By L.C. Cornwall
“Come on, one more step.” The garden gnome readied himself.
“One more fucking step.”
The gardener paused, hands on his hips, and looked up at the cloudless sky.
“Fuck knuckle,” the gnome growled.
“Come on.” It was an impatient whine.
The gardener started back the way he’d come.
A string of vile curses spilled from the gnome as he kicked at the dirt.
How much longer was this going to take? He couldn’t bear it anymore.
A bird sang overhead, a heartbreakingly joyous song.
It was mocking him.
Deliberately mocking him!
The gnome glared at the bird, his fingers forming a gun shape. He closed one eye and pretended to shoot, blowing his fingers to clear the imaginary smoke.
He heard the returning footsteps of the gardener and prepared for the dash again.
This was it.
This was the end.
The gnome sprinted as fast as his stumpy little legs could carry him. Flinging himself forward and sliding across the grass with a stupid grin.
Any moment now and the boot would come down on him and life, hideous life, would be over.
Any moment now.
He opened an eye and looked up at the boot hovering over his head.
“Come on! Do it, do it now. Please, for sweet Christ’s sake.”
The gardener took a step back and knelt beside him.
“What the fuck?” The gnome sat up angrily.
A kind hand wrapped around his shoulders.
“Are you ok?”
The gnome’s hands itched to slap the bullshit sympathy off the man’s face.
“Something’s got you down again?”
Insincere prick. Just looking for gossip. Well, he certainly wasn’t going to give the gardener any details.
“You need help, you know. Maybe you might like to see that counsellor again?”
“I’m not talking to that bitch again.”
“What about medications? They worked for you last time.”
The gnome didn’t even look back as he stalked off into the dense flowerbed.
He began shaping a new plan in his little mind. It was foolproof.
Next time. Soon.
“Need a shoulder to cry on?” A fairy fluttered down on pastel green wings that matched his Pants.
“Go away, fairy. And put a shirt on. For crying out loud.”
The fairy seated himself cross-legged on a mushroom and reached into his little satchel, pulling out a round, lumpy thing covered by a kerchief. “I have food, are you hungry?”
The gnome peered into the kerchief. It looked like overcooked meat. The rancid smell made his nose wrinkle. “I’ll pass.”
The fairy shrugged and bit into the meat, making orgasmic noises of pleasure as he chewed.
“It’s very good. You just don’t have a well-developed palette.”
He finished his mouthful and leaned closer, his eyes darting around suspiciously. “I’ve heard that the unicorn gets out on parole today.”
The gnome rolled his eyes. Commit a white-collar crime and you get life, go on a murderous, meth-filled rampage, kill twenty people, and you get out in four years.
“Can you stop chewing like that?” the gnome snapped.
“It’s just very, very good,” the fairy apologised.
“What is it, anyway? It smells rank.”
The fairy smiled, a beautiful smile that reached into his sapphire blue eyes. “It’s Billy.”
His laughter was more beautiful than his smile. “No. Billy, the boy who lost his front baby teeth yesterday.” He took another deep bite.
“That is not funny.”
“I’m not lying. I crept into his room to put the money under his pillow. But I was so hungry because I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and he was so plump, so marbled….”
The gnome stared into the kerchief again, a sick feeling growing in his stomach. He forced down the urge to retch and checked his watch. “Oh, look at the time. Would you look at the time! I’m so late, so late.”
He hurried out of the garden bed, waving over his shoulder.
“Don’t forget our lunch plans next week. You promised to meet my new girlfriend and double- date with her ugly friend. You promised me, bro.”
The gnome waved over his shoulder. When he rounded the corner of the garden shed, he stopped and puked. That fairy, he thought, is seriously fucked up.
The slurred cackle made the gnome close his eyes with a grimace. Why did life have to keep dragging on like this? All he wanted was to get inside the house, plug the hairdryer in, and jump into the bath.
He turned toward the fountain anyway. “Mermaid. Bit far from the beach today.”
Her dark blonde hair was tangled, her clam bikini threadbare. Dark eyes were glazed. The gnome spied track marks in her scrawny arm.
“Can you spot me some cash?”
“I thought you were clean these days.”
Her attempt at a seductive smile made her face appear even more sunken than before. “Well, what if I give you a little something in return?” She made a crude gesture with her hand and Mouth.
A fresh wave of nausea overcame him, followed by another thought. He could surely give her some cash. After all, she’d helped him out before when he’d been in a bind.
He felt his chest swell, one final act, one last good deed before he departed this world.
He pulled his wallet from his trousers and handed her a hundred bill.
“You have to get clean after this.”
Mermaid snatched up the money. A brief sparkle returned to her eyes. “Thanks, gnome, you’re a true friend.”
“Did you hear me? No more hanging around with pirates.”
He didn’t know if she heard him—the second the money was in her hands, she plunged beneath the water and disappeared.
Gnome allowed himself a weary sigh. No good deed, he told himself, no good deed, and slipped inside the gardener’s house.
He found his way into the bathroom. After some effort, he turned the taps on, plugged the hair dryer in, and closed his eyes. “Goodbye, cruel world…”