Then, the bag moved. He slowly stepped toward it, noting the muted grumbles coming from the bag. Broo opened the top and found a gnome tied up at the arms and feet with a hankie around her mouth. She was holding a container of cookies.

“What in all the worlds is going on here?!”

He scooped up both of the bags, ran inside the castle, and pushed the door closed with his shoulder. Once the door was closed, he pulled the gnome lady out and untied her. At first, her chatter was so fast that Broo couldn’t make out a word she was saying. Then, when she calmed down a bit, she pointed her finger at Broo.

Art by David Petersen – see Author’s Note

“I don’t know what you had to do with these tricks, Broonie, but I suppose it’s in your best interest to do what Broonies do best. Cleaning and mending.”

She pointed to the other brown bag full of broken tea mugs, picked up her cookies, and hustled her wee-self further into the castle.

“Wait a minute, where are you going?”

“Where do you think? I have to find an oven to heat up these biscuits!”

Broo was so very confused. He lifted a mug from the bag and scanned the bottom for a matching handle. This was so silly, as much as he liked fixing things, he had to catch the culprit leaving these gifts. He set the ceramic pieces gently back into the bag and ran to get a long rope.

“Enough of this mischief, it’s time to set a trap.”

He fashioned a snare trap with the rope so that the large, round knocker on the door would activate the trap. It would swoop the visitor upside down and dangle them from the wall of the castle. 

Covering the rope on the ground with leaves and twigs so no one would see it, he felt a swish of wind blow the thin hair atop his head. He looked up to see a crow with yellow eyes wrap its talons around the iron knocker on the door. It was hanging straight out like a kid on a jungle gym. Then, Broo realized what was happening.

“No, don’t you dare!”

The words barely got out of his mouth before the bird kicked itself away from the door using the knocker. The trap was activated, and Broo was caught in the center of his own trap! He dangled upsidedown from the castle walls as the crow began crying with laughter. The bird was laughing so hard that it started rolling around in the dirt.

Without a pause in laughter, the crow grew in size as its feathers turned to fur, and it grew a long, scraggly tail. Soon, the hare-like creature with saffron eyes calmed from his hysterics. Even upsidedown, Broo knew he’d be had by a string of pooka tricks.

“Herb! You scheming pooka! Get me down from here!”

Herb stood and realized, by the deep red color of Broo’s face, that the joke was not appreciated.

“Oh, comes on, Broo. I just jokes.”

As Broo’s grumbles continued, Herb released the trap and helped his friend down.

“Did youse get thems tea cups mended?”

“What do you mean? I’m not fixing any flippin’ mugs. What in the hare-brained, mischief making head of yours makes you think I’m fixing your tea mugs after all you’ve done to me today!”

Herb looked truly astonished.

“But I thoughts we could haves a tea party. I knows you’ve not been as busy lately, and I haven’t hads much to do since Noreen wents through the Gateway. I guess I just thoughts you might be lonely, too.”

Broo had been lonely. He didn’t think to reach out to someone else. He was just wallering in his loneliness. He let a deep breath calm his nerves a little more before replying.

“Herb, you could have just asked to come over.”

“Naw, wasn’t this more fun?”

They stared at each other for a moment, then both broke out into big belly laughs. 

“Alright, Pooka. Come on. It’ll just take me a few minutes to mend those mugs. You know, you really didn’t need to tie up that gnome lady.”

Broo put his arm around Herb and guided him into the castle.

“Dicey? Ha! Thats was her idea. Whens I told her the plan, shes thought that’d really confuse you. Dicey is almosts as sneaky as a pooka. She offered to bakes us treats for our tea party ifs I let her in on it.”

“Okay, but what about the slugs? They don’t go with a tea party.”

“Oh, no, theys don’t. I’s just collecting slugs when I thoughts of visiting you. Didn’t knows what else to do with them.”

Broo laughed at his friend as the smell of warm cookies welcomed them further into the castle. It was nice to have a good friend stop in and check on you when you’re lonely, even if they had an odd way of doing so.

Author’s Note: Saturday, June 11th is “Cheer Up the Lonely” Day. Time are a little crazy right now, but even if you don’t feel comfortable physically visiting someone due to social distancing, send a postcard or letter. Even a phone call to hear someone’s voice is helpful when you’re lonely. I’ve been using FaceTime and Zoom to check in on folks lately. Just because this holiday is coming up, doesn’t mean that’s the only day to check in on someone who may be lonely. Make it a weekly practice to surprise someone with a happy conversation. Your company can mean the world to someone who is lonely.

I recently came across David Petersen’s art by accident and immediately fell in love with his style. To learn more about him please visit his site here.

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