Previously: Bartrum, the Head Gnome, has received a letter from OFSGAR, the Office of Standards in Gardens, informing him there will be a Garden inspection. Failure is not an option, so Bartrum calls a meeting…
Gusty Bob arrived at the meeting and made for the small gap between the bottoms in the back row. There was no way he could fit into such a tiny space, even with the aid of the slimy mucous that covered his ample proportions but he’d noticed that in similar situations, space seemed to magically appear and on this particular occasion, he was confident the chaps would make room for him without any fuss.
At the right-hand side of the gap that was Gusty Bob’s intended insertion point, Sylvester spotted the Stone Toad and went rigid. He shuffled to the left to fill the gap, then thought better of it as a long leg and webbed foot shot past his shoulder. He’d been too slow and the only option was to slide rapidly to the right–into Crispin.
“What are you doing?” Crispin yelped as he was shunted into the very large, very solid and very tattooed Gnome next to him.
Gusty Bob took advantage of the confusion and slipped into the tiny gap that had expanded when the frantic shuffling of bottoms, resulted in two people at the end of the row being forced off their Toadstools. There was now sufficient room for his width, including a buffering zone on either side. As he settled down, Crispin took in a lungful of air to compensate for being winded by Sylvester and simultaneously, the Stone Toad lived up to his moniker–Gusty Bob. Noxious gas was ejected from both ends of his slimy, amphibian body, filling the air with the fumes of decaying flies, worms and other rotting detritus.
Crispin coughed and spluttered. Others further away giggled and tittered, confident the evil cloud would have dissipated before it reached them.
“Order! Order!” Bartrum banged a rock with his gavel and scowled at the rows of assembled Garden Ornaments.
Gnomes, Elves and assorted animals and birds snapped to attention as Bartrum adjusted his glasses, placed his hands on his hips and scowled at them all.
“This sort of behaviour is typical of your lack of commitment to the aestheticalness of this Garden…”
“Ees what?” whispered Sylvester.
“He means the Garden is a shambles,” replied Crispin.
Bartrum adjusted his hat and carried on.
“This cannot be allowed to continue. Rules will be enforced…”
“And I will be closely watching the situation…”
“You and whose army?” muttered Sylvester.
“…assisted by my newly-appointed cohort of monitors…” continued Bartrum.
The audience sat up as one, eyes swivelling, looking for anyone who might be an informer.
“…who I will now appoint,” finished Bartrum.
Suddenly, everyone seemed to find their feet completely fascinating. Everyone in the back row found Sylvester’s pom-poms absolutely absorbing.
“You, you and you!” said Bartrum, pointing out two unfortunate Gnomes and the Wooden Robin “And you and you!” he said, indicating Gusty Bob and Crispin. The Toad’s sharp intake of breath eventually had to find release but by this time, Crispin was holding his nose.
The gap between Gusty Bob and the other ‘volunteers’ increased imperceptibly until Bartrum, who was issuing orders, found he was having to turn his head from side to side to keep everyone in view.
The gap stabilised.
“Correct Garden Uniforms must be worn. With immediate effect. So far today, I’ve seen Gnomes wearing raincoats, sombreros, flipflops. This will not do. Everyone needs to be in regulation uniform. And you!” he pointed at the Wooden Robin, “You’re wearing odd socks.”
The Wooden Robin blushed, “I’m s…so sorry, I got confused…”
“And as for that green bib…”
The Wooden Robin looked down at his chest in horror.
“Well, just do your best…” said Bartrum, faltering slightly when he saw a fat tear roll down the stricken robin’s wooden beak.
He turned back to the others. “You will check that all equipment is in working order. Doggett’s fishing rod no longer has a hook. What’s the point of a Fishing Gnome who can’t catch fish? And if Perkins thinks it’s funny he’s swapped his wheelbarrow for a toy tractor, then you need to convince him otherwise. Understood?”
The team of monitors nodded and Gusty Bob let loose a loud belch.
Bartrum winced and the gap widened once more between the Toad and the other monitors.
“You have until full moon to ensure this Garden is once more a place of aestheticalation.”
“Ees what?” whispered the Wooden Robin.
“Clean and tidy,” whispered Crispin.
Three days later, Bartrum assembled his monitors, “It appears the smartening up of this Garden is quite beyond you! I see very few improvements…and I’m not happy. I’m not happy at all. Why are there still Gnomes out of uniform? I’m thinking specifically of Jubbly.”
Crispin took one step forward and three sideways, away from Gusty Bob. “Well, sir, I asked him to change back into uniform but he said he was having an identity crisis and that he had to find his inner self. Once he’d done that, he’d wear whatever was appropriate.”
“I see, well that explains the curling tongs and can of hairspray, I suppose. I have to say his feminine side seems to be winning. But that doesn’t explain the sombrero…”
“He feels he may be a Mexican trapped in the body of a woman, trapped in the body of a Gnome…”
“Well, he, she or Gonzalez had better make up their mind very soon because OFSGAR inspectors are due by the end of the month and you know what happens if they put you in special measures…” he paused dramatically.
Everyone looked at him blankly.
“You obviously don’t realise the OFSGAR inspectors have the powers to close us down!”
They all gasped in horror. Gusty Bob’s breakfast of squashed earthworm and mouldy bread had been fermenting nicely within his batrachian intestines and the resulting methane had inflated them almost to breaking point, so a gulp of air had been most unwise. His internal gaseous pressure became critical. Something had to give…and it gave, resulting in a prolonged, thunderous blast that manifested itself as a green haze that floated upwards into the morning air. Everyone fled.
They reconvened at the bottom of the Garden after it had been ascertained the noxious cloud was floating away from them and towards the Old Priory.
