Gnomely the Gnome
"Sorry Gnomely, you're fired, "said Bossy the head gnome after a bit of hesitation.
Gnomely the gnome was speechless. He knew they had been letting go of workers, and somehow guessed it would be his turn but he still couldn't believe it was happening. This was the only thing he knew. He couldn't lose this position. This wasn't his job, it was his identity.
The two small gnomes stood under the twilight on the granite plateau, neither sure what to say next. They were roughly a foot and a half tall, but their pointy caps made them appear to be almost two feet in height. They were the first to arrive from their long trek and had placed their massive rocks in their predetermined geometric positions. Several other gnomes were in the distance, waddling to catch up, while balancing huge boulders on their backs. A slight wind blew around them as Gnomely struggled to find the words to save his job.
"You can't fire me. I'm the best worker you have! I can lift five rocks from the quarry to the site compared to everyone else's four. I..I…" protested Gnomely.
Bossy shook his head. "Look Gnomely, you aren't the only one losing their job. We'll all be laid off or fired by the end of the month. The banks have collapsed and we don't have the working capital to continue. Here's your severance package. I know it's hard to accept but there will be other opportunities for you.. I hope. ", said the foreman as he slumped his shoulders.
"I'm a Spriggan! Always have been , always will be! I pick up tree sized rocks and carry them somewhere else where I then place them on things, that's what I'm good at, that's how I solve all my problems! What am I gonna do now? Stand around like some mime in a garden all day, "argued Gnomely still in disbelief.
"This is the twenty first century Gnomely. Gnomes aren't defined by the caste they were born in anymore. I'm sure you'll find something." replied Bossy with a half-hearted smile.
Gnomely shook his head. He closed his beady dark eyes, hoping he would awake from this bad dream when he opened them. Sadly it was in vain and he had to face the grim reality of what had happened.
Gnomly was a gnome. Specifically he was a rare curious breed known as a Spriggan. Unlike most gnomes, who had rosy cheeks, cute button noses, clear joyful eyes, jolly bellies, and well groomed Santa like facial hair, Spriggans were skinny creatures with scraggly beards, relatively long limbs, and perpetual scowls. The only similarity they had with their more numerous and well known cousins were their incredibly short height and the stylish way they dressed. Gnomes and Spriggans typically clothed themselves conservatively wearing various styles of rustic overcoats, wide loose pants, and most importantly, pointy or curved clogs and hats. Despite their thin physiques Spriggans were best known for their ability to lift massive weights. Rocks the size of tall trees were no problem for the strong little creatures. They took great pride in the fact that they had erected Megaliths across all of Europe, from the famous standing rocks of Stonehenge to the sprawling stone tombs hidden in the Ardennes. Life was hard for Spriggans, but Gnomely took great personal satisfaction in the great works his people had accomplished.
All that changed of course when they fired him.
Banks were a cornerstone of Gnomeland, and Gnomely was not sure why they had collapsed. He did know that all the good construction jobs were gone now. They called it the new economy but Gnomely called it a big scam. Regardless of his feelings of frustration and helplessness over the situation, Gnomely found his severance pay was vanishing quickly and he was in need of work.
Gnomely took Bossy's advice and applied at the shoe factory. It was an expansive stone and metal structure that housed several interconnecting buildings, that was famous for producing some of the best foot wear in the world.
Gnomely would rather lift rocks for a living, but he felt there was something honest about working in a factory. He could make more money standing in a garden somewhere pretending to pluck an errant weed or frozen in place reclining with a pipe, but that was not the career for him. Shoe making or cobbling was something that he could do with his hands, something that could be measured in a tangible way in at the end of the day, or so he thought.
Gnomely's enthusiasm for his new vocation quickly left when he found out that they didn't actually make shoes at the shoe factory. After a week on the job, the Spriggan found himself packing shoes, shipping shoes, and even handling customer complaints. At no time did he witness any shoes actually being produced at the factory. Bewildered, Gnomely decided to confront Cobby the cobbler about this disheartening situation.
"Umm…Sir? I've been here a week, and I'm curious at where all these shoes are coming from. Are we using fairy magic or something? " Gnomely asked, even though he saw no sign wands or arcane dust.
Cobby the cobbler shrugged and gazed nostalgically at the factory. "We use to make shoes here. We built really good high quality footwear, from wooden clogs to cotton slippers, in all colours of the rainbow. Clown shoes, ones with curls, even boots with cute animal pictures sewn on them. Sadly the people in charge decided it was cheaper to make the shoes elsewhere, so we're just a shell of a factory now, "he replied with a slight wetness in his eyes.
