(This post is part of my Blogging 101 thing, also Word of the Day from Facebook, in red, and Daily Prompt from WordPress- Now You See Me)
Milly swept her duster over the window-sill with a smile. She enjoyed caretaking the church, but time spent in the bell tower was especially precious. The seclusion gave her mind time to settle, away from kids, husband, a million and one things which demanded her constant attention. The narrow windows, reminding her strongly of arrow-slits, gave an uninterrupted view over Carbury; a rural idyll of cows, fields, woodland and scattered cottages close to still pools and tumbling streams. She’d lived there all her life but never tired of the landscape, of letting her mind fly free over the unending vista. She sighed, taking in a lungful of pure air before leaning forward a little to pull the window closed; open windows led to a belfry full of pigeons!
A slight movement in the graveyard below caught her eye. Some wild thing rustling through the low hedge fences which partitioned various sections of the cemetery; the heartbreaking children’s section, awash with teddies and balloons, a fairground adjacent to the sombre university of ancient experience which was the plague pit, grassed over but dotted with teetering headstones inscribed with dozens of eroding names. Graveyards were perfect hunting grounds for wildlife and Milly turned away as whatever sought its evening meal continued to rustle through the leaves and branches.
She walked softly down the winding stairs and back to the tiny cupboard where cleaning supplies were stored . She carefully packed away broom and mop, polish and cloth, latched the door and slipped out the side entrance, carefully locking it behind her. The day Reverend Thomas has given her that key had been one of the best in her life. Not only did it demonstrate how she was trusted, perhaps even respected, at least a little, but also it had signalled her freedom. For three nights a week, as dusk fell, she had time, space, peace, room to be Milly. Storing the key in a deep, zipped pocket in her holdall she crunched down the gravelled path toward the lychgate. The kissing gate they’d called it when she had been in school, girls running through it with boys in hot pursuit, guaranteed a kiss if the catch was made.
Giggling at memories, Milly reached for the gate and paused. To her side she caught a sound matching the rustling movement she had seen from the bell-tower. The well-clipped yew hedge shivered, parted briefly to reveal a tangle of branches, then stilled. Curious, the odd movement grasping her imagination, Milly crouched and reached, parting the branches a little. Enmeshed deep within the bush lay a shoe. A man’s shoe, slightly battered, scuffed on the toe, its laces frayed, and pinned firmly on the end of a branch. Guessing a mouse was sussing the shoe out as a possible hiding place, Milly made to rise.. then a small hand grabbed the heel of the shoe and began tugging.
Her first thought was ‘why is there a child in the yew hedge’ as the hand was no bigger than that of her five year-old son. This thought was closely followed by a slight flush and a stir of unease. A child of that age would surely not know such curses! The profane language continued a while longer, then Milly coughed, in the hopes she could interrupt the flow and find out what was going on.
“Hello?” She ventured, “Erm… can I help you?”
The commotion in the hedge ceased. Silence fell. This was followed by the sound of scuffling, a grunt, and then the shoe shot out of the hedge and landed at her feet. She bent to retrieve it, but froze as a figure shot out of the bush shrieking indignantly;
“Don’t you touch that. It’s mine!”
Milly stumbled back, bumped up against the gate-post and stared, mouth agape. The little figure, barely reaching her knee, glared up at her, clutching the shoe tight against its heaving chest, its bright red hair a thicket of leaves and curls and a few yew berries. A livid scratch marked its cheek below furious green eyes. It wore the absolute epitome of gnomish attire, red jacket, blue trousers, pointed blue hat; it could have stepped straight out of a book about gnomes she’d owned as a child. A brown sack bumped against its back when it straightened up, clearly trying to regain its dignity, no easy task when the average cat can look down on you.
“I am a god, mortal female! I need no help from the likes of you.”
Milly snapped her mouth shut, blinked and realised the little man was still there. Still clutching his shoe. Still there…
“Isn’t that shoe too big for you?”
It was the gnome’s turn to seem confused. It raised the shoe, buffed the toe on his sleeve and shoved it over his shoulder into the sack.
“I tell you I am a god and you want to know about a shoe? What kind of idiot are you?”
“One who doesn’t literally look like I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards playing with a tatty old shoe.”
The pair glared at each other for a minute before Milly relented, her curiosity well and truly captured.
“Are you really a god?”
His face fell into a frown, but he rallied quickly.
“I am the great and powerful Binkivash. Cower before me mortal!”
“Really?” Milly eyed him dubiously and he had the good grace to look away and drag his booted foot about in the dust like a child caught in a lie.
“Great and powerful? Did you steal that from the Wizard of Oz?”
“They stole it from me! I…”
Milly was using The Stare on him. Not even a great and powerful gnome god can withstand the power of a mother’s Stare.
“Fine. I am a god though.”
“A gnome god?”
“No. a human one. I’m the god of writers.”
Milly motioned to a bench by the garden of remembrance.
“Shall we sit? Talk a little?”
Once they were ensconced Milly started afresh.
“I am very pleased to meet you Binkivash. Forgive my reaction, but you are truly the most ostrobogulus sight I have ever come across. The god of writers? I thought there were some Greek muses for that?”
