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Authors: Philippa Dowding

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BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
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Chapter Fifteen

What Gargoth Remembers

After his Halloween mishap, Gargoth became even more quiet and sullen. He thought he had been protecting this family from the ghosts and goblins of Halloween night, when instead he was just making them angry with him.

For several weeks he moped and did nothing but eat apples and lob the cores at the tree. It grew colder.

He didn’t understand this place very well at all. It was confusing and strange. He didn’t want to make his kind hosts angry with him again, so he pledged to himself that he wouldn’t move from the backyard, no matter what he saw in the street.

Even rooted to the backyard, he did help them when he could. One day he was able to do them a very kind service. A terrible dog had chased Milly off the street and into the yard. Instead of stopping at the gate, the dog jumped the gate in hot pursuit of Milly and chased her right to the back fence. Milly, who as you know is a very smart cat, skidded to a halt behind Gargoth and stood to face the dog, arching her back and spitting. The dog growled and was ready to attack when he got the surprise of his life.

Gargoth, who had been still and watching, suddenly leaped to his feet and spread his wings wide, shrieking as loudly as he could in the dog’s very surprised face.

That was the last they saw of that dog.

After that, Milly and Gargoth were fast friends. If her family was looking for her, they knew she was probably sitting under his pedestal, or occasionally sitting in his lap, allowing herself to be stroked by his cool, leathery claw.

There was also one night when Katherine could swear she heard men’s voices in the backyard yelling, “Let’s get out of here!” She smiled to herself and rolled over in her bed, secure knowing that Gargoth wouldn’t let anyone near their house, especially if they were trying to climb over the back fence into the yard. He was better than a dog that way.

Gargoth tried his best to be good. He wanted to help the Newberry family, and in return, he hoped that Katherine would help him with the request he had made.

He wanted, more than anything, a chance to find a certain store. A store he had seen from the inside of a box as the lid was pried off. He had been lying in the box, hiding, when the lid was opened.

And she was taken away.

He could hardly bear to think of that moment and pushed it from his mind whenever it came to him.

Instead, Gargoth tried hard to remember what he could about the store. He knew it was quite small and dark and had a heavy scent of cinnamon candles. He also knew it was close to a busy road, and a great thundering machine went by frequently, which made the entire shop and all its contents quake as it passed. It was a large red machine with doors that opened and shut, letting people enter and leave as they pleased. He also knew that the person who owned the store was a tall woman with long curly red hair tied up in several scarves with beads. She wore long skirts and bangles, and she jangled and swished when she walked by the box he was hiding in.

Gargoth waited for his opportunity to talk to Katherine again about helping him find the store, but it was a long while before it came. And it was Katherine who brought it up.

During the weeks after Halloween, she had seen a change in her parents. A change in their entire lives. She had been thinking that she wanted to help her parents somehow. She saw how it upset them, not knowing how to help Gargoth on his way. She knew that they wanted to have a dinner party at Christmas time, but were afraid to invite people over in case Gargoth decided to defend their home again.

They were losing touch with their friends. The McDonalds were asking questions. And Katherine hadn’t had any of her own friends over for a sleepover in ages.

It wasn’t that they didn’t like the little gargoyle. In fact, just the opposite: they really liked him. Which made the situation worse.

How do you get rid of a houseguest you don’t really mind?

A very odd houseguest to be sure, but not an obnoxious one. Not a mean or unfriendly one, particularly, but rather an interesting one with lots of stories to tell. In fact, she and her mother were beginning to really appreciate some of the finer points of having a gargoyle around. He never strayed from the yard, never asked to be let into the house, but if you bundled up and spent time with him in the yard under the cover of darkness, you would be richly rewarded with fabulous stories from the past.

Katherine came to understand that a rich, personal knowledge of history could come in very handy. One week, when Gargoth had overheard that Katherine was studying the great composer Mozart in history class, he grew very excited.

“Katherine! I didn’t know that people still know about Mozart! Here, sit, I can tell you all that you need to know about Wolfgang Amadeus—I was one of his greatest admirers!”

