Monday, March 28, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Eight

The palette spins off Butternut’s head and does a little glide, thumping into a tree. As the girl leans over to get it, she hears a rushing of wind in the trees. The gnome and leprechaun have moved out of sight. That wind rush, she notices, is not heralding a breeze. A breeze? She feels silly. Wasn’t she the one who pointed it out? Most the trees are not easily climbed, full of prickly needles and close-set branches. But she spots one that has potential. A firm and barkless limb juts out just at chin height. Butternut hits it at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Seven

the party is breaking up, and walking off with her things. In no hurry, it looks easy enough to catch up, Butternut puts another slice of apple in her mouth, draws the string of the pouch and drops it into the pocket of her skirt. She recaps the remaining paints, slides them into her other pocket, then, laying the palette on her head, she steps, stone by polished stone, out of the creek bed. Twice she squats delicately to keep the palette balanced while picking up a promising portrait holder. The leaf-strewn grass of the bank squishes under her hop.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Six

This bends the leprechaun forward, but he struggles with the weight and manages to lift his head, his eyelids fluttering. The fisher gnome adds to the basket the stones that have been drying on the log, then he scoops Butternut’s unopened tubes of paint into her satchel and hangs that over the leprechaun’s left shoulder. The leprechaun leans to the left, sways a moment, then regains his balance. A moan, low and deep. The fisher gnome takes the leprechaun’s right hand and begins leading him away from the creek. Butternut has been munching dried apple slices, but now she sees

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Five

of moss and grunts at feeling bare stone. He nods and picks up a stone with a red centipede curled on its damp underside. He tickles the centipede’s back. All stone and paint. The fish in the gnome’s head nibbles on a nerve and the gnome flinches. “Are you all right?” Butternut asks. “Fish,” says the fisher gnome. “There’s a storm on the mountain.” The girl is looking up toward a dark cloud that seems to be squeezed around the middle of the slope. The gnome picks up the girl’s basket and hangs it around the neck of the leprechaun.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Four

gnome licks from his wrist. The girl waves off the bota with a rueful smile. The fisher gnome sniffs the painted stone, then holds it up. “Careful, you’ll smudge the paint.” “Ain’t,” says the fisher gnome. He puts the fresh one aside and looks down the portraits lined up along the soft log. Two are of the leprechaun’s face only, three of the fisher gnome’s, one profile, one all nose, the third cartoonish. He points at that one. “Disney,” the girl acknowledges. He plucks the top stone from the ones in her basket, runs his finger over its lush pad

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Three

grasses, perhaps. Uneven. She thinks about it. Walked on. Yup. Pretty much walked all over. She turns the stone in her hand to make sure she’s incorporated its dent into the slouch of the leprechaun. “OK!” she says. The leprechaun yawns, or just lets his jaw hang, it’s hard to tell. The fisher gnome raises an iguana leather bota and squirts an eye-wateringly powerful jolt of a fermented fish and algae brew into his mouth. Taking advantage of the leprechaun’s slack maw, he squirts some into it and pushes the jaw back in place. The drops that spill out the fisher

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-Two

to a palette of pigments, stirring a little black together with much white, then dabbing at the stone to fix the fisher gnome’s beard. Butternut, a name she chose from among the dishes served in the art school cafeteria, nibbles on the tip of the brush handle and thinks about the path her life has taken. A path rubbled with stone like the one to which she applies colors, serving up a simulacrum of life. Some life. Not hers. Her life is concrete, too concrete to be pumiced down to a picture. Broken and dusty and shot through with disobedient

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty-One

contract and, perhaps, the employer. It is the middle of the night somewhere. Years have elapsed. Then contracted into a tight spiral. At one end is the revenant leprechaun wearing lederhosen. His cold limp hand is being clutched by the fisher gnome whose smile is rigid as a clock. Their portrait, stroke by stroke, is being applied to the face of a stone by the soft bristles of a paintbrush. The artist, a girl with a pronounceable name, one like “Emily,” say, though when she is doing portraits she responds only to her nom de arte, “Butternut,” touches the brush

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twenty

obedience differ in each universe; it may be, however, that when the results are collated, differences cancel themselves out. In one universe the garden gnome is more closely related to snails than to crows so eats at night. In another universe the garden gnome is a girl with an unpronounceable name wearing spikes in her hair. In a universe in which the earth is made of gold the garden gnome is also made of gold and is working with gold, which, you might note, is an unusually obedient metal. In a universe without garden gnomes a badger has eaten the

