Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Michal Reiben

Gnome school days are long and finish at half-past four. As well as all the usual subjects, they are also taught special tricks to fight against goblinoids, how to dodge giants, and also to do magic feats. After school, Tulla takes a long, bumpy ride home in a gnome bus, and then she plods along an overgrown path to her family’s underground house. She quickly prepares herself a bit to eat and then it’s off to her room. If she ever dares to leave her room in the evenings her father who is usually drunk flogs her. To brighten up her dreary life, Tulla buys herself some cute chubby, fury fleaposes. They are adorable creatures with large eyes set in flat faces that are crowned by small, floppy ears.  She also purchases some poupies, which are mice sized creatures with long pointed noses and ears. Tulla builds pens for them in the family’s garden shed and feeds them as soon as she arrives home from school and before going indoors.

On her way home from school, Tulla passes a lodge that stands on the edge of a pond. It is the abode of an Ogre family who owns a large flock of boisterous, noisy geese.

One sultry Saturday Tulla’s father procures a couple of goslings from the Ogre family and strides home with them in a cardboard box.  

“Come and look, I’ve brought you some goslings,” he shouts towards Tulla’s room.  

Tulla rushes out of her bedroom door and goes to peep inside the box.  She is delighted at seeing the goslings but also suspicious since her father is seldom kind to her.

“Why did you really buy them?” 

“For you of course and they’ll keep the garden free of weeds.” 

Tulla follows him out into the garden where he busily sets about building the geese a large barb wire enclosure and in the middle of which a big wooden hutch. Finally, he finishes the job to his satisfaction.

“From now on these goslings are your responsibility, you’ll need to buy them a sack of poultry pellets and make sure to feed them every day.”

Now as well as attending to her other pets, Tulla also feeds her goslings, Fay and Kay. Under her care, they blossom into large, healthy, noisy geese.

It’s a lazy Sunday morning, and since it’s the weekend Tulla is allowed out of her room. She is with her best friend Janie.  They are pleasantly whiling away their time sitting on a branch of the large beech tree that overlooks Tulla’s garden.  Their stubby legs dangle casually over the branch, from above streams of light filter down upon them through the leaves. The garden below them is neglected, full of tangled thickets and weeds.

“Let’s suppose that that luscious pink rose-bush by the garden-shed is a gypsy dancer,” said Tulla.

“..and that crab-apple tree with knotted boughs opposite is a brave soldier,” said Janie.

“..and the soldier invites the gypsy dancer to a sumptuous meal,” said Tulla.

“..of lots of delicious ice-cream and jelly,” said Janie.

They burst into hoots of laughter!

Their merriment is interrupted as their attention is drawn to Tulla’s father who is trudging down the paved, weedy garden path.  He is carrying a hoe slung over his shoulder and strides into the geese’s pen. Almost immediately they become spectators to a most gruesome scene as he begins to chase the poor birds and brutally hacks at their necks.

“Stop it, stop it,” shouts Tulla.

However, her father doesn’t or chooses not to hear her. Fay and Kay fight back valiantly, but they are no match for her father, who eventually manages to break the poor creature’s necks with his hoe. He then drags the dead geese out of the garden, and back down the path by their feet.

After witnessing that gruesome atrocity, Tulla and Janie sit on the tree branch in stunned silence. Tulla is so angry at her father that

she blurts out, “He’s a horrible man, I hate him, he often beats me.”

Janie just sits silently with her head bent down. She looks so wretched with her thin plaits dangling down, and her heavy eyelids cast down. Tulla immediately regrets having complained about her father, for she realizes she has made Janie feel uncomfortable.  

Later after the two friends have climbed down the tree and Janie has departed, Tulla goes to confront her father with tear-swollen eyes.

“Why did you kill Fay and Kay? How could you have been so cruel?”

“To eat for Christmas!”   

He rubs his stomach and beams gleefully at her.

“But you gave them to me,” sobs Tulla, “They were mine.”

