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A Knight of the Enchanted Forest

Jessica Day George

It turns out that if you blow up your school, they expel you. Even if no one was hurt. Even if it was only the science classrooms, not the whole school, like the newspaper claimed.

Even if you only did it because your biology teacher was a werewolf.

And it turns out that if you get expelled for blowing up your school, your father decides to quit his job to homeschool you. And if your father decides to quit his job to homeschool you, he is going to insist on doing it in the middle of nowhere, in order to get you away from the friends who led you astray and helped you blow up the school.

And it turns out that if your father quits his job to homeschool you in the middle of nowhere, you have to give up your nice house with the antique porch swing, and live in a trailer park in something called a double-wide.

It was like some terrible rejected sequel to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

“You’re really going to love this place, Glad,” her dad said. “I rolled the dice, and when they landed, I freaked. You’re going to freak, too. I swear!”

Glad nodded, but she didn’t say anything. She didn’t “freak” about things nearly as much as her dad did, because her dad was the world’s youngest hippie, and she…wasn’t. Glad’s mom had been a hippie once, too, but when Glad was three, had shaved her legs, bought a suit, and become a real estate agent.

Mom is gonna freak when she finds out where we’re living,” Glad muttered.

“I let the dice pick the park, even the unit we’ll be renting,” her dad went on. “The dice know.” He rattled the medicine bag around his neck, which was filled with multisided dice from various roleplaying games.

That was how her dad decided everything. He would list his choices, number them, then reach into his medicine bag, pull out the first die his fingers found, and roll. That was how he’d become a sixth grade teacher, and why his hair had exactly twenty dreadlocks while his arms had exactly fourteen tattoos.

Apparently, it was also how they’d come to move into the—

Enchanted Forest?” Glad said. “The Enchanted Forest Trailer Park?”

“See!” He pounded the steering wheel as they passed the sign.

At one point it had been painted in cheerful colors and redcap mushrooms with happy faces dancing below the name. But the paint had faded and the mushrooms looked leprous. There was kudzu growing all over the sign, and Glad sank lower in her seat.

“What happens if you give a mouse a magic mushroom?” she muttered.

“Could anything be more perfect?” her dad enthused. “Just look at all the gnomes!”

Glad scooted back up and peered out over the top of the door. It was true: there were a lot of lawn gnomes. She had always imagined trailer parks being decorated with plastic flamingos, but the patches of weeds and debris around the broken-down trailers all had gnomes half hidden in the overgrowth or peeping from behind piles of junk and broken-down cars.

She wasn’t sure how that made anything perfect, though. Her dad thought the pointy-hatted lawn ornaments were hilarious, but she’d always thought they were super creepy. They were so smug, and their eyes followed you as you walked by. The sunlight glinted on a particularly horrible-looking one that had been made to look like a rapper, with black clothes and a bunch of gold chains. As they drove past, Glad could have sworn that the gnome winked at her, but when she looked back, it had sunglasses.

“I really hate this,” she said.

Glad felt sick. The place looked like a junkyard—an abandoned junkyard. They hadn’t seen a living soul. The gnomes were laughing at her. Everything was horrible.

Her dad’s face crumpled. He steered the station wagon carefully to the side of the road, put it in park, and turned off the Volvo engine, which coughed a little as it always did when it stopped.

“I know you do,” he said. He kneaded his medicine bag. “But I didn’t know what else to do.” He looked at her. “I’m trying…but I need you to try, too.”

“Dad,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“But he really is a werewolf!”

“Oh, Glad,” her father sighed. “I know you love Harry Potter, but—”

“Let’s not point fingers about loving fantasy books too much,” she retorted. “I’m just lucky I’m not a boy. Frodo is a horrible name.”

She sucked in air and let it whoosh back out. She’d laid out her case for her father carefully and methodically. Glad knew what she’d seen: Mr. Stinson was a werewolf.

But no one believed her.

The moon had been very full and bright, and all the parking lot lights had been on as well as she came out of band practice. The thing, which was not a wolf or a bear but looked like something in between, had bounded across the asphalt and jumped right on top of Mr. Stinson’s Toyota. It threw back its head and howled, and she could clearly see the tie around its neck, shaped like a trout. Mr. Stinson loved that tie, and he wore it every Thursday. Glad had shrunk back into the shadows, one hand pressed over her mouth so that she wouldn’t scream. It had sniffed the air, and she’d been sure she was a goner, but a dog had howled across the street and the werewolf had set off in pursuit.

