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Authors: Philippa Dowding

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BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
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Chapter Seventeen

The Promise

Katherine enjoyed the family ski trip more than she had imagined she would. They stayed in a ski chalet, right on the mountain, and kept their skis outside the front door in a snow bank. When they wanted to ski, they just walked outside and stepped into them.

There were pine trees growing right outside her bedroom window, and they smelled so heavenly that every evening she opened her window so she could enjoy them all night long.

Her room had its own fireplace and a huge window looking out onto the forest. Her parents’ room was even bigger than hers and had a jacuzzi big enough for a football team.

It was very luxurious. It was perfect, in fact. Only once did Katherine think of Gargoth. On their last day, she was skiing into the main chalet, when she happened to look up. There on top of the old building was a gargoyle. She was so surprised, she almost fell face first into the snow. When she righted herself, she stood and watched the gargoyle for a few moments. But she quickly realized it was simply a stone gargoyle, just a statue on the roof, not a real living creature like Gargoth.

She felt a pang and suddenly realized how much she had come to consider him part of the family. Just then her mother skied up. They looked at the gargoyle together for a while.

“I wonder what Gargoth would look like on skis?” her mother said.

The image was so hysterical that Katherine laughed herself into a fit of hiccoughing. Once she caught her breath, she challenged her mother to a race down the big hill.

The next day the family returned home. Gargoth seemed genuinely pleased to see them. It had been warmer in Toronto than on the ski slopes, and many of the statues Gargoth had created on Christmas Eve were starting to melt. They looked ghoulish and spooky, melting slowly away, with sadly drooping wings and drooling fangs. Gargoth didn’t seem to notice.

School started the next day, and this was the first week of Katherine’s piano lessons for the second term. If she had forgotten their agreement, Gargoth hadn’t. At the first opportunity, he reminded her of her promise from a few weeks before. After dinner on Sunday night, Katherine took out a mug of hot chocolate in the new huge, checkered mug she had given him for Christmas.

“We will start looking for her this week, then?” he reminded her, as soon as they were alone in the backyard.

“Yes, Gargoth,” she said. “I promised. But I have to say I’m not really happy about it. It’s a lot of sneaking around, and I don’t like to do that behind my parents’ backs. I really feel like I should tell them.” She sat in the bench beside his pedestal and brushed some snow off the back of the unicorn’s mane.

“No, Katherine. Please, I promise all will be well.”

He was so earnest that she sighed and said, “Fine. But if there are any problems, if I’m late for piano even once, we’ll have to tell them and find another way.”

“Don’t worry, Katherine. It will be fine.” Gargoth delicately tipped up his mug to get his final sip of hot chocolate (despite what you might think, gargoyles are actually very tidy eaters) and grinned at her.

She went inside a few moments later, still not feeling great about the adventure she was about to undertake, traipsing through Toronto’s subway with a supposed-to-be-inanimate creature talking to her from her backpack. But she felt she might just be able to help him find the gargoyle he was searching for, and if he did find her, Katherine felt certain he would be able to leave her family, leave her backyard, and carry on with his own life.

And that’s what they all wanted, wasn’t it, Katherine thought? For him to get unstuck from their lives, and get on with his own? She also knew her parents had grown fond of him, but she knew they were saddened by the changes in their lives. No parties. No friends to visit. No beautiful flowers. She missed having her own friends over for sleepovers. And it was getting harder and harder to come up with reasons not to invite people over.

No matter how she looked at it, Katherine had to admit it was difficult having a gargoyle living in her backyard.

Monday morning dawned. The family quickly returned to their pre-Christmas routines. It always surprised Katherine how fast the events of the holidays became a dream-like memory.

She was happy to see her friends at school again. They all talked about what they had been doing over the holidays. She had a lot of fun telling everyone what the ski trip had been like.

All too soon, Wednesday morning arrived, and with a faint sense of dread, Katherine realized that today was the day. Her mother waved out the back door to Gargoth, then she and Katherine got into the car, and off they drove to school.

From the back seat, Katherine said as casually as she could, “So, piano starts again tonight, Mom.”

“Oh, yes! I forgot! Do you remember how to get to Elaine’s?” her mother asked absentmindedly.

“Uh-huh. Take the bus down Christie to the subway, then go east to Castle Frank, then north one street to her house. I remember. You’ll pick me up at six o’clock outside her house, right?”

“Yes. I’ll be there. And please remember to call me when you get there. Promise?”

“Yeah, Mom, don’t worry, I’ll call.” Katherine bit her lip, kissed her mother goodbye, then jumped out of the car and bounded into the school. She was beginning to wonder how on earth she was going to get home, get Gargoth into her backpack, then dash downtown and back up to her piano lesson on time.

It wouldn’t be easy. The night before, she and Gargoth had agreed that he would be waiting at the back fence. She thought she could run home after school, take the shortcut to their backyard down the lane, then he could leap over the fence, and she’d save at least five minutes off going the long way to the front door.

