The tale of the gewgaw
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    Once upon a time there lived a strange creature in an ordinary village. This beast had patches of tawny fur intermixed with bare skin, crooked teeth poking out of its brutish grin, and its characteristic horn stuck in the middle of its forehead. If the sight wasn’t enough to deter onlookers, its putrid smell certainly did them in. This being was the Gewgaw.

    It thought it was a normal inhabitant of the village, but the other townspeople disagreed. As a result, the Gewgaw remained a despised aspect of the village that the citizens attempted to ignore:

    If the Gewgaw tried to ask an elderly woman a question about the weather that day, it was promptly kicked in the shins.

    If the Gewgaw stopped a robber from taking a young boy’s red balloon, the boy would start throwing rocks at the Gewgaw, forcing it to flee from its charitable deed.

    If the Gewgaw so much as opened its snarled mouth in hopes of joining in an amiable conversation among the locals, the people shuffled away, cursing it under their breath.

    In short, life in this otherwise peaceful village was miserable for the Gewgaw. Despite the villagers’ callous demeanor toward the Gewgaw, it attempted to help its neighbors, be an active member of the town, and just try to fit in. The Gewgaw was blind to the futility of its actions.

    One ordinary day, when the Gewgaw was being routinely kicked in the shins after asking if it was going to rain that afternoon, the townspeople decided it was time to take action. The mayor sent a message to the town crier to immediately announce a town meeting for everyone but the Gewgaw.

    “Attention! Attention! All villagers—except the Gewgaw—must go to the town hall for an urgent meeting!” The villagers stopped their conversing, dishwashing, laundry, and gambling, and rushed to the town hall. The disheartened Gewgaw was perplexed as to why it was directly ordered not to attend. Frustrated, it sat on a tree trunk and pondered what could be the reason.

    “Maybe they’re planning a surprise birthday party for me,” said the Gewgaw to itself. It was talking out loud, not because no one was around, but because this was one of its annoying habits, which did not help its reputation. “Or maybe they want to give me a medal of honor for my work helping the community.”

    None of the Gewgaw’s speculations were remotely correct. Inside the town hall, the people were plotting something much more nefarious. Something dastardly. Something just plain mean.

    “Now is the time to act!” boomed the mayor, a portly man with a small mustache that hugged his nose. “The Gewgaw has been a nuisance for far too long! We must decide what to do with this beast.”

    “Put it in jail!” shouted a member of the crowd.

    “Draw and quarter it!”

    “Burn it!”

    “I respect your opinions,” interjected the mayor, “but if we use these violent methods what will our sister villages think of us? We have a reputation to keep, and we will not let the Gewgaw tarnish it any longer. Therefore, I propose that we banish the Gewgaw from our village, forbidding it from setting foot—er, claw—in our township ever again!”

    “Hear, hear!” cheered the townspeople.

    “Then it has been decided. Sheriff, go find the Gewgaw and inform it of our decision. It has until sunset to vacate this land.”

    The people shuffled excitedly out of the town hall. They were quite happy about the prospects of a Gewgaw-less village. The Gewgaw did not feel the same about the verdict. In fact, when the sheriff informed the Gewgaw of the ultimatum, it began to cry its dirty tears.

    The Gewgaw cried brown tears, so it was always hard to feel sympathy for it when it was sad.

    A few hours passed, and the time had come. With a small wave to no one, the Gewgaw took its first steps away from the town, its first as a banished beast.

    As the Gewgaw wandered away, it began searching for a suitable place to live. It knew that there were other towns nearby, but it correctly assumed that it would not be wanted there either. Several hours later, after a beginning-to-get-exhausting stroll, the Gewgaw approached a bridge. Two men sat at its crest, fishing over the edge. The Gewgaw walked up to the fishers.

    “Excuse me, but do you know if anyone lives here?”

    “Haha! Lives in the bridge? That’s absurd,” replied one of the men, not even looking over at the Gewgaw.

    “Well then, since it’s available, I think I will claim it as my home.”

    Wondering who this man that wanted to live under the bridge could be, both fishermen glanced over at the short creature. They quickly realized they had not been talking to a man but to a hideous beast. They gave out a yelp of surprise, dropped their rods, and ran back to their safe, cozy homes.

    “What odd fellows,” mused the Gewgaw. It walked down the path to the stream under the bridge, found a less damp spot, and began to unload its things. As the Gewgaw unpacked, a curious idea materialized in its little noggin. A peculiar idea. An intriguing idea. A menacing idea. Why be courteous to these humans? Why help them? Why endure kicks to the shin? It was time for payback. Before too long, the Gewgaw heard footsteps on the bridge above its new home.  

    “Help!” shouted the Gewgaw.

    “What? Who is that?” asked Jeffrey, the man crossing the bridge.

    “I’m stuck in the mud under the bridge, and my mother doesn’t know where I am!”

    “I’ll be right down!” Jeffrey scurried down the path, looking for a child in distress. Instead, he spied the Gewgaw, staring at him with a large grin, baring its crooked, rotting teeth.

    “What the—” Jeffrey started to say, but before he could finish, the Gewgaw opened its mouth wide and swallowed Jeffrey whole. And so began the Gewgaw’s reign of terror over the bridge between the villages. The next day, two enamored youths were holding hands, walking jovially through the woods. They began to cross the bridge just as they would any ordinary bridge. Right before they reached the other side, the Gewgaw jumped out, showing off his sharp claws. The lovers began to run away, but the speedy Gewgaw was already on them. Chomp! Gulp! The boy and girl were gone, never to be heard from again.

    Next to go was a woman washing her family’s clothes in the stream. After that was a fisherman who accidentally hooked the Gewgaw. Then a dog wandered by but never reached the other side. The Gewgaw had never been happier, and the town had never been more terrified. The Gewgaw had successfully obtained its revenge.

    “Perhaps this was my true calling in life all along,” it mused. The town’s mayor quickly forbade anyone from using the dangerous bridge. However, laws are made to be broken, especially by young, adventurous boys, so it was not long before little Tommy came to the bridge. Just an hour earlier, he had been with his friend Dave when the plot catalyst came: “I double dog dare you to go to the stream by the bridge and bring back a magic smooth stone,” said Dave.

    “But, my mommy says there’s a scary creature that lives there,” replied Tommy nervously.

    “Are you chicken? Ba-bawk! Ba-bawk!”

    “No! I’m not. Fine, I’ll go and get your stupid stone.”

    Back in the present, Tommy was peering at the stream under the bridge. He crept a little closer to the water. Still no magic smooth stones. A little closer. He looked at the water. And two yellow eyes stared back. “Gah!” shouted Tommy, jumping back. The Gewgaw slowly crawled out of the water. It had grown to appreciate the fear in its victims.

    “Wait, d-don’t eat m-me!” said frightened Tommy.

    “What?” said the Gewgaw, taken aback. “Why not?”

    “Everyone in the village is very scared. And I only came to find a magic smooth stone on a dare. I’m just a small boy.”

    “Hm. That’s true.” The Gewgaw paused for a moment, considering Tommy’s plea. It did not take long for him to decide that he would have a lot more fun continuing to eat people. With that decision, he gobbled the little boy up. And the Gewgaw lived happily ever after.

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