Glad had run all the way home to sob out the story to her dad, but he’d just made her drink some nasty tea and go to bed. The next day Hadleigh Jaffetts had been in tears, talking about how a wild animal had eaten her beloved husky Nanook. Hadleigh had been too distraught to play her flute and had gone home from band practice early. It had come out that other kids had missing or dead pets: two cats and a dog (besides Nanook) had gone missing the night before. The last batch had been a month ago.

When the next full moon brought another rash of pet deaths, Glad decided it was time to take action. She didn’t know where to get silver bullets, or a gun, or how to shoot a gun anyway, and she wasn’t sure she could actually kill someone, even a werewolf. But a childhood spent playing Mousetrap with her grandmother had taught her a great deal.

She just hadn’t known that her school was so…flammable.

Which brought her here, to the Enchanted Forest. And a rundown double-wide that at least didn’t have any gnomes standing around its square of dusty grass. It also didn’t have curtains.

Glad stood and stared at it in despair while her dad unlocked the front door and started to carry their things inside. He didn’t talk, just let her have her space, which was one of the things that she liked about living with her dad. Her mom would have made her state her feelings out loud so that she could “clear her mind and move on,” which would mean helping to unpack.

Glad sighed and got her suitcase.

Everything inside the trailer was rectangular. Glad had never before realized how many shapes there were in a normal house. Every countertop, room, cupboard door, and window here was a rectangle. And it was all…

“Poop brown,” she said. “Everything here is feces-colored.”

“Don’t worry! We’ll add color,” her father said, walking past her with a box.

“No, Dad, no!” Glad ran after him. “You didn’t!”

But he had. She could see them. Random pieces of cloth were hanging out of the top of the box. She wished she’d seen the box earlier. She could have dumped it out on the freeway.

“It will brighten this place right up!”

Her dad dropped the box in the middle of the floor and began taking out lengths of tie-dyed fabric. He happily pinned them over the windows with the thumbtacks he found already stuck in the fake wood paneling.

“Daaaaaad,” Glad moaned. “All the local stoners are going to come here looking for pot. And hookahs! And shiny crystals to stare at while they smoke hookahs!”

“Y’all got them hookahs and things?” said a voice with great interest.

There was a grungy-looking guy in a stained wifebeater and a feed store cap standing in their new doorway. He scratched his stomach and grinned at Glad.

“No, we do not,” she said firmly.

“That’s okay,” he said.

“I’m Winston,” Glad’s dad said, rushing forward to shake the man’s hand. “Your new neighbor! And this is my daughter—”

“Glad,” she interrupted. “My name is Glad.”

“Glad like the plastic wrap?” the man asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And Winston like that round-faced feller in England?”

“Like Winston Churchill, yes,” Glad’s dad said.

“I liked him,” their neighbor grunted. “I’m Elmo.”

“Like the Muppet?” Glad blurted out.

Her dad nudged her with his elbow, but she didn’t care. Elmo had just compared her to sandwich wrap.

“Yeh,” Elmo said. “Somethin’ like that. Muppet. Yeh.” He snorted.

“So…” Glad’s dad said. “Would you like to help me unload the U-Haul?”

“Oh, no,” Elmo said. “I just came to see if you was all right.”

“Yes, we’re great,” Glad’s dad said. “Thanks for checking on us.”

“I wasn’t checking on you,” Elmo said, and his good-natured manner dropped away. “I was checking on you.” He leveled a stare at Glad’s dad and then at Glad herself. “We don’t want no trouble here. This is the Enchanted Forest and we like things nice.”

“We’re very nice,” Glad’s dad said, holding up his hands.

“But you’re an asshole,” Glad said. “Get out of our trailer!”

Galadriel,” her father said, still with his hands up.

“Nah, I respect that,” Elmo said, holding up his own hands. “Y’all have fun movin’ in.” He walked out of the trailer.

“How is this better than home?” Glad demanded.

“I cannot believe you just called our new neighbor an asshole,” her father said. “This just proves that we need to get you away from the influences back home.”

“You mean Gran?” Glad demanded. “The only person I hung around with, aside from other band geeks, was your mother. And all we did was watch Wheel of Fortune and eat Oreos.”

