by Dawn Knox
Previously: As Head Gnome, Bartrum, must oversee the programme of entertainment for the year. Halloween is coming. But Bartrum hates all things ghoulish. Jubbly, the transgender, transnationality Gnome, on the other hand is keen to party!
There had been no intention to overthrow Jubbly from his newly-appointed position as Garden Party Committee Chairman.
It had just happened.
Although anyone who’d listened to an irate Jubbly after the event could have imagined plots, espionage and even weapons had been involved.
But they hadn’t.
In fact, the committee members were happy with Jubbly as chairman and as an important party was coming up, they were more than content their necks weren’t on Bartrum’s block. For once, Crispin had managed to escape being selected for one of the Head Gnome’s so-called ‘top jobs’. He’d been suffering from gastroenteritis when Bartrum had called the meeting to select the party committee, although it was unlikely that would have been sufficient to stop Bartrum from selecting him. It had been Sylvester who’d saved Crispin’s bacon although arguably it had been Sylvester who’d caused the food poisoning in the first place by cooking out-of-date bacon. When Bartrum had asked for Crispin to step forward as chairman of the committee, Sylvester had announced he was indisposed and suffering from gangrene.
Bartrum who was rather squeamish, felt the need to sit down and while he was erasing from his mind, visions of a mutilated Crispin with body parts dropping off, Jubbly had volunteered.
Bartrum picked four others to assist Jubbly, informed them their first event would be a Halloween Party in a week’s time and closed the meeting. The less he thought about Halloween, the better. Blood and guts were definitely not his thing.
Jubbly had obviously given a great deal of thought to the party, judging by his suggestions.
“Well, what d’you think?” he’d asked, surprised at the silence which met his ideas.
Klaus, the Bavarian Gnome, looped his thumbs behind the braces of his lederhosen and stood up slowly, “Speaking for myself, I’m wondering whether people might be confused by having a Mexican theme for a Halloween Party—"
“What’s a Mariachi band anyway?” trilled the Wooden Robin.
Nina the Ninja was too busy to reply. She was sliding her chair away from Doggett, the Fishing Gnome, who kept pressing his leg up close to hers.
“But a themed party is so much fun,” said Jubbly amazed at the lack of support.
“Yes, indeed,” said Klaus, “but doesn’t a Mexican Halloween Party include two themes? Isn’t that slightly unnecessary?”
“We’ll have a show of hands,” declared Jubbly who wasn’t ready to give up, “All those in favour of a Mexican Halloween Party, raise your hands—” He raised both of his.
Klaus’s hands still gripped his braces, the Wooden Robin didn’t have any hands to raise and Nina’s hands were on top of Doggett’s, prising them off her knee.
“Stabbed in the back by my own committee!” said Jubbly, picking up his sombrero. He jammed it on his head and stalked off muttering under his breath about mutiny and revolution.
For a second, no one spoke.
“Oh dear, I didn’t mean to upset him,” said Klaus, as all eyes looked to him to chair the meeting.
And so, the committee led by Klaus, organised the Halloween Party, with the usual crab-apple bobbing, chocolate fountain filled with strawberry jam to look like blood and all the other gruesome things one associates with a horror-packed evening.
The popularity of a movie that had been shown on the outdoor screen in the Sunken Garden a few weeks before, ensured that zombie outfits were the costume of choice on the night. Both Crispin and Sylvester had both chosen a zombie theme and once they’d discovered this, they’d both tried to outdo each other with makeup and latex rubber glue which when applied thinly, passed for flaky, wrinkly skin. There was no doubt that of all the zombies at the party, Sylvester and Crispin were the most zombied-up and were widely predicted to win the Best Costume Prize which would be awarded by Bartrum at the end of the evening.
Jubbly had registered his protest by arriving as a Mexican zombie and he spent the evening canvassing for votes. If he were to win the best costume, it would be one in the eye for Uber-Kommandant Klaus Bossy Boots and his plain and boring party. But he had strong competition in Crispin and Sylvester, whose latex glue seemed to flake off on demand and there was plenty of demand to see the Elf-Zombies shed sheets of skin.
Bartrum, as Count Dracula, and Mrs Bartrum, as Mrs Dracula, mingled with the guests, while Bartrum congratulated himself on having had the foresight to delegate the organisation of the party. He was counting the minutes until it was over. The sight of blood, even if it was strawberry jam, was so distasteful he’d quite lost his appetite and he avoided the melon ball ‘eyeballs’, the jelly ‘worms’ and the very popular witch’s brew.
He was one of the very few who didn’t sample the delights of the Wooden Robin’s witch’s brew punch and in fact, would never sample its delights, because, after the party, the Wooden Robin was very hazy about the recipe. He had vague memories of pouring in wine and rum and of having the idea of adding a dash of vodka but he didn’t remember much after that. This was possibly due to the trauma of what happened next. Whilst adding a drop of vodka, he’d slipped and by the time he’d surfaced and swum to the edge of the bowl, the vodka bottle was empty. Getting out of the bowl had been tricky and he kept slipping back into the punch, hampered by his sodden, woollen socks. Fearing for his life, he gave one super-avian thrust, propelling himself up and out of the punch bowl—and out of his socks, which sank to the depths, along with several wooden feathers.