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Nineteen

producer, a uniform product. He had several promising herbs going in the garden. Under the house where the fungi flourished, fruiting bodies would erupt that offered great potential. And in the pond there were frogs that secreted will-sapping compounds and tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that, when dried and mixed with fermented algae, stank deliciously of submission. The goal wasn’t near, true, but it doesn’t pay to be in a hurry if you want to be thorough. Besides, the garden gnome’s employer had the same garden gnome in several alternate universes working on the problem. You may object that the nuances of

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighteen

to apply it to things that needed to grow far from the literal garden. What was the garden gnome to grow? A characteristic, one already well rooted in man but which the gnome’s employer wished to see burgeon like a vine, curling around and clinging, to grow stout like a tree trunk, impassive, inflexible, to grow leafy like a bush, every spot the sun reaches for reaching back, to blossom, heady aroma that banishes sense, to fruit. Obedience. The gnome had been hired to coax obedience from its present hardy but weedy natural state to a commercial form, a reliable

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventeen

the plans for the final conquest. The moon looked in at the window and saw the gnome biting his lip as he drew a line here, an angle there, as he slid the T-square along. Now, you may think the garden gnome not very bright, judging by what we’ve seen of him so far, and in this you would be largely correct. However, he had certain capacities that employers could use to their advantage. The garden gnome could arrange things so they grew. This skill came in handy in the garden, as you’d expect. It took a leap of imagination

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixteen

the soft light of the river of heaven stretched upon the gleaming grains of the stars. Slowly the fisher gnome’s scowl unknitted. This is really a good likeness of the night sky, he allowed. A streak of spark. Then another far off at the edge of the room near the door. Then a flurry. The fisher gnome smiled. A meteor shower to put me to sleep, sweet. And so he did. And dreamed of ravenous dogs gnawing on his knees. But that was toward morning. Mostly, he slept well. The garden gnome worked at his drafting table all night, redrawing

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Fifteen

the book at the garden gnome so vigorously it went wubba wubba and wubba wubba. “Wubba wubba,” repeated the garden gnome. “Wubba wubba wubba.” He mimicked so perfectly the sound the text made as it flexed that the fisher gnome thought he’d shaken the book three more times than he had. “I have the future,” said the fisher gnome again, limply. “The future.” The garden gnome sighed, a cozy murmur that made a nap seem inevitable. That night, lying in the guest bedroom, after such adventures as would make an infant chortle, the fisher gnome glared at the ceiling where

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Fourteen

“All gone,” he sang. He turned the pot upside down and shook it and a spider dropped from a web woven inside. A wind blew down from the mountains carrying the scent of parsnips and rutabagas. The brook that ran by the garden burbled its suicidal ideation, fire or ice, fire or ice. A butterfly dipped down to the daisy the bumblebee had lately abandoned and rolled out its great curl of tongue, probing for deep sweetness the bee hadn’t delved. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” the fisher gnome asked. “I have the future right here. Right here!” He shook

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Thirteen

hurrying! In order to what? I must release the fish from the fish cages before the garden gnome can stop me. The garden gnome will then resort to a fishing line, needing fish, who doesn’t need fish? The “last words” are at the garden gnome’s end of the line, not the fish end, the end with that questing hook, the hook with the promise on it. A promise, the fisher gnome reflects, with betrayal built right in. “Would you like some more tea? Madeleines?” The fisher gnome narrowed his eyes. “What are you asking?” The garden gnome tapped the teapot.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Twelve

the “too late” part, except, now that the fisher gnome is having his first sit-down with the garden gnome for many inches of the glacier, rings of the tree, layers of the alluvial fan, and, oy. The fisher gnome gobbles the madeleines and they don’t remind him of anything. Of course! The garden gnome is slow, but he must be slowed further yet, else even in his ponderousness he is as lightning to the unfavorable goal. Yes, that was what he’d thought the future meant when he came upon it in the book. The garden gnome must be prevented from

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eleven

light, or perhaps it’s the flashing scales of the trapped fish. Fish certainly have lovely, that is, “fetching” skins with those overlapping little rainbow-infused scales. And the fish trapped are for the fetching, aren’t they? This garden gnome is sure a dunderhead, the fisher gnome thinks. Nothing he could do would be on time. Unless somebody offered him some help, a hand, so to speak, a gentle hand, perhaps, so “gloved.” A tendency is a “character or quality that tends toward some result” or “gradual progress.” So, a “gloved tendency” would be gradualized gradualness. That does seem at odds with

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ten

a fisher gnome could suit up a fishing line? And I do have a way with words, if I do so say myself, the fisher gnome said to himself several times, rolling the words about on his tongue, spitting them, snorting them, yelling them to make the hills resound. If! I! Oo! Ay! Oh! I! Elf! came back the hills. I make words that last. And I’m always ready for the end of the world. I’m prepared. The “silver cages” must be fish traps. The fisher gnome didn’t know of any silver ones, but they could look silvered in dawn

