The second of TWO Honorable Mention WINNERs in the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest: “Autistic Girl and the Killer Lawn Gnome” by Dabney Farmer

img_2351-11It is my pleasure to present to you the second of two Honorable Mention winners from the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest, “Autistic Girl and the Killer Lawn Gnome” by Dabney Farmer.

And by now you know me well enough that a title like that probably means some humor awaits inside the story, which I love, so it’s an easy quick top ranking.

Well, kinda.

That kind of title reminds people of Attack Of the Killer Tomatoes or Sharknado – stuff that is largely regarded as, well, as sucky. Really bad. To me, it can indicate there’s a strong possibility the story is slapdash thrown together, sloppy, and was not taken seriously by its creator – and thereby misses the mark and should not be taken seriously by the reader. It’s gonna be really good or really bad – but usually really bad.

Obviously, that was not the case. This is a good story.

First – again – don’t think somebody gets Honorable Mention as a sympathy vote. They don’t. It’s my way of saying, out of the all the entries, yours was way up there. Not quite enough to take the top spot, but you need to know it was in the running because it’s a good story.

This Honorable Mention winner will be invited to be in an upcoming anthology. (Soon, too.)


HONORABLE MENTION

Autistic Girl and the Killer Lawn Gnome

Dabney Farmer

 

6:15 AM

Leila and I were first to find the groundskeeper’s body, and she knew right away he was dead.

I wasn’t sure what tipped her off, but it might have been the giant pink pointy hat sticking out of his chest, for the groundskeeper had been impaled on a lawn gnome.

Not just any lawn gnome. It was Skippy, Leila’s favorite.

The groundskeeper was most unfortunate to have landed on Skippy’s pointed hat.

It hadn’t helped that Skippy was made of solid concrete.

Leila didn’t enjoy looking at the dead groundskeeper, and not because she was squeamish about blood, which there was a lot of. I, however was, and would have tossed my lunch if I ever ate lunch, or could eat to begin with. I begged her to look away, but she ignored me, as usual. What bothered her about this most grisly scene, was that the groundskeeper’s blood had gotten all over Skippy. Why did he have to go and land on poor Skippy?

Leila wouldn’t have mined, I think if it had been any other, as she didn’t even like the other gnomes. The rest had big cheerful smiles painted on their cheeks, which she found most unsettling. Skippy had been the only non-smiling gnome in the garden, and no one could see him with the groundskeeper lying on top of him.

It wasn’t that she didn’t care that a man was dead, it just hadn’t registered with her yet. It hadn’t registered with me, either. On TV, when a cartoon character dies by falling off a cliff, they always come back to life, no questions asked in the next episode.

As silly as it might sound, we both assumed the groundskeeper would be okay, later, which was why Leila was more concerned for Skippy. With Skippy covered up, all she could see was the cheerful lawn gnomes with the big cheeky smiles staring at her. I don’t share Leila’s dislike for the other gnomes. However, seeing their cheery faces on such a grizzly scene was unsettling.

Although Leila didn’t really frown, she usually had a somewhat expressionless look on her face, which often gave people the impression that she was disinterested in her surroundings. Her eyes were another story. As where the rest of her face stayed blank, they showed brightness, curiosity, love and all other emotions that every human has.

Unfortunately, few people noticed this about her eyes as Leila wore her dark blue sunglasses everywhere she went, even inside and at night. As her eyes were oversensitive to lights, so they were almost always covered up, except right at bedtime as she couldn’t sleep with them.

Which was a shame, if you ask me, as they were far too pretty to be hidden away with sunglasses. But nobody ever asks me anything. Not that anyone but Leila can see me anyway.

She also wore a Yankees baseball cap facing backwards. Originally, she had been given the hat to keep the sun out of her eyes, however her brother had turned the hat backwards one day and said she looked cooler that way. After that, she never wore it facing forward again. Which defeated the purpose of the hat.

I knew a lot about Leila, you see, I’m an Guardian Angel, and it has always been my job to protect her.

At least I felt it was my job. To be honest,  I wasn’t sure what my job was supposed to be. Since no one but Leila could see and hear me.

Oops, I just realized I forgot to tell you my name. My full name is Charlie Dudley, but I prefer Charlie as I’m not fond of the Dudley part. Leila named me herself. Which is pretty impressive. I only wish I hadn’t waited till she was three to ask for a name. As at the time, her favorite things were “All Dogs Go To Heaven” and “Dudley do-right” cartoons. So I ended up named after a gambling dog and a dim-witted Mountie.

Not that I’m complaining, as most angels have to name themselves or don’t even get a name at all.

Leila and I have a special bond, because she is one of the few people who knows about her angel.

Most people might have some inkling that there’s something out there protecting them, but most don’t talk to each other the way Leila and I do.

