Fiction Tuesday – Down the Alley

Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

Will and Bug walked through the streets of Great Roll for about fifteen minutes. Everywhere they went gnomes would stop and stare at Will as he passed, and the attention made him extremely uncomfortable.

“Bug.”

“Yah kid?”

“You said the gnomes here had never seen anyone like me before. Why is that?”

Bug stopped and noticed the gnomes starting at Will for the first time. He cocked his head and said, “Well kid, see no one like you is supposed to be here in the first place.”

Will didn’t like the sound of that. He hadn’t asked to be taken to Great Roll in the first, and now it seemed as though his very presence was going to get him into trouble. “What do you mean no one like me is supposed to be here?”

Bug shrugged. Will noticed he did that a lot. “Kid, we gnomes are a bit… protective of our city. You can’t blame us, really. We mine the pennies that are the basis of the whole Realm’s economy. We don’t really trust other folks to be here.”

“How ‘protective’ are you?”

“The entrance to our mountains is called ‘No Entry,’ does that give you a clue?”

Will groaned. “A bit, yes. Bug, why did you bring me here? If I’m not supposed to be here am I just going to get arrested or something?”

To Will’s surprise, Bug actually laughed. It wasn’t a sound he had come to expect from Bug, and it echoed off the shops and storefronts along the street on which they’d been walking. The laugh was part bark, part cackle, and part giggling sixth-grader. Its sheer volume caused some passing gnomes, who had heretofore managed not to notice Will, to stop and stare. Given the information he’d just received from Bug about gnomes not liking outsiders, Will thought his “host’s” behavior was probably counter-productive.

“Oh kid, that’s good! No, you’re not gonna get arrested for being here. You’re just not supposed to be here, so you kinda stand out. All these gnomes,” Bug waved his arms around to the crowed, “assume smoneone who knows what they’re doing let you in. Heck, you could buy a house, settle down, and run a bakery for all they care. Right now, you’re a novelty. They’ll get over it.”

Will nodded, somewhat mollified, and the pair continued to walk down the street. Feeling strangely emboldened Will even began to wave at the staring gnomes, who quickly averted their gaze and pretended not to notice him. After several blocks he was actually even beginning to enjoy himself. One gnomeling, after arguing with some friends, even ran up to Will and offered him a piece of candy. When Will said, “Thank you” the gnomeling squealed and ran back to his laughing friends. His enjoyment ended abruptly when Bug came to a dead stop in front of a narrow alley. So distracted was Will with greeting onlookers, the teenager ended up walking into his suddenly stationary companion. Will was certain he didn’t know what walking into a brick wall felt like, but after blindly stumbling into a motionless Bug he believed he’d discovered a reference point. His gnome companion was short, but extremely stocky.

Bug gave no response to Will’s collision. Instead, he looked up at the street sign on the alley, which read, “Thornbush Alley.”

“Alright, here we are, kid. Let’s go.” Bug marched into the alley with Will trailing behind. He couldn’t help but notice, however, none of the other gnomes were venturing down the alley after them. Will glanced back once and saw a crowd at the alley entrance, nervously shuffling and looking at one another.

“Bug?”

“Yah kid?”

“Why aren’t the other gnomes following us any more?”

Bug raised his voice to an unnecessarily loud volume, “Because they are a bunch of unimaginative pointy-hatted, ninnies!” Lowering his voice, he added, “C’mon, we’re here.”

Will looked at the door to which Bug was motioning. Alongside was a plaque which read,

Professor Coolly Nobody
Freelance practitioner of applied imagination.

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