A Valentine’s Day Carol

Once upon a
time,
there was a little gnome who lived in a garden that, in season, was full
of lush plants and bright colors. But, alas, when this story opens, winter has
cast an icy grip over the land, and the lovely garden has gone dormant. The
plants had been cut back, the trees are bare, and all decorations, except for
the little gnome, have been brought inside for the winter.
The little gnome
was covered in snow. On a very cold and icy day, a very tiny human tried to pick up the gnome, but her
hands slipped, and she tripped and fell. Her mother was not happy and blamed
the gnome for the little girl falling. “You made
my daughter fall. You are a bad gnome.” But the gnome
could not speak because it was too cold. And besides,
gnome mouths just don’t open. That’s why
people love gnomes.
The next day,
three large men came with sledgehammers, determined to smash the little gnome.
But they slipped on ice and they all fell on a big heap. They started swearing
at each other. “You piece
of sh*t. You tripped me.” 
“You stupid
sh*t. You tripped over your own feet!” 
The three
sledgehammer people weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.
The three
sledgehammer people left without smashing the little gnome because they forgot
that they were there to smash a little gnome. When they returned to the office
of the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss who had hired them, he said, “Where
are the broken shards of the Little Gnome that I never liked?” The
sledgehammer people just stared at the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss
because they didn’t want to admit that they forgot to use their sledgehammers
to smash one tiny gnome.
The Really Big
and Not Very Nice Boss hired a man with a great big cannon. The cannon man was to shoot
off the cannon and blast the little gnome into smithereens. The Really Big and
Not Very Nice Boss loved overkill. He also liked to hear loud explosions.
Unfortunately for the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss, the garden and
everywhere else were struck by a huge blizzard. The cannon man couldn’t find
his cannon in the whiteout so he acknowledged defeat. The Really Big and Not
Very Nice Boss did not appreciate the concept of acknowledging defeat. He said
to the cannon man, “YOU ARE FIRED!!!” The cannon man left, wondering
how a cannon man could be fired, when, normally, a cannon man does all of the
firing.
After the
blizzard ended, the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss decided that he would smash the little gnome himself. “I’ve got to do it
myself,” said the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss. “You just can’t
get good help these days.” He hopped into his enormous gas-guzzling
vehicle. Unfortunately, he was having trouble driving the car because he had
fired the chauffeur for driving at the speed limit. He got out his Not Very
Smart Phone and looked at a few Youtube videos about how to Drive an Enormous
Gas-Guzzling Vehicle. He then turned the car on, stomped on the gas pedal, and
the car lurched forward.
“You will
reach your destination in 247 days, four hours, and thirty minutes,”
announced the GPS with the sultry lady’s voice. The Really Big and Not Very
Nice Boss growled with anger. He threw the GPS on the floor of the car, where
it smashed into pieces and stopped talking. “You’re fired!” he
announced. Then he realized that the GPS was broken and could never be
repaired. “Good,” he said. “That useless decoration will be
next. I hate garden gnomes. They are evil. They are scum. They are…”
“Ugh!”
said the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss Who Was Used to Getting Other People
to Do All of the Work and Thus Had No Practical Skills. All of a sudden, there was a whiteout, and visibility reduced to almost zero. “I need to order
someone to fill my Most Magnificent and Most Enormous Gas Guzzling Vehicle with
premium gasoline. NOW!” You see, when you drive a  Magnificent and Enormous Gas-Guzzling
Vehicle,you don’t have
to travel very far before your Magnificent Vehicle needs something to drink.
Something like large quantities of Black Gold.
The Really Big
and Not Very Nice Boss was able to pull off the road and park in a parking lot.
He managed to park in four parking spots simultaneously but he didn’t care
because he knew that he was Important Enough. He got out of his vehicle and his
face immediately froze into a grimace of anger. He felt so angry that he didn’t
even know that he was cold. He had no minions to clear a path for him. He had
to push through snow and risk tripping on ice to get to… he didn’t know
where. He slipped and slid through the parking lot, with the snow flying into
his face and the bitter cold biting into his cheeks and pounding pain into his
eyeballs. After what seemed like a long time, he opened a glass door and found
himself in a diner. It was full of people who were eating eggs and toast and
drinking juice, coffee, or tea. He wrinkled his nose at having to stay in a
place with such lowly people. Unfortunately his Enormous Gas Guzzling Vehicle
had run out of gasoline, and it wasn’t going anywhere.
The Really Big
and Not Very Nice Boss squeezed himself into a booth near a window. He didn’t
want to look at the lowly people, so, instead, he watched the whiteout. He saw
nothing whatsoever, except for snow rapidly churning in the air. A woman
approached him. He looked at her with distrust and suspicion in his eyes. The
woman was wearing a red and white dress in a heart pattern. He wondered why
such a vapid Valentine was approaching him. He also wondered why she looked
vaguely familiar.

