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Authors: Philippa Dowding

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BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
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Chapter Four

Moonlight Dance

That night the backyard was much quieter. There were no raccoons fighting or banging garbage cans, no broken dwarves. It was just a still, cold night.

In fact, it was a little too cold. Suddenly the weather had turned chilly. It was definitely autumn.

The cold woke Katherine up on and off, but she didn’t really mind. She liked dozing under her big blanket, toasty and warm while her nose got cold. It felt a little like sleeping outside in the tent when she and her parents went camping. They went to Algonquin Park every August, and sometimes the nights were really chilly that far north.

Around three a.m., Katherine woke to see Milly in her window, growling and twitching her tail again.

“Milly,” she whispered, “shhhhh. I’m trying to sleep. Come here, kitty, come sleep under the warm covers.” She lifted the covers invitingly.

Milly usually slept with her, but not tonight. She stayed put, all her attention trained on the backyard. She ignored Katherine.

“C’mere, Mil!” Katherine demanded, a little louder. She was annoyed at being woken up now and wanted to get back to sleep. But Milly-the-statue-cat wouldn’t budge.

Katherine sighed and got out of bed. She had to go to the bathroom anyway. She padded off down the hall, as quietly as she could so she wouldn’t wake her parents.

On her way back, she stopped to scratch Milly’s ear and casually looked outside.

“What’s so interest...” Katherine stopped mid-word and stifled a small scream.

There, dancing among the statues in the cold moonlight, was the gargoyle!

Katherine was so dumbfounded that she slumped to the floor, her hand covering her mouth in shock. She shook her head back and forth in disbelief, barely breathing.

“No, it can’t be,” she said. “No way is there a gargoyle dancing around in my backyard. It’s just a trick of the light or something.” She looked around her familiar room for a moment to make sure she wasn’t seeing things in there, too. Everything seemed pretty normal, no dancing teddy bears or walking furniture. She decided she wasn’t completely losing her grip on reality.

She breathed deeply, drew up all her courage, and as quietly and bravely as she could, peeked over the bottom of the window into the backyard.

The gargoyle wasn’t dancing any more. In fact, he was standing perfectly still. “That’s better,” she thought, “see, you were imagining it.”

But she knew in her heart she hadn’t imagined it. It made sense. It explained why he was so light and warm when she picked him up. It explained the chuckle she’d heard: he
was
laughing at her. It explained the “raccoon fight” the night before, and the dwarf’s broken nose, and why Milly didn’t like him.

It explained a lot of things.

As Katherine was putting the pieces in place, she didn’t notice that the gargoyle had turned and was looking up at her window. He was looking directly at her.

BANG! She jumped as something hit the window right beside her head. The gargoyle had thrown a stone at her to get her attention.

“Hey!” she shouted and came back to her senses. She was looking straight into the backyard, straight into his glittering, dark eyes.

Chapter Five

Ballerinas and Daisies

At this point, most twelve-year-olds would have gone for help. Or at the very least gone shrieking down the hall and jumped under the covers of their parents’ bed.

Katherine did neither of these things. Instead, she stared the gargoyle right in the eye and tried to look fierce. Milly growled encouragement. Katherine gulped. She inched her window open a crack, and as quietly as she could, whisper-shouted down to the gargoyle.

“Hey! What the heck are you doing? You can’t throw stones at my window!”

The gargoyle didn’t miss a beat. He squared his little shoulders, stuck his tongue out at her, then smiled. His tiny lips pulled apart to show a very sharp row of glittering points. It was a sneering smile, not a cheerful, welcoming, happy smile.

She was a little offended and surprised at his rudeness. “You’re really rude!” she yelled quietly. “Don’t just smile at me. Explain yourself!” Katherine knew this last command was a rather weak one, copied from unimaginative adults trying to “get to the bottom of things”, but it was all she could come up with at the moment.

Then she heard a low chuckle, the same chuckle she’d heard the night before in the bushes, and he stuck his tongue out at her once more, turning his back on her.

“How rude! He really
is
rude, Milly.” Katherine was getting annoyed with him now. Who did he think he was? This was her house, her backyard, after all.

She and Milly could only watch helplessly as he walked casually over to the back door and bent down to pick something up. He knew he was being watched, but he didn’t seem to care.

Have you ever seen a gargoyle walk? It isn’t very pretty or graceful. It’s really more of a waddle, since they have very thick legs, wide sharp-toed feet, and their arms drag along the ground. They tend to look somewhat off balance, since their leathery wings are very heavy and throw them backwards. It makes them look slightly “off-kilter”, as Katherine’s grandmother would say.