Well, we don’t really talk, not in words. Leila draws out her thoughts and feelings on a dry-erase board when she has something to say. She didn’t have it with her at that moment, as she didn’t need it with me. All angels can read their own Soul In Need’s minds, which we call S.I.N. for short.

I’d tell you what I look like, but I don’t know, as I don’t have a reflection to look at in the mirror. I’ve asked Leila a few times if she could draw me, but when I do, she just stares at her board. I’m not sure if that means my form is too complicated to draw, or too simple.

Sometimes, I wish another angel would explain things to me, but I rarely see any.  Even though all humans have one, we can’t see each other unless we expose ourselves to other angels, and when I do see other angels  they’re often so busy watching their own S.I.N. they won’t concentrate on anything else, even other angels.

All I do know is I’m attached to Leila like an invisible string tied to a balloon. Wherever she floats off to I trail along with her. Most of the time I’m happy about that, except when she wants to go somewhere I don’t want to go.

I’m still not complaining, at least, I’m not the groundskeeper.

6:33 AM

Leila and I couldn’t help Skippy as the groundskeeper was too heavy to move, and if Leila tried she’d get her hands all sticky, which she hates. So Leila decided to go back inside before anyone saw her, seeing as how she wasn’t supposed to be outside anyway.

Leila and I couldn’t help Skippy as the groundskeeper was too heavy to move, and if Leila tried she’d get her hands all sticky, which she hates. So Leila decided to go back inside before anyone saw her, seeing as how she wasn’t supposed to be outside anyway.

Leila lived in a special group home called “Safe Haven,”. A place for adults who had special needs. At that moment everyone else was still asleep. There was a house rule that you were not supposed to go outside without a special aide, but Leila was the only resident who knew how to open the locked doors to the garden without any help from an aide. So each time she woke up early, (which was often), she would go out to visit the garden with the outdoor trampoline.

6:35 AM

Leila has her own taste in movies with over three hundred VHS tapes in her room. Along with her own old but effective small TV and an even older VCR

Her favorite kind to watch was old cartoons from the 80’s.

Uh, Leila,” I whispered to  her quietly as as not to disturb her TV watching. “Do you think, maybe we should tell someone what we saw?”

Leila didn’t look at me, she just replayed the theme song about five more times, got bored and put in another tape. This one was the old Care Bears. Pretty soon her VCR was blasting, “I wanna be a Care Bear!”

“Oh, sweet lord! Not those Care Bears again!” shouted Rob from his room.

Rob could hear every tape she ever put in her VCR when he was awake, as his room was, unfortunately, next to Leila’s. Rob was a special aide, and the house rules were that each aide should have a room between two residents.

Rob had been trying to switch rooms for years, but everyone else was aware of Leila’s early morning movie routine and wouldn’t do it.

As Rob grumped more four letter words, some of which had five and six letters, Leila turned up the volume on her TV.

“Leila…” I started to say, but she shook her head. Leila didn’t like to talk and avoided it every chance she got. She knew if she were to explain what she saw she’d have to talk, not draw it out on her dry erase-board.

7:00 AM

Leila replayed the Care Bears theme song sixteen times then replaced it with another tape of the ThunderCats.

“Thunder! Thunder! ThunderCats!” She really liked this one and turned her TV up as she rocked harder in her bean bag chair. By then we both started to hear other people in the house get up and leave their rooms.

“Oh no! It’s those forsaken ThunderCats now!” Rob moaned.

Only he didn’t say forsaken. He said another word that starts with F that as an angel I can’t repeat.

“That’s worse than the Care Bears. If I have to hear that stupid theme song one more @#$% time!” Rob grumbled from his room.

7:15 AM

As soon as breakfast was finished Leila went back to her room put in a Casper the Friendly Ghost tape.

Leila was allowed to stay in her room.

Which she was pleased about, until Rob showed up.

“Why aren’t you in class?” he sneered, barging into her room.

“Maybe if we ignore him he’ll go away,” I said as she put in another tape.

“That better not be another ThunderCats tape,” Rob asked.

It was.

“I’m trying to take a nap! A nap I have to take because of your 6:AM bloody TV watching,” he sneered, causing snot too fly out of his nose.

Rob stomped over to the TV, slammed his finger on the eject button and grabbed the ThunderCat’s tape. He held it up over her head so she couldn’t reach it.

“You know what I’m going to do?” There was a moment of silence as if he thought she’d answer.

“I’m going to throw this out the window and see if the bloody ThunderCats always land on their feet.”

I wished I could have told Rob that if you did throw a real cat out a window, it would hurt it’s feet, but I couldn’t.

“Ewww,” said Leila which was her way of saying “Gross” As she didn’t want to think about any more blood after seeing poor Skippy.

“That’s right. ‘Eww.’” Rob raised the cassette higher. “Say goodbye to Prince Adam!”

