After accepting the position as Groundskeeper (**See End Notes), Nicholas is discovering much more about the fantastical Gardens ... Here, we meet Sir Archibald, the pink armadillo.
I threw my hand over my mouth quickly to keep from laughing at the oh-so-serious and, yes, oh-so-very-pink critter.
“Ye be trespassing, the both of ye,” he warned, angling a clawed hand at each of us.
Hopping down from the cabinet, Constantine appeared beside him. Startled, the armadillo stiffened into ninja stance again. But Constantine just shook his head, reached out to lay a flattened palm on those pink claws, and pushed them down slowly. I still could not contain my grin.
“He’s the real Groundskeeper, Archie,” Constantine said, indicating me with his head.
Still in my squatting position, I offered my hand in greeting.
“Good to meet you, Archie.”
He eyed me suspiciously as he stared for a few silent moments. The mouth on his little snout opened slightly and a long, pointed tongue snaked slowly out and back in. He reached down with his short arms and scratched his nearly-bare belly, releasing a comfortable nearly musical snort as his tongue disappeared.
Constantine huffed, rolling his eyes, and elbowed Archie, knocking him a bit off-balance.
“I sa-a-a-a-aid” – Constantine’s voice became a bit more insistent – “he’s the real Groundskeeper. Haven’t you been payin–”
Archie cut off Constantine’s words as he straightened himself as much as possible.
“Sir Archibald of the Shed.” He then stood on tip-toe and bowed so low I was tempted to reach out and keep him from collapsing into a ball again. “I am your humble servant, Groundskeeper.”
As he completed his regal flourish, Constantine elbowed him again and whispered, “Just shake his hand, ya gimp.”
Archibald stepped forward, his gait more of a wobble, and extended a clawed hand as much as possible with his short arms. I enclosed his hand in mine, realizing at that moment just how sharp those claws really were.
“Is it okay if I call you Archie, Sir Archibald?”
Archie ducked his head, although I couldn’t decide if it was a show of respect or shyness on his part or something else.
That tongue slid out and in again as he chanced a glance up at me and then quickly away again.
“Of course, if that is your wish, Groundskeeper.” His snort that followed sounded less melodic, like the lower note of a saxophone.
But there was something off, like his lively spark was missing. I thought back over his appearance and noble self-introduction, and Constantine’s comment. I realized why that spark was gone.
I smiled at them both and winked at Constantine, tugging on Archibald’s hand just a bit to get him to look at me.
“No, I think not.” I squeezed his hand and let it go, although I kept our eyes locked. “A knight should wear his title, Sir Archibald.”
“Sir Archie, will do, Groundskeeper.” He raised his head proudly again and stood as tall as his armor would allow.
I nodded, reaching behind them to get Constantine’s hat. Handing it to the grinning gnome, I stood and brushed off my pants.
“Now, to get into this cabinet…”
to be continued…
**The Gardens at Weatherbury' is a collection of 500-word chapters about young Nicholas' continuing adventures as Groundskeeper to the unique gardens at the fantastical Weatherbury Estate.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Nicholas (narrator) - young boy (current age 17), telling of adventures since accepting Weatherbury's Groundskeeper job at age 14.
Constantine – garden gnome and self-appointed on-site manager of the Gardens
Rosalind – (aka Rosa) sentient climbing rosebush whose job it is to guard the Garden Shed
Sir Archibald – (aka Archie) eccentric pink armadillo tasked with organization and upkeep of the Garden Shed
Sir Phillipe - owner of Weatherbury Estate
George Thrasher – (aka G-Trash according to Constantine) former Groundskeeper, employment terminated by Sir Phillipe in Prologue