“Exactly,” her dad said. “TV and processed sugar! It’s no wonder you hallucinated werewolves.”

“I wasn’t…Never mind.”

No one would ever believe her. Even Gran had just patted her hand and told her the full moon made everything seem strange. Hearing this from her grandmother had been the worst part of the whole ordeal. Gran had always been her confidante, her supporter. And even she thought Glad was just seeing things.

Glad had been seeing things. She’d been seeing her pervy, mouth-breathing science teacher turn into a werewolf. And then eat the pets of the students he didn’t like.

And no one believed her.

Glad and her father unpacked the U-Haul in silence.

They spent the next few days setting up house. It didn’t take long. Most of their stuff was books, and her father had given away their TV and any other electronics. He’d let Glad keep her phone, but only so she could text Mom. He’d deleted her apps, except for Cupcake Mania. She was on level 239, and Winston respected her accomplishment.

Any time Glad stopped moving—stopped shelving books, stopped tacking up a plain purple sheet for a curtain in her own room—her dad was there, suggesting something else she could do. The curriculum that he’d ordered hadn’t arrived yet, and he seemed to think that if she wasn’t learning or cleaning or flattening boxes, she’d blow something up.

But finally, on the third day, when they’d completely run out of trail mix and granola and apples, her dad had to go to the grocery store and run some other errands. He looked like he was going to make Glad come with him, but then it seemed to dawn on him that she needed to be left alone, and he probably did as well. So he told her to stay out of trouble and left.

And she’d tried to stay out of trouble. She’d alphabetized all her books. Then the spices in the kitchen, which just made her hungry. Then she’d taken some boxes outside for the recycling and had a look around while she was there.

There was a gnome on their square of dirty grass.

It was the ghetto one with the chains and glasses. Glad stared at it for a long time. She looked around, but no one else was around, and she didn’t know who could have put it there. Or why.

Maybe it was a gift. Maybe it was some sort of stalkery message. Either way, she wanted it gone.

She picked up the gnome, which was surprisingly heavy, and…warm. And squishy. Glad had meant to hide it in the weeds by the side of the trailer just behind theirs, but it was so creepy that she sort of threw it instead. It rolled, arms and legs flopping, and disappeared under the rickety porch of the neighboring trailer.

Glad let out a little scream, which failed to cover the profanity that came from the gnome itself. Glad ran to the other trailer and peered underneath, but she couldn’t see anything.

Panting and sweaty, Glad leaned against the wall of the trailer. Her stomach growled. Clearly that was the reason why she’d thought the gnome was alive. She was hungry, it was hot and muggy, she was in a strange new place. Yes. That was why.

The windows of the trailer were open, and the TV was on. The unmistakable sounds of Wheel of Fortune came wafting through the screen. Someone was about to buy a vowel.

“Idiot,” Glad muttered. “If you have to buy a vowel, you’re jacked.”

“Who there?” A woman demanded.

Glad ducked to run back to her own trailer, but she tripped over some debris in the weeds and landed on her face. The screen door slammed behind her, and there was a flapping sound. A pair of puffy ankles in bunny slippers walked into her line of view.

“Whatchu doin’?” The woman had a raspy smoker’s voice.

“Um, nothing?” Glad turned over and looked up.

The completely round woman standing over her was wearing a flowered muumuu. She had dirty blond hair wound up in pink curlers and a suspicious look in her blue eyes.

“I don’t like them gnomes,” she said. “I seen yew with one.” Her voice and eyes were accusatory.

“I don’t like them either,” Glad protested. “Someone put it in our yard, but I thought it was yours.”

Glad staggered to her feet, trying to dust off her jeans. The round woman was very short, though she was nearly as wide as she was tall. She was holding a Zinger in one hand. Glad’s mouth watered.

“I love those raspberry coconut ones,” Glad said.

The woman put half of it in her mouth. She chewed slowly while Glad watched, the dry granola in her stomach feeling like a wad of dust and hair.

“Yew watchin’ Wheel through my window?” the woman said, swallowing.

“I wasn’t…trying to,” Glad said.

“I thought yew was some kina hippy dippy didn’t like TV,” the woman said, eating the rest of the Zinger.

“My dad is,” Glad said. “I…I just…I like to watch game shows with my grandma, but she lives in Indiana.”