“No need to prolong this meeting,” said Bartrum, nervously eyeing Gusty Bob, “I have only one thing more to say. Since you seem incapable of enforcing the rules, I will bring in a trouble-shooter…”
Crispin’s elation was short-lived. Rather than being dismissed as he’d hoped, he discovered he was now part of a disciplinary force, under the direct command of a newly-appointed leader.
“Who is the trouble-shooter?” Crispin asked nervously, hoping Bartrum wasn’t going to promote one of them, and more specifically, not him.
Bartrum tucked his briefcase securely under his arm, glanced anxiously at Gusty Bob and rocked onto the balls of his feet as if about to take flight.
“Susan,” he said and hurried away with a purposeful stride.
“Susan?” asked the small Gnome, “Who’s Susan?”
A shiver ran down Crispin’s spine as he realised who Bartrum meant.
The shock had been so great, it momentarily deprived him of his senses or he’d have followed Bartrum and escaped before Gusty Bob got wind of the trouble-shooter's identity and particularly before they all got wind of Gusty Bob.
Instead, he blurted out, “Oh no, Bartrum’s put Spiteful Sue in charge!”
The Wooden Robin’s knees gave way. “No!” he wailed, as he sank to the earth.
“What’re we going to do?” asked the small Gnome.
“We’re not going to panic, that’s what we’re going to do,” said Crispin, ushering everyone away from the Toad, “although you know what Spiteful Sue did to Gusty Bob the last time she was here.”
Thankfully, Crispin, the two Gnomes and the Robin made it into the begonias before Gusty Bob realised what was going on.
“No!” he yelled. The green cloud floated up into the plum tree, searing the leaves in its path.
“It’s just as well Bob’s not here,” said Crispin, “he gets much too agitated when the subject of Spiteful Sue comes up. I know cats have a good sense of smell and I can see why Gusty Bob might annoy her but what she did with that cork was really quite unnecessary.”
“This is all going to end in tears,” said the Robin, who was fulfilling his own prophecy. He wiped his beak noisily. “As soon as Spiteful Sue turns up, Gusty Bob will be so nervous he won’t be able to control himself.”
“I hope she doesn’t arrive before that green gas cloud disappears or she might do what she threatened the last time she was here,” said the small Gnome.
“What was that?” asked the Robin.
“She said his aroma upset her feline sensibilities and if he couldn’t control his emissions, she’d fit him with a catalytic converter.”
“Feline sensibilities,” said Crispin thoughtfully, “Hmm, I wonder…”
Later that evening, Crispin found Gusty Bob hiding under an upturned flowerpot. They talked far into the night and finally, Crispin handed the Toad a large bag. He took it, saluted gravely and shuffled off into the begonias.
“Four,” corrected the Wooden Robin.
“Three,” said the small Gnome firmly. “No one in this Garden takes a Robin wearing odd socks seriously…”
“Enough!” said Crispin, “If my plan works, Spiteful Sue won’t be needed, the task force can disband and the Garden can go back to normal.”
“We’re listening,” said the small Gnome, elbowing the Robin out of the way.
“Congratulations,” said Bartrum shaking his head in wonder, “I don’t know how you did it, especially with Susan disgracefully deserting us.” He beamed at everyone. “But, we are finally ready for any nit-picking OFSGAR inspectors. By the way, you all look resplendable!”
“Re what?” asked the Robin.
“He’s saying we look nice,” said Crispin.
All it had taken was a length of rubber tubing, a bottle of water and instructions to Gusty Bob ‘to infuse the water with his unique fragrance’ and once he had done that, he was to go on a brief holiday. Crispin had liberally sprinkled drops from the bottle of noxious liquid around the Garden and shortly after, Spiteful Sue had complained bitterly and flounced off.
In a hastily-convened meeting, of all the Garden Ornaments except Bartrum, Crispin pointed out that observing the Head Gnome’s strict rules–just for a day or two–would be advantageous. Thankfully, everyone cooperated and even Jubbly agreed that he could explore his Gnome persona for a few days and wear regulation Gnome clothes. After all, as he pointed out in a heavy Mexican accent, what he wore as underwear, was his own affair.
It had seemed a shame to waste what was left of the specially prepared liquid they’d used to repel Spiteful Sue, so despite a few complaints from some of the Ornaments, Crispin dripped some around the Garden and warned everyone, if asked by the inspectors, to blame the pig farm a few miles away. The inspection had been carried out with great haste and there was no time to probe deeply into the lace peeping out of the bottom of Jubbly’s jerkin, nor of the pair of pom-pom slippers that were lying discarded beneath a hedge and had been missed during Bartrum’s pre-inspection inspection
Yes, a disaster had been averted and it was all thanks to Crispin. Now the whole Garden could relax. The early morning sun was barely peeping over the top of the hedge when Crispin opened one eye. Today would be a day of rest he decided and he turned over for another snooze. For the first time in ages, he could relax. Spiteful Sue had gone, Gusty Bob was back from his ‘holiday’, the OFSGAR inspectors had awarded the Garden an outstanding report and Bartrum was off to stay with his cousin for a week. There was just the problem of the revolting smell that hung over the Garden but the weather forecast was looking promising. With relief, Crispin informed everyone that the wind would be blowing in a north-easterly direction, away from the Garden.
Crispin didn’t allow himself to feel guilty, after all, it wasn’t his fault the stink was heading towards the pig farm and anyway, he consoled himself, it wasn’t like they’d notice anything amiss.
About the author
Dawn’s two previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ both published by Chapeltown Publishing.
The Crispin Chronicles
Links to the previous chapters:
Chapter 1 – Her Ladyship’s Garden - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/04/the-crispin-chronicles-1-her-ladyships.html
Chapter 2 – The Letter from OFSGAR - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/The%20Crispin%20Chronicles%20-%20The%20Letter%20from%20OFSGAR