“Stuck up trollops the lot of ’em” Binkivash snarled, “Too good to get their hands dirty doing the actual work of godding.”
“Don’t gods just wave their hands about, say some words, that sort of thing, if they want something to happen?”
“Don’t believe everything you read in the Iliad. Some poor fool has to go out and make sure the physical items are in place for the ‘major’ gods stuff to work!”
“Someone like you maybe? Does the shoe have something to do with this?”
By way of answer Binkivash drew the sack off his back and tipped its contents onto the bench. Sweeping his arm across the assorted items he asked,
“What do you see?”
Milly took in the strange assortment. Aside from the shoe, there was a plastic bag, a piece of string with a faded label attached to it, a purple butterfly hair slide, 3 unmatched socks and a half empty box of bendy straws.
“Rubbish? Useless items? Leftovers from a jumble sale?”
“Nope. These are inspiration.” he took in Milly’s puzzlement and continued with a grin, “Ever seen a plastic bag caught in a tree? A shoe by the side of the motorway? A half-empty box of something odd where it has no right to be?”
Milly nodded, thinking of countless times they had been bombing along the motorway and she’d seen a single shoe on the verge. Binkivash chuckled.
“I can tell you exactly what you are thinking right now.”
“No you cannot.”
“You’re wondering how all those single shoes get where you see them. Why the bag ended up in that tree. Who left a half empty box of fizzy sweets between the railway tracks.”
“Yes, I’ve wondered it lots of times, but what’s that got to do with writing?”
“Sometimes the sleet of inspiration needs a kick in the rear to get it going. You’re not a writer so these strange things don’t mean anything more than a brief wonderment to you, but if a writer sees these things it will spark their imagination. They will begin writing about something because of what they see. My job is to put the right things in the right places for the right people to see.”
“Why? Don’t writers see inspiration in everything, pretty much?”
Binkivash sat back, having shuffled all his items into the sack and set it beside him.
“They do, but sometimes there is a story which needs to be written. The gods find it hard to reach mortals these days. They rarely listen. Most of them don’t even believe gods exist!” his head shake and deep frown showed the little god’s patent disapproval, “Even you, sitting here talking to me, a god, there’s a part of your brain trying to tell you that this is a dream, you’ve fallen asleep in the church and when you wake up you’ll grin at how silly your sleeping mind can be.”
“I think I believe more than not, if that helps any, Binkivash.” Milly offered and he seemed somewhat mollified.
“Thank you. It’s not just a phrase, a passing thought, you know; gods really do get stronger the more people show their belief in them.”
Milly offered her hand and as they shook she spoke;
“I promise faithfully to always believe in you, Binkivash, god of writers. Just remember me when you are all powerful.”
He chuckled, winked and continued his narrative.
“As I said, sometimes there are tales which need to be told. Do you think Tolkien came up with Middle Earth all by himself? Or Rowling, Hogwarts? Right now, for the last century or so actually, the gods have quietly been campaigning to restore belief in them; belief in magic and creatures such as fairies and vampires and every form of life this world prefers to think a cute folk tale or scary myth. Great writers are being constantly inspired by little prods from the realm of the gods. The balance needs to be restored before the distance between fae and mortal becomes too great to be bridged.”
He paused, sighed and Milly’s heart wrenched with the appeal in his eyes.
“Imagine what this world would be like without the magical, lady. Imagine no fantasy, no mystery, no magic, nothing to balance out the steel and data. No rainbow and glimpse of a pot of gold on the other side of the scales to technology. No angel to balance out the demon. No myth to temper the fact. That’s what we’re working on, and that’s why I was stuck in a yew hedge trying to get back the shoe I dropped when I got chased by a fox.”
He slumped and Milly gently placed her hand over his.
“What can I do, Binkivash? I’m not a writer…?”
“Tell tales… What’s your name, mortal lady?”
“Millicent.. well everyone calls me Milly.”
“Tell tales, Milly. Keep telling them. Teach your children how to keep alive the tales of magic and mystery, the myths, legends and might be that lie just outside the mortal realm. Celebrate all the gods, every goddess. Put a fairy on top of your tree. A frog prince in your pond. An angel over their beds, a demon under them – for there must be balance. The boogeyman in the closet must have a hero to slay him. Do that, Milly. Tell tales and help others to tell tales. Be a part of the army of the gods and maybe, one day, we’ll see writers become the gods who returned magic and mystery to the world which was fading to grey.”
He jumped up, slung his sack over his shoulder, and bowed slightly.
“Must you go?” Milly knelt before him and he endured her impulsive hug.
“I have shoes to secrete, Milly. Think of me when you read the story it creates, and tell that story to your children, your grandchildren.”
He ran off, vanished in an instant and Milly stood for a while, a little forlorn, startling when he reappeared at her feet.
He shoved a book into her hand and vanished again before she could respond. She looked down and smiled, discovering he had left her with a small leather book entitled ‘The History and Lore of the Higher Races’. A note was stuck to the front page, written in rune-like script:
‘Read the bit about Gnomes first – Binkivash’
She tucked the book into her pocket and headed for the gate. Time to go home and read her boys a bedtime story.