Read The Gargoyle in My Yard Online

Authors: Philippa Dowding

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BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
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Chapter Nineteen

Candles by Daye

The next week, Katherine and Gargoth agreed on two things: he would stay hidden in the backpack during the entire time he was in each store, and he would wait outside in the bushes during her piano lesson.

Making the first change was easy. They just needed to make some adjustments to the backpack. Katherine made two eyeholes in the fabric so Gargoth could peek out and check each store without being seen.

The second change was much harder and more dangerous. Each time Katherine arrived, breathless, at Elaine’s house, she would take off her backpack and let Gargoth scramble out into the bushes by the front door. They had some very close calls, including one awful night when Elaine had been watching from the window and insisted on checking the bushes carefully for what she thought was a large “rodent”.

Luckily she hadn’t seen too much, most importantly where the “rodent” had come from, and Gargoth was able to hide from her in the bushes.

Getting him back in the backpack after the lesson was just as difficult, but since it was dark by the time her mother arrived, Gargoth could usually climb into it unseen. He was actually getting quite good at jumping onto Katherine and into the backpack as she bent next to the bush he was hiding in, pretending to tie her shoe.

It was a difficult time for them both. It was made even more difficult by the fact that they were having no luck finding the right store. But neither of them gave up. Winter was slowly turning to spring, but somehow neither Elaine nor Katherine’s mother figured out that the little gargoyle was hiding in Katherine’s backpack.

Each Wednesday, their adventure was the same. Katherine would rush home, pick up Gargoth, rush onto the subway and the streetcar, then dash into a store that turned out to be the wrong one. The only good thing was that the adjustments to the backpack worked perfectly. Gargoth was kept hidden and safe during each visit, and they didn’t have to endure the terror of nosy store owners trying to touch him.

They had been to every store along a good portion of Queen Street: Dungeons and Dragoons, Knyghtes and Ladies, Comix Culture, Gifties and Ghoulies, Starlite, Dragon’s Breath and several more. Katherine was a little disheartened at the pages of stores listed under “candles” and “novelties” in the Toronto phonebook. There were dozens and dozens of them. Who knew so many people wanted to buy skull-shaped candles, hanging bead curtains and healing chime balls?

Each store was essentially the same as the last. The door chimes tinkled when they entered. They were hit with the aroma of incense or candles, sometimes nearly overpowering them. They wandered up to the counter and faced some variation of an owner, tall and thin, short and chubby, angry, happy, frizzy haired, with or without glasses. The storeowners all became a version of one another after a while, each looking vaguely like the last.

Finally, after ten weeks of looking, Katherine and Gargoth were beginning to give up hope. It was early March, and the city was starting to smell once again like early spring.

This particular Wednesday, Katherine was trudging into yet another store, this one called Candles by Daye. By now it only took a few moments for Gargoth to let her know if they had found the right place. They had worked out a quiet, secret code which, unfortunately for Katherine, was a system of jabs from Gargoth. If the place was wrong, Gargoth jabbed her once (as gently as he could) on her left side. Theoretically, if it was the right store, he would jab her once on the right side, but this of course hadn’t happened yet. Needless to say, Katherine’s left side had developed a permanent bruise, which she was beginning to doubt would ever clear up.

As she entered this particular store, a streetcar rumbled to a stop on Queen Street behind her. She could feel Gargoth tense up in the backpack behind her.

“It’s okay, Gargoth,” she whispered. “It’s just a streetcar, you know that.”

As she entered the store, Katherine was immediately hit with a heavy scent of cinnamon.

“I’ll never light another candle as long as I live,” she thought as she wandered up to the counter.

The little store and its entire contents shook as the streetcar outside pulled away. Dust puffed from between the shelves and shelves of self-help and yoga books. An assortment of small ornaments quivered dangerously. The gentle song of dozens of jiggling chimes and healing balls filled the air.

Katherine took a moment to look around. It was a very small, dark store, and as far as she could tell, it was packed with dragons, fairies, dwarves, and all manner of mythical creatures.

Except, or course, like every other store they had visited recently, there were no gargoyles.

She sighed. “Here we go again,” she whispered, but Gargoth did not answer. She could feel him squirming behind her. “Keep still, you’re hurting me,” she begged.

The store appeared to be deserted. She rang the bell on the counter. In what seemed a mind-bending flash of speed, a tall woman with long, curly red hair bounced from the back of the store to the front in one leap. She had been bending over a box of knick-knacks, and Katherine hadn’t seen her.

Katherine pulled back in surprise. She had to bend back to catch the full height of the woman, she was so tall.

But very friendly. Perhaps a little too friendly. “Hello! I’m Cassandra, can I help you?” She smiled a giantess smile at Katherine, who was so overcome for a moment she could only stand and stare.

She felt a painful jab in her back (in a rather central spot near her spine, so as not to cause any confusion), which reminded her why she was there.

“Oh, uh,” she stammered. Another jab helped clear her mind and find her voice.

