The Little Chinese Man
Everyone wondered about the little Chinese man standing proudly at the bottom of the garden. At just over three feet tall, he was on the large side to be considered a common garden gnome, but there he stood between the negra bamboo and the very large ornamental Koi carp pond as if contemplating popping out his fishing rod and making a relaxing day of it.
Albert, as the children had nicknamed him, had been in the garden for as long as anyone could remember, but no one could quite put a finger on when he had been bought or indeed who had purchased him. They did all agree that he hadn’t been in the garden when they had moved in, but his arrival remained vague, as vague as the reason the kids had called him Albert.
Jack, the youngest of the three children had always been fascinated by the unusually large garden ornament. He often sat at the tall window that ran from floor to ceiling in the dining room, just staring at the little man, as if he too was contemplating the finer points of carp fishing. He also loved to sit near the edge of the extreme sized pond and watch the marvellous, large, gracious, and colourful fish bask in the hot summer sun.
One winter evening, Jack stood idly as most of the family sat in the living room waiting to eat a light snack of tea and sandwiches; freshly made from the remains of the Sunday roast they had polished off earlier in the day. He’d just had a bath and, as the youngest, custom dictated that he would be the first bathed, dried, and wearing his warm, snug, and clean pyjamas. Emily was still to return from her sojourn to the bathroom and Jack, a tad impatient at having to wait for his supper, decided to take a brief trip to see Albert.
The little chap had gone.
Jack’s petite face scrunched into that expression that only toddlers can make when something puzzling has happened. He turned to his father with a look of incredulousness about to ask the whereabouts of the oriental garden decoration and then did a double take, just to make sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him.
“Daddy, where Albert gone?” he asked.
“He’s outside Jack, near the pond.” Daddy replied. Jack’s father had the air of confidence and smugness that only a father can have when around his young children. A confidence and smugness that will be long lost when his children return to the family home after they have fled the nest for the second time and fleeced him for all his savings.
“No.” Said Jack, “Albert no there.”
“Sure he is Jack; it’s just a little dark to seem him right now.”
Jack wasn’t having anything of it. He might only be under four, a little under three and a half foot, and not the brightest bulb in the house, but Albert was most definitely not standing at the bottom of the garden. He now knew this, not because he was sure that his eyesight was good enough to pick out a modest Chinese gentleman, on a dark night, from about forty bounces on his space hopper away. He knew this because he was sure that his eyesight was good enough to identify the statuesque figure that was in fact stood right before him, waving his chubby little hands in Jack’s direction.
Jack turned to his father in an early attempt to cash in his inheritance and return that smugness sooner than anyone anticipated and said. “Daddy, Albert wave at me at window.”
“Don’t be silly Jack, Albert can’t wave at you.”
Jack turned back to look at Albert with a face pulled into the obligatory, ‘oh yeh, what’s this then’ face, but Albert was long gone. The little man had made like Shaggy in a Scooby Doo cartoon, and Skedaddled. Jack liked Scooby Doo, it wasn’t really as scary as the adults made out, however, Scrappy was going to have to go, as he was just plain annoying.
Jack was confused and racked with the self-doubt that would permeate his life, taking over ten thousand pounds and a whole lot of psychotherapists to deal with, Jack scoured the garden for any sight of the annoying miniature fella.
Albert stood steadfastly looking at the pond.
Having had enough, Jack was about to return to the safety of the rest of the family and those Chicken and Stuffing sandwiches when he noticed the tiny Chinese man was laughing at him. Jack turned his back and crossed his arms in a strong act of defiance. I’ll show him who’s boss, he thought in an adult’s revengeful, spiteful, and rather childish kind of way.
There was a tap on his shoulder and Jack turned. The little bloke smiled with a toothless grin that would have given the Great Wall of China a run for its money and been only the second thing on earth visible from the international space station and the moon come to mention it.
“Huston, Huston, come in Huston. Huston, we have a problem; a six thousand-kilometre smile has just erupted in the suburbs of Manchester, England. Please send an armed task force to investigate.”
The Chinese garden statuette placed his plump miniature fingers over his lips indicating that Jack should keep quiet and then poked him in the eye. Stunned into a state of denial, a semi permanent state that would plague him through his teens and up to the end of his first marriage, Jack blanked the inane grin and pretended not to see the Koi carp loving irritation.
The sculptured bloke vanished, never to be seen again. No one ever remembered life with a three-foot garden gnome, stood proudly at the bottom of the garden. No one except Jack that is. He would mention it every now and then, only to be rubbished into a place of self-mockery, by his elder siblings. A place that he would remain within the grasps of well after leaving his first job in the circus.
“Jack, Jack, you can wake now.” The voice punctured the visions of a happy childhood.
Jack woke somewhat confused and examined the interior of the crassly over designed office. Too much use of leather, a tatty chaise longue, and musky old books, he thought.
“Jack, what I think we have here, is a text book case of Koi Carp Envy.”