The day at school seemed impossibly long and slow. But finally it ended, without mishap. At last three-thirty came, and Katherine took off like a shot. Her friend Rubie ran across the school field to try to catch her, but Katherine pretended not to hear her and kept running. The last thing she wanted was to explain why she needed to get home really quickly today.

It worked perfectly. The day was clear and cold, but most of the snow had melted, so Katherine could run as fast as she wanted over the sidewalks without slipping. She had her big yellow canvas backpack on, and she hoped Gargoth would fit. Try as she might, she hadn’t been able to convince him to get in the night before, just to make sure there was enough room for him.

She smiled, in spite of herself. “Such pride!” she thought.

She arrived at the back fence at exactly 3:42. “Twelve minutes! That’s pretty good for two kilometres!” she thought. Then she whistled softly, as they had agreed.

A second later, she heard a loud thud beside her. There was Gargoth, lying in the muddy lane, looking very upset.

“You’re late, Katherine! And I’m all muddy and wet!” he complained.

She sighed. “Get in Gargoth, and be quiet.” She squatted down, and the little gargoyle clambered up onto her back, pulled himself over the rim of the sturdy canvas backpack and slid in, head first.

He grunted, then Katherine had an uncomfortable sensation as he wriggled and righted himself to rest on his large feet.

“Uh, Gargoth,” she began, as she stood up and adjusted the straps of the backpack to allow for more room for him, “would you mind turning the other way. Your, uh, claws are digging into my back.”

Gargoth grunted again, and after a few minutes of squirming and snorting and, Katherine was sure, quite unnecessary sighing, he had turned himself inside the backpack so his back was against Katherine’s back. She had to admit that scaly wings rubbing against her back were only slightly more comfortable than pointy claws sticking into her ribs.

She had been walking all the while. “Next week, we bring a soft towel for you to lean against,” Katherine whispered over her back. She was walking down Bloor Street now and didn’t want people to see her whispering into her backpack.

All she heard in response from Gargoth was a soft snort. He was asleep!

“That’s probably good,” she thought. “I don’t have to worry about him talking to me on the subway.”

She reached the subway entrance, paid her student fare, then waited on the eastbound platform for the next train. No one could possibly know what was inside her backpack, but she was nervous and jumpy all the same.

And Gargoth, small as he was, was beginning to feel quite heavy. Katherine hoped no one would notice that her backpack was snoring.

Chapter Eighteen

The First Store

Judging by Gargoth’s description of the store and the large red “locomotion machine,” as he called it, Katherine had decided that they should start looking in the stores along the streetcar route of Toronto’s Queen Street East. The area was full of antique shops, comic book stores and strange little boutiques which were an odd mixture of both. There were plenty to choose from, so to pick the first store, she simply ran her finger down the list in the phone book and stopped randomly at Crystal Knights; she liked the sound of it. That would be the first store they would visit.

Katherine had ridden in peace on the subway, since Gargoth slept the entire trip. When she transferred to the Queen streetcar, he stirred a little but still did not wake up.

She found Crystal Knights without any trouble, and finally had no choice but to wake Gargoth. She was really nervous about doing this, since gargoyles are notoriously grumpy when you wake them up from a sound sleep. Luckily, there was a bench right outside the store, where she sat heavily and took off her backpack. Gently she shook the bag, saying, “Gargoth, we’re here! Wake up!” It took a few shakes and whispers before she heard the familiar snarl and snap. She was glad this was a sturdy canvas backpack.

Once Gargoth was wide awake and no longer snarling at her, Katherine re-shouldered the backpack and went toward the store. Her heart was pounding. Gargoth had promised to keep still but insisted that his head peek out the top of the backpack, so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

As Katherine opened the door, a little bell tinkled their arrival to the proprietor working among the boxes in the storeroom at the back. The place was warm and smelled like incense.

“Just a minute!” a happy, loud woman’s voice called. Katherine could feel Gargoth’s body tense behind her. “Katherine! This seems right! It smells right! It looks right! And it’s a woman here!” Gargoth was practically yelling at her.

“Be quiet! You promised!” Katherine snapped over her shoulder, but she had to stop because the unseen owner had just appeared, beaming at them over the counter.

A short lady with thick glasses and frizzy hair smiled down at her. “Hello!” she said pleasantly. “Can I help you?”

Here we go,
thought Katherine. “Um, yes, please,” she said. “I have a gargoyle here, and we are looking for a matching one. My mother really loves this one and wants to try and find another one just like it. Have you seen anything like this one before?”

The lady-owner bustled happily around the counter and peered into the backpack at Gargoth. “Please, Gargoth,” Katherine breathed to herself, “be good!”

He was. As good as gold. He stayed perfectly rigid and still while the lady looked him over, very closely.

“Oh, isn’t he beautiful? Can I take him out?” she asked. Katherine froze. She hadn’t thought of that. Of course, the owner would want to see him and touch him! “Okay, I guess...he’s pretty precious! Be careful!”