Slightly annoyed now, Katherine began the line she had said so often she could recite it in her sleep.

“Um, yes, please,” she said. “I’m looking for a gargoyle. My mother is a collector, and she is looking for a very specific one. Do you have any?”

Cassandra looked thoughtful for a moment. “Actually, we did have a gargoyle until recently.” Cassandra trailed off, looking more closely at Katherine. “Could you describe it? How big, facial expression, anything?”

“Well, he’s about this big,” Katherine showed Cassandra Gargoth’s approximate size with her hands. “He’s got small, leathery wings and a pouch on one side. He looks kind of gloomy. Oh, and he’s sitting down.”

“Hmm. I don’t think I have anything like that, but I’ll just go into the back and see. I’ll be right back,” the woman said and swooshed away, her long skirts making a soft sound like a summer breeze.

Katherine jumped. Gargoth had given her a particularly hard jab. She gasped and whispered, “What are you doing that for? Stop it!”

Before she knew it, Gargoth had clambered out of the bag and hopped onto the counter, clearly forgetting that her right side was for jabbing if the store felt “right”.

“This is it! This is it, Katherine!” he shouted. “This is the place. It is the right woman, I know it. It smells right. It is close enough to the streetcar. I…” Gargoth froze. Cassandra had swooshed back into sight.

He was standing, frozen, with his claws gesticulating wildly and his mouth wide open. He looked crazed. And very much alive.

Katherine held her breath. For what seemed like hours, Cassandra stood and stared at Gargoth, who was doing his best to look like a statue.

Katherine broke the silence uncomfortably. “Here is a version of what my mother is looking for, except like I said, the one she is looking for is sitting down.”

Cassandra nodded slowly at Katherine, then moved closer to Gargoth. Slowly she reached out and stroked his wing, then his head, then his back. She too seemed to be holding her breath.

“He is beautiful,” she said quietly. She spoke like someone talking about a very rare and expensive painting, or an antique. Katherine’s parents loved to watch antique shows on television, and she had overheard this reverential tone used by antique dealers speaking in the presence of an unusual and extremely rare find.

Cassandra stood before Gargoth for a moment, then turned away. It seemed to Katherine that she had to rip her eyes from him, and although she wasn’t absolutely sure, Katherine thought she may have had tears in them. Cassandra strode toward the back room. “I’ll be right back.”

While she was gone, neither Gargoth nor Katherine wasted any time getting Gargoth back into the backpack, and safely hidden.

Cassandra returned, holding a picture. She didn’t seem surprised that the little gargoyle was back in the backpack. She thrust the picture at Katherine. “I did have a gargoyle amazingly like him,” she said.

Katherine looked closely at the picture. Cassandra looked closely at Katherine. Here was an exact replica of the Christmas-day statue Gargoth had made; the female gargoyle flying over a block of ice, the one he had called “Ambergine”. She looked sweeter and softer, somehow, than Gargoth, but also very similar. She even had a pouch at her side, just like him. In the picture she was sitting with her claws tucked under her chin, looking funny and morose at the same time.

“Where is she now?” asked Katherine softly, raising her eyes to Cassandra’s.

Cassandra moved closer and bent down before her, so her large face was level with Katherine’s.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “but she disappeared a few days ago.” She paused, then spoke so quietly that Katherine had to draw even closer to hear her. “I think she flew away.”

Chapter Twenty

If Only...

Katherine stared at Cassandra for a long time. “Flew away?” she finally managed to ask.

“Yes,” said Cassandra. “I put her outside on the first fine day of spring last week. She sat in the sun all afternoon long, but she was gone when I went to collect her.”

“How do you know she wasn’t stolen?” asked Katherine. Cassandra smiled deeply.

“Because I know she could fly. I caught her flying one night, when she thought I wasn’t here. I was in the back, counting the dragons, when I heard a crash out front. I quietly put my head through the curtains, and there she was, flying from the counter top to the book shelf and back. She really wasn’t very good at it, though,” she added thoughtfully. “She kept crashing into things.”

Katherine didn’t know what to say.

Cassandra went on. “Even before I knew she could fly, I knew that she was different from the other gargoyles I’ve had here. I mean, she looked real, for one thing. And she was light, and her eyes were alive. There was another one like her in the box, but he was sent to The Golden Nautilus. As soon as I saw your gargoyle, I knew it was him. He’s quite loud, isn’t he? I saw him through the curtains jumping around on the countertop. Believe me, I would have kept them if only...”

“If you’d known they were alive?” Katherine finished.

“Yes. I would have kept them happy and together. I never would have separated them. I’m sorry.” Cassandra looked sadly at Katherine. “I think your gargoyle is lovely. Let him know I’ll keep my eyes open for her. Keep in touch with me, I’ll let you know if I see her.” Cassandra handed Katherine a Candles By Daye business card with her number and her name, Cassandra Daye, printed on it.