Gnomely could not believe his pointy ears. "Impossible! No one makes better shoes than us gnomes. That's like one of our specialities. Who's gonna make better shoes than us? Elves? Hardly… Goblins? Give me a break… Trolls? Ridiculous…"
Cobby shook his head. "Oompa loompas," was his only reply.
"What! Those guys aren't even mythological creatures…they are literary creations or something. I wouldn't trust any shoes made by those chocolate munching sweat shop workers. ", fumed Gnomely.
Cobby nodded in agreement. "It's true. They don't make "good" shoes like us Gnomes, but they make "good enough" shoes. Someone decided it was better to save a buck or two than put out a good product. Next thing you know the heart of our factory is gone. The only thing we add to the production process is our brand name to reassure the consumer. "
Gnomely did not like the explanation, and he certainly did not like packing shoes for a living. Not that he was bad at his work, since he was in fact really good at. Lifting the large heavy pallets of shoes was akin to lifting rocks. He could lift five pallets in the time the rest of the workers could lift four. However it all seemed fake to Gnomely. The whole idea of selling your name did not seem right. This was not what he expected so he promptly quit his job.
Gnomely thought he looked ridiculous with his little orange miner hat and his oversized coveralls. The spriggan admitted that he had never looked so stupid in his life, but conceded it was still better than standing in a garden. In his mind's eye he could see himself frozen in place for hours on end reacting in shock to a large patch of ceramic vegetables or perhaps with a stupid grin plastered on his face while playing an atrocious accordion or some other folksy insturment. Despite his appearance, Gnomely appeared to have found his calling.
Mining the depths of the earth seemed like something he could get used to. Contrary to popular belief, the mines were not cold and dark , but warm and well lit. He missed the fresh air of rock lifting, but he admitted there was something satisfying in excavating a rich vein of ore. He had only been employed as a miner for a week, but already his ability to tunnel five tunnels instead of everyone else's four gave him a sense of pride in his work.
Everything seemed to be working out till Diggy the chief miner called him from his work.
"Yes sir? ", asked Gnomely nervously, unsure if he had made some rookie mistake in his labours.
"Excellent work Gnomely! You are a natural at this. ", responded Digger, much to Gnomely's relief. "However….you are digging too fast, you have to slow down. "
"Excuse me? Is it a safety concern or something? ", asked Gnomely unsure of the reasoning behind the request.
Diggy sighed. "Look Gnomely. We gnomes are good at mining, but we aren't as good as dwarves. Especially the dwarves from Eastern Europe, a hard race of people from a hard land, they only know work and have never experienced a day of joy in their life. If it was a straight race, we lose nine times out of ten, even if you can dig five tunnels instead of four. In the good old days, Gnomeland imposed tariffs on foreign resources, but since we joined the Fey Union those trade restrictions had been lifted. All the gnome mines would have been closed down, but the politicians decided that we couldn't lose such an important industry. Instead of watching all the industry shut down cuz we can't compete with our dour neighbors they instead subsidize and set a quota on our work instead of watching us flounder on the open market. So you see, it's not worth our while to exceed our limit. We just do what we can, then take a safety meeting or something. ", explained the head miner.
Gnomely was unsure what to make of this. Dwarves were well versed in mining, but it seemed defeatist to simply accept they were better than gnomes. A part of Gnomely wanted to show everyone that Gnomes could mine as well as anyone, with or without government subsidies. After weeks of struggling financially though, another part told him to just shut up, collects his pay, and pretend to be useful. He knew that the government was simply paying them to fail, but it still kept gnomes employed and fed. It was a difficult decision but in the end Gnomely accepted his fate.
"Ok….I'll slow down. ", replied Gnomely reluctantly.
"Excellent. ", beamed Diggy. "Oh, I looked up your application form, and it says you are good at lifting rocks. Maybe you can move some of the larger boulders that are in our way for us afterwards," added the head miner.
Gnomely nodded his head enthusiastically at the offer. As a Spriggan he loved moving rocks, and being asked to move something made his head spin with happiness. "Yes sir! I'll get to it right away! I love grabbing a boulder from one place and setting it down at another, "he stated proudly.
Gnomely then spied a large rock jutting from a tunnel. Without thinking he grasped the tree sized boulder and yanked it from the wall. He started to look for some place to set it down, but the entire tunnel began to rumble and fall apart.