Katherine was wondering what he was picking up? He seemed very interested in his squat little feet and was doing something to them.

Suddenly, it came to her. Her shoes! She had left her new red shoes with the white stripes beside the back door!

“Oh, no!” she groaned. As he waddled back into full view, she realized to her dismay that she was right. The gargoyle had taken her shoes and stuffed them onto his own ugly feet!

Katherine was too astonished to do anything. She could only watch aghast at what happened next.

The gargoyle did a ridiculous pirouette, pointing one of his feet wearing her new shoe as high as he could toward the sky. Katherine would have found it funny if she wasn’t so annoyed. Then he put his arms above his head and started prancing around, pretending to be a ballerina.

Katherine and her parents had seen the Canadian National Ballet perform
The Nutcracker
the Christmas before, so she knew what real ballerinas looked like. They were dainty and graceful.

The gargoyle’s performance wasn’t anything like that. He looked like an ungainly and ugly monster, aping something beautiful. It didn’t seem to matter to him that he looked freakish and frightening. He tried all the moves anyway. The jumps, the spins, the positions, the leaps. All he needed was a frilly pink tutu around his waist.

Katherine shook her head and plucked up the nerve to speak to him out the window again.

“Hey, stupid gargoyle, take off my new shoes!” she yelled as loudly as she dared. She really didn’t want to wake up her parents. Things were just getting interesting now that the initial shock of seeing the gargoyle alive in her backyard was beginning to wear off.

He stopped dead and turned to look up at her in mid-pirouette. “He really does look hysterical,” she thought, “but I can’t laugh now that he’s looking at me.” Despite herself, Katherine had a half-smile on her face.

Then the gargoyle spoke.

Have you ever heard a gargoyle speak? It’s unlikely, I know, but they do speak. They sound like leaves rustling in winter, and although they don’t speak English, or most of them don’t, children can understand their language without any interpretation. It’s a gift most children lose when they turn twelve or so (although some very wise children manage to keep the gift all their lives).

This is what he said: “Morgle mount flishin benjor taminki.” This is what Katherine heard his whispery voice say: “Did you call me stupid, little girl?”

She was caught off guard, she was so surprised. What was going on? But she wasn’t going to be silent and miss her chance to get her new shoes off his feet.

“Uh, yes,” she stammered, “I guess I did.” She grew defiant, and stuck her chin out. “Now take off my shoes!”

“Methol ment triagra.” Which meant: “Hmm, no I think not. I like these shoes.”

Then he proceeded to do the most awful thing that Katherine could think of. She watched, speechless with indignation and horror.

In her brand new shoes, he walked over to her mother’s prize-winning New England Asters and started stomping on them. With big, athletic jumps, he hovered, then landed, again and again, until all the beautiful purple flowers lay trampled on the grass in a ruined pile.

“NO!” she shrieked. “No, stop! You’re ruining my mother’s asters! Stop it!” She wasn’t being quiet any longer. All thought of her sleeping parents had long fled from her mind. She just wanted that awful monster to stop stomping her mother’s beautiful prize-winning flowers IN HER SHOES.

But it was no use. It seemed to her that the more she yelled at him to stop, the harder he stomped, and the more he enjoyed it. He wore a sneering smile the entire time, giggling and chortling with glee.

And if you’ve never heard a gargoyle giggle and chortle with glee, it’s just as well. It sounds like a bucket full of rusty nails being dropped onto the top of your parents’ brand new car.

Chapter Six

Utterly Hopeless

You’re probably wondering what happened next?

Well, Katherine didn’t have many choices. And if you can think of a different way to handle the situation than any of these three choices below, then you’re very wise and clever!

Choice #1. If you’re a sensible sort of person, you’re probably wondering if she got her parents out of bed and explained what happened.

Well, think about that for a minute. If you woke your parents out of a sound sleep and started talking nonsense about a gargoyle stomping the flowers in your new shoes, would they believe you? Or would they think you had stomped the flowers yourself and were trying to blame it on someone, or in this case
something
else?

So that was out.

Choice #2. If you’re an adventurous and brave sort of person, you might be wondering if she ran downstairs and went outside to try to make the gargoyle stop?

This would seem like the most sensible thing to do, but Katherine found that she was suddenly a little afraid of facing the gargoyle in the middle of the dark, cold night all alone. Even if Milly did come to help her, Katherine didn’t think she was quite brave enough for that.

So that was out.

Choice #3. Although this probably didn’t occur to anyone, since it’s so terribly dull, did she do nothing and go back to bed, convinced it was all just a VERY BAD DREAM? Sometimes a thing that seems the most unlikely is the very thing that actually happens.