Gargoth really was an expert. Katherine learned that he had first heard Mozart in Paris in the summer of 1778, when Mozart created a beautiful masterpiece called “Paris Symphony”. (It’s a long and interesting story, which you may read about some day, but you’ll have to be satisfied with just a taste here). Gargoth sat entranced one hot July night on a nearby balcony as the beautiful music filled the air. Over that summer, Gargoth often perched himself near wherever the great composer was playing and listened blissfully. He had never heard anything like it, such pain and beauty combined together to create haunting musical perfection. Gargoth had been a very knowledgeable music fanatic ever since.

Gargoth and Katherine spent hours together in the backyard, discussing Mozart’s life and musical practice. Katherine learned more than she ever wanted or needed to know about Mozart.

She got an “A” on that history project. Even Mrs. Glean was pleased!

Katherine learned that Gargoth had lived at one time or another in several towns in 17th and 18th century Europe, both in England and France. He told Katherine about the restoration of the great Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, at that time the greatest church ever built. He had lived through the terrible French Revolution and once again, saw more terror and bloodshed than he cared to remember (which he mostly glossed over for Katherine’s sake). He told her about the great plague that swept the European continent in 1665; so many people died that entire villages and towns were simply abandoned. He talked for hours about life in southern France in the 1700s (they kept a lot of bees, apparently). Katherine got the impression that life during those times was nearly unbearable, since it seemed from Gargoth’s descriptions that people were really hungry and sick most of the time.

One night, after hearing yet another tale about a religious battle in England, Katherine finally had to blurt out, “Honestly, Gargoth, weren’t there ever any good times? Didn’t anyone ever have a good day, where they could just hang out and relax?”

He stopped and blinked at her, surprised. It took him a moment to accept the change in the course of their conversation, but when he understood what she was asking, he slowly smiled. “Of course, Katherine. There were many good things about living a long time ago.” He paused, thinking for a moment.

“The air smelled better, for one thing.” Here Katherine sighed, ready for another lecture. Gargoth had complained almost daily about the poor quality of the Toronto air, ever since he had arrived in their backyard. Katherine was so used to his complaining, she tuned him out and was no longer surprised if, right in the middle of a conversation, he stopped, wrinkled up his nose and started coughing. He hated the air and wondered often what it was doing to “one so young”, meaning her.

He went on. “Food tasted better, too. These so-called apples barely have any flavour compared to the English apples of my early life. They were strong and tart, yet somehow sweet at the same time. There were lovely, clear blue skies and beautiful smells of hay and sweet clover in the summer.” He closed his eyes, and Katherine could almost hear him sniffing the wind, remembering a time long ago and far away when the world did not smell like car exhaust and diesel fumes.

After a long pause, he finally added, “And the world was much, much quieter then, Katherine.” As if to confirm the point, a car alarm suddenly started blaring on the street in front of the house. He flinched, hunching his shoulders a little, drawing his wings in tightly around himself. He glared toward the front of the house and wouldn’t continue until the offending alarm stopped.

“I could stand on the church parapet on a deep summer night and hear nothing but crickets, the wind in the long grass, and the trickle of the churchyard stream. Nothing but blissful silence, right until the first rooster crowed at sun-up.”

Katherine wondered about that; she thought a serene and quiet world where the air smelled sweet and food tasted better sounded pretty good. But then there was all the bad stuff about religious persecution and starvation, no doctors, short life spans and constant illness, which she thought might make living in the past not so much fun, really.

One mid-December night, Katherine made up her mind. She would help Gargoth find the store he’d lost. She would help him, but they would have to be very careful. She didn’t want her parents to find out. Or anyone else, for that matter.

After dinner that night, she went to visit him, which wasn’t unusual, since either she or her mother or even her dad would once in a while, take an after-dinner snack out to him and say goodnight. It was becoming part of the family routine, deciding which one would check on him before bed.

He had taken a liking to hot chocolate, and this night Katherine was having some for herself, so she made him an extra mug. She told her parents she was going to say goodnight to Gargoth and stepped outside. The cold took her breath away and made the hot cup of chocolate suddenly look warm and inviting as steam furled up into the dark.

“Gargoth,” she called quietly. “Gargoth?” There was a silence, then the bushes parted and out he stepped, regal as a small, fierce prince. Despite telling them he didn’t feel the cold, Katherine noticed that he had taken to sleeping at night in the warmth of the bushes, especially when it was snowing.

She walked over to him and handed him the warm mug. He accepted it eagerly and took an enormous swig. He wiped his mouth then turned and grinned at her.

