The following characters are the property of Daniel Handler, Tim Burton and other entities who are not me. They are used without permission, intent of infringement or expectation of profit. Feedback is very welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Rheanna for coming up with the title.
The Gargantuan Garden
You will notice at once that this story has no
warnings. Many readers prefer such warnings before
their stories, because they will be mournful if anyone
is said to die, or get angry if a character they
dislike is treated nicely, or burst into flames if two
imaginary people other than those they prefer are
shown to be in love. Therefore such warnings are
helpful things indeed.
But if this story were to carry all the warnings it
should, it would be far, far longer than such a tale
of woe should ever be. It would need an "orphans
terrible distress" warning, a "sharp, pointy
warning and an "inconveniently placed puddle of mud"
warning - and that is only the beginning. So the only
warning you should heed is the warning to immediately
close this story and go to another LiveJournal post,
where happier people are telling stories of happier
days, perhaps the erotic adventures of two young pop
stars or the favored foods of certain housecats. In no
case should you read THIS terrible tale any further.
If you are still reading, which I sincerely hope you
are not, you are probably familiar with the
misadventures of the Baudelaire siblings: Violet,
Klaus and Sunny. You know the tragic manner in which
they were orphaned by a fire; the hateful Count Olaf,
who has ever pursued them in an effort to steal their
money; and their completely inadequate supervision by
Mr. Poe, at the bank, who coughs more than he thinks
of the Baudelaires' real needs.
But what you may not have guessed - for how could you?
- is that there was once an orphan even lonelier than
Violet certainly never expected to meet such a person.
On this gray spring morning, she was walking along the
sidewalk near Mr. Poe's home, where she and her
siblings were awaiting their transfer to their next
guardian. She had little faith that this next domicile
- a word that here means "place to live" - would
any better than the last, or that they would be able
to stay there long before Count Olaf found them once
more. As she walked, she tied her hair back with a
ribbon as she tried to think of an invention that
would allow her, Klaus and Sunny to hide anywhere.
"We could try to become emancipated minors,"
Klaus, who as usual had his nose in a book. Of course,
"nose in a book" does not mean that he had literally
shut his nose between the pages of a book, which would
be very uncomfortable, particularly if the book were
by Nabokov. "Having your nose in a book" is
that simply means "reading," something Klaus
often. "If we were emancipated minors, we could live
on our own."
"Really? Just the three of us?" Violet brightened
cuddled her baby sister Sunny closer to her in
excitement. "It would be difficult, living alone,
then, it couldn't be much harder than living with
Count Olaf and doing all his chores."
"Or making puttanesca sauce for his strange friends,"
"Mmmmmurgleblah!" said Sunny, which meant something
very important. Normally Sunny's older siblings were
very good at understanding their sister's baby
language and including her in the conversation.
However, they were so excited at the idea of being
emancipated minors - children who are legally able to
conduct business as adults - that they did not listen.
"How would we pay rent?" Violet said. "I
could try to sell some of my inventions."
"If we were emancipated, we would have access to
inheritance," Klaus said. The Baudelaires would become
very wealthy upon turning 18, an age at which many
things once considered undesirable become perfectly
"That would be enough to live on, wouldn't it?"
became very happy at the very thought. She had so few
chances to be happy that it is hard to look back on
this and say that, really, she should have been more
careful. But she should have been more careful, for no
sooner than she clapped her hands and skipped than she
tripped and fell with a wet, messy SPLASH.
"Mmmmmmmurglesplat!" Sunny said, which meant,
you to look out for the mud puddle!"
"Ugh," Violet said as she picked herself up.
had taken the Baudelaires shopping for new clothing
recently, and so she was very distressed - a word
which here means "upset" - to see that her clothing
was distressed - a word which here means "disheveled
and damaged in a way that very silly people will pay
extra for." She sighed and tried to brush off the
but not all of it would slide away.
Klaus suggested, "Here, let's ask the neighbors if
can wash up. Most stains are removable if you act
"Kors!" Sunny said, which meant, "I think
clothing is quite stylish these days," but she was
only being tactful.
