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The Gnome Maker
To everyone he met he was Mr. McClusky, a well shaven ex-army officer who was known for never smiling. On the other hand, she was known as May, Martha or Martha Layne; she didn’t work and was best known as Alan’s sister, because her brother had lived with her since their parents’ death.
May met Mr. McClusky in an army reunion after the general’s vacation; they spent hours talking and, on the same day, decided to get married.
For the first time in October 1975, the well shaven man held his son, Roger. The kid grew up in a strict house full of rules. He would spend hours hidden in the yard looking at the birds and imagining what they were trying to tell him. That was when he felt good, as his father couldn’t complain about it, or could he?
One day, when Roger was five years old, his father took him to the shopping mall. He asked Roger to wait while he looked for a new wallet. Roger stood near the shop and looked carefully at each person’s face. None seemed interesting to him. He didn’t really like people, as he thought they looked all the same. One of them entered a toy store, so he followed her in and found a nice toy horse on display. The horse seemed to be calling him by name, asking him to play with it. He felt like he had to, he wanted to. Roger climbed on the horse’s legs and sat on it. Everything started to move around him, the horse would take him somewhere else, some place he didn’t know. But right at the beginning of his dreamy ride he heard a noise from behind. He glimpsed at it and everything became black. He felt someone taking him from the horse almost delicately. Roger didn’t make any effort to jump off the stranger’s arm, why would he? Maybe it was just another magical horse trying to take him to a fabulous place…
Mr. McClusky banged the phone back on its base again. It was the sixth time he had called the police that night. “When I was younger it was much easier! We called them and they solved our problem. If I wait a little longer I’ll do it myself!” he yelled kicking his old boots on the floor. “Be patient honey… sniff… they will help us…,” Martha cried desperately while looking at her son’s photographs in a blue photo album.
Meanwhile, the little boy cried in a small old bed roughly placed in a corner of a tiny grey painted room protected by a metal door. As Roger looked at the door sparks seemed to fill in the floor with light. Were they trying to solder the door shut forever? Or were they trying to open it? An aggressive kick at the door answered his question. The police knew where they were hidden, so they had to hide somewhere else. One of the men held him by the hand and ran to a little shack behind the house they were in. The man had short hair and wore a black zipper jacket; he was tall and had two small guns in his pockets.
After three tiring hours the man took Roger to the location where they had been before. He thought the police would never look for them in the same place.
Roger couldn’t feel anything in that room, he gave up on crying, for it made him feel tired. He spent hours on the bed, looking at the ceiling as if it was a mysterious well-made painting. He could even see the wind dancing around the lamp, which was turned off… He definitely needed to go home.
“He is a good man, I known him from school; I will save his son as soon as possible. Just listen carefully to the phone calls; some neighbors said there is still some movement in the house, I think they are still there. Well, just leave it all to me, Desmond,” Officer Arnold said holding a cup of tea.
Officer Arnold was a fat old respected policeman who had studied with Mr. McClusky. Arnold remembered Mr. McClusky didn’t really chat with the other students, but once he saved Arnold from a dangerous dog, so Arnold was eternally grateful to him.
Arnold turned the key to open his car door. The blue car flew from that alley.
The tall man looked through a little hole in the wall. “They are coming!” The other man picked the boy up and tried to run to the back door, but it was locked. Arnold kicked the door in and released the heartless dogs. Arnold arrested them and took the boy back home.
When he arrived, Roger stepped in his yard and watched the car get further from there. He turned his face and glimpsed at his yard gnome. It seemed to blink at him. Roger got scared and turned away from it. Then he looked again and heard what seemed to be a voice, but its mouth wasn’t moving. The gnome told him things about the sky, the blue sky full of white blurs. Roger wanted to get in the house, but the gnome wouldn’t let him. “Excuse me, Mr., but I want to see mommy and daddy.” Roger ran back home. As he opened the door, he saw his pale mother listless in her armchair, drowning in the deepest depths of her salty tears. “Mommy! What happened?!” she ignored him, it was too deep. “Mom!” cried Roger while he shook her desperately…
On Monday morning he walked quietly to school holding his mother’s hand;, she was dressed in black, which seemed to suit the foggy day perfectly. Roger used to love school, like most kids his age, but now he couldn’t feel anything at all.
During recess Roger decided to play football. He tried to kick the ball when suddenly another boy kicked his leg. Roger fell on the floor. It ached a lot; it felt like everything was fading in and out slowly, until it faded completely…
As Roger opened his eyes, everything around seemed clearer, he was in a hospital bed, his mother stared cheerfully at him. “Oh, I’m glad you are up, I’ll get me some tea.” He closed his eyes for a while, when he opened them, he saw a funny faced boy his age staring curiously at him. “Who are you?” Roger asked “Billy Boy, yes… That’s my name…!” Billy answered and was excited about his name, as if he had just chosen it. Roger liked him. They had a talk, Billy was funny, Roger didn’t feel that well recently.
Roger heard the door opening and looked at it; his mother came in. He wanted to introduce his new friend to her, but he wasn’t there anymore! He must have gone to the bathroom…
Time passed by quickly. Billy would always convince Roger that life could not depend on others because there were few good people in the world. Maybe Billy was right, it was people who kidnapped him, who broke his leg and killed his father… But Billy was different… He grew up, and soon he was twenty seven years old.
The executive waited patiently in the elevator. He looked at the mirror. “You’ll get the promotion,” his friend said, touching his little beard. Roger walked through the hallway to his desk without saying a word. He always had his head down; it was his shield against any “Hello!” that someone could say.
Billy sat beside him, no one seemed to mind the fact Billy didn’t work there, which was good, because Billy helped Roger.
