I’m greeted at the front door by a wide-eyed Fleegle with his ears pinned back with worry.
“Raud, thank the god of stray people you found your way home. Just before you got here I heard this terribly loud rumble and the ground shook all through the house. I thought the sky had finally begun to fall and was crashing into the driveway. Then just as quickly as it began, it stopped.”
“That was me pulling into the driveway.”
“No it wasn’t. I know the sound of our car from miles away. It sounds nothing like that.”
“I wasn’t driving the Element, I was in the truck. I finally got it running again after sitting in the driveway for five years.”
“We have a truck?”
“Yep, that old Ford F250 from the 70s. I just realized it’s been sitting there broken down longer than you are old.”
“You mean that giant lawn ornament you climb up on to trim the tree next to it? I didn’t know that was ours.”
“That’s the one, but it’s not like it’s sitting on blocks in the middle of the front lawn. It’s been parked in the driveway.”
“With the ivy growing over it,” he says.
“Now I can trim the ivy without climbing under the truck.”
“Uh-ho, you better lock this door, Raud,” Fleegle says, nudging the front door closed behind me with his nose.
“You’ve gone and taken the gnomes home for a spin around the neighborhood. He’s been living in that truck.”
“I’ve done one better than that, I’ve loaded the truck bed up with two cubic yards of Douglas-fir bark dust. I’m finally getting rid of that front lawn.”
“The gnome isn’t going to like that. We better shut and lock all the windows and doors. He could attack any minute. You never know what an angry gnome will do.”
“There are no gnomes in the front yard. There’s nothing out there but a dead lawn.”
“Raud, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not exactly known for your powers of observation.”
Franny ambles down the hallway from the bedroom, yawning. “I just had the strangest dream. I dreamt a little guy with a long beard and a pointy red hat crawled in through the bedroom window.”
Fleegle slow wags his head. “And she ain’t talking about Santa.”
* * *
That evening when I climb in bed I feel something very itchy against my legs. I push back the covers to see what it is. “Okay, which one of you tracked in the bark dust?”
Fleegle and Franny exchange a look, then both say to me, “Not us, Raud, it was the gnome.”