When the first stroke of starlight paints the sky, the Firefly Tavern opens its doors. Local elves and witches gather, dining on gossip and ale. They speak of an old legend about an enchanted pond, hidden within the dwarven mines. A chest of diamonds sits at the bottom of the water for anyone brave enough to go in. But beware: once you enter, you won’t be able to leave until you obtain the treasure. The water level will rise, and the chest will sink further out of reach.
When I jumped into the pond, I eagerly swam towards the treasure. The water was much deeper than expected, so I paddled back and poked my head above the surface for air. The enchantment prevented me from leaving; I had no choice but to dive straight back in and try again.
Five weeks passed.
The chest was always out of reach and I grew more tired with each attempt. I realized that this would never end unless I pushed through. I was trapped. That’s when I stopped coming up for air- not because I didn’t need to breathe, but because I had lost the motivation to rest.
But I finally did it. I grabbed the chest and left the pond. I was in debilitating pain, but I did it.
As I lugged the diamonds back to the village, I was greeted by my dear comrades.
“Great job, Shiny!” they clamored, “The chest respawns in a week, so take a break and come back on Monday.”
After ten years of being a miner, Shiny the dwarf quit his job and became a garden gnome in an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood.
Linda, a professional stay-at-home daughter, placed Shiny in her front yard, nestled between a potted plant and a ‘live, laugh, love’ sign. He was no longer allowed to move or blink, but it was a small price to pay for the endless tranquility ahead.
And oh—it was so very tranquil. Shiny felt the sun on his face, watched the clouds roll by, and listened to the birds warble from the treetops. A fat bumblebee collided into his hat and tried to pollinate it.
The lack of sound-proofing in shoddy human homes also meant that Shiny was privy to Linda’s conversations. He listened to her gripe about her kombucha addiction, suspicious pilates teacher, and impending sense of doom over wasting her life away in an anhedonic prison of her own making.
Humans were weird, but their suburbs were delightful. Between the open skies and the soft grass, Shiny had no problem adjusting. He lived, he laughed, and he loved every minute of being a garden gnome.
But as the seasons changed and the last leaf fell, wintry winds blew reminiscence across Linda’s HOA-approved lawn.
Shiny thought about the times he had shared with his friends, mining away at rocks. Despite each day being grueling and unforgiving, his memories were full of laughter. Wheeling home an empty cart may have been disappointing, but striking gold was the greatest joy on earth.
He remembered why he had gone into that terrible pond in the first place.
“That pond is impossible,” his fellow dwarves had said, “but we need those diamonds and you’re the strongest one here. We believe in you, so will you help us?”
In the mines, Shiny had a purpose. He took pride in his abilities and served his community with them. Compared to his current life of indolence, it had been one of gratification.
Would he return to the mines or stay with his new neighbors?
Stay. I’m staying with Linda and her fake plant and her midlife crisis. Why would I choose something exhausting just because it’s fulfilling? I’m not dumb like a human.
Humans work all day, complain about how tired they are, then sign up for even more work. Rather than live for that cycle, they live for the bits of joy tucked within—eating comfort food for dinner, hitting snooze on Saturday, or calling an old friend on their birthday. Those little bits become their story, their diamonds. Because one day they’ll be nostalgic over the moments they didn’t know would matter, while forgetting the ones they swore would. They realize that the work was worth their time, but the stuff in between was worth their attention.
Silly creatures. Silly Linda. I don’t know why they do it. But I do know one thing—I will never become a stay-at-home daughter; it seems incredibly stressful.