Even before they dug Gnomely out, the Spriggan can hear an endless litany of muffled curses from Diggy. Gnomely knew he had to find work once again.
Gnomely shifted uncomfortably in the dark forest. It was bad enough that he was late for his job interview but the silhouettes of clawed branches, unexplained sounds , and the occasional odd mysterious light made the Spriggan extremely nervous . For a second he wished he was in someone's garden, pretending to enjoy a mug of some phantom brew. He would not have been here at all, but his lack of success at finding a new vocation forced him to these desperate measures.
"Are you Gnomely? ", hissed a hoarse voice. Gnomely turned around and was greeted by the sight of a small horrid creature. The first thing the Spriggan noticed was that it had a large but crude looking cleaver in its hand. The second thing he noticed was that it had an aura of uncleanliness and evil about it. It was small, no bigger than a gnome, with a hunched back, and pale grey skin. It was bare chested and wore cracked wooden clogs, and what appeared to be a cap, dripping red with blood. Upon closer inspection Gnomely saw that it also had wild yellow eyes, claw like hands, and sparse grey hair splattered with dark dots . While Spriggans were considered homely or perhaps ugly, the creature before him appeared to have crawled out of someone's nightmare.
"Umm…Reddy the Red Cap? I'm Gnomely. I'm here for a job. I heard you guys were hiring. ", declared Gnomely hesitantly. Red Caps were a rare species of gnomes. While most gnomes were industrious, jolly and even beneficial to their surroundings, Red Caps were murderous creatures that killed to satiate their dark desires. Not much was known about them, except for the fact they dipped their caps in the blood of their victims and that they were employed by the government. Gnomely heard they often preyed on stray travellers or on occasion , unleashed on the naughty children of the world.
The creature considered Gnomely's introduction and nodded. "I am Reddy. You wish to slay the innocent, and dance to silent music while drenched in their blood? ", it cackled manically.
Gnomely shook his head. "Err no. I'm not really big on the murdering and mayhem thing, I was wondering if you need an equipment manager for your cleavers or maybe someone to handle your uniforms ", said the Spriggan with a forced nervous smile.
Reddy considered his statement then spat a dark brown gob of phlegm near Gnomely's foot. " We don't wear uniforms…not anymore. Those jobs have been…..cut….. The government ….ripped…..our budget. Damn austerity programs has forced us to…slice….our staff ", it hissed while eyeing the Spriggan with a grin.
Gnomely sighed and shrugged. Even the government workers were getting hit hard. Bossy was right, the new economy sucks. The Spriggan had no idea what to do next. "Thanks anyways. I'll show myself the way out of these woods. "
"No…no…no one leaves my woods. They first must bleed so I can dip my cap in their blood, "chortled Reddy manically as he raised his cleaver above his head.
Gnomely shook his head, then he picked up a tree sized boulder and calmly placed it over Reddy's head. The Red Capped Gnome didn't even get a chance to scream before the rock flattened him .
"Umm…I don't suppose I can get a proof of job search from you? The unemployment office needs that these days ", Gnomely asked the boulder but did not receive an answer.
Gnomely was at the end of the line. His severance money and his unemployment checks had long stopped. He was out of cash and had little hope. His job hunting endeavors had turned out to be disasters and there wasn't much left he was qualified to do.
As fortune had it, a friend of a friend got Gnomely a job as a janitor at the bank. It wasn't what he wanted , but he told himself it was just to make ends meet till he got back on his feet. Gnomely hated his positon , but at least he wasn't required to pretend to be catching phantom butterflies while frozen in place all day guarding someone's petunias.
The financial institutions were the first to collapse and he had his doubts that his job would last that long. The proud Gnomish tradition of banking was most likely destroyed or shipped off to some foreign country like every other vocation beside Garden Gnoming. So it was with great surprise that he found the first bank of Zurich to be busy and bustling.
The Zurich bank was a magnificent edifice. Its marble pillars and walls were a testament of the ancient gnome art of money making. Modern works of art adorned the bank's walls, as Gnomes, elves, dwarves, and other creatures across the Fey Union were patronizing the establishment like no economic disaster had ever happened.
Gnomely was a bit confused by the whole spectacle. He was expecting to find a barely struggling office, not a hive like financial center. Gnomely wondered how the bank reversed its fortunes. He recalled that they were alchemists of some sort, and he wondered if they discovered some grand ritual that changed lead into gold. If so, did that mean that the rest of Gnomeland would soon be back on a course of economic recovery? No more austerity measures, ridiculous subsidies, and lack of business credit? Would companies soon stop sending proper gnome jobs out of the country?