And to her embarrassment, Glad burst into tears. The fat woman drew back slightly, then she pushed out her lower lip. She had beautiful, bright blue eyes almost hidden in folds of fat, and they filled with sympathetic tears as she patted Glad on the back.

Glad wiped her nose on her wrist. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Yew wanna come in and watch Wheel and have a snack?”

“Yes!” Glad almost shouted. “Please, I mean.”

“Ah got more Zingers,” the woman said, leading the way into the trailer. “An’ I’ma order some pizzas in a minute here. Yew like ranch with pizza? For dipping?” The woman paused on her way across the broken-down porch. Clearly this was an important question.

“Yes,” Glad said, fervently and honestly. “Pepperoni pizza and ranch dressing is the food of the gods.”

“Atta girl,” the woman said.

They passed a couch that smelled like pee and dogs, and a recliner that was the exact orange of the one Glad’s gran favored. Glad touched the arm of it as they passed to go into the trailer, and her fingertips tingled. She hoped that didn’t mean she’d gotten fleas. Gran’s recliner was a sight cleaner than this one.

Inside the trailer wasn’t a whole lot better. Still, it was more messy than dirty, Glad noticed with relief. Glad moved some magazines over and sat on the green couch. It was very soft and smelled like French fries and faintly of cigarettes, which also reminded her of Gran.

“Watchu called?” the woman asked.


“You can call me Yer Majesty the Queen,” the woman grunted and settled into a recliner.

She snapped her fingers at a box of Zingers. Glad jumped up, got herself one, and then when the fat fingers kept snapping, she handed one to the woman as well. There was a lidless cooler full of sodas and beer next to the Zingers. Her Majesty snapped her fingers and Glad got her a Bud Light, taking a grape soda for herself. Glad settled back on the couch with her treats, feeling more relaxed than she had since the school incident.

Wheel’s over,” Her Majesty said. “But Jeopardy’s on!”

“Do you—do you mind if I yell out the answers?” Glad asked tentatively.

“Yew go for it, gal,” the woman told her.

For the next half hour, Glad ate junk food and drank soda and shouted out the answers, or questions, rather. The contestants were particularly dumb in this episode, and Glad was right more often than they were. Her Majesty laughed in delight whenever Glad beat them.

The pizza man arrived with her father.

“Glad!” Her father pushed past the pimply boy holding his armload of pizzas. “Where have you been?”

“Right here,” Glad said, leaping up. She looked down helplessly at the wrappers and cans she’d accumulated.

“Yew the hippie next door?” The woman gave Glad’s dad the once-over.

Then she waved an imperious hand at the pizza boy, and he put the pizzas down and left. Glad wondered if she had an account with Domino’s or something because she hadn’t paid. He bowed as he backed out of the trailer.

“I’m so sorry that my daughter has been bothering you,” Glad’s dad said. “It won’t happen again.”

“Shoot, she ain’t botherin’ me,” the woman said. “Whyn’t y’all sit down an eat?” She pointed to the fridge. “Get the ranch, hon,” she told Glad.

“Thanks, but we have to get home.” He grabbed Glad’s arm and hustled her out of the trailer.

“Yew can come tomorrow for Wheel,” the woman called after them.

“Thanks,” Glad called over her shoulder. “I will.”

Her dad jerked her along into their trailer. There was another, more normal-looking gnome on their square of dead grass. Glad tried to give it a kick, but it shimmered like a mirage and was out of range of her sneaker. She shrieked.

“Don’t,” her dad said, still dragging her along.

“What did I do?” she demanded when they got into the trailer.

“I came home, and you weren’t here,” her dad said. He was rubbing his medicine bag, clattering the dice inside.

“I took some boxes to the recycling pile, and the queen invited me in.”


“Our neighbor,” Glad explained. “She said to call her Her Majesty the Queen.”

“The queen of what?” her dad muttered.

“The queen of the Enchanted Forest,” Glad shot back. “Isn’t that great? There’s a queen for our new, fancy, enchanted forest!”

“Now, Glad, calm down,” her dad said. “I know that this isn’t ideal. In fact, I think the dice may have been wrong about this one.” He looked so mournful that Glad bit back her snarky response. “That’s why I was in town so long. I was talking to Mom, looking into some other places. We don’t have a lot of money, but it’s not that bad.”

