Gnome Hunt

There are things you shouldn’t hunt for, especially when drunk. This is a tale of gnomes and fridges. Contains content which may offend.

Image Credit: 
© 2015 Seb Reilly / Used With Permission

‘Let’s go gnome hunting,’ he said. ‘It’ll be fun.’

That loudmouth, the one with all the funny stories, that’s Darren. The guy’s always coming up with something to annoy somebody. Got divorced because of a game like this. Touch the Fridge, he called it. The game that ended his marriage.

It was a Saturday when he came up with that one. His wife, Tracy, she was alright. Out of his league really, but he thought it was the other way round so he acted like a king, expecting her to wait on him hand and foot. She did, for a while.

So that Saturday morning Darren had been in the kitchen making a coffee and he’d had this idea when he got the milk out of the fridge. He came into the bedroom and she was sat at her little dressing table, coating her face in make-up. She didn’t need it, she was a pretty girl, but she was slapping it on like she always did.

‘How do I look, babe?’ she asked.


She smiled. Darren knew that one syllable did it for her. They’d not been married that long, a few months; they’d only been together two years. Thing is, while she was soaking up the compliment all Darren was thinking about was this new game, and how much it would irritate her. She got up and turned to face him.

‘You ready to go?’ she asked.

‘Touch the fridge.’

Tracy’s smile disappeared and her lips pouted like a duck. Darren said her eyebrows would’ve raised if they weren’t drawn on.

‘What’s that, babe?’

‘Touch the fridge,’ Darren repeated.

Darren was always looking for ways to wind her up. Her, anyone really, he didn’t care. He loved to get under people’s skin. This was just the next step, the next level of being a pest.

‘Babe,’ she said. ‘We don’t have time for this. I want to get to the shops before it gets busy, yeah?’

‘Touch the fridge.’

Darren could see she was getting annoyed already. He took hold of her arm.

‘Babe, what are you doing?’

He took hold of her other arm.

‘Touch the fridge.’

Darren jumped and wrapped his legs around her waist. Did it so quick she didn’t even register what was happening. And they fell.

Tracy was trying to get up but Darren was holding her in place. He’d broken their fall and now was underneath her. His legs were clamped around her, his feet locked together behind her back, and his arms were gripping hers. She was stuck.

‘Darren?’ she asked.

Her voice had reached that state where it was just a whine that was getting louder and louder. Darren always tells us that her voice made it funnier.

‘Darren, what are you doing?’

He didn’t move.

‘Touch the fridge.’

Tracy struggled for a bit, back and forth, but Darren didn’t release.

‘Babe,’ she said. ‘I want to go to the shops.’

‘Touch the fridge.’

Tracy wriggled again but Darren’s legs just squeezed tighter. She relaxed.

‘Fine. If I touch the fridge, you’ll let go, yeah?’

Darren nodded, his face proper serious.

‘You’re such a dick sometimes,’ Tracy said.

Darren grinned.

‘Touch the fridge.’

Ever since school Darren’s been a bit of a joker. He used to argue in class just to get into trouble. He thought it was fun.

Tracy pressed her toes down, gripping the carpet with her bare feet, and forced her hands onto the floor either side of Darren’s head. She lifted, straining her back, and shuffled forwards. She tried swinging Darren underneath her, shifting him towards the door, and then dropped back to the ground.

It was obvious this wasn’t going to work.

‘Darren,’ she said.

‘Touch the fridge.’

She propped herself up again, but this time she rolled her hips, grinding up against him. Darren reckoned she thought it was some kind of sex game. She bit her lip and looked in his eyes.

‘You like that, babe?’ she asked.

He was still grinning. He found this kind of stuff mad funny. She leaned down and put her mouth to his ear.

‘Let me go,’ she whispered. ‘I’ll make it worth your while, yeah?’

Tracy lifted up again and gave him a real seductive look.

‘Touch the fridge.’

It took her half an hour to drag him through to the kitchen, mainly because he kept grabbing everything to prevent her from moving. Doorframes were the worst. She ended up biting his shoulder to force him to let go. Now, after more effort than he was worth, Tracy was in the kitchen, almost at their big, upright fridge freezer. She held her hand out, stretching, until her fingers brushed the lower door.

‘There,’ she said. ‘I’ve done it. Let go, babe.’

Darren was grinning.

‘That’s the freezer,’ he replied.


‘Touch the fridge.’

For the first time ever Tracy looked at her husband like she actually hated him. Darren said he could see it all over her face, but that just made it even more amusing.

Out of nowhere, Tracy forced her leg upwards into Darren’s bum.

‘Missed,’ he said. ‘You won’t knee me in the balls from there.’

‘That wasn’t what I was trying to do.’

She adjusted her position a bit and tried again. This time it worked. Darren said even the neighbours heard him cry out in pain. She’d caught his testicles against her leg and was crushing them between their bodies.

