Gnomes Don't Live In Thorn Bushes!
by Joshua Blanc
Robert Prangle, or `Prong' as he likes to be called, lives in a
thorn bush. Now, before you start picturing a fully-grown suburbanite
wearing a smart suit and several thorny branches, don't. Because Bob
Prong is a gnome, which, as most people will tell you, don't exist.|
"They do so," said Prong indignantly.
He was speaking to a young woman who was staring down at him. She had a look of utter disbelief on her attractive face.
"If gnomes don't exist," he continued, "then who are you talking to?"
The woman wore a business suit and her hair was short and sensible. She was squatting in a rather undignified manner, but too dumbfounded to care.
"I suppose I'm having some kind of gnome-sitting-in-a-thorn-bush hallucination," she said at last.
It was true, Prong was sitting in a thorn bush. After all it was, if you've been paying attention, where he lived.
"Halluci-what?" said Prong, getting out his pipe and filling it calmly.
"Hallucination," said the woman, frowning. "I should probably call my shrink, right away."
The woman produced a large (in comparison to Prong) black piece of plastic, opened it up, and pressed it a few times so that it made some beeping noises. There was an annoying ringing sound.
"So. I'm a hallucination," said Prong. "Funny, I would have said `gnome', myself."
The woman blinked.
"An hallucination is when you see something that isn't really there."
Prong's ample eyebrows did a somersault.
"Ah. Now you're speaking my language. Like when I smoke fungus. I'm always seeing things that aren't there when I'm under the influence. Happy times, happy times."
The woman didn't seem to be paying attention. Rather, she was listening intently to the ringing sound in her plastic box. He lit his pipe, currently filled with parsley, and looked up with a smile.
"Hey, I have a question," he said.
The woman looked down again, reluctantly, as if doing so confirmed she was crazy.
"If I'm a hallucination, something that isn't really here..."
"Then what do you call something that you can hear but isn't really there?"
The frown seemed to bunch all the woman's facial muscles together for a conference.
"I suppose that comes down to `hearing things.' Thanks for pointing that out."
"No problem," said Prong, blowing little black parsley smoke rings into the air.
The woman started talking to her beepy piece of plastic, then erupted into a coughing fit.
"Awg! What is that you're smoking?" she said, suddenly dropping the phone right into Prong's vegetable garden.
"Hey, mind the garden!"
Prong jumped down and tried to lift the thing off. A voice, tinny and full of crackles, was coming out of it, saying: `Hello? Hello? Suzanne, are you there?'
He gave up, and stood there with his hands on his hips. The face he looked up at was stunned once again.
"Oh, and what's your problem now?" he said.
Slowly, Suzanne picked up her phone, snapped it shut, and fell with a world-shaking thud onto her knees in the damp grass.
"Uh, so you're a gnome then? A real live gnome, speaking real words and smoking-" *sniff sniff* "real parsely?"
"Yeah. And you've squashed my onions flat."
"Gosh, I'm terribly sorry."
Prong's angry frown turned into a happy grin, and he puffed a few more times on his pipe.
"Let's never mind," he said, and climbed back into the thorny branches.
"So, uh, do all gnomes live in thorn bushes? I mean, there are other gnomes, right?"
"They usually live in cracks between the pavement, do gnomes. People say I'm daft, living in a thorn bush, but the way I see it who's going to think twice about a thorn bush? All prickly, aren't they."
"I guess so," said Suzanne, with an air of uncertainty that suggested she'd never been this close to a thorn bush in her life. She looked around herself nervously, paying keen attention to the cracks in the uneven pavement behind her. It was these which had caused her to be so close to the ground in the first place, by tripping her up.
"So what do gnomes do, apart from live in cracks and, uh, thorn bushes?"
Prong took a deep breath of parsley smoke and settled in his special groove between a fork in the branches.
"And smoke horrible weeds," she added.
"I watch people go by, or fall down as it may be, and generally relax, grow vegies, take the occasional psychedelic journey."
"Oh. Nothing magical or mysterious, then?"
"And you were expecting?"
"Well, I don't know," she said. "Things like making the sidewalk slippery on sunny days, locking peoples' keys inside their cars, that sort of thing."
"There is one little pleasure we like to indulge in where humans are concerned."
"Yes. You know shopping carts with wonky wheels?"
"Yes, I do actually."
"Well that's some of our best work."
"I knew it! I knew you weren't just all about mushrooms and smoking."
"Peh. So, isn't there something you should be doing? You were heading somewhere, right?"
"Huh?" Suzanne looked down at her damp stockings and rumpled dress. "Oh, work! Damn. Well, will you be here later? When I'm on my way home? I have to tell some of the guys at work about you! That is, if it isn't a secret or anything?"
"Sure, sure," said Prong with a grin.
"Great. Then I'd better go then."
She stood up, and dusted herself off as best she could.
"Bye! Nice meeting you!" she said, running off down the sidewalk being careful where she was putting her feet.
Prong watched her go, hopped down off his perch, and covered up his vegetable garden with a piece of sod.
"A gnome that lives in a thorn-bush, indeed!" he said with a chuckle, before disappearing through a crack in the sidewalk.