Darlington, Western Australia
He must have left the curtain open a little, because Timothy saw the light slit out of it like a razor sharp wall that shot out across his room. It was when he looked over to the light, playing on his far wall, that a small shadow danced about, perhaps the size of one of his army men toys, but projecting onto the wall to the size of ‘real boy’ proportions. Timothy darted his gaze back to the curtains.
They were back.
A small man stood and moved about merrily on the windowsill. Timothy moved his doona over his eyes, hoping that the little man wouldn’t be there when he took it down again. When he did take it down, his hands trembling slightly, there was two, not one little man standing on the windowsill.
‘Not you guys again! You’re not real! Mum says you’re just in my head!’
The two men jumped down from the windowsill and climbed up the side of the bed, so they stood on his chest on top of the doona. They were close now, and it was easy for their expressions to be seen, especially as they were almost always exaggerated. They both wore happy, childish grins and upon looking at them, it was easy to call them Gnomes. They had colored hats, one green and the other yellow, with blue and greens and checkered patterns on their jackets and pants, and neat, white beards. The one with the green hat spoke out a high pitched whimsical tone, after a moment of waving their arms and dancing about; trying to show Timothy they were real.
‘We are as real as real can be, as real as fishing reel, really!’
The other smiled and put a thumb up in agreement. It was then that suddenly the door burst open, and Timothy’s mother marched in, with her familiar commanding presence.
‘Time to get up, Tim. It’s almost time for school and you’re still in bed!’
Timothy sat up suddenly, looking around for the little Gnomes, but they were nowhere to be seen.
‘But mum, they were here! The Gnomes! They were on my chest talking to me!’
Timothy’s mother let out a long drawn out sigh.
‘Tim, there is no such thing as Gnomes! We’ve had this discussion!’
‘They were right here! They were telling me how real they were! I swear!’
His mother’s facial expression turned from mild frustration to straight anger. She always had a temper. ‘That’s it! We’re not going to school today. I’m taking you to see someone! It’s time to see Dr Wilson again, because clearly, you’re not well Tim! I am so sick of hearing about “the Gnomes this” and “the Gnomes that!” They aren’t real! Why can’t you understand that?’
She then burst into tears and sat on his bed. Timothy did his best to comfort her, hugging her as tightly as he could. It was a quiet, awkward breakfast time after that, with only little statements and niceties being spoken, like ‘Please pass me the orange juice’ and the clattering of plates and knives. Timothy kept seeing the Gnomes while they ate, but never said anything else about it. He didn’t want to see Dr Wilson again, or take the pills he gave him. They made him feel queasy and would give him nightmares. He looked back at the foyer and saw the same two Gnomes looking back at him. Timothy motioned for them to come over to him, but they didn’t. The one with the yellow hat just put out his thumb again and smiled. Timothy didn’t feel like smiling.
What if they weren’t real? Was he crazy like his mum said? He looked back at his mum. She was staring at him. She must have known he was looking at them. She said nothing, and continued to eat her breakfast. Timothy knew that it worse when she was quiet. She was quiet a lot since his dad left. After breakfast, they cleaned up and left the house without much conversation. They got perhaps a few meters down the driveway before his mum spoke out, breaking the silence. ‘I just don’t understand, Tim … I …’ suddenly she slammed on the brakes, skidding on the gravel. In the rear view mirror she saw two little Gnomes, jumping and waving their arms. Timothy looked back to see them smiling with their thumbs up, and to his mother’s face, her jaw down to the floor.
‘I … I’m so sorry Tim!’
She turned back to him in the back seat, and reached out her hand to him with a floundering motion. She had tears in her eyes. Tim reached back and held onto his mother’s hand as tight as he could.
‘Don’t worry Tim, We won’t be seeing Dr. Wilson ever again …’
Bio: Adrian tells us that this piece was originally written at university as a part of a class exercise. The story is about childhood imagination and perhaps the loss and gain of it to Adrian as a writer.