So it was with Katherine after the gargoyle had stomped all her mother’s flowers to bits.

She watched, helpless and sad, until he finally stopped, tired out from all the stomping. Then he flung her shoes off his feet and left them where they landed among the devastation.

After that, he simply waddled back to his little stone pedestal, hopped up and turned his back to her, apparently content to look like a statue once again.

Katherine was suddenly very tired and a little shaky from the cold. She didn’t know what to do, so she did nothing. She closed her window and turned her back on it, then walked slowly back to bed and climbed under the covers, all the while with a very puzzled look on her face.

There was nothing else to do. She cried herself to sleep and slept fitfully until morning.

Chapter Seven

Decisions

Morning sun pierced through the bottom of the window blind deep into Katherine’s room.

It was very cold, and she woke with a start, sitting bolt upright in bed. The events of the night before came flooding back to her.

She fell back onto the pillow and groaned. She couldn’t begin to think what her parents were going to say when they noticed her shoes among the ruined flowers.

It was Saturday, so both of them were at home. She listened carefully and could hear them both moving around in the kitchen below her, getting breakfast ready, just like any ordinary Saturday morning.

They were letting her sleep in! She wasn’t in trouble yet, which could mean only one thing: they hadn’t noticed the damage.

She was wondering what she was going to say to them. What could she possibly say? The truth seemed like a big, ridiculous lie. And, in a completely confusing and unfair twist, a lie would sound so much more like the truth.

Katherine ran through a few possibilities:

“Mom, I was really mad that I had to stay after school, so I stomped your flowers.”

No, that was no good.

“Mom, I really hate the dinner you made me last night, so I stomped your flowers.”

No, that wouldn’t work either.

“Mom, the gargoyle did it.”

Hopeless. Utterly hopeless.

She was looking up at the light above her bed when a blood-curdling scream filled the house.

“OH MY GOSH! NOT MY FLOWERS! HANK, THE FLOWERS! LOOK AT THEM! THEY’RE RUINED!”

She heard the back door open, then slam. Then silence.

Without getting up to look out the window, she knew her parents were frantically running across the lawn to look at the damage. She also knew without looking that the gargoyle was sitting scrunched up on his pedestal, statue-like, watching the fun. Grinning, most likely.

Quite unexpectedly, Katherine felt a flash of hot anger flood her body. Why should that stupid gargoyle treat her family so badly? Why should he get away with it and make it look like she had done it?

Why? She suddenly knew what she had to do.

She got out of bed and slowly descended the stairs to the kitchen. She walked to the back door and silently opened it for her parents as they solemnly marched back into the house, too shocked to speak to her or to each other.

Neither of them was looking at her. Instead, they sat at the kitchen table and stared at their hands.

Katherine turned off the forgotten stove, where the pan was beginning to smoke, and turned to them.

“Mom, Dad,” she began boldly, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I stomped all over your flowers in my new shoes.”

She looked at them for encouragement. They were both looking at her now with nearly blank expressions. But at least they were listening. She pressed on.

“It looks bad, I know,” she continued, “but I swear to you I didn’t do it. I’m going to tell you the truth,” she hesitated and bit her lip, “only it’s going to sound kind of crazy.”

At the word “crazy”, her mother’s head shot up and her mouth opened. She was looking hard at Katherine with a funny, dazed expression on her face. She was barely breathing.

“You know, you know...” Katherine trailed off.

What am I afraid of?
she asked herself.
It’s the truth. I have to tell it, I have to get them to believe me. They’re my parents, after all. They will believe me, won’t they?
She took a deep breath and started again.

“Mom, Dad, the gargoyle did it,” she blurted out finally. She breathed out deeply and looked her parents in the eyes. It felt good to tell the truth, no matter how crazy it sounded.

Her parents did two different things at the same time. Her father burst out laughing. Her mother, however, groaned, then dropped her head into her hands and started crying.

Neither Katherine nor her dad was expecting that. They both rushed to her mother’s side.

“What is it, Mom?” Katherine asked.

“What is it, Marie?” asked her dad, looking worried. They pulled up chairs and sat beside her, trying to comfort her.

She was muttering through her hands. “Not that stupid gargoyle! It can’t be! Not again!”

Katherine’s dad was clearly worried about his wife, but Katherine started to wonder what her mother knew. Or thought she knew.

She decided to try a new tack with her mother. She pressed a cup of tea into her mother’s hands and put her hand gently on her shoulder.

“Mom,” she said quietly, “where did you get that gargoyle? I mean, you seem to believe me that it was him, and I’m really glad you do, but you must know that he’s...” she stopped. She couldn’t bring herself to say it.