But when they turned to see the nearest neighbor's
home, all thoughts of mud, stain removal and fashion
trends fled the Baudelaires' minds. They had been so
engrossed - a word which here means "interested,"
has nothing to do with things that are disgusting or
the number 144 - in the idea of becoming emancipated
minors that they had paid little attention to their
surroundings. And these were very difficult
surroundings not to pay attention to.
The neighbor's home was a rambling old house with
spires and stairs and oddly shaped windows that seemed
somewhat like eyes. This was a very remarkable house,
and yet it took some time to notice it. What was even
more remarkable was the topiary surrounding the house.
"Topiary" is a word that here means "hedges,"
these hedges were unlike any others. The branches and
leaves were clipped in various shapes to form the
outlines of bears and stags, of lightning bolts and
racing cars, of sailing ships and candlesticks. Almost
without realizing it, the Baudelaires wandered further
into this fantastic garden.
"What could have created this?" Violet said,
imagine the world's finest hedge clippers.
"Who could have thought of so many designs?"
said, trying to imagine the many books these images
might have been taken from.
"Taprotij!" Sunny said, which meant, "I
shaped like hedges, actually." She really thought
designs were nice, but some of the bears and tigers
were very big, and although Sunny was quite a brave
baby, she was still just a baby.
"This is amazing." Violet twirled around beneath
umbrella of green leaves. "Just amazing!"
"Thank you," said a small, soft voice.
The Baudelaires whirled about to see a stranger
standing beneath one of the more elaborate hedges -
and this was a very strange stranger indeed. He wore
black leather, and his skin was very pale, and his
dark hair stuck out in many directions. The general
style of his appearance was Goth, a word which often
means "pretentious," but not here. In some ways,
looked quite frightening, and many people would have
run away. However, the Baudelaires had seen truly
frightening people since they had been orphaned, and
none of them had such a shy, sad look in their eyes.
It was an expression the Baudelaires recognized all
Violet stepped forward first. "Did - did you make
these?" The pale-skinned man nodded, and she smiled.
"They're very beautiful."
"Yes, they are," Klaus agreed. "It must
have taken you
a very long time."
"Not really," the man said, holding out what
have been his hands, but were not.
Klaus' eyes went wide behind his glasses. "Are those
your - Never mind. Of course they are." For in the
place of hands, this man had scissors - a few pairs on
each hand, so he had shining blades instead of
"Piri!" Sunny exclaimed, which meant, "I
admire sharp, pointy things!" She pointed at her
teeth, which were indeed sharp and pointy, although
she felt somewhat outclassed by the scissorhands.
Violet both curiosity at the hands, which must have
been invented by someone very intelligent, and sadness
at how difficult it must be for this man. She was not
sure what to say, and so she wisely chose to be
polite. "My name is Violet, and this is my brother,
Klaus, and my sister, Sunny. What's your name?"
"I'm Edward," said Edward, who looked and was
pleased, because surprisingly few people chose to be
polite to him.
"Is this your house?" Klaus asked, having finally
noticed the elaborate home behind them. "It seems
large. Do you live there alone?"
Edward appeared even sadder at the question. "I do
now," he said. "Once - the Old Man lived there.
took care of me. He gave me my hands."
"Oh," Violet said. She was not at all sure that
been a wise choice on the Old Man's part, but she
thought it best to continue to be polite. "Has he
did he die?" Edward nodded, and all the siblings
looked sad for a moment.
"Don't cry," Edward said, as he looked into
eyes. "It was a long time ago."
"It's just - our parents died too, you see,"
said. "Not such a long time ago."
Edward seemed very distressed - which here means
"upset" again -- at the orphans' news. "It's
very bad to be alone," he said.
Although the Baudelaires had just been thinking longingly
of living alone, they had meant living alone in the sense of being without
terribly unsuitable guardians, all of whom were fooled by Count Olaf's countless
disguises. They had not meant living alone in the sense of being entirely
alone, because of course they had each other. Edward seemed to have no one,
because it is hard to make friends when you have scissors for hands. (Some
people are quite interested in such things, but ironically -- a word which
means "contrary to what is stated or expected, despite what Alanis Morrissette
claims" -- people interested making friends with people just because
they have scissors for hands are rarely the kind of people who make good friends.)
