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Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #1567732
A Gnome learns the downside of wasting time. REVIEWS NEEDED.
“The Gnock-Gnock Gnome”
In which Professor Proot teaches:
How to trick a Dragon
Why writers in Avalon should not write joke books
Why hard work is always better than cabbage sprouts

Have you heard the joke about Gnoyle, the Knock-Knock Gnome? No? Well sit back, and listen to one of the most famous stories in all of Avalon.
This is the tale of Gnoyle, the laziest Gnome in Avalon. While his brothers, Gnorman and Gnick, spent their days toiling in their garden, Gnoyle loafed and lollygagged. Why, next to telling a lie, loafing and lollygagging are the worst a Gnome can do. It is like an Ogre saying no to a third helping, a Witch baking a cake with no potions in the mix, or a Wizard...well, you get the idea.
You may already know this, but I will tell it anyway. Gnomes are the Greatest of Gardeners. From the smallest plot of land, a busy Gnome can grow blackberries bursting with sweetness, the most pie-perfect apples, and plump, tasty tomatoes. Even the cabbage sprouts are special, but Gnomes despise them and instead sell them to wizards and witches for their brews. Sometimes, (and this is a secret they do not want you to know,) parents looking for a way to ruin a perfectly good meal buy them.
Now, if one Gnome can grow all of that, think of what two can grow…and three—well, one can hardly imagine what wonders a triplet of tiny garden-tenders could create. Why, theirs might be the Most Wonderful Garden in Avalon if only Gnoyle were not, well, Gnoyle. Rather than dirty his hands with a rake or hoe, Gnoyle whittled away his time with a notebook and pencil. Of course, it has to be said that if he were writing a book about "The Proper Procedure for Planting Peas," or "How to Hoe a Whole Hectare," then his time would have been well spent. Even a leaflet to tell us that there are 2.47 acres to one hectare would have been helpful. Gnoyle, however, was only interested in jokes, and few things waste a writer’s time more than jotting down jokes. Gnorman or Gnick often pointed this out to him, but Gnoyle was having none of it.
“Don’t be silly,” Gnoyle would reply. “One day, I’ll be famous for my book of jokes.”
“Nobody gets famous writing books of jokes,” Gnorman and Gnick admonished. "People only get famous growing ingredients for great food. Peas and pears make a person famous. You can't eat a joke, and if you can't eat it, what good is it to you?"
Gnoyle, however, ignored them and set to filling his little notebook from cover to cover. As I have mentioned, Gnomes are quite industrious little fellows. While Gnorman and Gnick spent the spring time toiling, their garden flourished, as did the writing on the pages of Gnoyle's book.
Eventually, the days warmed and lengthened into summer and the harvest season approached. As often happened at this time of year, Gnorman and Gnick had to travel to the Dwarves to buy new tools to help gather the ripening bounty bursting from the soil of the garden. Since there was little left to do they left Gnoyle in charge, with a simple instruction:
“Make sure you water the garden every day, otherwise, we’ll have nothing but hard-biscuits to eat through the winter.”
Next to cabbage sprouts, nothing made Gnoyle's stomach churn as much as hard-biscuits, and so he agreed to water the garden.
"Every day," the brothers added.
"I heard you the first time," Gnoyle snipped, annoyed by the suggestion that he could not remember even this simple task. 
Like most writers, Gnoyle found inspiration in his surroundings. Without Gnorman and Gnick nagging him about working in the garden,  he was free to write whenever he pleased. New jokes appeared daily, jokes like: “Do you know what you get when you sit on a grape?” The answer is: “a little whine.” If that was that not to your liking, then how about this one: “How do you fix a flat pumpkin?” Why, with a pumpkin patch, of course!
Now, it would be unfair to say that Gnoyle did not water the garden; he just did not water all of it. Each morning he began the day with the intention to do as he was told but good intentions, as we all know, mean nothing without good actions. He would dutifully fill his watering can and begin at the back of the garden where the cabbage sprouts grew. Garden chores, however, were tiresome and tedious--and that is before the blisters. After emptying the last drops of water from his watering can on the plump sprouts, Gnoyle would take a break beneath the branches of a large Whispering Willow where he would scribble away. Anyone who has ever rested beneath the branches of a Whispering Willow knows that it is a place where the Drowsy Doldrums hide. Wind, passing through the droopy branches, would shake the Doldrums from their dozy-dreams to float down to Gnoyle's eyelids where they would brush them with sleep. This is how his days went, and all the while the thirsty garden wilted and crisped under the late-summer sun. 
