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The Trial Of The Smarty-Pants Dwarf
Gomper the dwarf, a clock salesman, is convicted of murder but is too smart to be punished by the strict Mungle.
Jack M Brown
19, studying Mathematics at Southampton University.
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The Trial Of The Smarty-Pants Dwarf
Jack M Brown
One minute till half past six in the morning. The fresh light of the new day was creeping into the small cave from the jagged shape of the window. In a small cot lay three tiny dwarves, their mouths wide open while their eyes were closed, humbly snoozing through the roaring snores of their mother in a large stone bed close by. At exactly six thirty, the little baby Dwarf in the centre sat up, his eyes now wide, eager for the world to teach him new dollops of information. And so it had been like this for thirty years, but the cot had been thrown out years before.
Six thirty struck the world and Gomper sat up, his two hefty brothers snoring and spluttering either side of him ready to wait another five hours before consciousness. Gomper struggled between their two hulking masses of flesh and finally ejected himself onto the floor and crawled the rest of the way into the bathroom.
Single and looking. Born on the hundred and first of Talta making him a Gurnplop. A star sign highly compatible with Frumps, Wollowops and Chikopeenars. Highly successful at school, excelling in all subjects except for combat training. Owns his own business. Gomper looked in the mirror, grooming his short moustache which he had been combing to perfection for the past year and a half. He relayed this personal information over with himself every morning, reminding himself why young children and the odd grown up shouted ‘smarty-pants’ at him when walking down the street.
Fully clothed, he began walking down the street towards his business, while an old lady popped her head out of a high window on the other side of the gorge and shouted ‘Smarty-pants’ as he passed. Gomper had built a business on antique clocks. His fascination with time and mechanical devices that could organise the minutes of the day had become a great hobby and at the mere age of fifteen he had started his business, filling a rented shop with such contraptions and selling them to eager though sometimes confused customers. Detailing the smallest cogs to the patrons and thrilled him along with talking with his quickly acquired large breadth of language that had been built upon since his first words of ‘turnip stew’ at the age of two and a half.
Gomper unlocked the door to his shop and placed a board outside to say that he was open for business. No other dwarf in the entire town was awake yet but it was Gomper’s acute sense of timing that drove him to be prompt or even very prompt. Three hours past swiftly with no customers, allowing Gomper to check over the times of each clock to make sure that each was correct; to dust off the stone floor and to double check the amount of money in the till.
“G-Good morning,” said his first customer of the day, nodding once or twice more often than was necessary.
“Good morning,” replied Gomper, quickly coming around the counter to meet the customer face on. The customer stepped back however, physically shaken it seemed. “Are you alright?”
“F-Fine, fine. I’m fine, thankyou.” He was obviously nervous as Gomper could see but he tried to shake it off with more trembling. He marched past Gomper and over to the largest clock in the room, its huge white face sporting one thin black hand and the other thick, encased in a large elm box, two large bells hanging hidden below. “How much?” squeaked the customer.
“Five hundred…you haven’t bought a clock before have you?”
“Of course I have!” replied the customer, putting as much force into his voice as was possible. Like Gomper he had a thin moustache but for some ghastly reason he was wearing an old toupee that was far too big for his head that it flapped over his ears.
“Do you want to see the bells?” Gomper was a man of few words but when he spoke them, he was straight to the point. In this case, he knew that he wouldn’t manage any fanciful conversation.
“I’ll find them myself!” The Dwarf looked ahead of him but saw no bells at all. Looking closer he found two small handles to open up the insides of the clock, revealing two large brass bells engraved with wavy writing. Gripping either side of the clock, he pulled his head closer so that his nose touched the metal. Gomper wanted to pull him away in case of his nose desecrating the brass with moisture but he was too late as the customer was overtaken by a powerful nervous tremble that shook the clock. The great structure lost balance and crashed on top of the Dwarf, his hands splayed out either side. The rest of his body had disappeared.
For the first time in his life, Gomper could not find the words to say whatever he wanted to say (which he wasn’t so sure of himself). He considered a witty line but it was deemed bad taste.
The sudden entrance of another dwarf frightened Gomper to the degree of sending him over to the counter, trying to grip his heart in desperation from the two frights of what had just happened. It was only Mungle the warden, however, so Gomper smiled in relief.
“What in the heavens has been going on in here? What was that crashing noise? Who is that beneath the clock? What is going on?”
In the moments before Mungle’s speech, Gomper had quickly revised his memory of how stupid the warden actually was. Two years prior he had invented ‘No Clothes Day’ on finding religion and was actually surprised that he was the only one to take part.
“You! Smarty-pants! What is going on in here?”
“No!” yelled Mungle, cutting the clock salesman short. “As warden, I am taking this case as one of murder!”
Gomper screamed inside – he thought he was done for!
“You are my only suspect so I am arresting you in the name of the law! However, in the case of murder, I cannot quite remember what the guidelines actually are. You and I shall travel to the room of records and find out.” Taking Gomper by the hand, Mungle led him out of his shop and across the street to a small room. A small congregation of dumbfounded townsfolk had gathered around the clock shop, peering through the door and window to see the fallen clock and the unfortunate Dwarf underneath.
The Room of Records consisted of but one wooden seat with a cushion and nothing more. Mungle entered briskly, looking about the walls as if he would find anything there before setting his eyes upon the seat. Gomper hobbled in behind him, his eyes closed as he considered the dreadful possibilities – death by hanging, death by cliff, death by tree, death by jam – the ancient rule makers had been very imaginative. Mungle picked up the cushion and underneath was a lone leaf of paper. Carefully he picked it up and began reading the correct section.
“‘In the case of MURDER’,” read Mungle aloud, his eyes focussing on each word carefully, “‘it is the job of the most intelligent man in the town to select a judge, jury, defendant, prosecutor and if needs be, an executioner.’ You, ‘Smarty-pants’! You must decide who these shall be!” He was not surprised. Instead, he spoke with a tone that he was doing his duty rather than what he had just followed should logically not apply.
“Very well,” said Gomper, relieved. “I elect that I should fit all those categories. I shall be judge, jury, defendant, prosecutor and executioner.”
“So be it. ‘Smarty-pants’, you are under the charge of murder. How do you plead?”
“Guilty,” replied Gomper for a laugh.
“I did it in the act of rage. I wanted to lop his head off too.”
“The jury’s verdict?”
“Innocent as I’m lying.”
“Good enough for me.” Mungle grabbed the wallet from his trousers and fumbled with the money inside. “Here. These are your wages, I’m sorry for bringing you out so early in the morning.” Gomper took the money and stuffed it into his pocket. “Now off with you, ‘Smarty-pants’! I hope I don’t have to see you here again!”
Gomper returned to his shop of clocks as quickly as possible, the constant ticking a sanctuary for his ruffled mind, enough money in his pocket to reimburse the broken clock.
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© 2004 Jack M Brown
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