“Hi,
Georgie,” the woman said cheerfully, causing the Really Big and Not Very
Nice Boss to feel an abrupt sense of panic. The last person to call him Georgie
was his high school sweetheart. But she died in a fiery car crash. That fiery
car crash burned all of the love from his heart, leaving him the Cold and
Calculating Man that he became. This woman, the Big Boss suddenly realized,
looked like an older version of that lovely girl of his childhood. Was it
possible? No! She was most definitely dead.

“I am your
guide to the Valentine’s Days of your present, past, and future,” the
woman who looked like Maureen said.

“I don’t
need any Valentine’s Day! Past, present, or future. Lady, I don’t need you,
either!”

“Please,
Georgie, call me Maureen.” She held one of George’s hands gently.

George, the
Unpleasant Boss, felt his blood run cold. He shivered involuntarily. How did
Maureen return from the dead?

“Come
here,” Maureen said. She helped George to his feet and she walked him to a
door.

“This is a
portal to your past. Just go through it. It will take you to a beautiful
garden.”

“I don’t
want to…” but, all of a sudden, he was through that door, with Maureen.
He found himself in a bright garden, full of blooming lilacs, tulips, jonquils,
daffodils, and other spring flowers. The apple and cherry blossoms were
blooming. He stood there with Maureen and he saw himself, the far younger
himself, holding the hand of a young girl.

“I have a
gift for you,” said the younger George.

“Oh,
Georgie,” gushed the girl. “You don’t have to give me anything. You
are the gift.”

“Open it,
please?” George said. He handed his girlfriend a box. She opened the box
neatly and slowly, making Georgie nearly burst with excitement.

“I never
had any patience,” the older George said. “Come on, girl. Pick up the
pace.”

After a bit of
delay, the young Maureen pulled a ceramic garden gnome from the box. “Oh,
George! I love it! It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever seen! But I
want to share it with everyone! Can we donate it to the park? Pretty please and
with a cherry on top?”

“Well…”

“Oh,
please?”

“I don’t know
why he agreed to that stupid idea,” the older George growled.

“You are
such a grumblebunny,” said his guide. “But, once, you were a young
man filled with love.”

“But she
died. And my love died, too. And that stupid gnome still sits in the garden,
mocking me. I hate it! Why did I end up with a gnome, instead of a wife?”

In a flash, the
Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss was back in the diner and at his table. A
server, dressed in black pants and a t-shirt advertising the name of the diner,
brought him a plateful of food. An omelet made with cheese, mushrooms, and
onions, with bacon and a piece of sourdough bread on the side. Hot black coffee
was poured into a mug.


“How did
you know that was my favorite thing? How?”

He looked at the
server again. She looked like his sister. But how was that possible? His sister
had died years ago in a ship. She was traveling overseas to be a volunteer in
an agriculture program. She always had a green thumb. After she died, he hated
both garden gnomes and flowers and plants. He stared at the young woman’s light
brown hair, her blue eyes, and her pinkish cheeks. She looked like an exact
reproduction of Patty.

“Who are
you? What are you doing to me?”

“I’m
serving you food.”

He looked up and
saw a small display case jutting from the wall next to the window. It was
filled with tiny garden gnomes.

“No! Smash
those gnomes. I hate them! They ruined my life!”

“Enjoy your
meal, sir,” said the server, who turned toward other customers.

“Wait! Come
back, Patty! Please come back! I was never ready to lose you!”

He looked out
the window, expecting to see snow. Instead he saw a window to another world. It
could be last week, this week, next week. He suddenly realized that he was
staring inside the home of the Cannon Man. The Cannon Man was eating breakfast
with his wife and two sons. He observed that one of the boys seemed kind of
different. He sat on the couch and
wrote down numbers. That was good, George thought. He will be an accountant.

“How will
we afford Ryan’s school?” asked the wife. “The last time you worked
was for that odious man who wanted you to fire a cute little garden gnome to
smithereens.”

“I don’t
know,” said the Cannon Man. “There really aren’t many job
opportunities for a Cannon Man these day. I need to go back to school.”

“But our
son was bullied and he had to be taken out of…”

“…public school. Yes, I know,” said the Cannon Man. “And the education we
want for him costs more than we could ever afford.”

“Do you
think that you could get some sort of work out of The Really Big and Not Very
Nice Boss?”

“No, I
think that ship sailed a long time ago.”

Just then, the
phone rang.

“Yes?”
said the Cannon Man. “Oh. The rent. I am so sorry. I will send you a
check.”

“I can’t
bear to look at this. Make it go away,” the Rapidly Shrinking Boss
whimpered. “I want to go home. I want to forget these people and I want
that garden gnome smashed. I am the Really Big and Not Very Nice Boss. Don’t
think that you can do these three ghosts of Valentine’s Day, past, present, and
future. It will never work on me.”

Maureen
gracefully walked back to the booth and sat with the Really Big and Not Very
Nice Boss.

“You are
angry,” she said. “That is all right. It’s OK to be angry after living
with a broken heart for so many years.”

“You bet I
am angry. I am not heartbroken. I am angry because of all of the people who
take away from my importance, who don’t do the jobs that I hired them to do.
How dare they? How dare they!!!”