Then, in a blink, the weeks were spent and only a day remained before the brothers would be home. Gnoyle was unconcerned. Instead, continued to snooze beneath the Whispering Willow with a pillow made from his book. He dreamed of asking Gnorman what happens when you tell an egg a joke, but before he got to the punch line he was awakened by strange voices. Peering from beneath the branches, Gnoyle looked out to see an amazing, frightful sight. There, in the middle of the garden, unaware of the melons squished and squashed beneath their feet, were two--one red, one blue--towering, fearsome, scaly Dragons.
I should tell you right now that Dragons, as a rule, do not eat Gnomes. Besides being too small for their liking, Gnomes tend get stuck in Dragons’ teeth—something they find most annoying. Gnoyle knew this but stayed where he was. Even with Dragons there are exceptions to the rules. Despite their general dislike for Gnomes as food, Dragons--especially hungry Dragons-- were known to be notorious snackers. Had you asked him, Gnoyle would have also admitted that his attitude toward work had given him tasty dimensions around the belly. He would have further admitted, though without the slightest embarrassment, that rather than being bite-sized to a Dragon, Gnoyle was now a Gnome of the two-bite variety. 
Dragons are infrequent visitors to gardens, preferring to keep to pastures and paddocks where larger meals can be found. I mention this because I am sure that you, too, would be as shocked as Gnoyle to see Dragons in your garden. And, if the sight of the mighty creatures had not shocked the Gnome, their conversation certainly did.
Before I continue, perhaps I should tell you a little about the Dragons of Avalon. They are enormous beasts, with thick hind legs and a long tail with an end shaped like an arrowhead. They have huge, leathery wings and a long, spine-covered neck on top of which is a fearsome snout. Lest I forget the mouth, let me just say that each tooth was as big as a Gnome’s hat and sharper than a jester's wit. Dragons see themselves as the Kings of the Sky, mostly because there is nobody bigger to argue the matter. This has made them quite puffy and pompous. To drive the point home, they also have adopted the most perfect and proper pronunciation, just to annoy the smaller creatures of Avalon.
“I say, Rudyard, knock-knock,” the blue Dragon quipped.
“Why, Boris, who could it be, Good Sir?” said the red.
Boris the Blue giggled, trying to hold in his mirth. “Eye sore, eye sore I say.”
“Eye sore who, Good Sir?” Rudyard the Red replied.
“Eye sore you eat that Ogre just now,” Boris the Blue answered, before breaking into a belly laugh that boomed across the gardens. Now, you might not think much of the joke, but the Dragons found it most hilarious, so much so that they were brought to tears by it. Gnoyle, however, was too scared to laugh. It was at this precise moment that his fear turned into a rumble that rolled in his belly, betraying his presence to the ears of the Dragons which, they will tell you, are the finest ears in all of Avalon.
The Dragons suddenly stopped their guffaws and swung their fearsome snouts to where Gnoyle hid.
“Why Rudyard, it appears a knave doth spy upon us,” Boris the Blue growled.
“Why Boris, you are sorely mistaken. ‘Tis no Knave, but only a Gnome,” Rudyard the Red replied.
Boris the Blue peered closer. “Forsooth, you are correct. What say ye we do with yon Gnome?”
Rudyard the Red scratched his head and pondered the question. “I say we eat him, but even so portly a fellow will not satisfy our hunger.”
Boris, being a selfless and noble Dragon, would have none of this. “Oh no, Good Sir, I simply could not deny you this morsel. If you will remember, I did get the best part of the Ogre.”
“That you did, my good man,” Rudyard the Red replied “How was the leg, if I might be so forward has to ask?”
“Well, dear Rudyard, it was a little tough. Certainly not as succulent as this plump plum of a Gnome might be,” Boris the Blue replied, licking his lips.
Apparently, the Dragons were about to make Gnoyle an exception to their rule.
Hearing them discuss him the way he himself might discuss the last honey cake with his brothers alarmed Gnoyle in much the same way you might be alarmed if your parents suddenly declared that school would now be held on Saturdays.
“You can’t eat me,” he wailed.