He pointed outside the window. One of the tie-dyed curtains was pinned back, and it gave them a nice view of at least six rusted heaps on cinder blocks that used to be cars. Possibly. And an absolute shitload of gnomes.

“What is with the gnomes?” Glad said, distracted. “I swear, there are like, fifty more since we moved in. One of them was on our lawn. That’s how I met the queen.”

“Glad, are you listening to me?” her dad demanded. “Your mom is looking for something else for us. A realtor friend said that there’s a wild space called Natchy Bottom—”

Glad snickered, but she didn’t take her eyes off the gnomes across the way. She was almost certain one of them was looking back at her. It had binoculars.

Natchy Bottom,” her dad said, in full teacher mode, “is a hotbed of urban legends, but very disturbing ones. Disappearances, violence, it’s most likely a hiding place for some sort of drug ring.”

“And it’s right outside the Enchanted Forest?” she asked, dragging her attention away from the gnome, which hadn’t moved.

Because lawn gnomes did not move. They were not squishy and warm, and they did. Not. Move.

“Yes,” her dad said. “So, let’s pull those boxes out of the recycling, and just stack them over there.” He pointed to the corner of the room where any normal person would put a TV. “I don’t want to pack again just yet—we need to start on your lessons—but as soon as your mom can find something, we will.”

“But I like the queen,” Glad said.

“You like being given processed sugar and watching TV,” her dad said with a frown.

“Whatever happened to peace and brotherly love?” she said. “And trust? And treating me like an equal?”

“That ended when you almost killed someone.”

Glad went to her room. She had nothing else to say to that. Her dad knew her arguments, and she knew his.

But they didn’t reckon on the queen.

Glad started lessons with her dad, where they found that if they stuck to the curriculum he’d ordered, they didn’t argue. After school hours, Glad was supposed to practice her clarinet and then use a YouTube tutorial to learn to knit, which the curriculum said promoted concentration and small motor skills.

But promptly each day at five p.m., Elmo knocked on their door and asked if Glad could visit the queen. It turned out that he worked for her or was some kind of relative. He’d seemed shocked at the very idea that that he was her son, which Glad’s dad had first asked.

“That would be presumptin’,” he’d said. “But she done take a fancy to your gal, and she wants her to come watch her shows.”

“I could take my knitting,” Glad had said, holding up the mess of wool and bamboo needles.

“Her Majesty useta crotchit,” Elmo said. “Mebbe she could teach ya.”

“Crochet is good for your hands, too,” Glad had said hopefully.

But her dad had said no, and shut the door on Elmo’s surprised face. But the mulleted hick would not be deterred, and so he appeared the next day, and the next. Then a woman with a massive ball of heavily backcombed and sprayed hair, wearing extremely tight jeans and an extremely cropped top had come by. She’d dropped off cookies and said it was a real shame that Glad couldn’t visit that nice lady next door.

“Yew prolly remind her of her girl, Tanya,” the woman said. “She done run off with some hunters.”

“Oh.” Glad said, blinking at this.

“I’m so sorry,” her dad said stiffly, holding the plate of cookies as though they were a bomb. The plate looked none too clean, but Glad had to admit that the cookies smelled amazing.

“She’ll come home one a these years,” the woman said comfortably. “Tanya were wild, but she done knew her place.” She nodded as though that meant something. “Her Majesty like to have a gal around, remind her a Tanya. She weren’t black or nuthin’, but she had that sassy look yew do,” she told Glad.

“I’m biracial,” Glad said. “My mom is white.”

“Good for her,” the woman said, oblivious to any insult. “Anywhoo, it ain’t nice to tell the queen ‘no.’” And she left.

“This is freaking me out,” Glad said. “Slightly.”

“Me too,” her dad admitted. “I’m gunna—going to—call your mother and see if she’s found anything.”

Glad went back to her knitting, but she kept lifting the corner of the curtain behind the couch to peer at the queen’s trailer. There were a couple of old dogs sleeping on the couch on the porch, but other than that, nothing was moving.

Nope. The gnomes. The gnomes were moving.

There hadn’t been gnomes there the last time she’d looked, and now there were three. One of the dogs kept lifting its head and growling.

“Dad,” Glad called.

