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The Garden Gnome: A Fable

A Fable:

The late night became the early morning, which soon became the afternoon, and the man stumbled home. He must’ve looked ridiculous, his nose bloody, shirt unbuttoned. He climbed the hill to his bungalow, puked on the lawn, and fell asleep.


“Hey asshole!”

“Yo, fucko! Wake up.”

It was a voice he didn’t recognize, on which was obviously smeared a hateful scowl. He wiped the crust from his eyes and looked around. Nobody.

“Down here, assman,” it said.

It was coming from the garden gnome.

“Hello there,” he said to the garden gnome.

“It’s about time,” it said.

“Yes, yes, I’m sorry,” he said, looking around the cul de sac to see if any of the neighbors could see him. “I guess I had too much to drink. I don’t even know what time it is, let me take you inside.”

And so he did.

In the kitchenette, he put the kettle on and made two cups of coffee.

His house was tiny, just consisting of a living room a bedroom and a kitchen. The yellow-beige rug had two stains on it: one from tomato sauce, another from vomit. He wondered if the gnome noticed or even cared.

“Thanks for the coffee,” said the gnome. “But I have no use for it.”

“Ah, sorry,” said the man. “Instinct, I guess.”

“It’s okay,” said the gnome. “To be honest, I really don’t care. There are more important matters at hand.”

The gnome’s demeanor, or whatever you would call it, changed.

“I broke my silence today, because I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s been building up inside of me, hundreds of years, and especially for the  years I’ve been stationed on your lawn. It’s a solemn affair, consciousness, especially when you’re made of stone. But I’ve watched you everyday, coming to and from work alone, and never have I empathized more with a human!”

The man looked at the gnome. The paint on its red hat had was almost completely gone, revealing the white concrete body underneath. He noticed for the first time how old it looked. He had never really noticed anything about it before -- it had been on the lawn when he first started renting the house, along with two plastic flamingoes, four concrete sheep, and one humanoid frog with a fishing pole and hat. Not that he kept count.

“For years I’ve been debating whether or not to talk to you,” said the gnome. “When I watched you sleep in your own vomit for hours today, I felt this was the time.”

“What is it that you want from me?” The man said to the gnome.

It said nothing for a moment.

“I want you to take me with you,” it said.


“To work. At the middle school. You’re a teacher, yes?”

“Yes -- how did you know that?”

“Your car is covered in those ridiculous bumper stickers. What is it that you teach, anyway?”


“I know every goddamn thing there is to know about history! Trust me.”

And so he did.


The next morning, the man and the gnome got into the man’s car and drove down the Hutchinson Parkway to Steven Sherbert Middle School. Steven Sherbert was a single story brick building, spread out over 200 acres. It looked like a middle school.

Before his first class of the day, History of Modern Europe, he told his students that there would be a guest speaker. The man asked his students to be open-minded and respectful to his friend the gnome, while it sat on his oak desk in the corner of the room where the man had placed him, looking out at the bored students. The gnome hadn’t explained what he had planned, but the man trusted it.

The man finished speaking and glanced over at the gnome. It said nothing at first, continuing to stare out at the students. Then, he made a sound that could’ve been clearing his throat and began.

“I’ve seen empires fall and rise, death, destruction, martyrdom, all under the same roof. I was at Gettysburg, Hindenburg, Manchuria, anywhere, everywhere.”

The students looked less bored.

“Students, please, if you would like to know anything about the past 300 years of history, I implore you, ask me.”

And so they did.

“That was really something,” the man said.

He had watched in awe as the gnome had answered the students’ vague questions with incredible detail and personal anecdotes. The students had become more animated and excited than he had ever seen.

“I guess so,” said the gnome. “Wasn’t much.”

They were back in the man’s bungalow. He was eating Chinese food.

“What I have planned for tomorrow should really get them going,” it said.

“Tomorrow? This was a one time thing, gnome. I can’t have you taking over my job -- the administration would never allow it.”

“Would never allow what? Someone who actually excites the minds of the students? Who doesn’t bore them to death? Please, don’t make me laugh,” said the gnome.

“What are you going to do? Get up and walk to the school? You’re a pathetic piece of concrete! Fuck you! I’m going to bed,” said the man.

And so he did.

In his bedroom, the man took two swigs from a bottle of Beefeater. He didn’t know what to do. The gnome was clearly some sort of god-like being, but it was an asshole. He couldn’t let it take teaching away from him. He took another swig of gin. God-like being or not, it had to go.

He knew the gnome didn’t sleep. It just sat wherever he put it all night long, thinking, plotting, he didn’t know what. It was currently in the kitchenette, on the windowsill, facing out the window towards the driveway.

He went into the basement, got a sledgehammer, and quietly moved towards the gnome. He had drunk half the bottle of Beefeater to work up enough courage. He stumbled at the entrance of the kitchen, but the gnome didn’t seem to hear him. He tiptoed towards it until he felt bold enough, and lifted the hammer above his head. Unfortunately, the hammer, which weighed 40 pounds, threw off his center of balance and made him fall backwards. He hit his head and fell unconscious.

When he awoke, he was cold. He tried to open his eyes, but realized they had already been open. He saw grass. He was in front of his bungalow. How had he ended up here? He tried to get up. His body felt like it was made of stone.

A Moral:

Never trust a lawn ornament.


Ben Verde is a 19-year-old Journalism student at Purchase College in New York. He plays drums and guitar in a number of bands and works for a pet-sitting company. You can follow him on Twitter at @ben_verde_kk.

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