They proudly hung out a sign “Marco Cottage” when they moved in last fall. The Fairies were ecstatic, the Gnomes—not so much. Gnomes would rather have the yard, garden and woods all to themselves, thank you very not so kindly. Fairies, however, just love the sounds of good conversation and hearty laughter—which the Marco family brought with them in abundance.
The Marco’s had saved most of their marriage to finally be able to afford a home of their own. They reveled in the change from their stuffy apartment seventy miles away in the city. The three children—Trevor, Kyle and Melinda would take rides on their bikes up the dirt road to go exploring. June Marco would walk the one acre yard and just smile to herself while planning what to plant where next spring while her husband was taking stock of the gardening tools left in the shed by the previous owner. Being rural newbies, they were going to have to learn by experience. They would all need to pitch in to make it work. The parents were young enough to still take chances but old enough to not expect perfection overnight. They had a huge incentive—their kids growing up away from the crime and dirt of their old neighborhood. It was going to take some very hard work, some sunshine, and a bit of luck. They didn’t know at the time they would need a special kind of luck—of the Fairie kind!
The first sign of trouble was the morning when Jim Marco tripped on a rake camouflaged by leaves a few feet from the tool shed.
“Trevor, Kyle, Melinda! I told you kids these tools aren’t toys! Someone could get hurt! I almost broke my neck tripping over this!” Jim said, holding up the offending implement.
If you held still and were very quiet, out of the corner of your eye you could catch one of those bearded Gnomes dancing a little jig and snickering.
If you looked up higher, you might see a shimmer, easily mistaken for dew on leaf, and hear a tiny sigh.
These creatures do not talk per se, but they do express their feelings much like we do with subtle sounds and movement. Don’t let this fool you though—they are mighty creatures despite their size and volume.
A band of Gnomes can really mess up your morning—as they did for Jim Marco. They can also do that enough mornings (and evenings) to make you cranky and lose your temper, then lose your spirit, then make you want to give up altogether and feel you can’t do anything right. That’s how they work you see.
The next morning, Melinda’s bicycle chain was missing. She knew she hadn’t lost it as she had ridden home (with Trevor and Kyle of course) before supper just the day before. She questioned her brothers, she complained to her mom and dad. She was the youngest at 7 years old and was sometimes the butt of the joke for her brothers who were 10 and 11. She didn’t find the sabotage of her only means of independence one bit funny and before long there was a regular brouhaha at the Marco cottage with accusations, incriminations, alibis and general disarray.
Trevor was in turbo big brother mode. “Who would mess with your stupid bike, Mel—you’re just trying to get attention like you always do!”
“Then where’s the chain, huh?” Melinda fought back pointing to her pink Huffy on its side in the dirt.
Kyle was telling off both his brother and his sister.”You just don’t get what’s happening—none of you do!” he yelled in exasperation and went to kick Melinda’s bike that was lying on the ground but somehow his aim was off and he promptly got his sneaker caught in the white wicker basket attached to the handlebars. He twisted his foot around to wrestle it free while casting a very dirty look toward the row of flowerpots on the porch.
As they were all youngsters, the three siblings often squabbled over little things—taking turns, rules of games and all that; however, the arguments lately seemed meaner, heavier somehow. June could practically see the angst encircling her precious ones and it made her feel raw—like a mama bear wanting to protect her cubs—but to protect them from what exactly? Not being able to identify the cause of this new behavior in her kids, the only one she could logically reproach was herself—what was this move all for if the kids weren’t happy? Maybe she and Jim had made a terrible mistake? She shook off those ridiculous thoughts and let her instincts kick into action—she needed to go stop this bickering right now!
June Marco stormed outside to break up the argument and was just about to lose it with her kids and start yelling (something she tried very hard never to do) when she felt a soft breeze and a brush of her cheek. She felt it for a moment—more like just one small second, and it felt light, warm and magical, like the feeling she experienced when she kissed her babies when they were very small.
She stood very still, breathing in the scent of the red and orange maple leaves strewn on the ground. She turned, went back into the house and made a large pot of hot cocoa. She then calmly called in her children and talked to them about the alleged theft over steaming mugs and oatmeal cookies. She promised to get Melinda a new chain and her brothers said they would put it on for her as well as check over her bike to see if anything else needs attention.
