The Irritable Bargoyle
by Martin Bolton
It was Peter’s first sunny day in his new house. He had moved there with his parents in the winter and he been stuck indoors while it rained and rained. But today was the first day of spring, and Peter ventured out into the sunshine.
As he skipped across the lawn, he could smell honeysuckle and hear bees buzzing in the flowerbeds. Beyond the garden gate lay the meadow, and beyond the meadow lay the woods. As he came to the garden gate, he suddenly he heard a voice:
“Who is this? A boy is he,
The strangest boy I’ve ever seen.
What’s his name? What can it be?
And why does he wander,
Through my meadow green?”
Peter looked down to see a goggle-eyed grasshopper sat on top of the gatepost, scratching its head.
“Who are you?” asked Peter.
“Who am I? Who am I?” exclaimed the goggle-eyed grasshopper. “If you must know, I am the goggle-eyed grasshopper.”
“I’m Peter,” he replied.
“Peter? Peter?” said the goggle-eyed grasshopper. “Where are you going, Peter?”
“I’m going to the woods.”
“The woods? The woods?” gasped the goggle-eyed grasshopper. “You mustn’t go to the woods!”
“Why not?” asked Peter.
The goggle-eyed grasshopper took a deep breath and cleared his throat and said:
“Deep inside the dark green wood,
Where the foxes leap and bound,
Far beyond the meadow’s edge,
Where the leaves pile on the ground.
Out of sight of the buzzard high,
Beyond the ringing of church bells,
In the dark bits where there’s no blue sky
That’s where the irritable bargoyle dwells.”
“Nonsense,” said Peter, “you’re just trying to frighten me. I’m not listening to you.” And he marched on through the meadow, followed by the goggle-eyed grasshopper, who hopped along behind him.
Soon he came to the gate on the other side of the meadow. He was about to open the gate when he heard a voice:
“Is that a boy pushing on my gate?
Or do my tiny eyes deceive?
A boy who does not care what lies,
In the darkness
Beyond the trees?”
Peter looked down to see a corduroy caterpillar sitting on the gatepost, scratching its belly and smoking a little pipe.
“Who are you?” asked Peter.
“I’m the corduroy caterpillar, my boy,” replied the corduroy caterpillar, “and who might you be?”
“I’m Peter,” he said.
“Peter?” said the corduroy caterpillar, “and where are you going, Peter?”
“I’m going to the woods,” said Peter.
“To the woods,” said the corduroy caterpillar, raising his corduroy eyebrows, “I wouldn’t go to the woods if I were you.”
“Why not?” asked Peter.
The corduroy caterpillar took a deep breath and cleared his throat and said:
“In a dirty burrow in the mud,
Where the earthworms squirm and slip,
Far beyond the woodland’s edge,
Where the mushrooms shiver and drip.
Past the drumming of the woodpecker’s beak
And the hooting of the owl,
Beneath the roots of the twisted beech,
That’s where the irritable bargoyle prowls.”
“Nonsense,” said Peter, “you’re as bad as the goggle-eyed grasshopper, I’m not listening to you.” And on he marched into the woods, followed by the goggle-eyed grasshopper, who hopped along behind him, and the corduroy caterpillar, who ambled along smoking his pipe.
Soon the three companions were wandering through the dark woods, when they came to a huge beech tree. The goggle-eyed grasshopper gasped. The corduroy caterpillar just smoked his pipe and scratched his belly.
“Where are we?” asked Peter.
“The twisted beech!” exclaimed the goggle-eyed grasshopper.
Then there came a booming voice from the beneath the tree’s giant roots:
“Past the place where the breeze can reach,
Alone among these roots,
Underneath the twisted beech,
I eat my beetle soup!
Let me introduce myself,
I’m the irritable bargoyle.
Alone in darkness and filth I dwell,
Eating creatures from the soil!
Here in the slimy mud I sit,
With the spiders and woodlice,
Misunderstood because I stink,
And the smell attracts the flies!
The other creatures avoid my home,
Because I bellow and I snore,
But I’m only irritable because I’m alone,
And my tummy’s really sore!”
The irritable bargoyle bellowed and groaned from his hiding place beneath the twisted beech. The goggle-eyed grasshopper cowered in fear and the corduroy caterpillar covered his ears in fright. But Peter felt sorry for the irritable bargoyle.
“What is wrong with your tummy, irritable bargoyle?” he asked.
“It hurts!”, the irritable bargoyle groaned from the darkness.
“Come out in the open, irritable bargoyle,” called Peter.
Slowly, the irritable bargoyle emerged from the darkness beneath the roots of the twisted beech. He had big teeth, pointy ears and two big, sad eyes. His green skin was slimy and he shivered as he looked up at Peter.
“I feel sick,” sniffed the irritable bargoyle.
“That’s because beetle soup and worms make you sick,” said Peter, who knew about these things because he had made himself sick before by eating worms.
Peter and the goggle-eyed grasshopper and the corduroy caterpillar fed the irritable bargoyle berries and fresh water until he felt much better and stopped bellowing and groaning and his skin was less slimy and green and he didn’t stink anywhere near as much.
The irritable bargoyle thanked Peter and the goggle-eyed grasshopper and the corduroy caterpillar and they all walked to the meadow together. The irritable bargoyle wanted to see the blue sky, he had never seen it before.