Even their unfortunate friends the Quigley triplets, Duncan and Isadora, were
at least together.
"Otiu," Sunny said softly, which meant, "More
people should admire sharp, pointy objects."
Either Edward understood Sunny's words or her intent,
because he nodded. Then he said, "You have some mud on your clothes,
"Oh, yes!" Violet had been so caught up in their
unusual surroundings and even more unusual new friend that she had forgotten
her distress at her distressed clothing. "I was wondering if maybe I
could wash up?"
Edward gestured toward the house. "Certainly."
But just as the children turned to follow Edward, they heard a shout, then
a cough, then another shout.
"Stop!" Cough, cough. "Stop there!"
Mr. Poe hurried up to them. His face was very red, both from his incessant
-- a word that here means "constant" -- coughing and what seemed
to be embarrassment. "Children, what are you doing?"
Klaus felt embarrassed too, because Mr. Poe had not said
anything to Edward, who was standing very near and was a difficult person
to ignore. "Violet fell and muddied her clothes," he explained.
"Our new friend Edward was going to help her clean up. He created these
topiary sculptures; aren't they amazing?"
"This man is not your friend!" Mr. Poe said
angrily. "This man is a freak!" Edward shrank back behind the leafy
tentacle of a topiary octopus.
"He is too our friend!" Violet insisted. "He's
been very nice to us!"
"You can't trust people who are nice to you,"
Mr. Poe said. "People are only nice to you when they want something.
Therefore, you can only trust people who aren't nice to you."
"Weerinitty!" Sunny said, which meant, "But
that makes no sense! Sometimes nice people are just nice!"
"Come with me, children," Mr. Poe said, still
ignoring Edward. "Your new guardian has arrived to pick you up. Why,
here she is now."
Standing behind Mr. Poe was a figure wearing strawberry-pink
high-heeled boots, lemon-yellow tights, a boysenberry-purple skirt, a grape-green
sweater and an orange-orange scarf. This freakishly fruity confection was
topped with a curly wig as white as whipped cream, with bangs that fell over
the forehead and eyebrow of the person standing behind Mr. Poe.
I have said "wig" and not "hair,"
and "eyebrow" instead of "eyebrows" because this was not,
as Mr. Poe was explaining to the stunned children, a "Miss Loni Tangerine,"
their second-cousin thrice removed, but in fact Count Olaf, in yet another
of his many disguises. The children, who were used to Count Olaf's tricks,
were stunned; Mr. Poe, who remained oblivious -- a word which here means "remarkably
incapable of learning from experience" -- to the fact that this was Count
"Why, sugar, I am so glad to meet y'all," said
Count Olaf in a very poor Southern accent. He held out his bony hand, each
of his fingernails painted with cherry-red polish. The children thought this
hand was far more terrible than either of Edward's scissorhands. "We
are going to have the nicest li'l ol' time in Charleston, Georgia."
"I believe Charleston is in South Carolina,"
Mr. Poe said, "but no matter. Come along, children."
"We will NOT come along," Violet said, pointing
at their would-be guardian. "That is Count Olaf."
"What? Don't be ridiculous." Mr. Poe coughed
again, then said, "Count Olaf has one eyebrow and a tattoo of an eye
on his ankle. We could recognize him easily, and this clearly is not him.
In fact, it's a her."
"The wig is hiding the eyebrow!" Violet said.
"The boots are hiding the tattoo!" Klaus said.
"RuPaul!" Sunny said, which meant, "Simply
wearing a skirt does not make someone female!"
"Why, I'm just sure as shootin' the young'uns are
tired as all get-out," Count Olaf said, still in his sticky-sweet Loni
Tangerine voice. "Once I get 'em back home, they'll take a nap. A LONG
Mr. Poe said, "That sounds ideal. So let us -- what
-- what are you doing?"