“Prince Adam is from He-Man, Not ThunderCats!” I shouted at Rob. When you have to watch something a billion times, you learn all the names.

Leila wasn’t worried, she had five other ThunderCats tapes she would put on when Rob left. So she was ok if he threw one out, but I was worried. Rob had never hurt anyone, but sometimes he’d get this scary look in his eyes that made me nervous.

Rob had trouble opening the window as it was one of those heavy-duty safety kind you’re only supposed to open in an emergency. With a few mighty grunts that would have impressed He-Man or She-Ra, he got it opened.

Then he leaned out her window and dropped the tape.

“Geronimo! So long you lousy piece of cra…what the…”

Rod leaned back inside Leila’s room, his face white as Casper. Rob rushed out of the room downstairs while Leila and I listened by the door. Well… actually, if I must be honest, which as an angel I have to be, Leila went back to watching TV while I listened.

“Miss Jill, can we talk?” Rob said to Miss Jill, who was another Aid here.

“Uh, say… Miss Jill, did we take all the Halloween decorations in from the backyard?” Rob asked.

“Of course, Halloween was months ago,” Miss Jill said.

“So what you’re saying is we don’t have a Halloween decoration of a dummy lying on one of the lawn gnomes?” Rob said.

“No… Why would anyone own something so morbid?” Miss Jill asked.

“Could you look in the backyard?” asked Rob.

“Why? I have a lot of work to do today,”

“You have a lot more work than you think,” said Rob breathing hard.

“What?”

“Just do it! Not now, but right now!” Rob said sounding like himself again.

“Fine!” said Miss Jill and she walked out in the backyard, then she stopped and didn’t say anything for a long, long, long time. Then Miss Jill screamed much louder than Leila had ever anticipated. Even with her TV turned up all the way Leila could still hear Miss Jill screaming. That’s when Leila knew for sure it was going to be a very unpleasant day indeed.

*******

Leila sat down on the sofa, her trusty dry erase board in hand.

Officer Doug sat down in the big blue chair next to her and her Aid and big brother Gerald.

“Now Miss…Leila, did you see hear anything last night?” Officer Doug asked narrowing his eyes at her.

Leila wasn’t sure what he meant by that question. Of course, she’d seen things, her eyes had been open, hadn’t they? But she didn’t say that, so there was an awkward moment of silence.

“You said she could still communicate,” Doug  said narrow  eyes at Gerald.

“She can, just not with words,” Gerald said.

“So, … with sign language?” Officer Bob, who’s tone was more curious.

“Uh… Sometimes,” Gerald said.

“Sometimes? What do you mean sometimes?” Officer Doug asked as his eyes got so narrow I wasn’t sure how he could see out of them.

“Leila  has her own way of communicating, just not with verbal words or sign language,” Gerald explained in a calm tone.

“How the hell else does she talk?”  Officer Doug asked.

Gerald took a deep breath and turned to Leila. “Leila, could you draw to explain how you talk to the nice officer?”

Gerald took a deep breath and turned to Leila. “ Leila, could you draw to explain  how you talk to the nice officer?”

Officer Doug didn’t seem nice at all, so I figured Gerald was just being polite, but Leila understood what he was asking.

Leila took the cap off her dry erase pen and started to draw on her board.

The moment her pen made that  squeaky sound on the  board Officer Doug eyebrows got all bushy again, like two angry caterpillars.

Leila  drew a cartoon of Officer Doug. It was not flattering. Leila drew him as fat as Frosty the snowman,  but instead of a jolly smile he was scowling.

Officer Doug  glared at the drawing then back at Leila who didn’t met his gaze. Leila didn’t mind people staring at her, as long as she didn’t have to stare back.

“I didn’t ask to play Pictionary. I asked if she heard the grounds keeper fall on the lawn Dwarf.”  Officer Doug asked and leaning closer to Leila causing her to smell his stale coffee breath.

“Uh, its actually a lawn gnome,” corrected Bob.

Leila mulled the question over before drawing out her answer.

First she erased the drawing on her board with her sleeve, then Leila drew out the words NO!, with a face frowning and shaking its head.

Leila held up the board so everyone could see.  Officer Doug squinted his eyes till they were even beadier then before at the writing. Why he thought that would help him see better I have no idea.

Officer Bob took a photo, which when the flash went off, Leila vigorously rubbed her eyes by sticking her fingers under her sunglasses.

Gerald hugged her while glaring at Bob, who understood and switched off the flash without being asked.

Gerald stood up and turned to Officer Doug before he asked “Can I take her back to her room now?”

“We should talk with the rest of the staff.” said Bob. “See if anyone else  saw anything. ”

“No, were done here,” Doug moaned, getting up from his seat and stuffing his notebook in his pants pocket.

“The paramedics said he’s been dead since last night. I just thought as he died under her window she might have heard something, but if she cant talk, their really is no point. We’re done here.”  Doug said headed for the front door.

