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The Gnome’s Ruby

by Alexander G. Tozzi

There was once a gnome who feared lightning. Each time the sky was rent by one of those fantastic bolts, the little gnome would hide under his bed of goose feathers and lose himself in the gleam of a sparkling ruby. This was a ruby he had found long ago when mining and was caught in a cave-in. Holding onto that ruby had given him the courage to escape, and it always brought him great joy to just hold and stare at it.

On this particular night, with thunder booming like a hungry ogre and lightning setting fire to the tops of trees, our gnome could not find his beloved ruby. It was not under his bed, where it was often kept, nor was it in any of his drawers, cabinets, or even the grain cellar.

Fidgeting in the dark of his library, the wind from the raging storm blowing the tree within which he made his home, the gnome was ready to take up his pickaxe and hack away at everything he came upon, desperate that it might reveal his precious ruby.

He seized the sharp, heavy tool, intent upon smashing his bookshelves, when a fierce bolt of lightning blinded him, and he suddenly found himself lying face down on the floor. The scent of smoke tickled his nose, and he pushed his crippled form up to see that the lightning had struck the tree, sending him flying and splitting the trunk right down the middle! And if that weren’t enough, his library was now aflame!

Oh, if ever a time to hold onto his ruby and be soothed by its radiant sparkling, now was the time. But where had it gone? Had something stolen it? Had it rolled away, or had he simply misplaced it?

All these worries and more swirled through the gnome’s tired brain. If not to be holding his ruby he would much rather be down in the mines, breaking rocks, or out in the garden, gathering grain. Even locked in the cage of a hungry ogre, for anything was better than being trapped in a split, fiery tree.

Don’t be a maggot-head! He scolded himself. If you were in the cage of a hungry ogre, there would be no escape!

As the thunder boomed, and fire crackled, slowly spreading across his library, the gnome recalled how terrified he had been when caught in that cave-in. All the rocks had fallen around him, plunging him into darkness. Only the sparkling ruby had given him light... and courage.

“I don’t need that ruby,” the gnome whispered. He tightened his grip on the pickaxe, glared at the licking flames which crept closer and closer. “All I need,” he growled, “is my trusty pickaxe!”

And he plunged head-first at the flames, hacking away at fallen wood, stamping out little fires and clearing the way to where the trunk had split. His tunic caught fire, and his boots burned through the soles. His lungs filled with smoke and his eyes were stinging. It was a harrowing escape, but he swung his pickaxe, feeling more glee in the destruction of his own, burning home, than he had ever had from holding a silly ruby.

At last he fell out of the split tree trunk, bopping his noggin on a mossy rock. Shaking the dizziness away, smacking all the little flames and rubbing his eyes, he watched from afar as his tree home slowly burnt to the ground. It was a sad sight indeed, but gnomes live for quite a long time, and with a little endurance he would one day regain all that he had lost.

It pained him to have lost his treasured ruby, but when the tree home was no more than a pile of smoldering ashes, he hoisted his trusty pickaxe and set off to find a new home.

Thunder boomed like the sound of a hungry ogre, and buried in that pile of smoldering ashes... a red ruby sparkled.

Copyright © 2012 by Alexander G. Tozzi

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