Three different tales centered on the Winter solstice
Approximately 1000 words
A Solstice Gnome
The twinkle of lights and the pine scent from the Christmas tree made Mandy’s chin tremble. Four days to Christmas, and her life was in tatters. Just yesterday, she’d found her husband Sam and her now-ex-best-friend Lola having sex in the upstairs bedroom. Now they were gone, and she was alone.
The doorbell chimed, and she glanced at the clock. After 6PM. It better not be Sam, begging forgiveness. She gulped down the last of her her gin and tonic, the third of the day, and headed to the door.
A package, about 18 inches on a side, rested on the porch. No address, just a label that read “OPEN NOW. HANNAH.” That would be her crazy, pagan sister. She sighed and hefted the box, grunting at its weight. The damned thing started to buzz.
She lugged it to the kitchen and dumped it on the counter. It continued to buzz, and a high-pitched voice muttered nonsense words from inside.
Maybe it was a talking Santa. She poured a fresh G&T, fished a dirty butter knife from the sink, and used it to unseal the package. A featureless, black metal box rested inside, along with a key and a folded note that read:
Mandy, I know what Sam did. My little friend will help you. Keep him out of the sunlight—it turns him to stone. Hannah.
She turned the metal box over and found a keyhole. Whatever was inside thumped again and said, “Hou op, idioot!”
She snapped, “I am not an idiot.”
“Why didn’t you say you spoke English? If you’re not an idiot, let me out.”
She frowned. “Shut up and let me think.”
“Your species is crap at thinking. Let me out, and I’ll think for you.”
What the hell. Fortified by another gulp from her G&T, she turned the key. A door opened and a tiny figure hopped onto the kitchen counter. It stood about ten inches tall and swept a cone-shaped red hat onto its head. It had a white beard and wore lederhosen, like a garden gnome.
“Dank je.” It stretched, then looked around the kitchen. “Nice place you’ve got here.” Its beady blue eyes lingered on her G&T
Panic jittered down Mandy’s spine. She held the butter knife in both hands and said, “What are you?”
“Call me Ismael.” He chortled, then pointed. “What are you going to do with that? Butter me to death? Idiot.”
Her face heated. “Stop calling me that.” She wished for Sam’s Glock, resting in the bedroom nightstand.
Ismael disappeared with a pop, then reappeared on the living room sofa, with Sam’s pistol gripped in his fists. “This what you were wanting? It won’t do you any good. I’m too fast for you.” Another pop, and he reappeared in front of her on the counter. “See?”
“How did you do that?” She drained her drink and fixed another.
"I exploited a tensor in the local Calabi-Yau manifold, not that an airhead like you could understand."
“What are you doing here?”
"Why, Hannah sent me, of course. Is your reading comprehension defective?" He wiggled his eyebrows and popped under the Christmas tree. “Are you married? Maybe I’m supposed to find you a mate.”
“I have a husband, may he rot in hell.”
Ismael popped back into the kitchen. “That must be it. I can send him to Niflheim in the twinkle of an eye.” He looked around. “Where is he?”
“How should I know? I kicked him out after he cheated on me.”
"Really? Were you playing cards? I can't abide a card cheat, myself. I once--"
"He slept with my best friend, you ninny."
"Oh." He blinked. "Oh! You mean they had coitus."
"Yeah. Behind my back. Lots of times. Like rabbits."
He shrugged. "I'm indifferent to where they did it or what species they chose to emulate. The important thing is that must be why I’m here: to escort him to Niflheim. Do you have a talisman of his, something to help me locate him?"
"His razor and comb are in the bathroom. Would that help? Like DNA?"
"DNA? How quaint. That will do nicely."
When Mandy retrieved Roscoe's razor and comb, Ismael was sitting on the counter, legs dangling over the edge, her G&T In both hands. The Glock rested next to him. He slurped the drink, then held out his hand. "Give to me."
He discarded the razor but sniffed at the comb. He licked it, plucked out several strands of hair, and ate them. He made a face and stuck out his tongue. "Nasty. You lived with this creature? How did you stand the taste?"
"I didn't eat him. We just lived together."
"Oh, right. I forgot your bizarre customs." He stood, held out his index finger as if pointing, and began to spin on one toe, like a tiny gnome ballerina. In seconds a dust devil whirled about him. He came to a quivering stop with his finger pointing at the corner of the living room. "Found him."
Mandy looked. "There's no one there."
That got her an eye roll. "No, not there. But in that direction. He's with someone. A female." He cocked his head as if listening. "Her name is, 'Oh Baby.' Or maybe ‘Lola.' Kind of hard to tell."
"Lola. The hell with both of them."
"You want them both to suffer in Hell?"
"Yes.” An epiphany dawned. Maybe this annoying midget could actually do something. “No. I just want to be rid of them."
He narrowed his eyes and glanced at the Glock. His grin revealed pointy teeth. "Maybe you'd like to accompany me? Help me out? Make your satisfaction more personal?"
Mandy woke the next morning, alone in her bed with a headache, an empty gin bottle, and the Glock.
She groaned and sat up. She must have blacked out. Too much gin. Her mouth felt like she'd been chewing on dirty sweat socks. Coffee. That's what she needed. She plodded to the kitchen.
A hideous clay garden gnome squatted on the counter in a beam of sunlight. Memory tickled her mind, something about a talking gnome. She must have been toasted.
The doorbell rang and she frowned. No one visited at 8 AM. When she opened the door, a pair of nondescript, dumpy-looking men wearing rumpled suits confronted her. One held up a badge and said, "We’re with the Tulsa police. We're investigating a missing person case, a Ms. Lola Chienne." He held up a plastic baggie containing a partly-burned driver’s license. "We found your husband’s ID in Ms.Chienne's apartment. Could we speak to him?"