“Shh, honey, just a minute,” he said, holding the phone away from his mouth. He plugged his other ear. “Uh-huh, Uh-huh…right this minute?”


“Glad, I’m on the phone!”

But then he ended the call and grabbed his wallet and keys. “Come on,” he said. “There’s an apartment in town in our price range, but someone else is looking at it, so we need to go right now.”

“Dad, the queen really hates gnomes, and there’s a bunch in her yard,” Glad said, putting on her shoes. “We should move them.”

“Glad, we don’t have time to do that,” her father said. “This thing with the gnomes is even more reason to move!”

“Because they’re freaky?”

“Because you’re freaking out about them,” her dad said.

But as they stepped down off the porch, even he paused. It was hard to deny that there was something going on. There were dozens of gnomes around every trailer. Three stood between Glad and her dad and their car.

“It’s probably just a practical joke,” her dad said in a whisper.

“Who would do this?” Glad demanded. “I’m the only kid living here! And the queen hates them: so who would risk her wrath by doing this?”

“I don’t know, but we definitely need to get that apartment,” her dad said. “Come on.”

“No,” Glad said, to her surprise and her father’s. “I’m going to get our boxes and get rid of them.” Her voice came out very shrill. “I want them to go away.”

“Well, maybe later—” he began.

Elmo came slamming out of another trailer, saw the gnomes, swore, and ran for the queen’s trailer. Glad bolted past her father after him. When she was through the screen door, she turned and made a shooing motion at her dad. He sighed, but got into the station wagon and left. Apparently his need to get them into a decent apartment was greater than his need to keep Glad from collecting gnomes and probably bingeing on Twinkies while she did it.

When she turned around, she saw Elmo and the queen staring at her. The man was goggling, but the queen was giving her a narrow-eyed look, sizing her up.

“What the hell is with all the gnomes?” Glad demanded.

“Yew just run on home, girlie,” Elmo said. “I got this.”

“No,” Glad said. “They’re watching me, and I don’t like it!”

“That’s some imagina—” he began, but the queen cut him off with a gesture.

“What if I tole you them things is alive?” she said.

“I would totally, one hundred percent believe you,” Glad told her.


“Because my teacher was a werewolf, and no one believed me,” Glad told the fat woman. She hesitated. “And I can’t stop thinking about the one I tried to put in your yard,” she admitted finally. “It was alive,” she finished in a whisper.

“Them gnomes been gunnin’ for my land,” the queen said. “Since they hear I’m on gubmint pay and ain’t doin’ magic no more.”

“It ain’t them B’ham gnomes,” Elmo said. “That’s a mercy. These’re fresh off the boat, lookin’ for turf. I’ma handle it fine mah ownself.”

“Um, what?” That did take Glad a minute.

“I hurt ma back,” the queen went on, ignoring Elmo to speak directly to Glad. “The gubmint done put me on the disability, but I cain’t do no more spells.” She said this all slowly, as though it would make more sense that way. “Them gnomes tryna take over.”

“So the gnomes are alive?” Glad said, just to make sure they were on the same page.


“And you…used to do magic?”

“Still do,” the queen said, lowering her voice. “Just to keep mah hand in. Just don’t tell the gubmint.”

Glad locked her lips and threw away the key, but she still looked at Elmo for an explanation.

“This here’s Queen Ilrondelia of the Elves,” he said with pride. “I know yew wasn’t proper innerduced.”

It was then that Glad’s brain registered what her eyes had been seeing since day one: the ears. The queen’s hair was always wound around pink curlers, which made it hard to miss her ears, which were very, very pointed. So were Elmo’s. In fact, they stuck up on each side of his trucker hat, like goal posts.

“Oh. My.” Glad breathed in and out loudly. “You’re elves.”

“That’s what we been sayin’,” the queen said. “Now, Elmo here’s ma best diviner, what with Tanya gone off with the Hunters.”

Elmo rolled his eyes.

“Too many of the young’uns done up and left the Enchanted Forest,” the queen said mournfully. “So it were real nice of y’all to move in and sit with a lonely young queen like myself.” She sat up in her recliner, and suddenly, even without the ears, Glad could see that this was no ordinary woman. The curlers might as well have been a crown. “Now. Yew gunna help?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Glad said. “I know just what to do.” She looked at Elmo. “Have you ever played the board game Mousetrap?”

