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Gross Misconduct

by Cornelia 

Posted: 22 May 2011
Word Count: 507
Summary: For Gerry's Challenge - a comedy in a 99p shop (but that's not the number)

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Hanif had had it up to here with garden gnomes - especially since customers of his 'Everything 99p’ shop started bringing them back.

‘Call this a garden gnome? It’s so skinny my husband says it’s a pixie’, the latest one had complained.

‘Madam, I grant you it’s slender’, Hanif conceded, ‘but that’s because he’s holding a fishing rod. It’s known as gestalt theory – you think the gnome is thin because the rod is thin.’ The woman only glared more intently.

‘In a way, it’s also a mark of authenticity. Garden gnomes are active little fellows - wheeling barrows, playing violins or, as in this case, fishing.’

‘Well, it doesn’t look like a gnome. I want my 99p back.’ The woman gave a determined twist to her scarf and stood firm, blocking the aisle.

Hanif changed tack. ‘It’s one of the new slim-line gnomes. The obese ones were recalled for contravening EEC directives.’ But it was no use; when she started to slap the disputed gnome against her palm, Hanif instructed his deputy, Cullner, to authorise a refund.

Initially, Hanif had been delighted with the gross of gnomes he’d ordered from the Pearl River factory catalogue. One hundred and forty-four gnomes, clustered like miniature motorway cones, brightened the whole store, with their shiny red hats and bright green trousers, at the time of year when people were removing padlocks from garden sheds.

But then they started coming back. Hanif examined the unsold gnomes himself and sure enough, some of them did look like pixies. The absence of beards was the main give-away.

They were probably elves, he concluded, left over from Christmas. With only so many Santa’s grottoes in the Chinese Republic and the Pearl River workers into overdrive, the suppliers had pulled a fast one and offloaded the surplus, hoping no-one would notice.

Hanif told Cullner to count the remaining gnomes and put any obvious pixies in the back room.

When a whole week had gone by with no returns, Hanif began to relax. Then Cullner tapped at his office window and pointed towards a smartly-dressed woman hesitating at the store entrance.

She seemed to be a cut above the average shopper. Only the red point sticking out of a Harrods carrier bag alerted Hanif to the problem.

‘I’ll deal with this lady,’ he said, straightening his tie.

‘Sir, there's something I should tell you’, said Cullner. ‘You remember you asked me to remove the pixies?’ The woman rummaged in her bag. ‘There was one I put aside to discuss with you, but it disappeared on my lunchbreak. It might have been sold in error.’

Hanif gasped, as the customer held the creature aloft. It was a gnome alright, from pointy red hat to little black boots. The trouble was, it wore nothing else, apart from a long coat, held open to reveal another remarkably realistic feature.

‘Ah, yes, Madam', said Hanif when he'd recovered. ‘What you have there is one of our new range of anatomically accurate empathy dolls. Remarkably… er… life-like, isn’t it? ’

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Comments by other Members

Prospero at 14:32 on 22 May 2011  Report this post
A gross of gross gnomes, eh.

Excellent Sheila, a well written story, or should I say a Flasher Flash. That definitely raised a smile.

Well done.



dharker at 16:20 on 22 May 2011  Report this post
Anatomically accurate garden gnomes... whatever next! LOL! Loved the dialogue and the scene setting Sheila and the last line that Auntie Wainwright would have been proud of!
Thank You for a great read - made me laugh...


Cornelia at 18:15 on 22 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks to both for the read and the comments.


Katerina at 09:26 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

I remember this from before too - but it works well as a flash

Not sure which womag would take it if you turned it into a short story though - definitely not PF lol. Maybe TAB as they don't mind stories that are a bit risque, and WW seem to be pushing their boundaries too, so you could try both of them.

I like this as a flash piece though.

Well done,

Kat x

Cornelia at 09:35 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
Kat, thanks. Lol, no I definitely thought not PF, nut wondered about Weekly News. I can't seem to get hold of that so often.

I was thinking of changing the end to another reason why this particular gnome is unsatisfactory.

I think one of the womags does a coffee break fiction slot.


Account Closed at 13:06 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
I really liked this Sheila, but had one niggle - why didn't the customers notice these problems before they bought them and took them home? It's described as if they aren't on display in boxes - it would be better if they were, and just a few were actually out on display, then the customers would open them at home and not see the problem until then.

I am trying to think of a twist but can't! But i think this subject matter would definitley suit The Weekly News, i think they like the quirkier stories.


Cornelia at 13:39 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Petal. It's always a good thing to give these practicalities some attention. I think that some of the customers only reacted adversely when husbands or neighbours offered opinions. But it's a good idea to mention the gnomes were sold in boxes behind the display -like the clockwork rabbit in my Easter Bunny flash.

I'll give more thought to that final rejected gnome.

Thanks again -very useful.


fiona_j at 14:19 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
I quite like the idea of people buying these gnomes for others, as presents. Then as they are unwrapped, the recipient is shocked to see what they've been given. I don't know how you could weave this in, though!


tusker at 14:36 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
Only Fools and Horses type characters with a twist. Enjoyed this and Hanif's sales technique.


Cornelia at 14:56 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
Jennifer, thanks for commenting. I'm glad you mentioned the sales technique because that's the part that I particularly liked writing. It's an aspect that always fascinates me - people trying to take advantage by using official-sounding phrases and the people they try it on with just get more and more aggravated. Maybe it's because my husband's an ex-salesman born in Camberwell -not a hundred miles from Peckham!


Cornelia at 14:59 on 23 May 2011  Report this post
Fiona, that's a great idea. My sister is veery fond of garden ornaments. I once bought her a painted cement frog that she thought was delightful. I'm sure I wrapped it up.


Bunbry at 17:30 on 24 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila, I love the title of this - brilliant! The story is a good idea too, but I did find it lacked a bit of tension - how worrisome can the return of a 99p product be? And how stressed could anyone get about the embarrassment caused by a genuine mistake, posh customer or otherwise?

I think it might excite the blue-rinse brigade, but not many others I'm afraid.

But as I said it's a good idea and could work. Why not (after the chaps apology) have the posh lady ask for two more naked gnomes for her friends? Have the shop inundated with demand and start selling them for £5 or something? That would give a happy end for the shop owner and provide an extra twist to the story.

Hope this helps.


PS Consider 'Gross Indecency' as a title too.

Cornelia at 19:34 on 24 May 2011  Report this post
Thank you for reading and making suggestions, Bunbry. I once had hopes for this as a women's magazine story but realised that it turned out differently. In the original too, Cullner had a greater role to play, having been responsible for wrapping the rude gnome then leaving it around while he went off for his lunchbreak. So in a sense the title referred to him, as well as to the man at the Pearl River factory who shouldn't have been selling pixies and passing them off as gnomes. Although that's a lot of nonsense, of course.

It's not just the mistake Hanif is embarrassed about -it's the presence of this explicit gnome in mixed company. He comes from a stricter background where such thinkgs would be frowned on. In a way he's no match, even, for the tougher lady customers, but he tries to overcome this by bluster.

I want to make it less indecent, not more,.LOL. However, it may have to go the other way, so I'll bear your suggestions in mind.


Desormais at 11:12 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
I remember this story Sheila; it made me laugh both times. A good flash!

Gerry at 05:31 on 29 May 2011  Report this post

Very well written, with dialogue that was just right. Made me chuckle.


Cornelia at 08:25 on 29 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks for reading and comments, Gerry. I wrote this a while back, so have had time to tinker with the dialogue.


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