“Alive?” her mother said suddenly, snapping her head up to look Katherine in the face. “Yes! I know he’s alive, Katherine...”

Katherine and her dad stared at her in silence. The room stayed perfectly quiet for what seemed like an eternity. Katherine could hear the kitchen clock above her mother’s head ticking louder than ever before. The fridge motor buzzed around them like a car alarm.

Then her father finally spoke. “Marie,” her father said gently, clearly making an effort to speak calmly. “Can you start at the beginning? Where did you get the gargoyle?”

Her mother had calmed down a bit in the long silence, having finally admitted to her family that she knew the gargoyle was a living creature. She blew her nose loudly, took a sip of tea, then started with her story.

“Okay, okay. I can’t hide it any longer.” She sighed. “It all started about a month ago, while I was walking to work at the agency office. You know I walk past The Golden Nautilus comic bookstore every day?” She looked at Katherine and her husband for encouragement.

They both nodded at her.

Katherine’s dad said, “Go on, honey.” It occurred to Katherine that this must sound really crazy to her poor dad, so she leaned in to him and let him know she loved him, too. Good old Dad. What must he think of his crazy daughter and wife?

“Well, one day I noticed there was this little gargoyle sitting in the window. I liked the look of him. He was kind of sweet looking. I dunno, just like he was thinking about something or looking off into the distance for someone. Anyway, I started to smile at him every day when I went by. Sounds crazy, I know, but you know I like statues...” Her mother smiled at them weakly, took a steadying sip of her tea and continued. “Some days I would wave at him, some days just smile. Then one day I said “Hi there” to him as I walked past, and he stuck his tongue out at me!” She started to get upset at this point, so Katherine’s dad rubbed her shoulder and told her to go on.

“I know, Mom, he stuck his tongue out at me last night, too. He’s really rude!” said Katherine, helpfully. Again, her mother smiled at them and got a little braver. She went on with her story:

“I told myself that gargoyles DO stick their tongues out to drain water off rooftops. Gargoyles are drainspouts, at least they were ages ago. I thought he might have stuck his tongue out at me because he was really spouting water…”

“Spouting water, Mom? I haven’t seen any water coming out of his mouth,” Katherine said, unconvinced.

“No, I suppose I haven’t either. But it could be a gargoyle reflex or something, sort of like sneezing? I didn’t know what else to think… ” Katherine’s mother sighed. She took another sip of tea, and continued.

“Well, this went on for days. I’d look at the window, and there he’d be. I’d tell myself I was hallucinating, and it was just in my mind, so I’d keep walking. Just when I thought I’d imagined it, and it wasn’t going to happen this time, he’d stick his tongue out at me again. Honestly, I thought I was going crazy! I’m so glad I’m not!” She turned to Katherine with a thankful look.

“Well, why did you buy him?” her father asked, a little bewildered. “I mean, if he was so rude and real and scary, why?” Her dad was floundering, clearly over his head at this point.

“Oh, I didn’t buy him. I stole him.”

Katherine and her dad both gasped.

“Mom! You
stole
him?” Katherine said, shocked.

“Well, actually, I guess I didn’t really steal him. It’s kind of confusing. It was a nice day a few days ago, you know. And I was walking past the store again, but this time he was sitting outside on the sidewalk. So as I walked by, I tried to ignore him, but sure enough he stuck his tongue out at me again. Well, that was it. I kind of snapped, I guess. I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help it. My foot just went out and I gave him a little tap with my toe. I had to see if he was alive, or what he was...”

“You mean you kicked him?” her father asked bluntly.

“Well,” she nodded sheepishly, “yeah. I guess I gave him a little kick. To see if he was real.” The three of them giggled nervously.

Her mother went on quickly after that, wanting to get the story over with.

“And being the creature he is, he couldn’t stand being kicked, so he started to follow me down the street, saying the most terrible things to me in his whispery voice! I tried to ignore him, I really did, but it was so weird having a gargoyle following me down the street talking to me, that suddenly I just reached back and grabbed him and stuffed him under my coat. I mean, I didn’t want anyone to see me being followed by a gargoyle! Then I realized I was stealing him, so I ran as fast as I could all the way home.”

“What did you do when you got home?” her dad asked.

“Well, I dropped him off in the backyard and have tried to ignore him ever since. I kind of hoped he would just go away.

“Well we have to get rid of him somehow, Mom. He’s mean. And tricky. And kind of scary.”

There was a long silence as the three of them thought about their situation. Just how, they were all wondering, do you get rid of a gargoyle?

BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
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