Introducing a new series of fun flash fiction from Jane Jago which will feature twice weekly in the month of May!
They called her Nanny Bee, although as far as anyone knew she had never been a wife or a mother, let alone a grandmother. But she was popularly believed to be a witch – so Nanny it was. She lived in a punk-walled thatched cottage that crouched between the village green and the vicarage. The Reverend Alphonso Scoggins (a person of peculiarly mixed heritage and a fondness for large dinners) joked that between him and Nanny they could see the villagers from birth to burial.
Nanny’s garden was the most verdant and productive little patch you could ever imagine, and she could be found pottering in its walled prettiness from dawn to dusk almost every day. People came to visit and were given advice, or medicine, or other potions in tiny bottles or scraps of paper – but they always had the sneaking suspicion they were getting in the way of the gardening.
But there again, digging is second nature to gnomes.
It was a sunny Sunday morning and Nanny was listening to the church choir while she pricked out some seedlings. She was idly wondering who possessed the piercing soprano that was permanently half a beat behind the rest when a shadow fell over the potting shed. She put down her dibber and went outside. A winged horse hovered over her tiny lawn.
“Ho sister,” it said, “there’s trouble at the castle and you wanted immediately.”
“If His Greediness has got himself indigestion again, I ain’t coming.”
“No. It isn’t that. There’s something happened to the lordling. His wife is in her chamber sobbing and he’s nowhere to be found.”
“Oh right. Hang on. I’ll just get my bag.”
“And maybe change your gardening boots?”
“Oh. Right. Okay. I’ll come out the front door.”
It’s not every day that you get to ride on the back of Fledge his own self, but Bee was a prosaic being and rather resented being pulled away from her petunias.
Fledge dropped neatly to earth in the stable yard and walked quietly to the mounting block. Nanny jumped down and bowed to the horse.
“I thanks you for my safe ride.”
“You are welcome.”
The castle functionary who awaited her sneered down from his great height. Nanny ignored him and stumped off towards the private apartments. To his chagrin, the tall clerk had to run to keep up with her. The door guard saluted her with his pike before winking broadly.
She walked sturdily int the formal presence chamber and chaos. There appeared to be upwards of a dozen people all shouting at the very tops of their voices. The only pool of silence centred around a slender figure cloaked in rose-pink velvet, who stood right in the centre of a patch of sunlight. She turned her perfect face and smirked at Nanny, who chose not to notice her.
“You’ll have to be polite to me when I have the young one’s ring on my finger,” beauty hissed.
“Oh. I doubt it,” Nanny spoke absentmindedly as most of her brain was taken up with assessing the situation around her.
As far as it was possible to make any sense, the Lord and his Heir were nose to nose and both were puce with rage. Her ladyship was alternately screaming like a banshee and having recourse to her Lacy kerchief. The other shouters appeared to be various staff members and functionaries who could safely be discounted.
Nanny ambled over to where father and son were having their ‘discussion’ and knocked politely on the younger man’s knee. He stopped yelling at his father and looked down.
“Ah, Nanny,” he said genially, “can you make this old fool see that I’m firm in my resolve.”
“Your resolve to do what, sir?”
“Why to divorce my unfaithful wife and marry my true love.”
Nanny looked into his fair and foolish face and sighed. She beckoned and when he bent down he was felled by a scientific blow from a knobbly little fist.
As soon as he hit the ground the air wavered about beauty and she began to look less beautiful. She looked at Nanny with loathing before she picked up her skirts and ran.
“When he wakes up he won’t remember any of this. But somebody needs to explain to his wife that she is NOT to withhold his conjugals if she don’t want this to happen again.”
Nanny went back to her petunias, deeply grateful that gnomes only consider sex in an abstract manner, and only as it pertains to other people.