generosity.
“Your company was more than enough, now what else do you have to collect?” she asked. I told her, one playing card, a weird food item, a rock, and a bottle of water. She shook her head thinking about how I could carry all that. “Let’s go to the store,” the old woman urged. What is a store, I thought.
She loaded me into a large metal contraption, and we surprisingly moved, really fast. She glanced over at me once and asked “Is everything OK?”
“It sure is. I’ve never moved this fast in my life.”
We arrived at the “store,” and all I could see were items lined from wall to wall with numbers in front of them.
“What are those numbers? ” I inquired.
“They are prices, how do you pay for things?”
“In gold,” I replied.
At this point, I am sure she knew I had absolutely no money, so she got the playing cards, some food items, a bottle of water, and a wagon. She loaded me and the items into the “car,” as she called it, and we headed back to her house. At this point, it was late, and I knew I had to leave. The old lady urged me not to leave. I got ready, and as I walked out she said, “Thank you for the company,” to which I replied, “Thank you the most of all for helping me with my quest and caring for me.” Behind me, I pulled a small wagon, with a little light on the top to guide me.
Deep in the woods, I lost my way. It was raining, cold, and dark. The one wagon wheel had gone flat. I was desperate, without much hope, so I just sat down. I remembered the one day that one of my brothers told me: “Don’t be a garden gnome!” What he meant was do not stand in one place, you have to continue on. I continued down the beaten path, and finally, I saw the gate. My brothers were ecstatic to see me. All but one of them, Snowman, was missing… again. I wandered up to the castle, well not very quickly, because I was pulling a wagon up a huge flight of stairs. At last I saw the king, and he looked disappointed. I put the items in the main meeting room.
He said, “We have to talk.”
He pulled out every item and told me I had forgotten a rock. After this whole journey, he was mad about a rock! I asked him what he planned to do with these items.
“Throw them away,” he muttered. He was not planning to give me anything, he lied to me.
Then, I saw my brother come out with a golden chain around his neck. As my brother stepped forth, he tripped and fell. It was like a scene of dominoes.
The bottle of water rolled down the stairs, knocking out the guards; the deck of cards crushed the king; the weird food item tasted delicious (as I watched the mayhem); and my wagon was still intact. The only royalty left was the king’s father, who had stepped down months earlier. He came down and said, “Norman is the new king, for he has defeated the king!” I was confused, but so happy at the same time. The evil king who made us poor was now gone, and the kingdom was left to me. Embarrassed, my brother wandered backwards, expecting my outrage. I calmly approached him, and asked him what had happened. He told me the whole story, even about the dog. For his honesty, I only gave him gate duty twice a week.
As for the old lady, I invited her to visit. She was so happy when she received the invite, the guards told me she cried. She came to the gnome village and told everyone about her life. They, too, were amazed. About a week later, we unveiled her story on the front castle wall. She was a humanitarian, always helping the community and the common man. We invited her to stay, but she insisted she could not leave the cottage.
That winter was very cold, and one evening we got a letter from her. It was her last letter, thanking our community for all we had done. It went on to say how we decorated her house for each season, educated the community on worlds other than her own, and how she considered me like her child. We framed this letter, and her legacy lives on in our hearts. Every April 16th, we celebrate Gnome Heritage Day, and we all visit the town, sitting on the bench titled “the greatest woman we’ve ever gnome.”