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Nine

but what did it mean? The fisher gnome had, however, been delighted upon coming upon another entry. A garden gnome’s last words are worn at the end of a line fishing. That which waits is readiest when comes the collapse. The subject must release from silver cages the fetching surfaces. The garden gnome hurries, but it is too late unless the subject offers a gloved tendency. Clearly, the fisher gnome said to himself upon reading this, I am “the subject” and it is to me my little garden gnome will have to turn else be out of luck. Who but

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eight

many many entries. Under “garden gnome” there were only three. And the fisher gnome had pored over each of these before coming on this visit. The subject, living under the sway of mountains, shall eat of the sea. Another cloud will succumb to the blandishments of a solitary pass, the caresses of old verses oceans have long traded over the beaten body of earth. A garden gnome, bearing witness, will delight in flame. Nothing, however, may emerge from the cold pot but fences. The care required to maintain a field must be put aside. That was all well and good,

Monday, March 07, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seven

something with jelly pooled in the center, what looked like a brittle humped up with nuts from nine continents, and a sugar-dusted mushroom. The fisher gnome nicked a sliver from the mushroom and popped it in his mouth. He hoped it was angelic. It tasted vaguely angelic, the kind he’d seen buried after one of those fests from which angels fall, stoned on ambrosia and charged particles. Like snow. Or like neon plumes. What future would fit it? He flipped to the index. Under “angel” there were 84 entries. Under “mushroom” there were 34. Under “eat” there were. There were

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Six

dipping it. And its head. Its head fall off! Where’s the head now? I push around with the spoon but the head doesn’t come up. Mush!” The garden gnome’s chin quivered and tears swam in his eyes. Not at all wanting to observe it, the fisher gnome saw the octopus tentacles made of shortbread on the garden gnome’s plate and the damp line where the octopus’ head must have attached. He looked at his own plate with its partly nibbled madeleine. Other cookies waited on the tray, including a shortbread giraffe, a shortbread sunfish, a shortbread palm tree, more madeleines,

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Five

asps? The dogs? Which? Could it have been the Achilles tendon? That part was in the book, after all. “But that’s why I’m here!” the fisher gnome protested. “I have come to help head it off, if at all possible, or, if no can do on that, to help reconcile you. Fate is fate.” The garden gnome was trolling the bottom of his teacup with a spoon. Looking for something? It was the fisher gnome’s turn to lean forward and peer into the other’s cup. “’Snot there!” wailed the garden gnome. The fisher gnome felt queasy. “I was just dipping,

Friday, March 04, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Four

fisher gnome added, “And it’s terrible! The heavens will open and dirt will rain down instead of water. Asps will snap out of petunias. Dogs will bark backwards. But the worst of it will come to roost on your clever little cottage. A swamp monster tall as a mizzen mast, breathing green gas, will squat over your chimney and.” And what? Why was he making things up? He had the book right there. Hurriedly the fisher gnome pawed through the whisper-thin pages. “And the Achilles tendon will ache,” he finished lamely. His host moaned. That did the trick then. The

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Three

teacup, he craned his neck to see. Hot tea had slopped over into the saucer, but that was all. The garden gnome yawned. Hah ho hum. A zephyr rattled the roses. “I was saying,” the fisher gnome continued, trying to find where he’d left off, “your future you have to look forward to, it’s coming up, and, lucky you, I have right here,” he tapped the tome of futures with a round knuckle, “thumbnail sketches of the ones possible, including your very own own.” Seeing he was about to lose the garden gnome’s attention to an octopus-shaped shortbread cookie, the

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Two

de dum,” burbled the garden gnome, driving a shortbread in the shape of an octopus around his plate. The fisher gnome blinked. He remembered where he was with distaste. God and his dangers! The fisher gnome dropped three lumps of sugar into his tea, to follow the four he’d already stirred in. He clattered the spoon around so furiously the garden gnome looked up from his octopus, he’d nibbled off two of its arms and was planning to see how it got along with just six before he nibbled two more, but something was going on in the fisher gnome’s

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred One

do you think will become of you?” He gazed out upon a bumblebee grazing in a daisy that swayed and bobbed, as the bumblebee shifted its great body from foot to foot. The world once was young; a beautiful thing it was. But God was ever so easily disappointed. His anger flashed and in a fit, he battered the world with his fists. He splashed water on it from a boiling sea, melting its face. He kicked it, stomped all over it with boots of a leather of shame stitched with the stout thread of fear. “Dum de dum. Dum