Mr. Syd Manson called Roger to his office. “Promotion time!” Billy said, as Roger got up. Billy followed him to his boss’ office and, as usual, Roger opened the door for Billy, who stood up next to the door, as there was only one chair.
“Well, well, well…” Syd said seeming tired, not looking at Roger’s eyes. “Every single project you coordinate…” Syd continued now with a low objective voice looking at Roger while holding a pen with two of his left hand fingers. “… is perfectly well made…” Roger smiled politely and Billy blinked at him. “…However…” Billy looked confused “…You’ll not get your promotion today. You can’t be a manager if you can’t handle working in a team or even talking your colleagues!” Roger’s hands closed in anger, his sweat fell from his chin to his neck “Roger, sincerely, I think you are a good man, but…” As Syd spoke, Billy made faces to Roger. “He’s just like the others…” he whispered. “Would you look at me while I speak?” Syd said impatiently. Roger looked at him. “It’s all… Goodbye Roger…”
Both Billy and Roger got out. “Have you got your promotion, Roger?!” The brown haired manager, Julia Layne, asked smiling, as usual. “No.” Roger answered while turning his back to her. “Why is she always talking to me?” “I don’t care…” Billy answered indifferently.
The next day, Roger was distracted when suddenly, Julia appeared in front of him and said “Hello Roger and Billy, how are you guys doing?” “Fine,” Roger answered looking at the floor, but Billy didn’t answer. Julia waited a few seconds and finally said “Good!”. She continued walking. “Nobody has ever talked to me here…” Billy looked shy, Roger was surprised.
Roger opened the door; Syd said “Hello guys, can I have a particular talk with you, Billy?” Billy’s eyes got red, Roger became pale “Can I go?” Roger asked “Well… forget about it…” Syd said while getting his pen from his pocket.
At the end of the day, Julia and Syd asked Billy and Roger out. They didn’t accept at first, but after several days they did. Every Friday they went to restaurants together, but Roger would never say more than three words.
Three months passed by and Roger was getting used to these social reunions, but Billy didn’t like them.
He was getting more and more sociable until one cold evening, as Roger and Billy were walking down the street, when, in a flash, four men in black jumped in front of them out of a side-street. They jumped back scared. Nobody else was there. The four men, then, turned into four big monsters! Roger couldn’t believe his eyes. They got closer, and soon everything was black again…
A street cleaner woke Roger up at dawn. “Where are you, Billy?!” He yelled desperately with a pair of black eyes and no money in his pocket. He missed work that day, so Julia got worried. She called his house, but he wasn’t there. Syd called the police, but they had no idea of where he was.
Later that winter, Syd received a call from Yorkshire. Roger’s mother said he had moved back to his childhood home. She observed him for weeks and said he spent most of the day in bed building clay gnome sculptures and destroying them when finished. He was unrecognizable, he had a long beard and hair and his eyelashes seemed darker and bigger. His eyes looked like two withering dark flowers at night. Martha asked Syd to officially fire him, as she thought he would never be cured.
One day, Roger was in his yard, the same yard he used as his hide-out during his childhood. Now it was his homely cage. The wind blew his long dark hair while his eyes gazed at the old yard gnome that once spoke to him. The cool winter breeze made him shiver but his eyes didn’t move. He felt neither joy nor sadness; he couldn’t feel anything at all. At that moment, he wished he was a gnome, so he could just sit there in his comfortable melancholy forever.
Julia got to his house in Yorkshire with Martha’s keys. She found Roger in a corner of his room gazing at his feet. “Roger,” she said roughly. He looked at her, then she continued “Billy is gone. He didn’t care about what you would feel!” Roger didn’t move. “Did anybody else ever talk to him?” Julia inquired. “Just you and Syd.” he responded. “Did we, really?” she asked, raising her voice. “People didn’t really notice he was there…” Roger grumbled looking at his bare feet again. “Was he there?” Julia carried on. Roger sniffed. “He was!” he yelled getting up and breaking the window with his hands in anger, causing them to bleed. “Go away!” Roger said breathing in deeply with his eyes closed. Julia walked to the door.
Alone again, Roger slid down the wall and sat on the floor covered with pieces of broken glass that wounded his feet. He looked at some red pieces of glass nearby and remembered when, a long time ago, luminous sparks filled the floor with color, the same color he then saw on the floor. Was he trying to close himself up from the rest of the world forever? Or was he trying to open his mind alone?
In the hotel room, Julia, Martha and Syd decided to go back the next day to try to talk to him for the last time.
Martha opened his bedroom door and her eyes searched the place carefully. She looked back at Syd and Julia, but he wasn’t there. The room still had pieces of glass on the floor, but the blood had been cleaned. In one of the corners there was a clay gnome holding a paper scroll. Julia took it from its hands. Syd got closer to her, Martha just stood at the doorway. Julia opened the scroll revealing its content and read it out loud:
Maybe it didn’t look as clear as I wanted it to be, but I can’t handle some kind of people… You knew all the time that I wasn’t here, I never will be.
So, I decided to leave this house forever to look for an answer to my questions: Where am I? I mean, where is my head? Or is it my heart? What happened to Billy? Am I different from you people? Or am I just another one?
I know I can die before answering all my questions, but then I will have a good reason for dying. Or maybe a good reason for living… I will certainly not answer this one…
Don’t look for me
Roger McClusky Jr.
Julia gave the paper to Martha and cried while holding Syd’s hand. Martha smiled with tears falling from her eyes. She was proud of him, but why? Nobody knows. That was her last living day.
That evening, the well-shaven Mr. McClusky Jr. got on the train. He had to sell two little clay gnomes to pay for the trip and the barber. He looked at the face of each person in the station through the window. He laughed alone when that old feeling came back to him like an unsatisfied ghost would appear to his old wife: they looked all the same.