Once he’d got his breath back, he tasted the punch. It was nuclear strength, but he wasn’t too worried, he could fix that. He hopped barefoot to the Kitchen Garden and dug up a few potatoes. If raw potato slices were capable of absorbing excess salt from soup, several raw potatoes in the punch would soak up excess vodka easily. It occurred to him later he ought to have washed and possibly peeled the potatoes first but by that time it was too late.
Klaus hadn’t sought the position of Garden Party Committee Chairman after Jubbly had flounced out of the meeting, but having had the responsibility thrust upon him, he was going to do the best he could. He wasn’t a Bavarian Gnome for nothing. Organisation and efficiency were in his DNA. And so far, the party was going exactly as planned. Although it occurred to him that it might actually be going a bit better than planned. People weren’t having a good time—they were having a fabulous time and the events weren’t going well, they were going brilliantly—one could almost say riotously.
As a dedicated beer drinker, Klaus hadn’t sampled the punch and by the time he got anywhere near it, he had more pressing matters to deal with. One young Zombie Gnome had a vampire Elf in a headlock and was demanding he returned the potato. As far as Klaus knew, there hadn’t been any potato dishes at the party but before he could break up the fight, shrieks from the ‘blood’ fountain called him away. Another fight had broken out but this time, it was a food fight and it appeared to have been initiated by Jubbly. Scooping up handfuls of strawberry jam, he pelted Crispin, who was shrieking with laughter and rather than ducking, he was deliberately blocking the sticky missiles with his body, amidst cries of encouragement from onlookers.
Klaus wasn’t sure what to do. No one was getting hurt and other than Jubbly’s pride, which was definitely hurting, everyone seemed to be having a great time. Garden Ornaments clapped him on the back and congratulated him on such a splendid event and a few asked if there was more punch as it seemed to have run out and if there wasn’t any, were there any more of those potatoes, which Doggett explained, packed quite a punch on their own. Nina the Ninja, who’d been dancing with Doggett thought this was hilarious and only stopped laughing when a bout of hiccups threatened to choke her.
This is madness, thought Klaus, it’s as if everyone is wildly drunk but they can’t possibly be.
Bartrum, who also hadn’t sampled the Wooden Robin’s witch’s brew punch, was stunned at the success of the party. He checked his watch, wishing the whole thing was over. Blood and guts were all very well in the right place which according to Bartrum, was inside a body and completely out of sight. He was also very surprised to find everyone including Mrs Bartrum, in a very excitable state. Even the usually steady and reliable Crispin was behaving in a most unseemly manner and to make things worse, Bartrum was almost certain Crispin was going to win the Best Costume Award. And it would be Bartrum’s job to shake his hand and pin the winner’s badge to his chest, all of which sent shudders of revulsion up his spine. If Crispin hadn’t been so lively and loud, Bartrum would have been convinced he was still suffering from gangrene as there seemed to be a lot of dead skin hanging from his body and what’s more, it looked as though gangrene was contagious, because that dizzy Elf, Sylvester, seemed to have caught it from him, judging by the sheets of skin hanging from his body.
At 10.55 pm, Bartrum blew his whistle. Enough was enough. And Bartrum had decidedly had enough. He found Klaus, the only other Garden Ornament at the party who wasn’t behaving like a turbo-charged teenager, and was informed, as suspected, that Crispin had won the Best Costume Award. Bartrum was surprised to see how disturbed Klaus was about the liveliness of the guests and he kept apologising. Perhaps Bavarians were less excitable than Gnomes of other nationalities. He would ask Klaus tomorrow when all this tomfoolery was over. In the meantime, he had a badge to pin on a Zombie’s chest and a gangrenous hand to shake.
His stomach looped the loop.
“Poor Bartwum,” said Wendy sympathetically as she helped Sylvester and Crispin home. With her witch’s hat on, she loomed even larger than normal over the two Elves, who were giggling hysterically.
“Weally!” she said crossly “You two are dithgwatheful!” which sent the Elves into paroxysms of laughter.
“Although,” she added with a smile, “it was funny when Bartwum pinned that badge to your shirt.”
Crispin was doubled over, holding his stomach and Sylvester was now on his back with his legs waving in the air, as they remembered what had happened.
With a look of extreme distaste, Bartrum had shaken Crispin’s fingertips, then quickly wiped the flaky, fake skin off his hand on his cloak and once he’d stopped gagging, he reached forward to take a piece of Crispin’s tattered shirt. Crispin had zombied it up so much, there was more tatter than shirt and Bartrum was struggling to find enough fabric to pin the badge to, without touching the sloughing, bloody expanse that was Crispin’s chest. Finding a scrap of material large enough, he inserted his fingers behind it and in so doing, revealed a large lump of strawberry jam from the earlier ‘blood’ fountain fight.
