Advent, Advent, a Little Gnome is Burning

Regina Schleheck
Advent, Advent, a Little Gnome is Burning
Father couldn’t stand them, mainly because he couldn’t look away. He would see them from the living room, the bedroom, even from the bathroom. At least whenever he was standing while – well you know what I’m talking about. In the neighbour’s garden. Willy’s garden. Willy is a good guy, says my father. Actually. Always has a drill or a router ready when father gets desperate again about our house. In other words, actually always. Grandpa’s grandpa built our house from all kinds of rubble, as most of the houses in the neighbourhood had been. Even Willy’s. But unlike Father, Willy has skilful hands, a whole bunch of tools that one needs in life, and he is really helpful as well. The only thing is: he has bad taste. That is why he carves and paints those figurines in his free time. He can do that so well, the whole wide world is buying them, and naturally he moved them into his garden as well, which is why father always sits down while – well you already know that.

Father had planted a hedge around our garden, which was supposed to graciously shield us from the sight. The wire mesh fence just wasn’t enough. But growing a hedge like that takes – darn long. Jericho wasn’t built in one day either, says father. I feel like he’s mixing stuff up. Have I mentioned that I like them? And that is probably father’s fault as well. In my eyes he is The Big One. That is why I sympathize with little people. Father isn’t very tall, you know. When my mother met him, he was probably sitting down most of the time. At his desk. Because he was her boss. A seated giant.

That makes two good reasons for why she fell in love with him. As a father he is by all means the greatest. For St. Nicholas he always puts on his red hooded bathrobe and knocks at our front door. Mother then says: “Oh my God, if that’s not Saint Nicholas!” And it is him indeed.

He then proceeds to read to me from Mother’s Book of Complaints about all the trouble I have caused over the past year, and I say, “Yes, that’s true!”

And he goes, “Okay, so now what do you want for Christmas?” I can say everything on my wish list, and sometimes it even comes true.

I realized pretty quickly that it is him. That is why I asked him the counter question one day: “And what do you wish for?”
That got him thinking. He finally said, “There should be no more gnomes.”
Well, I took that quite seriously.
On Christmas I bought a can of gasoline, emptied it on them and lit them all up. On Christmas Eve, while Willy was in church. Twenty-four little torches in the neighbour’s garden. Then I snuck back inside and brought father to our living room window.
“Look,” I said, “your wish came true!”

Father just stood there, dumbfounded. Was not happy one bit, but quickly he ran out into the garden to get the hose from our cellar, unwound it, hooked it up and turned it on, only to realize he also had to turn on the feed, which he always turns off during winter, so the pipes don’t freeze and burst. When he finally got the water to flow, the hose started to dance around the garden, spraying water everywhere. Father threw himself at it heroically, grabbed it, stuck it through the wire mesh fence and put out all the flames, one gnome after another. Right when he finished, Willy came home.

Father was standing there, soaking wet, hose in his hand pointing accusingly towards the charred garden gnomes, which now looked very much like little chimney sweeps.

Willy really is a good guy. He does still carve garden gnomes on occasion, but only on special orders. They are still in demand, but the numbers are going down. Instead he developed a new product together with me: gnomes with red coats, a brown sack over the shoulder and a red pointed cap. Made from stearin. With a wick coming out the top of his cap. All the customers adore them. But the most passionate devotee of our Christmas gnomes is – my father.

Translation: Shannon Wardell

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