Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes.
“Grampa,” said Billy. “I can’t find my action figure. Can you help me look for it?”
Grampa looked down at Billy and smiled gently, “Sure thing, now which action figure are we looking for?”
Billy shuffled his feet and sighed, “The one with the mustache from my video game. I put it down last night right by my bed and when I woke up it was gone.”
Grampa nodded, “Well, I’m sure it’s in your room somewhere, let’s go take a look.”
Billy and Grampa headed into Billy’s room, where there were toys and books tossed out on the floor. Grampa saw the wreckage left in the wake of a seven year old’s playtime and grinned, “Well, I don’t know how you could possibly lose something in this room.”
Billy frowned, “Grampa, you shouldn’t make fun — that’s not nice.”
Grampa put on a serious face and said, “You are so right, what was I thinking? Now, Billy, where did you have your action figure last?”
Billy pointed towards a spot between his night-stand and bed, “Right there. I sat him up against the wall and everything so mommy wouldn’t step on him in the morning. Now, he’s gone!”
“Well, Billy, did you check under the bed?”
Billy shook his head and pointed at the spot where he knew he had set his beloved toy, “No, he was right there!”
“Well, why don’t you look under the bed and see if he’s there anyway.” When Billy looked like he might protest, Grampa added, “Do it for me, ok?”
Billy gave a “harumph” and stomped to the bed. Collapsing on the floor he peaked under the bed and spoke, “It’s not here, there’s just a dumb old penny.” Billy stood and held up his hand. In it was, indeed, a shiny new penny. “I wonder how that got there?” he said. Billy didn’t like pennies, it took too many of them to buy any toys.
Grampa gently took the penny from Billy’s hand. He slowly turned it from side to side as if he was looking for something. After what seemed like hours, Billy finally blurted out, “Grampa, what are you looking at? It’s just a penny.” Billy didn’t mean to be rude to Grampa, he just wanted to get back to looking for his action figure.
Grampa shook his head, “Well, Billy, I’m afraid you might not be able to find your action figure. It looks like the Penny Gnomes came last night and purchased it.”
Billy wrinkled his nose. “Penny Gnomes? What are Penny Gnomes? And why did they take action figure!”
“Oh no, Billy, they didn’t take it. They purchased it! This is a Penny Gnome penny. You can tell by the scratches.” Grampa pointed at two small scratches on one side, which went over the one side. “These scratches show where the Penny Gnomes pried the penny out of it’s mold when they finished making it.”
“Making it? Grampa, Gnomes don’t make pennies. They come from the National Gum.” Billy had been on a field trip two months earlier where he learned all about coins. Despite his growing concern for his toy, he was quite proud to be able to correct Gampa on his error.
“National Gum?” Gramp asked. “Oh, you mean the National Mint!”
Billy nodded, “Yes, that. That’s where coins get made, and I didn’t see one gnome anywhere on my field trip.”
“Oh, well, you wouldn’t. See, Billy, there’s pennies and there’s pennies. The pennies from the mint are just normal pennies, you won’t find them under floors and on side-walks, and on counter-tops. Those pennies are left by the Penny Gnomes, and they make them special.”
“Special? How are they special? And why do the dumb gnomes think one of their pennies can pay for a whole action figure! I saved up for a whole month last year and Dad said I didn’t have anywhere near enough to get the game I wanted. And I had like 30 pennies.”
Grampa chuckled. “Well, that certainly is a lot of pennies! You’re right, though, the Penny Gnomes can get a little confused when it comes to their pennies. Why don’t I tell you a story my grampa told me when I had lost my favorite toy one morning — just like you. Maybe then you’ll see what a special penny you have there.”
Billy looked up and grimaced, “OK, but I still want my action figure back. It was not for sale!”
Grampa smiled. “Well, Billy, maybe we can fix that. First let me tell you the Legend of the Penny Gnomes.”
Grampa sat down on Billy’s bed and patted the mattress next to him with his hand. Billy clamored up on to his bed, and snuggled in next to his grandfather as he settled into for a story. When Billy stilled at last, Grampa began to speak.
“In a place very far from us, is found a land of tiny people. They enjoy many things — pointy hats, whimsical toys, colorful boots, key-chains fully of clanging keys, long-long beards, homework pages, and fresh-brewed coffee. What these tiny people love most of all, however, were the little disks they made from the copper their cousins mined out of the mountains. To the tiny people, they were beautiful, well-crafted, and valuable beyond measure. They call their disks, “pennies,” and from them they get their name, the Penny Gnomes.
“The Penny Gnomes love their pennies so much, in fact, they rarely make anything else! They have no toy makers, no locksmiths, no workbook publishers, and absolutely no coffee roasters. The Penny Gnomes spend most of their time making, and admiring, their pennies.
“In order to get all the things they loved, the Penny Gnomes often go on “shopping sprees,” where they can buy toys and keys and homework, and grab a cup of coffee on the run. 4 times a year, when the sun goes down, the village of the Penny Gnomes sends out the eldest son or daughter of every family with a shopping list and a whole roll of pennies. Each of these children come to our land and look for the things on their list. When they find an item for which they are searching, the gnome carefully places it in their bag, and leaves one the most precious possessions they have in order to pay for it, a single Penny Gnome Penny.
“So, whenever you lose a toy, can’t find your keys, misplace your homework, or find your coffee in a room where you know you didn’t take it — you might just find a few pennies around the house. If you do, you’ll know the Penny Gnomes have been to your home, shopping for the things they love the best.”
Grampa tilted his gaze down and looked into his grandson’s wide eyes. “And that, Billy, is the legend of the Penny Gnomes.”
Billy rubbed his eyes. “Grampa, do you think a Penny Gnome was here last night and took my action figure?”
“Well, I don’t know for certain,” Grampa responded as he pointed to the penny in Billy’s hand. “But that is certainly a Penny Gnome Penny.”
“But Grampa, that’s terrible — I’ll never see my action figure again! Why don’t the stupid Penny Gnomes make their own toys and leave mine alone?”
Grampa grinned. “Well, Billy, it’s just not their way. But just maybe we can get your action figure back.”
Billy sat up and opened his eyes wide. “Really? How?”
“Well, if last night wasn’t the last night of their shopping spree you might be able to tell the Penny Gnome your action figure wasn’t for sale.”
“That would be good. Do I write a letter telling them how mean they are and how they should leave other people’s toys alone?”
“Oh, no. Nothing like that,” Grampa chuckled. “The Penny Gnomes aren’t mean, after all, they’re just a bit confused. They think any place which has the things they need is a store. If you wrote them a letter they might be terribly offended. All you need to do is take this penny, and put it back where you found it. Sometimes, the Penny Gnome who left it will take that as a sign they purchased something which wasn’t for sale. If they do, they’ll give you your action figure back and take the penny.”
Grampa gave Billy a sly look and grinned. “Really.”
That night, Billy placed the penny back under his bed and tried to fall asleep. After what seemed like forever he finally drifted off. During the night he had a dream in which he thought he saw a shadow shaped like a pointy hat bouncing about his room. Billy didn’t know what to say to the hat, but when it came near his bed in his dream he thought he heard a small voice say, “Oops.”
When Billy awoke in the morning he forgot all about his dream. He he did lean over the bed and saw, to his surprise, his mustached action figure right where he had last laid it! Tied to one leg was a small notecard the size of a postage stamp containing a single hand-scratched word.