The lady carefully took hold of Gargoth and lifted him from the backpack. She placed him on the counter, and she and Katherine stood back to admire him. Katherine was very worried, but extremely impressed with Gargoth’s statue-like demeanour. He really did look like a perfect little gargoyle statue, grumpy and lifelike. But not necessarily real.

There was a long silence. “He really is remarkable, isn’t he? I mean, you’d swear he’s alive!” She was just going to touch Gargoth again when the front door bell tinkled. A delivery man came through the door with a hand-trolley overflowing with boxes marked “Skulls/candles”.

“Just one moment, dear.” The lady turned her back to Katherine and Gargoth for a moment, and Gargoth took the opportunity to sullenly stick his tongue out at her as she retreated. Then he shook his head sadly at Katherine. This wasn’t the right store.

While the lady was busy with the delivery man, Katherine took off her backpack and carefully stuffed Gargoth back in. It would have been easier if he’d climbed in himself, but of course, they couldn’t risk that.

The lady came back to them just as Katherine was strapping her backpack closed. “You know, I’ve never seen another gargoyle like him, dear. He’s really one of a kind, don’t you think?” She smiled sweetly at Katherine.

“Yes.” Katherine smiled weakly back at her. “Yes, I’m quite sure he really is.”

Feeling sadder than she thought possible, Katherine left the store and headed back to the bus stop. She looked at her watch: 4:25! She’d have to hurry to make it to piano on time. She started at a trot. Gargoth was perfectly silent behind her, although he was being bumped and banged against her body mercilessly. She was sure she was getting bruised. Although he wasn’t very big, Gargoth was sturdy and pointy where he bumped against your body.

“I’m really sorry, Gargoth,” Katherine panted over her shoulder as she ran. “You couldn’t really expect the first store we tried to be the right one, though. Could you? I mean there are dozens of stores just like that one, near the street car lines. It could take us months to check them all, Gargoth.”

There was only silence behind her. And the occasional sniffle.

Katherine dashed to the Broadview bus, then ran all the way from the Castle Frank station to her piano lesson with just five minutes to spare.

As Katherine entered the timeless luxury of her piano teacher’s house, and the big oak door to the panelled piano room slid with a “shush” behind her, she realized she hadn’t thought of something: what was Gargoth going to do while she had her piano lesson?

Elaine, her teacher, was waiting at the piano bench for her. “Hello, Katherine! Just in time. How was your holiday?” she asked, happy to see her student.

Suddenly aching with worry and tired from her run, Katherine said, “Oh, sorry, Elaine! I just have to call my mother!” She bolted back out into the hallway, slid the door shut behind her and picked up the phone on the table. As she was dialing her mother, she whispered to her backpack, “Gargoth, you’ve got to be really, really quiet during my lesson. Can you breathe in there?”

Gargoth whispered back. “I will be quiet as long as you play well. I cannot endure poor piano playing.” Katherine caught a note of a sniff in Gargoth’s tone, just as though he was reminding her that he had listened to Mozart himself play, one of the greatest pianists the world has ever known.

Katherine sighed. There was nothing for it. Gargoth would have to listen to her piano lesson and stay perfectly quiet. Katherine left a message on her mother’s voicemail at work, propped her backpack up outside the sliding oak door and walked in.

“Katherine, are you okay?” Elaine asked her. She seemed a little worried.

Katherine really liked her piano teacher. She was a grandmotherly lady who dressed beautifully and who really enjoyed teaching kids how to read music. She’d been a piano teacher for thirty-five years, but unlike many others, she had never grown tired of the job. And she picked great music for Katherine to learn.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Thanks. Just a little tired.” She smiled.

“Where’s your music then?” Elaine asked, expectantly.

Music. Oh no, it was in her backpack! “Oh, yes, how silly of me! I’ll just get it.” She slid open the heavy oak door one final time and looked over at her backpack. To her dismay, there was her music sticking out the half-closed top, clutched in an all-too familiar claw.

She snatched it and slid the door closed once again. Luckily, Elaine hadn’t seen her music waving above her backpack in the hallway. She could breathe again.

Sadly, this wasn’t Katherine’s best lesson. And Elaine didn’t want to say anything to Katherine, but she was sure that every time Katherine hit a wrong note, which for some reason was rather frequent, her backpack sneezed. Or grunted. Or maybe it made a noise like the wind in the leaves.

They were both relieved when the lesson was finally over and Katherine’s mother beeped the car horn from the driveway.

“Thanks, Elaine. Sorry, I didn’t really practice much over the holidays. I think I’ll be better next week. Bye!”

Katherine grabbed her bag and dashed out the door to find her mother waiting. She was careful to stash her backpack in the trunk for the ride home, and she didn’t really care if certain individuals found it cold and uncomfortable back there.

Luckily, when they got home it was dark, and Katherine had enough time to sneak Gargoth into the backyard before her mother checked on him.

Katherine didn’t speak to Gargoth or even venture into the backyard for several days after that adventure. She was too shaken.

BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
8.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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