Monday, June 14, 2010

The Accusing Garden Gnome

My neighbor had a raucous-sounding wind chime that hung in their yard for five years. I say "had" because its been confiscated. It used to hang in their backyard, all year long, summer and winter, clanging its annoying metallic reminder every time the wind blew. I wish you could have heard this thing; it wasn't one of those finely tuned chimes made to mimic the chants of Buddhist monks; rather, it sounded like someone rummaging through a trash can filled with discarded metal pipes. More of a clanging than the intended chiming effect. The winters weren't so bad; all the windows of our house were closed, but during the summer, the noise was insufferable.

I think any jury would agree that five years was enough. Some people get out of prison after five years for committing serious crimes, so I feel I've done my time listening to their wind-driven clatter. I made the decision to sequester the offending chime on a windy night last week. It was the first warm night of spring when we could open the windows and let in some fresh air after a long winter of a buttoned-up house. As I lay in bed trying to sleep, the chime began its clanging: clang, clang, clang, then silence, then more clanging, followed by a silent reminder of what the night should sound like, only to be interrupted by more clanging.

It was about three A.M. when I made my decision. I got out of bed, put on a black sweater and pants and pulled on a dark knitted watch-cap, low, almost over my eyes. The look was that of a desperate stow-away who had jumped ship and needed to pawn the chime for food. Never mind that there weren't any seaports for miles from my house. This character was hungry and desperate and possibly lured by the clanging that mimicked the sound of sailboat rigging banging against aluminum masts. The soundtrack from "Goldfinger" was playing in my head when I slipped from my door.

I waited for a long gust of wind to cover the sound of my tracks, and after grabbing the chime and making a run for it, I tripped on a sizable ceramic garden gnome, causing me to loosen my grip on the chime, making it clatter something awful (it's a good thing the neighbors are sound sleepers). I panicked and ran down the street, figuring if I ran straight to my house, they'd know it was me. After circling the block, while making futile attempts to keep the chime quiet, I brought it home and put it under my kitchen sink. That's where it is now, lying silent between the Comet cleanser and the dish-washing soap. The cops will not think to look there in a million years.

Now, my problem is how to look nonchalant when I see Mike and Margie, the former owners of the wind chime. I've been practicing a hearty "hi-how-are-ya" wave that would surely mask my involvement. Mike is a big guy who has a Bowflex and takes pride in his muscles and has a penchant for brooding silence, the perfect recipe for boiling over one day. So far, no fingers have been pointed, but I did notice that the tipped-over garden gnome has been righted, only now it is facing my house and his finger is pointing toward my side door, the very door I used in the perpetration of the heist. I hope this is a coincidence, as it's become very troubling to even glance at the bearded little fellow.

One more thing: I'm doing my best to ignore the gnome, but I'm wondering what would happen if I sneaked over there and turned him in a different direction. If he remained in that position, the suspicion is lifted from me, but if he is turned back toward my door, then I think I should worry. For the moment, I'm playing it cool, but that gnome with the accusatory finger is cause for concern.