The outburst took the Dragons by surprise. Boris the Blue chuckled. “And why does this snack think it can petition the Kings of the Sky for mercy?” (I told you Dragons were pompous and puffy.)   
Now, Gnoyle might not be the bravest Gnome, and he certainly was not the hardest worker. He was, however, a writer and as you might know, writers are nothing if not creative. Gnoyle held out his book in front of him as though its thin parchment pages might somehow transform themselves into fire-proof armor.
“You shouldn’t eat me…because I write jokes. I adore them, just like you do.”
The Dragons smiled, although it should be noted that a Dragon’s smile is the same as the look it wears before it eats you. There is not enough difference in either to merit a conversation--unless of course you come face-to-face with a Dragon yourself.
“Ah, a fellow jester, eh?” Rudyard the Red said. “Well, then, Sir Gnome, tell us a joke and perhaps we’ll not pick our teeth with your bones.”
“Do you know any good Dragon jokes?” Boris the Blue quipped, dropping the pompous tone at the prospect of hearing something funny. Of course, he recovered quickly. “For, er, long have I searched for such repartee.”
Gnoyle had no idea what ‘repartee’ meant, and he had not a single joke about Dragons. His belly threatened to rumble again as fear stirred, but he swallowed hard and thought even harder. Suddenly he had it; he just hoped the Dragons would find it funny. Like I said, writers are nothing if not creative.
“There once was a Gnome,” Gnoyle began, “who, one day, found a Dragon in his garden. The Dragon said, "I am going to eat you.”
“Oh, oh,” Boris the Blue squealed, (if Dragons can be said to squeal,) “I like this one already.”
“Um, I thought you might,” Gnoyle groaned.
“Well, go on then,” Rudyard the Red said, “Tell us the rest of it.”
“The Gnome," Gnoyle continued, "said, ‘please don’t eat me, let's make a deal. The Dragon, being a most um…noble Dragon, growled, ‘Okay, what kind of deal?’”
Boris and Rudyard, enraptured by the story, laid on the ground and listened intently, their tails flicking contentedly in the heat.
      “The Gnome said: if I give you three tasks, and you complete all of them, then you can eat me. If you don’t, you will let me go." 
Rudyard the Red snorted, “I believe you are right, Sir Boris. This is going to be good, for there is nothing a Dragon cannot do.”
“The Dragon,” Gnoyle continued, agitated at the interruption, “agreed to the deal.”
“And well he should,” Boris the Blue interjected. “I, myself, would leap at the chance for such an easy meal. I bet he was a fat little Gnome, just like you, Sir Jokester. Go on, tell it,” he said, licking his lips.
         Gnoyle suddenly had the feeling that his jokes might well be the end of him, but he had made a deal to tell the joke and so he read on. “The Gnome said, ‘go to the mountain and eat an avalanche.’ The Dragon did it, and returned to the Gnome.”
Boris the Blue again interrupted. “I bet he just ate a Troll. I ate two once and they gave me the most awful stomach ache.”
“They do that if you eat them without washing them first,” Rudyard the Red added. "An avalanche seems like just the potion..."
“Um, can I finish?” Gnoyle asked.
Both Boris and Rudyard said he could.
“The Gnome then said, ‘drink an entire lake.’ The Dragon did this too, and returned to the Gnome.”
“I’ll bet THAT fixed his stomach ache,” Boris the Blue interrupted, yet again.
“Well said Rudyard, well said, I say. This Dragon is an ingenious fellow. Who’d have thought to wash a Troll down with a lake…?”
Gnoyle cleared his throat.
Realizing he had stopped the joke again, and fidgeting with giddy anticipation, Boris gestured for Gnoyle to continue, but not before whispering to Rudyard.
“Oh, this fellow is in trouble, I tell you. I, myself, cannot think of anything a Dragon cannot do…”
Of course, a Dragon trying to whisper is much like your little brother not trying to eat the last cookie.
“You’re spoiling the punch line,” Gnoyle snapped, clearly hearing everything Boris had tried to say quietly.
“Oh, pardon me, do go on,” the Dragon said.
Gnoyle sighed. “The Gnome, being the wisest Gnome in the land, thought for a moment. Surely, there must be something a Dragon cannot do. He thought and thought and, as he did, a sneaky notion grew in the pit of his belly and he had his answer. Without warning, he let out an enormous burp and pointed in front of himself excitedly. He said to the Dragon ‘if you can do anything at all, then catch it and paint it green’. The Gnome lived happily ever after.”