“Ooh, look!” Jubbly had cried, “That strawberry looks just like a heart!”
Bartrum had pulled his hand away so sharply, he disturbed the last remaining threads of adhesion between Crispin’s chest and the latex rubber zombie skin.
“Ooh, look, his chest’s fallen off,” squeaked the Wooden Robin, as the fake skin came away in a large sheet, “and his heart’s fallen out,” he added as the strawberry fell with a plop onto Bartrum’s foot. There was a rapturous round of applause but Bartrum was unaware of the noise.
“Mind your stomach doesn’t fall out!” shrieked Sylvester as Crispin collapsed next to him, barely able to breathe for the laughter.
“You two are now being very thilly. I’m going home. It’th after my bedtime,” said Wendy stamping her foot.
Crispin hadn’t realised it was possible to laugh any louder or harder. But apparently, it was. So, he did.
After some time, their muscles could take no more and they managed to stand up and stagger along, arm in arm.
“I think we’re losht,” said Crispin as they crossed the Ornamental Bridge for the third time.
“Yesh,” agreed Sylvester, “How about a shwim?” he said pushing Crispin off the bridge, forgetting their arms were still linked.
“Noooo!” said Crispin as they both sailed through the air.
The cold water sobered them up quickly and the remnants of the latex glue floated off to be found by Mr Po Lin on his next Garden Inspection. The Gardener decided to keep it to himself that on Halloween, not only had he heard unworldly sounds coming from the Garden but that he’d found evidence that an enormous beast had shed its skin. He dared not imagine what it was nor what it had metamorphosed into.
“We’d better get home to bed,” said Crispin, whose teeth were chattering with cold. The hilarity was rapidly being replaced by a thumping headache and hypothermia. Sylvester agreed. He was similarly subdued and cold.
Suddenly, from the undergrowth, there was a noise so terrible, that both Elves froze in horror.
“Run!” shouted Sylvester.
“What is it?”
“It must be the Beast. I saw it in a film and it sounded just like that! It’s half-wolf, half-bear, half-puma and half-raccoon—” gasped Sylvester
Both Elves fled in terror.
Crispin was fumbling with the front door handle by the time he had a chance to think. Such a beast would indeed be loud, scary and enormous but it was also a mathematical impossibility.
And so, the reputation of the terrifying Halloween Beast, prowling in the woods, roaring ferociously as it shed its skin and metamorphosed into something even worse, was born and grew exponentially.
Not everyone was dismayed by the appearance of such a horrifying chimaera. In his capacity as Guardian of the Garden, Bartrum expressed his reluctance at cancelling next year’s Halloween Party and imposing a curfew but as he told everyone, “Needs must.” With such a dreadful creature on the loose, he couldn’t take any chances. He then resisted the urge to click his heels in the air. Yes, Bartrum was very pleased.
Jubbly was also very pleased when he learned that next year, Bartrum wanted him to organise a daytime Mexican Fiesta just after Halloween to make up for the lack of celebration.
The Garden Ornaments were pleased at the thought of a celebration and Doggett offered to hypnotise the Wooden Robin to see if he could remember the recipe of his wonderful punch as he thought that with a splash of Tequila, it might be considered very Mexican.
Wendy was also pleased. Not because of the prospect of a fiesta the following year but simply because her new, black cat, Trilby had come home. It was a shame he hadn’t been able to accompany her to the party as the witch’s black cat but he was home now. And a cat is for life, not just for Halloween.
Probably the Garden Ornament who was the most pleased was Trilby. He’d had a dreadful few days and had stared into the jaws of death. It had all started with that piece of bacon he’d found near where those dreadful Elves lived. He was beginning to wonder if they’d poisoned it deliberately. The stomach cramps had been so severe, he’d been unable to leave his secret hideaway in the hollow near the Ornamental Bridge. Trilby was a very polite cat and had been upset that the natural acoustics of the hollow, amplified his moans and the sounds of his body’s attempts at evacuating the dodgy bacon but he was certain no one would have heard him over the sounds of the party. But then those two evil Elves had come by, wailing, shrieking and scaring him witless. Still, he was well now, although he’d neither forgiven nor forgotten those two miscreants and he had a long memory, which was lucky as he still had eight and a half lives left.
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
Chapter 3 -The Sweet Smell of Success - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-3-sweet-smell-of.html
Chapter 4 – A Visit from Peggy the Pram - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-4-visit-from.html
Chapter 5 – Nightly Disturbances - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-5-nightly.html
Chapter 6 – Just Desserts - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-6-just-desserts.html
Chapter 7 – A Little Girl at Large - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/06/the-crispin-chronicles-7-little-girl-at.html