“Well, Katherine, I’m glad that you have made cocoa again. Thank you.” They sat together beside the tree. Her parents had placed a small wooden bench near his pedestal so anyone could curl up and chat with him in comfort. Since her “A” in history, she and Gargoth had spent more and more time together.

“Gargoth, I’ve decided I will help you,” she began. “I will help you find the store you are looking for.”

There was a silence. Gargoth hid his face away from her for a moment, then turned to her with great, hot gargoyle tears coursing down his fat, leathery cheeks. Quietly he buried his little face in her coat. She could feel his hot tears hissing against the cool skin at her neck. It hurt. She gently pried him off her, concerned.

“Are you okay, Gargoth?” she asked, gazing intently into his face.

He took a deep breath and wiped his tears. “Okay? Okay, Katherine? Okay indeed! You have made me feel there is a...future. A way in the future for me...” He buried his face in her coat again for a moment, then turned away. He was making hiccoughing noises, too overcome to speak. Then he got up on his pedestal and danced an ancient jig, hooking his little claws under his wings and clicking his heels beneath his knees. Katherine giggled.

Once he had finished, he sat down again and caught his breath, saying, “You are very kind to me, Katherine. I know it has not been easy. I know that you had no choice but to accept me, and I regret...” he trailed off, suddenly sad. Her eyes followed his gaze to the flower patch, now empty and hoed to bare earth. Her parents had rid the yard of any remembrance of asters. He then let his eyes pass over the mended dwarf whose nose he had broken, so long ago it seemed now.

“I promise I will be good. I won’t cause any problems for you, no matter what happens.” And with that he extended his claw to Katherine. She carefully took it in her mittened hand, and they shook.

“Okay, Gargoth. We’ll start looking for the store the first Wednesday after New Year’s. I have piano lessons on Wednesdays, and I have to take the subway and the bus to my teacher’s house, so I can put you in my bag after school and take you with me. We will have time to look at one store each week. It could take a long time. There are lots of stores in this city that might have gargoyles in them. Tell me everything you can remember about the one you are looking for.”

So, as they sipped hot chocolate and sat in the cold night, she listened as the little gargoyle told her everything he could remember about the lost store.

When he was finished, she had a good idea where to start their search.

Chapter Sixteen

Christmas Day Statues

In no time, it seemed to Katherine, the first term of school was ended and it was time for Christmas holidays.

Christmas was always a fairly laid-back time for the Newberrys, pleasant and unhurried, with lots of friends to visit. They usually had one, large, exciting party for all their friends. Katherine was allowed to invite two friends, and they were always Sarah and Rubie.

This year was going to be a little different. Instead of the huge party they always had, Katherine’s parents had decided they would tell everyone they couldn’t have it this year because they were planning a long-awaited ski trip to Quebec. Katherine loved skiing, and although she would really miss the great party her parents always threw, she was really excited about the ski trip.

They were leaving on Boxing Day and had everything all ready and packed to go several days before, so they could laze around and enjoy Christmas day itself. They also wanted to say goodbye to Gargoth.

Christmas morning was clear and cold. Just as though the snow gods were listening to every child’s prayer on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning dawned with a fresh blanket of snow.

Katherine woke, sprang out of bed and looked out the window. It was her custom now to check on Gargoth from her bedroom window first thing each morning. Somehow he always knew when she was awake, and was waiting, smiling up at her when she peeked out. Christmas morning was no different. He was awake, gazing up at her window, waiting for her.

She waved excitedly at him, and he waved back.

But then she gasped and clapped her hands together in delight! Gargoth had been busy all night, making the most beautiful sculptures with the new snow!

As she looked over the backyard, she counted seventeen snow statues, each one a perfect gargoyle. Each was unique in its way, some were clearly female gargoyles, some were younger, older, grumpy or happy as Gargoth had made them.

One gargoyle was balanced perfectly on one toe, caught in a pirouette, just as Gargoth himself had been that terrible night when he’d stolen Katherine’s shoes.

Another held a bouquet of what looked like asters.

Still another had her wings spread and was flying above a block of snow, suspended on a column of nearly invisible ice.

Each one was a beautiful work of art.

Katherine opened her window and called down to Gargoth, who was sitting perched on his pedestal, smoking his pipe. “Gargoth, they’re beautiful!” She smiled at him.

