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Robert A. Mills

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The Better Angels

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

NAKED GNOMES
4/24/2009 5:32:38 AM
My friend Willy Moncrief, the effervescent Irishman, stops over once or twice a week, and he always brings a six-pack of Dortmunder’s Lite Dark Lager, all of which he drinks himself. I think he brings it because he knows I keep nothing in the house, rarely even a sociable glass of wine, but occasionally a can or two of soda pop.

“You know,” I observed, opening and pouring a Dortmunder for my guest, “this beer you’ve brought is warm?”

“Room temperature,” Moncrief replied. “All good beer should be consumed at room temperature. Nuthin’s worse than frigid hops.”

“The ads on TV say—”

“TV is wrong.” Moncrief took a healthy draught and smacked his lips. “Ah! Now that’s what I call Guinness!” I pointed to the label and reminded him it was Dortmunder’s. “Oh? Ah, yes, so ‘tis. Tastes just like Guinness! Only they don’t make a lite dark. . . . Or do they? . . . Never mind, lad—do ye have a Homeowners’ Association to contend with?”

I told him I didn’t think so. He nodded, reaching for the bottle and topping off his mug. “Notice how when it’s tepid the foam makes a nice, robust collar? . . . Does anyone in your neighborhood have any gnomes?”

“Gnomes?”

“You know . . . the little people made o’ plastic an’ pewter, cute wee ones with shovels an’ fishin’ poles, pointed hats, waterin’ cans—out on the lawn with the flamingoes an’ whirly-gigs. I have dozens of ‘em . . . an’ that’s what all the fuss’s about.”

It seemed that Moncrief, a widower who lived alone about two miles from me in a one-story condo on a small lake, received a letter from his Homeowners’ Association complaining about the gnomes. True, he did have as many as sixty of the little rascals scattered about his front and back lawn, none of them no more than eighteen inches high, and they were spaced as though tending the property. A few of them even held lanterns that actually glowed from light bulbs powered by AA batteries (he made a point of telling me the batteries were not included.)

“The Homeowners’ Association wants me to get rid of ‘em,” he said. “Their Constitution Committee says they don’t conform to the consistent beauty of our sub-division, and now they have to go. Seems somebody raised hell.”

I wondered who would do such a thing, and Moncrief, after another hefty guzzle, told me the entire story. It seems the school bus stops directly in front of his condo, depositing its young charges where they are greeted daily by half of his gnomes. I remarked that I could see nothing wrong with that.

“There is nuthin wrong with it,” Moncrief asserted, “except that three of ‘em are naked.”

“The children?”

“No, you idiot! Me gnomes! There are three of ‘em out there with nothin’ on but their Robin Hood hats. The blackguard who sculpted them neglected to paint blue pants and red jackets on ‘em—he left nuthin but chubby flesh-colored gnome bodies happily dancin’ about in their birthday suits without even up-curled yellows boots! I thought they looked fine, but the Constitution Committee’s up in arms!”

I asked Moncrief what he was going to do about it. “Have me another lite dark, I think.” I told him I was afraid the gnomes would have to go. “All of ‘em?” I nodded, yes, probably, adding, “Homeowners’ Associations, as a rule, make no compromises. Once a gnome has crossed the line, they’re all suspect. Better you make a clean breast of it, so to speak.”

I could tell by the look on Moncrief’s face it was not going to be easy. “I guess you’re right, lad,” he sighed—but then his eyes brightened. “Wait a bloody second!” he cried. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll bring ‘em over here an’ come visit now an’ then an’ have a pint! You got plenty o’ room in your yard—an’ no Homeowners’ Association makin’ your life miserable!”

I was aghast. “You mean the three of them—the naked gnomes?”

“No, of course not! All of ‘em! The entire menagerie! The flamingoes an’ whirly-gigs, too! You know as well as me once the Constitution Committee gets their hooks into you, they won’t rest ‘til you’re reeled in an’ ready for guttin’! I’ll put the boys in me pickup truck an’ have ‘em here before sunset!”

I eyed the diminishing six-pack of Dortmunder’s. Temptation began to overwhelm me.


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