Subway Gnomes

Aloha collected soda cans from the public trashcans near the Red Line. A good and necessary contribution, she said. Each can was worth five cents CRV. Payment for her contribution to recycling. She collected bottles, too. They were worth more. Cans went into the black flower print bag at the top of her luggage cart. She did not have to undo the bungee cords to add cans to the bag. Bottles went under her red velveteen pillow in the see through blue-green bag in the middle of the rack. The bungee cord had to be removed to add the bottles but the glass was protected.

Aloha bumped her cart down the cement stairs leading to the Red Line. At the end of her day, Aloha took the Red Line home. Her son would get upset if she were not home in time for dinner.

Aloha loved her subway. So many people to watch. Today, Aloha sat next to a businessman in a black suit and a blue tie. He rested a black computer case between his shiny black shoes. Aloha saw one small white animal hair on his left shoulder. She wanted to remove it, but most people living in LA did not appreciate that sort of thing.

Instead, she pulled the small brown sack of bright shiny red, yellow, brown, and green leaves she'd collected in the park today and set it in the empty seat next to her. Even in LA, the maples turned colors in November. She opened the sack, checked the contents, and tightly rolled the brown paper closed.

"What's that for?" A little girl with baggy pink pants and dark brown braids stood in front of Aloha.

"Samantha, come here." A young woman reached a slim hand out for the child.

"She's all right, ma'am." Aloha unrolled the sack so Samantha could see inside. "They're leaves for the gnomes."

"Gnomes?" Samantha ignored her mother's distressed grunt.

"Yes. You see, once upon a time, trees covered all this land. Right up to the ocean. And little men with white beards tended the forest. Gnomes."


"Oh, yes." Aloha rolled the bag up. "They live in the subways now. Too many people above ground. But, I bring 'em leaves every now and again so they won't miss their forest as much." The businessman cleared his throat. Aloha placed the sack under her seat. "Well, here's my stop." Aloha stood. Something in the vicinity of her ankle popped loudly. "Good bye, Samantha." Aloha pulled her cart off the subway after her.

"Samantha, come here." Her mother tucked a Times into her bag. "You shouldn't talk to strangers."

"She was nice." Samantha wiped grimy hands on her pink pants. "Oh, Mama, look!" She stuck a chubby finger out and pointed at the seat Aloha had just abandoned. Samantha's mother gasped.

The businessman glanced up at Samantha and looked under his seat. "Good lord." He jumped up. His computer case fell over.

"Look at that!" A young man with a skateboard jabbed his friend and pointed. His friend whistled.

And the gnome under Aloha's seat disappeared with his bag of leaves.

About the author:

N.J. Lawson lives in Los Angeles. She spends her time avoiding high speed car pursuits and waiting for enough snow to fall on the local mountains to go snowboarding.