“NOT… SO … FAST… MAGNUM… P.I.” a computer voice said from the other room. Everyone turned around to see who it was and found themselves staring at Molly. Better known around the house as Cerebral Palsy Molly. A nickname she had come up with herself.

Molly had short black hair, is very skinny and is always wearing a T-shirt that said “Quiet women never make history.”

Molly pushed a button on her motorized wheelchair and zoomed into the room.

Doug wasn’t pleased and narrowed his eyes at Molly.

“Who are you?” he asked.

Molly used the buttons on her voice operated iPad while showing off a half smile.

“WELL… ISN’T… IT… OBVIOUS? … IM… IRIONs SIDES… SISTER… LEAD HIP.”

Molly can only smile on the left side of her face. She has trouble keeping the right side from drooping.

“I was thinking more like Stephen Hawking’s sister,” snorted Officer Doug walking  passed Molly  as if she was a coffee table in his way.

Molly wasn’t offended at all. In fact, her smile only got wider as she pushed more buttons on her voice iPad.

“Oh…REAL… ORIGINAL… LIKE… I… HAVEN’T… HEARD… THAT… A… MILLION… TIMES… BEFORE.”

“You don’t have to pause for every single word.” Officer Doug said rubbing his head.

Molly kept smiling as she pushed only more buttons on her iPad. “ACTUALLY, I DO…  IT TAKES ME A …WHILE TO WRITE OUT… WHAT I’M ABOUT… TO SAY …ON MY HANDY DANDY COMMUNICATION… DEVICE HERE…WHICH IS …WHY I SOUND LIKE HAL 9000…  FROM THE SPACE ODYSSEY…”

Officer Doug  leaned over Molly. Molly wrinkled her nose and I could tell she thought his breath was stinky too.

“SO ARE WE GOING TO TALK OR WHAT FAT MAN?”

“Molly!” Gerald said.

Molly typed out in no hurry “RELAX… G MAN…I’M… MAKING A… REFERENCE… TO… THE… SHOW… FAT MAN… AND…. JACK…  IT”S… JUST… A… COINCIDENCE… HE’S… Fat…”

“I’d say he’s more chubby,” I said, giggling to Leila.

Leila was sure chubby was another way of saying fat and let out her own snort of a giggle.

“Sorry, but we’re only interviewing people who heard anything odd last night. Did you here a man fall on a lawn gnome?” Officer Doug asked, grinding his teeth.

Molly smile disappeared as she wrote out, “NO… CANT… SAY… I… DID…”

Officer Doug smiled for the first time that day. “Well then, it’s been a long day for everyone, so …”

But before he could finish that Molly smile returned right as she pushed more buttons and wrote out. “BUT I HEARD  A MAN BEING PUSHED, IT WASN’T AN ACCIDENT IT WAS MURDER!


What did I like about this story?

What spoke to me?

img_2351-11DAN ALATORRE: Oh, come on – it’s cute as hell. It plays the story as comedy, lighthearted and fun, but with serious overtones, the right amount of disrespect for authority, and a nice dose of sarcasm.

I wasn’t sure what tipped her off, but it might have been the giant pink pointy hat sticking out of his chest…

Come on. That’s awesome.

Then you have the guardian angel aspect, which audiences have loved since Frank Kapra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, with a not-so-steady guardian angel at the helm. Then, of course, you have the autistic character – realistically portrayed – and finally there’s a murder mystery to be solved!

I liked the story right away, and was engaged all the way through. I hope this is part of a larger piece because I wanna read the novel. Cozy mysteries are a thing, so maybe that’s where this fits, but it’s a winner.

JENNIFER RUFF: Well… actually, if I must be honest, which as an angel I have to be…

– Cute.

Of course, she’d seen things, her eyes had been open, hadn’t they? But she didn’t say that, so there was an awkward moment of silence.

– Great lines

The moment her pen made that squeaky sound on the board Officer Doug eyebrows got all bushy again, like two angry caterpillars.

– Nice line, good imagery.

LUCY BRAZIER gave this story a vote for third place.

 


This was a terrific story, as I’m sure you agree.

  • Join us tomorrow for the profiles of our two Honorable Mention winners.

Right now, please join me in congratulating our first of our two Honorable Mention winners, Dabney Farmer.

See you tomorrow!

9 thoughts on “The second of TWO Honorable Mention WINNERs in the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest: “Autistic Girl and the Killer Lawn Gnome” by Dabney Farmer

  1. You hooked me right away with the unusual murder, and curiosity over the narrator’s identity. A group home is a really interesting setting choice- your characters remind me of some real people I used to work with. I like how you wrote the residents of the home with real challenges, but how in spite of them they had more knowledge of what was going on than the caregivers and police 🙂 Also, I’m with Adele. Thundercats are AWESOME!

    Liked by 1 person

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