On Garden Ornaments: The Case of the Disappearing Patio
Editor Scott Omelianuk on garden ornaments
The editor, kicking back and sharing a beer with his gargoyle companions—er, garden ornaments.
I had moved two tons of gravel before I came either to my senses or near total physical collapse. When your muscles begin to howl and you actually believe you hear them, it's hard to tell whether it's your brain offering a smart warning or your back giving out. Either way, it had been a long, hot day carrying 80 separate 50-pound bags of something called Susquehanna pea gravel into the backyard for the pebble-stone patio we were building. I was done. Cooked. And so I staggered to a chair for a beer. I looked to my left and saw a small man with horns and wings. I looked to my right and saw a roaring lion.
I knew I was not hallucinating—just beat. I'd picked up the gargoyles to use as decoration in the garden—much like the statuary in the beautiful backyard story Garden Ornaments,—and with the hard-earned arrival of the gravel, they would finally find a proper place in the flower beds that surrounded it.
What I thought was a hallucination came some days later, when I started to believe that the gravel, my gravel, was disappearing. Right there at the foot of the back steps where I'd labored to spread a 3- or 4-inch layer of the ⅜-inch stone. At first I'm sure I didn't notice—sort of like Humphrey Bogart and the strawberries in The Caine Mutiny. Soon, though, I felt less cushion stepping off the stair. Bit by bit my work seemed to thin out. And then one day it was down to the landscape fabric. Where was it all going? Was I mad, a Captain Queeg in the making?
I looked around the yard and the lion sat staring at me with jaws agape. And that's when I saw it. On the very back of the lion's tongue—which acted as a raceway right through the animal from when it was more properly used to channel rainwater away from a building—sat a brown pebble.
"Aha!" I said, now knowing where my stone was going. "The lion was eating it!"
And with that I heard my wife, who'd come outside with our 3-year-old to play in the stones, say, "Why are you talking to yourself?"
"Someone's stealing my pebbles," I said, "and now I know who!" She gave me that look, the one that said I had indeed gone mad. And as she did, my son bumped into me as he picked up a scoop of gravel at my feet with his purple plastic shovel and wandered over to dump them into the lion's mouth. I heard the rushing clatter of the pebbles speed through the statue and out the other side in a crush of noise. "Feeding the lion, Daddy," my son said. I smiled, looked behind the lion and there, in a pile among a tangle of daylilies, were a couple of bags' worth of stone. Relieved that I was still sane, I bent to grab a handful of the stuff. I knew the howl I heard this time was most definitely my back.