Gerhardt the Genial

Fandango’s Flash prompt this week was a photo of a sculpture. The sculpture was called A-Maze-ing Laughter, by a chap called Yue Minjun, in Morton Park, Vancouver. Fourteen ten-foot bronzes of the artist himself, in each he is laughing hysterically. I’ve shown them below – I’ve used a different image to the one Fandango used, hopefully it’s clearer.

The story I wrote the other day referred to an imaginary fairy tale, and I just spent the bank holiday here imagining it. 1,300 words, 8-10 minutes, so be warned! But it’s unusual subject matter for me – I normally aim for adults. This one is definitely kiddie-friendly, but I hope you enjoy it nevertheless.

“Hello, Gerhardt”, called the dumpy old woman from her kitchen window.

The enormous giant, standing ten feet tall in his stockinged feet, and topped off with a shock of ginger hair under a knitted green cap, stopped his open cart and glanced towards the voice. Straight away, Magda was reminded of her relief when Gerhardt and his new wife had married, and finally moved out of town.

HELLO, MAGDA”, he boomed, “HOW ARE YOU?

Ears ringing, Magda remembered the instant quiet that was restored when they left.

He was pleasant enough. They both were, Helga too. Some giants are grumpy, some had even been known to eat people, but these two were as amiable as they come. That’s why they called him Gerhardt the Genial.

It’s just that they were both so… LOUD!

Magda had known Gerhardt since he was small (as giants go!) She had shared in his joy when he finally met another giant, Helga, and been ecstatic when the couple were married. Gerhardt’s love of gardening was also well-known, and now he was famed even beyond the town. When they set up home in that delightful farmstead, with a field to grow crops, a little way out of town, not only was she happy to see their joy, but she somehow felt that fate had intervened to everyone’s advantage.

“Off to market?”

In response, Gerhardt turned and lifted an enormous tray of the juiciest-looking melons you ever saw from behind his seat. Magda waved and the giant trotted his large shire horse through the town’s gate.

“MORNING HERR GRÜBER”, greeted the giant as he ambled on, startling the butcher, who was cleaning his shop window in preparation for a busy day.

“I don’t know why we bothered with a bell”, he grumbled to his assistant once back inside the shop. He was referring to the church’s new belltower, opened, to great fanfare, only last year by the mayor. “We should’ve just asked Gerhardt.”

Gerhardt spent a wonderful day at market. His produce seemed to glisten in the sunlight, and by the end of the day, his cart was empty, and his purse full. Helga will be pleased, he thought, as the fine weather they’d had all day turned cloudy, and the satisfied giant began to journey home.

Past Herr Grüber’s, who had indeed had a busy day. Through the gate, and down past Magda’s cottage. The round old woman was now hurriedly retrieving her washing from the clothes line. “You’d better not waste any time getting yourself home, young Gerhardt, the heavens are going to open any minute.”

Gerhardt pulled his cap closer to his head, geeing his horse, but just as Magda had predicted, he felt the spit-spot of large raindrops just a short while later.

Trotting, now, Gerhardt was halfway home when he met another wagon, stuck in the middle of the lane.

“Help me please, kind sir. One of the wheels has come off in the storm, and it is still so far into town, I cannot possibly walk.” A shrivelled old gypsy woman appeared magically from behind the cart.

Poor Gerhardt was in two minds. On the one hand, Helga would have started the fire, and he was looking forward to warming his fingers and toes, but on the other… if there is one thing that giants are good at, it is lifting things! He stared at the cart, and then at the soaking woman. And, putting thoughts of himself aside, he lifted the fallen wheel with one hand, then the wagon with the other, bear-like as he made swift work of the task.

In a few minutes, the woman’s cart seemed as good as new, but Gerhardt warned:

THIS WILL GET YOU HOME, MUTTI, BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE HERR GENTSCHER – the wheelwright – “CHECK IT AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK.

The crone pulled out empty pockets. “Thank you, good sir. But alas, I have no money. I cannot pay you.”

Gerhardt was surprised, as he hadn’t expected to be paid. “OH, DON’T WORRY”, he replied, remembering his good day at market, “I JUST HOPE YOU GET BACK SAFELY.

“Wait”, interrupted the impressed woman, thinking quickly. Shuffling to the side of the road, her joints creaked as she bent to reach some beech nuts from beside the path. As Gerhardt helped her up, she closed her fist around the nuts and, muttering some words in a language that he did not understand, she thrust her now-opened palm to him.

“Take these. Tend to them well, for they will grow into strong trees, and I promise they will bring you good fortune.”

Well, even gullible Gerhardt did not believe the traveller, but in his normal, cheery way, he thanked her, and stuffed them into his bulging purse, promptly forgetting about them completely.

LOOK AT YOU, ALL SOAKING WET”, cried Helga, as he brushed the rain from his coat. “GO AND CHANGE OUT OF THOSE SOGGY CLOTHES, AND I WILL HAVE A NICE, HOT DRINK WAITING WHEN YOU GET BACK.” Though only tiny, again as giants go, at only seven feet tall, her neat bun of golden blonde hair gave her a stern appearance, and Helga was not to be disobeyed.

When Gerhardt returned, she presented him with a steaming mug of delicious cocoa. “OOH, THANKS, LOVE” smiled the giant, stretching his long legs. With no near neighbours, it didn’t matter how loudly they spoke at home, although Helga sometimes had to pinch Gerhardt’s nose with a giant-sized clothes peg, to stop his snoring!

HOW DID YOU DO?”, she asked. And, reaching into the pocket of the soaking trousers, he opened the purse. The first things to tumble out were, of course, the nuts, and Gerhardt’s story came out.

UTTER NONSENSE”, Helga’s verdict, when the story was done, and encouraged Gerhardt to throw them into the fire.

But Gerhardt was so engrossed in his mountain of coins, that he set the seeds onto the kitchen table, and promptly forgot about them once more.

The next morning, Gerhardt spotted the seeds, and thought to himself, “IF I PLANT SOME TREES BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, IF THEY DO GROW, THEY WILL PROVIDE SHADE AS PEOPLE PASS BY.” (See? Gerhardt even thought loudly!) And he left time after digging his field for some planting.

Little by little, nature took its course. The next spring, Gerhardt could not believe his eyes as the first shoots edged their way through the ground. As the old woman had instructed, he lovingly tended them as they gradually grew into saplings, then into full-size trees, providing weary travellers with shade just as Gerhardt predicted. And for all the love he showed, it appeared that the trees began to love him back, even growing themselves to resemble him.

Though Gerhardt didn’t believe it initially, they really did bring good luck. First, the  house became even happier, with Gerhardt and Helga laughing harder than ever at each other’s silliness. Then, a year later, Helga gave birth to a fine giant baby, the first of five children, seventeen grandchildren, forty-three great-grandchildren, and… so many more that poor old Gerhardt lost count! And last of all, Gerhardt’s hard work was rewarded when, a few years afterwards, he bought another three fields, turning their home into their very own farm.

But even when he owned lots of land, at the end of each day, Gerhardt used to enjoy a pipeful of tobacco with the trees. They were such good fun to round off his weary day, and their guffaws were infectious. Over time, their fame spread, and the glade even became known by passers-by as Gerhardt’s Bellowing Beeches, so potent was their good-humour.

And when old Gerhardt finally died, aged 347 (for giants live an exceedingly long life) the beeches lived on in his memory (for trees live even longer!), and legend has it that, to this day, not even the saddest person can pass through the wood without at least a chortle!

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