“You have to understand you couldn’t keep them forever, they were a nuisance,” said her mother.   

“You lied when you told me they were my pets. All along you knew they were going to be killed for Christmas!” Tulla continues to lament.

“Well, it’s over and done with now,” said her mother.

“Don’t expect me to eat them because I’m not going to,” shrieks Tulla and she angrily storms out of the room.

Following this event, Tulla begins to suffer from a recurring nightmare in which, instead of the geese being chased by her father, it is she who is being pursued. However, in these dreams the moment when he is about to strike her on her head with his hoe, she wakes up in a terrified panic.”

Winter has arrived and as Tulla walks home from school dusk is already falling, by the time she arrives at the garden shed even her own shadow is swallowed up by the darkness. She can hear her fleaposes squealing loudly. Inside the shed its pitch black and she has to switch on her torch. Upon shining the beam of her torch into her pet’s large enclosure she is severely shocked by the nauseating sight of the completely mutilated bodies of some of her pets. To the extent that pieces of skin, fur, and bones are scattered over the blood-drenched straw of their pen. After the initial trauma has sunk in Tulla rallies round, finds pieces of newspaper, and does her best to pick up the morbid remains and remove them. She feels so sorry for the surviving fleaposes and can’t begin to imagine how frightened they must be. As she feeds her pets with carrots and dried pellets, she tries to work out in her mind, who or what had attacked them?

“Maybe a cat or a rat?”

She also suspects her father after how he’d massacred her geese. It’s so baffling. She hopes it’s a one-time occurrence.

However much to her dismay, she is daily faced with the same ghastly scene of two or three more mutilated fleapose bodies. One evening she is terror-stricken at the petrifying sight of her poor little poupies, who have had their eyes gouged out, and it’s now blatantly clear that whoever is doing these things is mentally deranged.  

To try to protect her pets from any further harm, Tulla fixes the garden shed door with a padlock. Although, when she arrives at the shed the following day, she discovers that the padlock has been forced open, and once again some of her pets have been butchered brutally. The whole thing is so utterly vile and bewildering. She doesn’t understand how someone can do such monstrous acts.   

One Friday afternoon, some school lessons are canceled and Tulla arrives home early while it’s still light. She decides to play ‘detective’. In the hope of discovering who is killing her pets, she hides in wait behind a large Rhododendron bush which grows beside the garden shed. As she crotches on her heels behind the bush, daylight begins to fade, but her eyes adjust to the murkiness. The air is so cold it numbs her face and creeps under her clothes. After a while much to her astonishment, she spies the little Ogre boy who lives down at the lodge come running up the path towards the garden shed.  

Immediately she springs to her feet and chases after him.

“Why are you killing all my pets?” she yells.

“Because your father ‘did in’ our geese!”

He turns tail, dodges her and dashes back out of the garden.

“You’re crazy. When I learn enough magic I’ll turn you into a frog!” Tulla screams at his retreating figure.

With her heart pounding Tulla walks into the shed and feeds her last two remaining fleaposes.

Friday being an evening Tulla is permitted to eat supper with her parents in the kitchen. She uses this chance to tackle her father.

“I’ve finally discovered who’s been butchering all my animals. It’s the little Ogre boy from the lodge. He did it in revenge because you killed the geese which his father sold to you.”

“That boy’s not quite right in his head. He won’t let his father kill any of their geese,” said her mother.

“Why isn’t he right in his head?” asks Tulla.

“Because his father beats him all the time.”

“Why?” asks Tulla.

“His mother is very ill and his father is under a lot of stress.”

“But it’s not the little boy’s fault that his mother is sick; it’s cruel of his father to beat him,” said Tulla.

“No it’s not his fault and it is cruel of his father,” agrees her mother.

“Yes it is cruel to beat one’s children,” said Tulla triumphantly.

She looks pointedly at her father.

A shifty expression of guilt runs over his pudgy gnome features.

Seeing her father squirm gives Tulla a few moments of satisfaction.

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