These questions gnawed at him, and after a week Gnomely was determined to find out the answers. He marched directly to his supervisor ,Banky, after work. Banky was an elderly gnome with a white handle bar mustache, a remarkably flat looking top hat, a dark well tailored three piece suit, and what appeared to be non-pointed leather shoes. Gnomely thought Banky's appearance was not proper for a gnome, but he still wanted his questions answered.
"Sir, I thought the banks collapsed. How did you rebound back? Did someone here finally cracked the lead to gold formula?", asked the Spriggan eagerly.
Banky laughed at Gnomely. " Knobby ol boy, we discovered that ages ago. However, we don't use alchemy anymore to make our money, we stopped doing that in the nineteenth century. Turning base materials to precious metals was a solid business plan back in the day, but times and technology change. We make our money through leveraged loans, junk bonds, sub prime packages, and of course currency speculation these days. We can easily ten times in a day than simple mundane alchemy. "
Gnomely was impressed, even though he had no idea what Banky was talking about. "Wow, that's great. I bet the whole economy will recover soon from your shining example . If the banks can bounce back, maybe megalith construction will too. I might be able to get my old job back in the rock lifting buisness, " declared the Spriggan optimistically.
Banky considered his statement then shook his head. "Well, it's not a guarantee return you know. Most of the time we make money, but sometimes we lose money. Sometimes we lose a lot of money. Enough money that causes the economy to crash, to force the government to intervene, and to shut down half the country. "
Gnomely paused as he processed what he just heard. "Wait…you guys caused this. I thought you were just a victim like everyone else. If you guys caused this crisis, how come you're business is thriving?"
Banky smiled slyly. "Government bail outs of course! The banks are the cornerstone of Gnomeland , the government couldn't let us fail. They wrote off our losses, and gave us a huge pile of cash to keep things going. Of course the government could do this by themselves, and needed to secure loans from other countries before they gave the cash to us. The other countries then demanded we impose austerity measures as a stipulation to the loans. We also had to cut the line of credit on any company that wasn't triple A rated to secure our own assets. It was tough on all of us at first, but we were able to recover, stronger and better than before! "
Gnomely's jaw dropped. It seemed so unfair.
"Hey, don't give me that look. For myself, they reduced my bonus, and I had to wait three more months before I could buy the boat that I always wanted. ", sniffed Banky.
Gnomely looked at his janitor's mop , and decided he could not work like this. The Spriggan left the bank and found a boulder as big as a tree. He easily hefted the rock and calmly placed it on the bank. The building groaned from its weight as gnomes poured out of it in a panic. Gnomely then found four more similar sized boulders and placed them on the bank as well. The Spriggan thought he was still good at his job, since he could lift five boulders compared to others that could only lift four. The bank shuddered before collapsing once again, this time from the weight of Gnomely's boulders.
Though the financial institution was squished, Gnomely felt no joy. He was still unemployed and his prospects were bleak.
Gnomely beamed happily as he pretended to drink a phantom beer. Though he had been in the same pose for several hours now, the Spriggan felt an inner peace from this work. Sure it didn't pay as much as rock lifting, but it was honest work that earned an honest wage. He got to work outdoors, and he enjoyed his coworkers, especially the gnome girls that were often frozen in some sort of country dance. He found his sparse beard had filled out a bit, and he was getting some color to his cheeks.
The prospects of Gnomeland had improved somewhat in the last few years. There was a mini economic crisis after the main bank in Zurich was squashed, but the Gnomish nation soon recovered. Many thought that the country would be tossed into anarchy and fall off a fiscal cliff, but Gnomes were a resilient people and eventually struggled through the hardship. Many jobs were lost forever, but a few good jobs were slowly filtering back. There was a quiet optimism in Gnomeland that things would get better.
"Are you going to drink that beer or what? ", asked a familiar voice from the bushes.
Gnomely broke his stance and saw his old friend Bossy. He was quite surprised to see his old comrade. He signalled to the other garden gnomes that he was going on a break and scrambled to the bush to greet his old friend.
"Gnomely, we got some working capital again. We're gonna start up the rock lifting business. We could use a gnome like you. So how about it? ", asked Bossy expectantly.
Gnomely considered the offer but shook his head. "Nah. I think I will stick with this Garden Gnome gig. "
Gnomely liked his current job and he didn't want to leave it. He missed lifting boulders though. There was something satisfying in picking them up and placing them on top of something else.