My Neighbor, the Yard Gnome


gnome A Three Part story by Nancy DeLaval   Miller

Part I

When I first met Jessica and Paul Yardley I thought they would be great neighbors. They were polite and friendly and their place looked like a picture from Home and Garden magazine. Often, during those first weeks after they moved in, I would see Paul working in the yard – mowing, planting, pruning, watering – he did everything with a pleasant smile on his face. He seemed very happy.

However, I soon learned that Jessie wasn’t happy at all. When we got together for coffee one day, she expounded on her husband’s faults. He was lazy and stupid, shirked his chores in the house, and all he wanted to do was work in the yard. I came away realizing she was very bossy and quite dysfunctional, even crazy perhaps.

Friday, she came rushing over to my house and knocked loudly on the back door. “Can I talk to you?” she asked, pushing her way into the house. I agreed and we sat down at the kitchen table. “Paul won’t come in the house!” I had no answer for this and she went on. “Paul went out to work in the yard on Wednesday and never came back in. He finished the mowing two hours later and I kept expecting him to come back in the house, but he didn’t. I didn’t really care at first. I needed my nap and I had to watch my soaps, plus I had to prepare dinner. It seems like the work never ends.

“When dinner was almost ready, I went out to call him. I saw him standing by the bird bath with the hose.

“Paul,” I called out.

“I’m over here,” he yelled back. His voice sounded a little weaker than usual, but I didn’t think anything of it. He was some distance away.

“It’s time for dinner.”

“I’ll be in soon,” he said smiling at me. I thought his smile was a little stiff, but I was too far away to get a good look. I was tired from a long day’s housework and I went back inside. I called him two more times that evening, but I finally ate dinner alone. I even ate some of his, but I left him some on a plate. Then I did his job, washing the dishes. That made me really mad and I called him several more times to come in, but didn’t get an answer. That evening I fell asleep in front of the TV, alone.”

Unbelievable as it seems, Jessie told me that Paul never came in that night. In fact, he never came back in at all, and it made her very angry. The next day she went out to find him. He was still standing by the bird bath with the hose. She decided she needed to check him out carefully, so she trekked all the way out to the bird bath to see him.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Making sure the flowers and the birds have enough water.”

“I see that, but what about you? Aren’t you hungry?”

“No, I’ve just been sipping a little water from time to time.”

She noticed that he looked shorter than usual. “Aren’t you going to come in soon? I’m sure the birds and the flowers have enough water by now!”

“I stop sometimes and wait for the birds and squirrels to get a drink. A deer came by last night with two fawns and……”

“I don’t really care if the president came by,” she screamed. “I need your help in the house!” She was finally losing her patience with her husband. Didn’t he know that he had responsibilities in the house? The dishes were piling up and he forgot she needed help with the vacuuming. And why would she care if the wild animals had enough to drink?

After an uncomfortable silence she said, “Well, I’m going ahead with my day. If you want to stay out here all day, I guess that’s up to you!” She was mad and stomped into the house.

The next morning she called me and asked me to come over and try to convince Paul to come back in the house. When I saw him I was shocked. He seemed much shorter than I remembered, so I looked down to see if he was standing in a hole. He wasn’t. His white hair had grown longer. His face looked the same but his body was much smaller than it had been. Paul Yardley seemed to be morphing into a little yard gnome. Even his clothes and shoes must have gotten smaller, because they still fit the same way. And somewhere he found a long pointy red hat.

“Take that hat off,” Jessie demanded. “It makes you look stupid.” He just looked at her and laughed. She didn’t want the neighbors to see him wearing it. She grabbed at the hat, but then grimaced.

“Feel this hat,” she said, giving me a direct order. To my surprise, the hat was as hard as a rock. I was taken aback. Jessie and I couldn’t pull it off. We looked at Paul with total bewilderment. Then I touched his shoulder and it was hard too.

“What happened to you?” I asked. He just stood there watering and smiling and didn’t answer. I wondered if he could even talk. Could his mouth move if it was stone? His eyes were still alert and moved around, looking at me and the lawn.

“Quit turning into stone and come in the house,” Jessie demanded, but by noon Paul had turned completely into a yard gnome. All the yard work was meticulously done, but we never saw him move a muscle or a stone arm or leg, or give a toss of his hard head. He was as hard as a rock, and couldn’t talk, so Jessie turned off the hose and went shopping.

“I knew he would figure out a way to avoid doing his chores,” she said.

Stay tuned for Part II of  The Yard Gnome

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