Katherine thanked Cassandra and walked sadly out of the store. Cassandra watched her go.

The day was dark and drizzly. A streetcar came by and splashed Katherine, but she hardly noticed.

As she walked slowly along Queen Street, not caring if she was late for piano, she could barely bring herself to talk to Gargoth. The backpack was very still.

Finally, as she wandered onto the Broadview bus to take her up to Danforth and the Castle Frank station, she said, “Gargoth, I’m really, really sorry. If she flew away, maybe we can still find her?”

Gargoth said nothing. What was there to say? He sniffled and stayed quiet, digging his way further down into the backpack. Katherine didn’t try to speak to him again.

Her piano lesson was a disaster. Luckily, it was the final lesson for the term.

Unlike other Wednesday nights, Katherine kept her backpack on her knee on the drive home and hugged it gently all the way.

Chapter Twenty-one

Night Flight

Finally, spring arrived in the city. Slush disappeared, and lost mittens were found. Children were liberated from suffocating scarves and down coats and were released to the freedom of spring jackets and caps.

Gargoth hadn’t been himself since their visit to Candles by Daye. He was grumpy, sad and humourless, so that even Milly kept her distance from him.

But there were still miracles to be had. As the sun returned the Newberry backyard to life, an amazing transformation had taken place over the winter. And it seemed that Gargoth had a large part to play in the new landscape of the yard.

For there, in the old aster patch, which no one could bring themselves to talk about or look at, there were sprouting the very beginnings of a new patch of flowers. And if her parents knew anything about asters, these were going to be spectacular!

But there was more. In the very centre of the yard, nestled between the unicorn fountain and the dwarf patch, was an astonishingly beautiful tree. It was an apple tree, grown from the seeds of the rare Italian Cellini apples Katherine’s mother had given to Gargoth as a Christmas gift.

The young tree looked glorious, with golden boughs and sweet-smelling bark. Katherine and her parents couldn’t believe it. It was a real miracle that this tree, coddled and coached to good health in the warmth of the Italian sunshine, could be made to grow in the cold, dark Canadian winter in downtown Toronto.

“How, Gargoth? How did you do it?” her mother asked the morning the tree was discovered pushing up through the turf at an amazing, even magical, pace.

Gargoth smiled a wise, gentle smile. “It will grow quickly, Mother Newberry. And hopefully you will no longer need to feed me so many buckets of apples. I will have my own supply.”

“And the asters, Gargoth. How?” Katherine’s mother allowed the words to die on her lips.

Gargoth just looked down and said quietly, “I hope you will forgive me, Mother Newberry. I hope the new patch will grow and bring you awards once again.”

Katherine’s mother bent forward and kissed Gargoth on his leathery head. He looked surprised, then smiled.

“They are not much, perhaps, but they are my gifts to you in the coming of the new season.”

Spring was truly beautiful that year. Gargoth, though a sadder and perhaps gentler gargoyle, remained with them in their backyard. His life with them took on a regular, day-to-day rhythm. The Newberrys even managed a summer barbecue to celebrate Katherine’s thirteenth birthday, and Gargoth stayed quietly out of sight in the bushes by the back fence. No one even suspected he was there.

In time, the glorious Italian apple tree did win awards for the Newberrys, as did the amazing new patch of New England Asters. Their neighbours, the McDonalds, were once again regular dinner guests.

Life returned to normal, or as normal as it was going to be with a gargoyle living in their yard, even a good-as-gold gargoyle like Gargoth.

But that is not the end of the story.

One fine summer night after the family had enjoyed a barbecue with friends in the Newberry’s backyard, Gargoth sat on his pedestal and smoked his pipe with Milly curled up on his lap. Gargoth looked up to the heavens then down at the cat.

The stars shone brightly. The moon was just beginning to rise behind the CN Tower, bathing the city in a cool, silver glow.

“Well, Milly my friend,” Gargoth said to the cat as he scratched her gently between the ears, “I guess that’s the end to another fine day.” He thought about the party the Newberrys had had that night, and the happy sound of friends and neighbours chatting nearby as he hid quietly in the bushes by the fence. As he thought of these things, he nodded off to sleep, snuffling and dropping his head slowly onto his chest.

As Milly looked up into his face purring, something in the night sky caught her attention, right at the edge of her sharp vision.

She stiffened and sat up. She wagged her tail and growled softly, staring all the while straight up into the sky above the city. She jumped down from Gargoth’s lap and up onto the fence.

Milly stared and stared, like a statue-cat transfixed on the top of the fence.

There, up in the heavens, silvery in the moonlight caught against the clouds, was the tiny outline of a gargoyle, flying over the city, circling, circling, and looking carefully for the one she had lost.

She knows Gargoth is there, waiting for her, somewhere in the vast city below. It will take much time and effort, and another story you may read one day, but she won’t give up: she knows she will find him. And you and I know he will be there for her, waiting among friends.

BOOK: The Gargoyle in My Yard
10.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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