The joke had turned out better than he hoped, so Gnoyle chuckled to himself at his own cleverness. The Dragons, however, were not laughing.
“I say,” Boris the Blue complained, “that seems most unfair. Nobody can catch a burp and paint it.”
“I agree,” Rudyard the Red added. “I say we eat this Gnome. We cannot have people tricking Dragons out of their meals. Why, if word of this subterfuge gets out...”
“BUT its A JOKE,” Gnoyle yelled. “It’s not a real story. It’s supposed to be funny.”
“Well, then perhaps you can explain why we’re not laughing,” Rudyard said, rearing up to his full height as if to strike Gnoyle.
Realizing that he should not have made fun of the Dragons, Gnoyle scrambled for another way out of his predicament. Then it came to him. “You can’t eat the only Knock-Knock Gnome alive,” he said.
The Dragons stopped at the words, exchanging amused glances.
(Now, those of you with sharp eyes will see that I already said that lying is one of the worst things a Gnome can do. This was not, however, a lie--technically. (You see, Gnoyle collected all kinds of jokes, and since no other Gnome would ever tell a joke, he was, you will agree, the only Knock-Knock Gnome alive.)
“Well,” Boris the Blue said, thoughtfully. “I do so enjoy the refrain of a good Knock-Knock joke.”
“Well said, Sir Boris,” Rudyard the Red added. “I say, let us show mercy to the Gnome, and allow him this last opportunity to bring mirth to our day.” The Dragon then shifted until its snout was a few inches from the Gnome’s face. “But this will be your last chance. I’m still quite hungry, if the truth of the matter be told, so make it quick.”
Gnoyle could smell the unmistakable stench of Ogre on the Dragon's breath and he swallowed hard. The odor, however, gave him an idea, and so he told the joke. “Knock-knock,” he said.
“Oh, oh, let me, let me,” Boris the Blue clapped gleefully.
“Of course, Good Sir,” Rudyard the Red said. “After you.”
“Who knocks?” he said.
“Dragon,” Gnoyle replied.
“Verily I say, which Dragon.”
“Drag on over to the swamp and eat another Ogre,” Gnoyle replied, nervously.
For a moment, the Dragons were quiet, and Gnoyle feared he had upset them again. Then, without warning, laughter boomed across the garden as Rudyard roared with glee and Boris followed suit. 
Boris the Blue thanked Gnoyle between gasps of laughter. “Well read, Sir Gnome, you are free to go.”
Gnoyle breathed a sigh of relief, but suddenly, Rudyard’s laughter got the better of him and he toppled to the ground with a great flop. As he did, he belched loudly and a blast of red flame shot from his snout, burning the garden to a crisp.
“You see,” Boris said to Gnoyle, “I told you there was nothing a Dragon cannot do. Rudyard has caught a burp and painted it red.”
Stunned at the sight of the destroyed garden, Gnoyle could only murmur a reply. "It was supposed to be painted green."
"Tsk, tsk," Rudyard reproached. "Let's not quibble over technicalities." With that, both Dragons leapt into the sky with a great flap of their wings, heading off in the direction of the swamp in search of dinner.
Try as he might, Gnoyle could not stop the fire from devouring the dried garden except, of course, for the patch of cabbage sprouts. They survived while the rest of the once lush land was reduced to a sea of smoking stalks.
When his brothers returned they were quite upset. Gnoyle's laziness and pursuit of jokes had led to the loss of the garden. From that day on, he became known as the Knock-Knock Gnome.
Gnoyle finally had his fame.
Unfortunately, Gnorman’s prediction also came true: nobody gets famous writing books of jokes. Because they were unable to sell their food to buy firewood, they were forced to use the pages of Gnoyle's book to warm themselves through the cold winter. It was some small comfort to Gnorman and Gnick that, while they might grumble over their meals of snow water and hard-biscuits, they could be contented in knowing that things were much worse for Gnoyle. Gnoyle could only dream of such a wonderful meal as hard-biscuits.
For him, it was cabbage sprouts all winter long.
And so ends the tale of the Gnock-Gnock Gnome. Those of you who were paying attention now know why one should not spend one's days writing books of jokes. If the dangers of Dragons or the flavor of cabbage sprouts are not lessons enough, then I cannot think of any other reason more frightening or foul. 
Can you?

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