The Marco family didn’t know it but they were living on a battlefield—The Fairies were on a mission to protect them against the chaotic attacks from the Gnomes who wanted them gone!
More items went missing on a daily basis only to turn up in unexpected and inconvenient places. The missing bicycle chain ended up on the clothesline smearing grease on a newly laundered sheet. Trevor’s text books were constantly lost, causing a mad dash for the school bus each morning—which he often missed—which caused mom to have to drive him—that caused Dad to have to rummage for a cold breakfast before heading out for a 10 hour shift at the cable company. It wasn’t that Jim minded Corn Flakes so much—it’s that he looked forward to having a quiet breakfast with his wife once the kids left for the day. More often than not he now ate alone.
The Fairies decided that enough was enough. Gnomes hate happiness and thrive on anger and strife. The Fae troupe decided to congregate outside Trevor’s window at night. Although they were very jovial creatures, Fairies knew how to take care of serious business if necessary—and the Gnomes were an old and formidable foe. They would close ranks around the windowsill and zip and prance around, leaving no path open for those old bearded boys to gain access to the backpack Trevor arranged each night with his school supplies.
It worked—for a few weeks—score one for the wee merry fliers!
The Gnomes kicked up their game a notch—the shed door was somehow left open during the last storm and rain soaked all of the firewood drying there, causing much of it to mold and rot before the family noticed. Jim struggled in frustration to start a fire on the first chilly night; the wood smoldered and smelled horribly. Jim had carefully cut those logs using only deadfall trees, as he cared a great deal for all living things. They were good stewards of the land—you would think the Gnomes would like that about him—but they didn’t.
“Well, I guess our fuel bill will be high this month,” June surmised.
“I’ll look for more wood tomorrow. We will manage,” Jim said wrapping his wife in a hug.
If he had looked out of the corner of his eye, he would have seen little lights like fireflies outside the window.
Things got more serious one day when June wasn’t feeling very well. Jim was at work and the children at school when she, wrapped up in her bathrobe, went out to the mailbox to retrieve the post. Somehow, somehow, the door closed and locked behind her leaving her outside shivering. Jim had the only working vehicle with him and even if the VW second car did run (the distributor cap was among the latest missing possessions) the keys were in the house. She couldn’t even open it up to get shelter or try to start it to turn on the heat. She ran to the shed but the door wouldn’t budge—as if someone or something was on the other side holding it back. She thought she could actually hear a huffing noise, like little puffs of air hissing through the thick door. Her toes were stinging cold through her flimsy slipper booties. Her nearest neighbor was a half mile away. Feeling stupid and a little bit scared, she hobbled back to the house, sat on the front steps and began to weep.
As she held her head in her hands, she heard a click and a creak and saw the formerly bolted door ajar. She stood up on wobbly legs and made her way back in the house. Turning on the burner with numb fingers to put the kettle on, she suddenly felt snug and warm—as if she were wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket instead of a cotton robe. June smiled and made her tea.
Back and forth it went. That autumn it seemed that everything was going wrong—Melinda cried when she plopped on the outside bench while waiting for the school bus and ended up stuck to it, unable to move. When Dad pulled her off her new winter coat was covered with thick tree sap.
Trevor’s shoes went missing—and he had to go to school for one day wearing socks and sandals (how humiliating!) while his mom hunted the rest of his footwear down—finally found that day all neatly stuffed in the mailbox.
They did find the part for the VW; however, it was somehow returned to them—left on their front porch with a frosted pinecone.
Kyle was the only one who could actually see them. He was a special child, born at exactly midnight on a Friday, February 13th. In his ten short years he had seen many things that his parents and teachers took for granted as his being a very “imaginative” boy. His parents knew he was sensitive and special; but being practical folk, they didn’t think it through any further than that. He wanted to tell his Mom and Dad about the nasty, dirty, little men who would hide in the yard and then jump out at him, making hideous sneering faces as he raked leaves or worse, occasionally peer at him through his bedroom window at night.
The only comfort was the others—the pretty dancing balls of light that moved in the blink of an eye. They didn’t speak a language (at least not one you would learn in school) but their presence made you feel like you were eating a Fudge Sunday while watching Spiderman. That good! Kind of like Mom and Dad coming in to say goodnight when you know you are a bit old for that but like it anyway. After a good scare from the bad ones or when he was particularly sad, he would feel friendly little pats on his back or a touch on the shoulder and he would look up and see the glittering swirl and flicker.