“There is
one more place that I need to take you. But you must be prepared. It is dark
and it is devoid of love.”

“I don’t
need love. I never needed love. Love is evil. Love is scummy. Love is…”

Maureen walked
away and George decided that the only thing that he could love was his
breakfast. It was cold.

“Waitress!”
George yelled.

The Patty
look-alike approached. “How may I help you,” she asked.

George heard his
sister’s voice. He felt angry. She had abandoned him. His sister was his best
friend and, all of a sudden, she was gone. How could she leave him like that?

“Warm up my
food,” he commanded.
“It’s
time,” Maureen said abruptly. “Now.”

The Really Big
and Not Very Nice Boss was not used to having other people order him around,
especially someone who looked like a doppelganger for his lost love. He
wondered what sort of spell he was under. Were there some secret ingredients in
those eggs? Was the coffee tainted? Also, what was going on outside with all of
that snow? The blizzard was over, according to the weather forecasters and no
more snow was predicted. Nevertheless, he got up and dutifully followed
Maureen. She opened a closet door and led him in. He was sure that he was not
going to like this. Suddenly, he had a flashback of the time that his father
made him sit in the closet for half an hour to think about his misbehavior. He
cried and cried but, later, he toughened up and he decided that his father was
very wise in his punishments. His son was to grow up and become someone who was
not influenced by emotion.

The inside of
the closet was larger than the outside. Suddenly, he realized that he had been
transported to a future time. There were strange little vehicles zipping around
in space and tiny trolley cars being pulled by pulleys on a maze of tracks.
People got on and off of those trolleys and went into buildings. He did not
recognize the architecture. It reminded me of the science fiction stories that
he had watched in the movie theater when he was a child.

A being dressed
all in black led him through the city. The being simply pointed at people and
at streets and at buildings. The being never spoke, and
George was unsure of whether the being was human or some other species. Soon,
they had walked out of the building. They were in a garden. It looked like
George’s garden but George couldn’t tell for sure. The plants were very
healthy. All of a sudden, George knew where he was. It was that garden gnome.
That evil, demonic garden gnome. It stared at George as if to say, “you
have been gone for years, but I am still here. I outlived you. What do you
think of that?”

“No!”
George screamed suddenly, as the being pulled him toward something in the
garden. A grave. His grave. He also handed George two newspapers. One was
turned to the obituary section. George read his obituary. “George, the
tycoon, has passed away at the age of 93 of a brain hemorrhage. He was said to
be the richest man in town. He grew up poor but a few lucky stock transactions
left him very wealthy. George never married and has no survivors.”

He couldn’t read
any more. No survivors. No one to remember George. His only friend was his
money. That was all. He lost his girlfriend and his sister and his parents.

Then he saw the
second newspaper. It was dated 200 years after the first. George was amazed
that there were still printed newspapers that far into the future.

He read the
news. It was something about some archaeological dig that had been done near
his house and garden. Various objects had been found that told the story of a forgotten rich man who lived a long time ago. George stopped reading. He had become the
subject of an archaeological dig. His life didn’t matter.

His collection
of money didn’t matter. His head was
spinning. Where was his
guide? Why wouldn’t his
guide speak to him? George remembered
Maureen and Patty. He sank to his
knees and wept. These were the first tears that he had shed since his father
locked him in the closet. He had never
cried for Maureen and Patty. But now, he wept the tears that had been unshed
for many years. The world spun
rapidly and it shook violently, knocking George face forward…
George was in
his own bed, in his own home. He stood up and looked at the calendar. It was
Valentine’s Day. “Was that
real or was it a dream?” On the floor, he found photographs of
Maureen and Patty and wondered where they came from.

“It must
have been real,” George said. “I have to make life right for the
Cannon Man and his family. I need to bring them the best Valentines ever.” He got into his
gas guzzler car and went to the supermarket and bought the fixings for a
fabulous dinner, together with Valentines and a shiny new garden gnome. He then
drove over to the home of the Cannon Man. The Cannon Man said, “Sir, you
can only fire me once.”

“I’m not
here to fire you. I’m here to give you a great job. Do you know how to take
care of gardens and to grow plants in a greenhouse?”

“Why yes. I
do.”

“Well,
then, you’re hired. May we celebrate with your family? I have no one any more.
I want to bring you and your family a special Valentine’s Day.”

The Cannon Man
looked at the Really Big and Suddenly Nice Boss. He looked confused and somewhat mistrustful. “What happened? You are a
totally new man.”
“It’s a
long story,” said George. He handed the surprised Cannon Man a garden
gnome and then walked into the house and into his first Valentine’s Day for
many years.

5 thoughts on “A Valentine’s Day Carol”

  1. I started crying about 1/3 of the way through the story. A lovely story inspired by Dickens. And I’m so happy I’ve never mistreated my garden gnome.

  2. Oh my god, that was amazing!!! Your writing is exquisite. Might you publish somewhere someday? Thanks so much for sharing it! <3

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