‘Let go babe,’ she said.

When Darren tells this story he talks about how his eyes were streaming with tears, but he didn’t release her.

‘Touch the fridge,’ he said through gritted teeth.

Tracy pushed further into him. Darren’s grip opened on her left arm. She pulled her hand away and reached up, tapping the fridge door.

Darren relaxed and fell off her. He said his face was all puffy red for a good ten minutes after. Tracy leant back, finally able to move, whilst Darren wiped his eyes with his sleeve. He breathed a bit and gently massaged his crotch for a moment to calm the thumping ache, then sat up and faced her.

‘Come on love,’ he said. ‘We’ll be late.’

He got up, leaving Tracy on the kitchen floor, her mouth open in shock.

‘Stop messing about,’ Darren said. ‘Come on.’

Tracy slowly stood, walked past him in silence, returned to the bedroom and reapplied all her make-up. Darren left her to change and brush her hair, and calm down a bit. Sometime later she came back in. Darren was sat on the sofa watching porn.

‘Are you ready yet?’ he asked.

‘I’m driving,’ she said.

Those were the last words Tracy spoke for an hour. No matter what Darren said she didn’t reply. They walked round the shopping centre, looked in every shop, but she was silent. They reached that large electrical store at the end but Tracy didn’t speak. As they were looking at surround-sound speakers Darren had a thought.

It was a bad thought.

He went up to Tracy, stood right in front of her, and looked her in the eye. He gently put his hand on her chin and turned her head so she could see across the room.

At the far side, against the wall, through the crowd of Saturday shoppers, were a row of fridge freezers. Darren leaned in close and whispered in her ear.

‘Touch the fridge.’

Once she had picked herself up off the floor, Tracy apologised to the manager. She left her husband in the printer aisle, clutching his aching and swollen scrotum, screaming in agony. She went to the hardware shop and bought a new lock for the front door, then drove home and changed the old one over.

She sent the divorce papers to Darren’s mother, citing irreconcilable differences.

Darren still laughed when he told that story. For him it’s just that, something you tell your mates down the pub. It don’t matter that he still lives with his mother, three years later, as long as he gets a laugh.

Every week Darren tried to gather up the lads for a night out. Most of the time only one or two turned up, sometimes none at all, but today was different. I finally had a Friday night off work and the mother-in-law had agreed to babysit, so I sent the wife off to bingo then came out for a pint. Darren was propping up the bar, as usual. Mickey and Fuzz were there, Paul and Fat Steve, even Alan was in town for his granddad’s funeral and had come along. The old gang back together, all of us in the same place for the first time since school.

So after a few drinks Darren had just finished explaining how he drove his ex-wife to divorce him, and we’d all finished the last of our beers. Time to move on.

‘Where to now, lads?’ Darren asked.

Fuzz suggested the Crown, but that was a dive. Your feet stick to the carpet as if someone spilled glue and the walls smell like puke.

‘What about the Red Lion?’ I said.

There was cheering. We always used to drink in the Red Lion, back in school. They never checked for ID, and we all had fond memories of that place. Got my first hand job there from chubby Angela, in the booth behind the pool table.

‘The only problem is,’ Alan said. ‘You know, with the Red Lion, is that it’s a bit of a walk, it is. I’ll call a cab.’

‘No,’ Darren said. ‘I’ve got a better idea.’

Here we go.

‘Let’s go gnome hunting,’ Darren said. ‘It’ll be fun.’

Predictably, we all asked what gnome hunting was. Well, all of us except Fat Steve, who was outside pissing against the wall.

‘What we do is hunt for gnomes.’

Well that was obvious.

‘We split up,’ Darren continued. ‘You have to find a gnome and bring it to the Red Lion. Best one wins.’

‘Well, what if you can’t find a gnome?’ Mickey asked.

‘Then bring the next best thing,’ Darren replied. ‘That’s it, those are the rules.’

‘What does the winner get?’ Paul asked.

‘The others have to buy all their drinks,’ Darren said. ‘For the rest of the night.’

And that was that. It was a stupid plan, but it sounded like a laugh. I nipped to the loo and when I got back they’d all ran off already, presumably looking for gnomes. I suspected everyone had gone down the first few streets on the way to the Red Lion, but I kept going along the main road. The big, posh houses were coming up, and one of them would definitely have garden ornaments.

I was right.

There’s a house like this in every town, with a garden full of statues. Sometimes it’s right there, in front of your eyes, and everyone knows about it, but in other places it’s hidden. Here, that house is on one of the posh streets, the same road that I turned down.

Look, it’s not my fault Darren got here first. I was just going to nick a gnome and leave. I didn’t think he’d come up this far, anyway, but he was already in the garden when I arrived. He was going for the one with the wheelbarrow.

‘Darren,’ I said. ‘What you doing here?’

‘Go away,’ Darren replied. ‘I’ve got this one.’