Unfortunately, Kyle would also see the “bad ones” quite clearly sometimes—especially when mom was upset with dad or one of them or had a “face” on. They wouldn’t crouch then, they would stand tall (as tall as you can if you’re a Gnome) and watch with great interest. It was as if those little men liked it when folks were upset or sad. Yes, they liked it a lot! The light people would then swarm and buzz around them, making a whooshing noise that almost sounded like they were telling them to “shoo, shoo!”
Kyle knew that he had to try to tell his family about the battle. Although he would like to imagine being able to stop it on his own like an action hero he knew he was only one kid and not an expert on these little creatures for sure!
That night when the light filtered into his room and dad came to say “Goodnight Buddy.” Kyle asked him to stay and talk. He tried to approach it like, “What do you think of this story—Once upon a time….”
Dad listened and found some of the events in this impromptu tale very familiar.
Dad excused himself for a moment, came back with Mom and when gently questioned, Kyle folded like a suspect in a police station and began telling all he knew, saw and heard on the property since they moved in.
“So the old men take our stuff and play nasty tricks to get rid of us and the twinkly people are on our side?” Mom inquired, with great interest.
It all made sense. June and Jim shed their adult selves for a moment and took in this information through the eyes of a child—their child—looking at them for trust and guidance.
As older brothers are inclined to do, Trevor laughed at his brother, as the family sat around the kitchen table that Sunday morning to discuss the situation. Melinda asked if she could ask one of the “good ones” to make her into Cinderella like a Fairy Godmother could.
“But they are Fairies, they must be…don’t you read books you guys!” Melinda whined. She was feeling ignored for good reason—she was most certainly being dissed. Kyle and Trevor were locked in a brotherly standoff that was impenetrable and mom and dad were poised to intervene if it got too heated.
“Well, Trev, what about your books that went missing every morning when I saw you, SAW YOU, put them in your backpack after doing your homework!” Kyle retorted smugly, “And your shoes too!”
Trevor said, “It was probably you doing it, jerk, so that we would all believe your stupid story.”
“Now boys….” Jim was starting to lecture when all of sudden the chimes on the porch outside began to all tinkle and ring at once.
“There’s no…wind!” June exclaimed.
They all sat looking at each other—totally stupefied.
“So Mom, Dad, how do we help them?” Trevor gulped and asked.
“Well, seems to me that the best way to fight any chaos, or mischief, or bad energy is to stay positive and laugh at it!” June told her three kids as she smothered them all with a hug.
Jim looked a bit dazed but agreed by nodding still staring out the window at the tubes of the chimes swinging two and fro while glorious specs of multicolored light were filtering through the sunshine.
During the following weeks the family shoveled snow, rode on saucer sleds (when they could find them) and told stories by the fire. Kyle had been saving up many tales for years that he was eager to finally tell. The sound of laughter around the hearth reverberated up the chimney and through the cracks in the doors and out the slats of the windows. It drove the Gnomes quite mad indeed and it almost goes without saying that the fairies happily danced in time with the snowflakes as they softly fell.
For Christmas, Melinda’s brothers made her a very large (and quite gaudy) princess tiara out of pipe cleaners and tinsel so she could feel like Cinderella and she wore it proudly with her holiday dress to church. Trevor carried her in so she wouldn’t get snow in her patent leather slippers. Jim and June just laughed as some of the very sensible people stared. Kyle was busy looking up at all the angels gliding and swooping—but that’s another story.
And so went the winter—full of twinkle lights and at times scary blurs…but the more the family believed in Kyle and each other the more the Fairies had to work with to defend the home. Gnomes are pretty sore losers and tend to eventually slink off to where they think they will have better odds.
The dirty tricks happened less and less and by late springtime a lasting veil of calm had settled over the land. Fairies scored one peaceful family who is going to stay—Gnomes zip!
“Thank you,” June said one May night in the direction of the lilac bush that was intoxicating her nose with its heady scent.
“Yeah, thanks!” Melinda yelled and giggled from her spot snuggled in her mom’s arms.
A blip and a twinkle was the gracious reply.
Virginia has written for romance magazines, as well as fiction and non-fiction for the web. She lives in rural Florida with her wonderful husband Drew, two highly intelligent beagles and two very mysterious cats.