January is an important month for elves.
On the 30th day the exam results from the School of Elven Magic are announced. No one has ever failed in 500 years.
As the air rings green with thousands of tiny elvish hats being thrown up in celebration, one elf creeps away, hat pulled down over his eyes. He doesn’t want to explain that he hasn’t learnt anything at all and had mostly been asleep during his exams.
‘Not to worry!’ he thinks. ‘Everyone needs an Elf. Even an unqualified one. I shall go forth and sell my skills direct.’
So he makes his way to a school playground.
‘What are you?’ yell the children, delighted at the little green chap standing on their bench.
‘I am the Weather Elf! I make the weather!’
‘No you don’t,’ replies a girl. ‘The weather is made by air and water moving around high above there.’ She pointed to the sky. ‘They make the wind and rain and clouds.’
‘Oh,’ says the Elf. ‘Then I am the Flower Elf! I paint the flowers bright colours for all to see!’
‘No you don’t,’ says a boy. ‘Flowers have colour chemicals in them to attract birds and insects.’
These children know more than he thought. ‘Then I am the Rainbow Elf!’
‘That’s water in the air, again,’ says the girl, looking a bit bored.
‘Hmm,’ says the Elf. ‘I am the Honey Elf?’
The Popcorn Elf?’
‘Made in a pan.’
It seems like people don’t need unqualified elves after all. The Elf waves the puzzled children goodbye and wanders about a bit until evening sets in. As he passes a garden gate he notices a gnome, fishing at a pond. The company of a gnome is better than no company at all, he thinks, and walks under the garden gate to sit next to the gnome, who doesn’t look at him but carries on fishing.
‘I like your toadstool.’
‘What a miserable chap,’ thinks the Elf. ‘I shan’t bother with him any more.’ And he lies down under the toadstool and pulls a leaf over him against the cold.
The next morning, the frost has cracked the gnome right down the middle and his head has fallen off.
The Elf looks around him to make sure no one is looking, then kicks the pieces of broken gnome into the pond, saving the fishing rod. Climbing carefully onto the toadstool, he rearranges his hat at a jaunty angle and waits to see what happens next.
Out of the back door shoots a dog and three children. ‘Oh mum!’ they cry. ‘Thanks for the new gnome! The other one was rubbish. This one’s much smilier. And he’s got a better hat.’
‘I am the Garden Elf,’ thinks the Elf, satisfied.