‘What do you mean, you’ve got this one?’

‘There’s loads of other gardens, go to one of them.’

At that moment I had Darren figured out.

‘You planned this, didn’t you?’ I asked.


‘How long you been planning this?’

‘Planning what?’

‘Gnome hunting,’ I said. ‘You knew about this place.’

That’s when the light came on. Being sensible, and only a bit drunk, I ducked behind the wall as I was still in the street. Darren, however, was stuck in the middle of the garden holding a gnome and a wheelbarrow.

‘Who’s there?’ the old woman shouted.

I could tell she was old from her voice, but I did peek over the wall to see. She was wearing a dressing gown, with a woolly hat on her head. Darren was still standing in the middle of the garden, facing me. She was pointing a shotgun at his back.

‘What are you doing in my garden?’

Darren didn’t move. I hoped she wouldn’t see me.

‘And where is Alfred?’ she shouted.

‘Sorry, love,’ Darren said. ‘I’m just borrowing this gnome.’

He turned slightly and then froze. He’d seen the shotgun.

‘Alfred?’ the old woman asked. ‘Are you all right?’

Darren looked a little confused, but she was looking at him when she spoke.

‘I’m fine,’ Darren said. ‘I’m Alfred. Can you lower the gun now?’

‘Shut up.’

She took a step forward.

‘Alfred?’ she said. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get you back in your place soon.’

Darren figured it out at the same time as me. She was talking to the gnome.

‘Sorry, love,’ Darren said. ‘Let me put little Alfie back down for a minute.’

He leaned forward, slowly.

‘You touched him,’ she shouted. ‘You touched Alfred inappropriately.’

‘Calm down, love. You don’t want your neighbours waking up, do you?’

‘I don’t give a damn who wakes up,’ the old woman said. ‘You touched my Alfred inappropriately and now you’re trying to give him back unclean, you disgusting cretin.’

She was holding the gun right at his back. All he had to do, from what I could see, was put the gnome down, brush it down with his sleeves, then calmly walk away. The thing is, when Darren gets an idea in his head, it’s hard to change his mind.

‘Tell you what, love,’ Darren said. ‘How about I pay for the gnome? How’s that?’

‘You vile specimen,’ the old woman shouted. ‘You think I want your money?’

‘Fine. If you’re going to be rude then I’m keeping this gnome.’

I should’ve got up, or at least said something, but I’d never seen anything like that before. Plus I didn’t want to get shot. I’ve got kids, you know? Anyway, the old woman reached out and grabbed hold of the wheelbarrow with one hand whilst holding the shotgun in the other. Darren did what only Darren does.

He held on.

He clung on to that gnome tighter than he held his wife in that electrical store, and he didn’t let go.

‘My gnome,’ he shouted. ‘It’s my gnome now.’

The guy had lost it, but then he’d obviously been planning this gnome hunting expedition for months, maybe years. That gnome with the wheelbarrow was the punchline; that was his chance to be a winner again. The guy lives with his mother and hasn’t had a job since his divorce. Let’s just say he was getting pretty desperate, and the gnome was the future to him. He held on.

The old woman stepped back and aimed the shotgun at the middle of Darren’s back.

‘Let go of Alfred,’ she said.


‘Let go now.’


‘Alfred,’ the old woman said. ‘Don’t worry. Mummy will save you.’

Darren tried to say something, but I couldn’t hear it over the blast. The old woman flew backwards, legs in the air, and Darren went the other way. I ducked and waited but couldn’t hear anything except ringing in my ears, so I looked again.

The old woman wasn’t moving. Her legs, and the smoking barrel of the shotgun, were all stuck up pointing at the sky. I couldn’t see Darren. After a few minutes I walked over and I found her like this. She must’ve broken her neck when she fell over that concrete donkey.

I went back through the garden, over to where Darren had been, but he wasn’t there. On the pavement I found the blood smears, those dark patches, so I followed them. Darren had made it round the corner. The Red Lion is down the road. I reckon that’s where he was heading.

Darren’s arm was hanging off at the shoulder but he’d wrapped it around the gnome with the wheelbarrow. He was dragging himself along with the other arm, and doing a much better job than his ex-wife did playing Touch the Fridge, but the hole in his back was leaking blood everywhere.

‘Nearly there,’ he said. ‘Come on Alfred, nearly there.’

I crouched down next to him. His face was drained and he was sweating but he was still trying to move.

‘Darren,’ I said. ‘You won.’

‘I won?’

‘You won.’

‘You hear that Alfie?’ Darren said. ‘I won.’

He smiled.

And that was it, really. He died happy. I waited with him for the police and ambulance to arrive but he was already gone when they got here, smiling, with his arm round Alfred the gnome.

So I think that’s everything. That’s why we were both there, that’s why he was holding the gnome, and that’s why we went hunting in the first place. I think that should probably be enough as a statement. Was there anything else you needed, Officer?

Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.

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