Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
The collection of gnomes staring at Will gasped in response to Bug’s declaration. One gnome, slightly shorter than the others, pushed through the stunned crowd and walked up to Bug. He looked up and squeaked in a slightly higher voice than Will expected, “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
To Will’s surprise, Bug actually blushed and stammered out, “Well, dear, you see the Professor…”
“The Professor? That senseless academic who’s ten pennies short of a roll!” The other gnomes began to move away from the speaker, apparently it wasn’t the type of insult they wanted to be near. “Didn’t I tell you to stay away from him? I don’t slave in the mines all day so you can go galavanting around The Realm getting him out of trouble!”
With that, the new gnome removed his hat — taking his beard along with it. The gnome then wiped his brow while muttering something which sounded like, “Ungrateful man.” It was at that moment Will realized the gnome wasn’t a “he” at all, she was a “she.” The ribbons tied in the beard had also been a clue.
“Now, Sindy, we’ve been through this. What the Professor does is very important, and he needs me…”
“He needs you to be his errand-gnome! I don’t get it Bug, there you are in your provocatively floppy hat, but what do you do with your passion? You bow at the feet of a gnome who can barely string two sentences together! You’re better than this.”
She crossed her harms and glared at Bug, and finally took notice of Will. As her glare changed targets Will instinctively took a half-step backward. He might have been fifteen, but Sindy seemed a lot like his mom when she was on a righteous tirade. He didn’t want to be included in what was, obviously, a domestic dispute. Shockingly, Sindy transformed her face from glare mode to smile mode and beamed up at the stunned teenager. Holding out her hand she said, “And who might you be dear?”
Will cautiously took Sindy’s hand. “I’m Will. Will MacGil. Uhh, nice to meet you.”
“A MacGil?” Sindy’s eyes narrowed as she examined Will a bit more intently. “You aren’t related to the MacGrubers, are you?”
“No. I don’t think I even know any MacGrubers.”
Sindy’s smile returned. “Well, alright then. I just had to make sure. You’re about the right height, but I dare say you are a little scrawny for MacGruber.”
Will didn’t care much for being referred to as scrawny. At fifteen he may not have been the biggest kid on the block, but he was far from a runt. He wanted to point this out, but instead heard himself saying, “OK, miss. If you say so.”
Sindy’s smile grew. “Oh, you are a charmer, aren’t you? What brings you to Great Roll?”
“Ummm, I don’t really know. Bug told me to come with him and, I did.” As Will heard his own voice he thought how stupid his response sounded. Why had he followed Bug? Following strange people through magical holes in the floor didn’t seem to be a very smart thing to do, and yet he’d done it all the same.
Sindy turned towards Bug, “So dear, what made you extend a traveling invitation to this young man?” Her smile remained in place, but Will noticed a change in its meaning. When Sindy smiled at him, it felt like he was being warmed from the inside. When she smiled at Bug he got the feeling any liquid he might be holding would freeze solid.
“Well, dear, you see. The Professor…” Bug paused as Sindy’s gaze tightened, “…he thought he had an idea and that idea needed me to bring back a specific person to see if he was right. And so I brought this kid, I mean, Will. To see if he was. Right, that is.” During his recitation, Bug had pulled his floppy hat off his head and was now holding it in front of his body, almost like a shield.
“So, let me understand. A crazy Professor said he needed you to bring him a person from one of the stores, and you said, ‘Will do, sir.’”
Bug nodded. “Not quite like that, mind you dear, but that’s generally right.”
“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND YOU DAFT GNOME! DO YOU HAVE any IDEA HOW MUCH TROUBLE YOU ARE GOING TO BE IN!!!”
Will actually thought he heard the third exclamation point insert itself into Sindy’s rant. For reasons he wasn’t quite certain he understood, he felt the need to stand up for Bug — who had start slinking his shoulders so much he looked as though he were doing a passable impression of a turtle.
“Umm, miss. Really. I don’t mind. Bug mentioned he was a Penny Gnome, like in my grandpa’s stories, and I just wanted to come and see if they were true.”
To his surprise, Sindy actually ceased yelling at Bug and slowly turned toward Will — disbelief etched on her face. “Your grandfather knew about us?”
Will nodded, “Oh, yes. He used to tell me stories about Penny Gnomes when I was little. I loved them. I mean, I’d just assume I was dreaming about his stories right now if Bug hadn’t stepped on my foot to show me I was awake.”
Sindy shot another glance a Bug, bug the gnome waved his hands in protest. “Hey, he thought I wasn’t real. What did you want me to do? It worked, anyway.”
“Yes, well,” she looked up at Will. “Are you sure your grandfather told you stories about us?” When Will nodded in reply he noticed Sindy’s eyes widen ever so slightly. “OK Bug. I still think you deserve to be more than a gopher, but take him to the Professor.”
Bug set his floppy hat on his head once more, grabbed Will’s arm, and gave Sindy a small peck on the cheek before wordlessly dragging him through the crowd of still silent gnomes. Some, Will noted, looked awestruck. As they reached the edge of the square Will finally spoke. “So, what’s the deal with you and Sindy?”
Bug blushed ever so slightly. “Well kid. When you spend your life making trouble, there is only one thing to do when you meet someone who won’t stand for any of the trouble you cause.”
“I married her, of course. Now be quiet, I need to get some coffee before we get to the Professor’s.