He grinned back. “Good morning, Katherine! Merry Christmas!” he called.

“Merry Christmas, Gargoth!” she called and quickly shut the window. It really was a cold morning.

She ran down the hall to her parents’ room and burst through the door, breathless. Both her parents, sleepy but happy, smiled up at her as she entered. Milly was curled up between them, asleep. They had already been up and made coffee and hot chocolate. Her mug was steaming on their bedside table. She jumped between them and said, “Merry Christmas, Mom! Merry Christmas, Dad!”

“Did you see the statues?” she asked, after sipping her delicious cocoa.

Her mother was smiling. For the first time in a long while, she looked really happy.

“Yes, they’re really beautiful. I think we should take pictures of them so we can keep them around forever,” she said.

Soon it was time for presents. After each Newberry family member had opened his or her gift, and after a huge breakfast of Froot Loops (forbidden the rest of the year), pancakes and maple syrup, the Newberrys put their warmest coats and boots on over their pajamas, and carried out their presents for Gargoth.

Gargoth was sitting beneath the sculpture of the beautiful flying gargoyle, smoking his pipe. He looked calm and peaceful, almost happy.

“Hello, Newberrys. I hope you enjoy the snow sculptures I have made for you.”

“Oh, they’re beautiful, Gargoth. Thank you!” said Katherine and her mother, almost together. Katherine’s father simply said “The statues are beautiful, Gargoth.” He still hadn’t been able to understand when Gargoth spoke, although sometimes he thought he caught a word here and there.

Gargoth stood up and came over to the family. He waved his arms over the seventeen beautiful statues, and said, “I have created a world of friends I will never have.” He pointed at a squat, very sturdy and youthful-looking sculpture with fat cheeks. “A young friend perhaps. I will name him Andrathene.”

“And that one I will name Magra.” This time he waved toward an older-looking gargoyle with a grandmotherly face.

He turned and gazed up at the flying gargoyle. Up close, Katherine could see that she was sweet looking, her face wasn’t wrinkled and crumpled like the others. She had a small pouch at her side, just like Gargoth’s.

“Who is that one?” asked Katherine, pointing at the flying gargoyle.

Gargoth looked at her steadily. He sighed. “Her name is Ambergine. But she is no one.”

Katherine and Gargoth looked at each other for a moment, and she knew he was lying. This was a sculpture of the gargoyle he was hoping to find, the only real gargoyle in the entire group of imaginary friends. She was the gargoyle that they would soon be searching for in every candle and comic book store in Toronto.

She tactfully changed the subject. “Um, Mom! What do you have for Gargoth?”

“Oh! Right!” her mother said. “Look Gargoth, these are Cellini apples shipped from a hillside in southern Italy—they are an ancient variety once cultivated by the Greeks and Romans. They are difficult to grow, but they are exquisite. I had to sample one for myself! I hope you like them!” She placed a huge basket overflowing with the most beautiful, glowing apples Katherine had ever seen.

They smelled like heaven. Gargoth picked one up gently in his claw and took a long sniff of its rich, sweet scent. “Oh, they will be delicious. Thank you, Mother Newberry.”

It was Katherine’s turn. She brought her gift out from behind her back and held out a new, oversized cocoa cup for Gargoth. “This is so we can enjoy long chats over hot chocolate together, and you don’t run out first!” she said. Gargoth seemed really touched and turned the cocoa cup around in his hands, holding it up close to his face. It had a checkered pattern and wavy lines on it, which seemed to intrigue him. He looked at it for a long time, finally thanking Katherine in a hushed voice.

Then Katherine’s father stepped forward, not understanding a word, but seeing it was his turn. He dropped a large pouch into Gargoth’s claw. On opening it, Gargoth made a strange noise, which sounded like a gargoyle being taken by surprise (an odd sound to be sure, but not an unpleasant one).

“Ah, Father Newberry, you honour me with fine English tobacco, my favourite,” he said, clearly touched once again.

Gargoth surprised Katherine’s father with a genuine smile and a handshake. (Shaking Gargoth’s claw was actually a little dangerous, it was sharp!)

The Newberrys were very happy. If anyone were looking into their little backyard, they would have seen a very loving family gathered around a gargoyle, who looked just like he loved them back.

And a very smart cat watching everything from the warmth of indoors.

BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
5.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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