Elmo’s eyes gleamed. “Sure have.”

“We’re going to need a lot of boxes, rope, and sticks,” she said. Then she looked at the queen. “Your Majesty? Do you have…could you do a spell that would make us invisible?”

The queen threw back her head and laughed. “I like yew, I knew I did!”

Elmo and Glad got to work. They weren’t invisible, but thanks to the queen, the eyes of the gnomes slid right past them, giving them time to set traps.

They were stupid, really: boxes propped up with sticks, with a twine tripwire to drop the whole thing. Glad had gotten an A on her assignment to build a better mousetrap in sophomore science, so really, Mr. Stinson had no one to blame but himself for what had happened.

Of course, stealing her band teacher’s keys so that she could sneak into the school and set the trap for Mr. Stinson had been a criminal act. And the box she’d rigged to trap him catching fire on a Bunsen burner and torching the science wing had been impossible to predict.

“What do the gnomes want?” Glad asked. “Beside the Enchanted Forest, I mean?”

“Beer,” Elmo said with a shrug. “Cigarettes. Same as us.”

Glad was slightly taken aback. She was having a hard time, as they strung wires and propped up boxes around the oblivious gnomes, with reconciling the elves of the Lord of the Rings movies with the actuality around her. She was willing to accept that they were real, that the gnomes were alive, that her teacher was a werewolf…but still…They wanted beer and cigarettes?

“Ooookay,” Glad said. “Well, we’re going to need some. For bait.”

“Done and done,” Elmo told her.

They baited the traps with beer, cigarettes, and cookies. It turned out that the woman with the big pouf of hair was also an elf named Lara. She provided cookies. And skepticism.

“Ain’t they gunna know we’s tryna get rid of ’em?” she asked as she put another plate of cookies next to a pack of cigarettes and then backed out from under the hanging laundry basket. “They ain’t that dumb.”

“These are tomte, right?” Glad asked.

Elmo nodded.

“Well, then, they should go for it,” she said. “My dad’s been teaching me all about European folktales. The tomte guarded farms, but only if you laid out food for them. They’ll see this and think that it’s their just desserts. Literally. In fact, they’ll probably be excited. If Neil Gaiman can be believed—and if he can’t, what’s the world coming to?—then they were brought to this country by believers from Europe, and then abandoned.”

Lara just looked blank, but Elmo nodded.

“These’re pure Norroway tomte,” he said to the woman. “They’ll think they done gone to Valhalla. Not like them city gnomes.” He slapped Glad on the back and nearly sent her face first into a pile of cookies laid over a noose.

With everything in place, they went back to the queen’s trailer and she took the spell off them. She looked pale and sweaty from the effort, and Elmo called for pizzas while Glad got Her Majesty a cold Coke and some Ho Hos.

A few minutes later, there was an almighty clatter and the sound of profanity. Glad grinned.

“Well, ain’t yew just my bright gal,” the queen said, and gave her a Ho Ho.

* * *

A battered Volvo station wagon pulled up in front of the MHI headquarters. Two people got out, seemingly oblivious to the weapons that had just been pointed at them. There was a guy in his early forties with graying dreadlocks and a teenage girl with a crinkly cloud of dark hair and gray eyes. She waved cheerfully at the gates as the man opened the back of the station wagon and began unloading cardboard boxes with holes punched in them.

“What the hell are you people doing?” Owen demanded, jogging over.

“Z, I’ll take this,” Holly said, putting a hand on her arm. “Honey,” she said to the girl, “who are you and what is this?”

“Oh, hi!” The girl stuck out her hand and Holly shook it, bemused. “This is my dad, Winston, and I’m Glad.” She kicked one of the boxes, and a stream of profanity issued from the holes. “And these are the gnomes that just tried to invade our turf.”

More profanity while Owen stared at the dozen or so boxes that the guy was still pulling out of the Volvo.

“The queen told us to leave them with you,” the girl said. “She’s pretty pissed. If you have any more questions, though, you’ll have to come to the Enchanted Forest.

“You can ask for Sir Galadriel, the Knight Protector of the Enchanted Forest.” The girl beamed. “That’s me.”

The British Supernatural Service is as tight-lipped as our MCB, so this one is difficult to verify, but during the Cold War years we know they messed around with a lot of unearthly forces. That always comes back to bite you eventually. —A.L.

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