The old woman sat in the kitchen taking tentative sips of her tea. It was still too hot to drink. The only light spilled in from the living room. The family sat, lay, or sprawled over the furniture only half watching the television.
This was her favorite time of night. The dinner dishes had been cleared up; the whole family was in the house. "A world within the home and a world without." as her grand mother used to say.
She sat with her tea, inhaling the scent of citrus rising from the hot water before adding a touch of milk. This was her time to reflect in quiet on the day that had passed and the blessings she enjoyed.
"Just one more thing to do before bedtime." She thought.
"Katie. Katie, grandma needs you to do something." She called to the living room.
In a forgotten part of the garden others were also engaged in a nightly routine.
"Gnogg. Gnogg! Wake up boy. Time's a wasting." The little gnarled figure poked the sleeping lump with a twisted wooden cane.
"What, what is it? Can't a body get some sleep?" the huddled mass on the floor complained from under a pile rags.
"Damn and blast Gnogg, get up we've got work to do!" shouted the exasperated little creature poking the pile of rags more vigorously and pulling on his black scraggily beard in exasperation.
"All right Devlin, alright. Quit hitting me. I'm up." protested the sleepy figure, crawling out from under the rags that served as his blankets.
The two looked for all the world like a pair of shriveled old men, with large noses and matted hair. The smaller of the two, Gnogg, and by smaller it is meant that he did not rise to Devlin's majestic height of six inches but stood or rather stooped at five and a half inches, groped around and put on a somewhat battered cone like hat.
In better light the pair might have appeared like a pair of unpleasant and somewhat emaciated garden gnomes. They were dressed in drab grays and browns except for Devlin's fine red velvet vest and Gnogg's bright green scarf that he was even now wrapping around himself.
"What time is it?"
Devlin snarled, "Time for you to get up. The family's getting ready for bed and we have work to do. Here's your half of the costume, get into it."
Devlin held out what seemed to be part of a rather worn and moth eaten puppet, or possibly a well-loved stuffed animal whose stuffing had been loved away.
"What, I'm not being the back half again." Gnogg responded shaking his head emphatically. "I was in back last night. Besides whenever I'm in back you drink all the milk before I can have any."
"First my insubordinate little friend, you will be which ever end of this cat I say you will because I am the older and therefore the senior member of our little partnership. Second, I did take all the milk the other day because you lost your share a bettin' me at cards, if you remember. Finally, you will be the back end of the cat until at least the new moon because again you was a bettin' badly the other night. Remember? Now be a fey of your word and get dressed." Holding the hind aft of the costume by the tail he shook it at Gnogg.
"Oh yeah, that's right Devlin. But what you say we cut cards for it - double or nothing."
"No Gnogg, you jest ain't lucky at card my friend, and I won't take no more advantage of you till you've paid off your debts. Now come on or one of the neighborhood strays will get the milk before we do. I promise you tonight even split fifty-fifty."