He was speaking to Edward, who had stepped forward with
a look of determination on his pale face. The blades of his scissorhands spun,
and then he reached toward Count Olaf. With snipping and snapping, bits of
whipped-cream white wig and strawberry-pink boots began flying everywhere,
falling among the hedge clippings on the ground. Within just a few seconds,
Count Olaf's eyebrow and tattoo were revealed to a startled Mr. Poe.
"Count Olaf!" Mr. Poe shouted. "Help! Help!
Count Olaf said, "The police don't frighten me,"
then turned and ran away. As this was contrary to what was stated, his running
might be ironic, but Count Olaf's actions were so always contrary to what
he stated that they were never contrary to what the Baudelaires expected.
Count Olaf had therefore outrun irony, which is a difficult thing to do, particularly
in high-heeled boots.
"You saw through his disguise!" Violet said
to Edward. "How did you do that?"
Edward gestured at the hedges, which were shaped like
camels and biplanes and sea anemones. "These are the hedges' real shapes,"
he said. "I always see the real shapes of things."
Klaus reasoned, "That means you'd always see through
Count Olaf's disguises."
"Evuasse?" Sunny said, which meant, "Are
you two thinking what I'm thinking?"
They were. Violet and Klaus both turned to Mr. Poe to
present a united front, a phrase which here means "two against one."
Violet said, "Mr. Poe, we think that Edward should be our next guardian."
"Edward?" Mr. Poe looked as though he had never
thought that Edward might have a name of his own. "But he's entirely
unsuitable! He isn't a relative, and he's a freak!"
"It's not nice to call people freaks," Violet
said. "Besides, Edward is a very nice man. Why shouldn't he be our guardian.
You made Count Olaf our first guardian. And is he nice?"
Even though Violet's question was rhetorical -- a word
which here means "not requiring an answer" -- Klaus answered her
anyway, for emphasis. "No, Count Olaf is NOT a very nice man."
"That doesn't change the fact that Edward is, ahem,
unusual," Mr. Poe said, gesturing toward Edward's hands as though the
children might have failed to notice them. Edward shrank back once more, obviously
used to people treating him unkindly.
Violet was used to this too, and she was as tired of it
in Edward's case as she was in her own. "Would you like that, Edward?
Would you like us to come live with you? I could create inventions to help
you pick things up and manage better. Klaus could research new gardening techniques
and interesting shapes for the hedges."
"Cefelplop!" Sunny said, which meant, "I
could use my teeth to do finely detailed work on the hedges!"
Edward smiled shyly. "Yes, I think I would like that
"It doesn't matter what any of you would like to
do," Mr. Poe said, coughing into his handkerchief. "We're going
to find another guardian, and that's that."
Klaus folded his arms across his chest. "If you don't
make Edward our guardian, we're going to file to become emancipated minors.
And if we're emancipated minors, we'll inherit all of our money." Klaus
leaned a little closer and added, "And we'll take it out of the bank."
Mr. Poe's face became almost as pale as Edward's. The
thought of losing the Baudelaires' money made him nearly as distressed as
Violet's clothing. "Well, well, then, I, ah --"
"That settles it," Violet said with satisfaction.
She held out her arm, and Edward -- very carefully -- took it. "Why don't
you show us our new home, Edward?"
So it may seem that this story ends happily. My research
into the Baudelaire files ends here, and it would be very, very tempting to
think that in fact, they kept Edward company for the rest of his days, and
Violet created soft gloves that shielded the scissor blades when Edward wanted,
and that Edward clipped one long hedge into an exact replica of a mouthful
of human teeth to please Sunny, and that Klaus learned more from the Old Man's
books than he ever could have at a university. Of course, such lovely things
never happen, as the tale of my Beatrice surely proves.
But if you are so very silly -- if you can believe in
such things as happy endings -- then you are very welcome to believe it. But
I must advise you that, if you have been so unwise as to read to the end of
this post, and you now feel moved to comment, do not use encouraging icons
or exclamation points or requests for a sequel, for if this story continues,
surely only unhappiness can be found.
Better, by far, to return to your list of friends -- a
word which here means "people whom you may hardly know, who occasionally
say things that do interest you among the thousands of things they say that
do not" -- and read something else entirely. Or to be silly, and believe
in happy endings anyway.
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