Book Ends

GOG AND MAGOG. THE PORCELAIN NOSES of the two opposing lions posed staring at the ceiling for what must have felt a decade. Their postures sure. Their motives steadfast. 

First and last, beginning end, alpha omega. Never the leaders of any pack, they preferred to sit and ponder the world. Philosopher cats. The interior worlds within the living spaces that they have inhabited together tended to come alive at each festive season but maintained long periods of nothingness and doldrums in the interims. 

The two became friends at birth. Ceramic creation ablaze, their glass eyes met and were alike. Equal and friendly. Brothers cast from the same clay lumps now adornments with deadly stares. They knowingly welcomed and admitted guests but kept a sharp eye out for intruders. They always knew deep within their hollow painted cores that they were trained for battle. Though they never saw a field or a front, never held a weapon save their own strong teeth, they knew that should a conflict arise, they would have it within their cold frames to do what was necessary to save any master.

They recalled the first day as if it were the last. The day they were formed, forged, fused, and fastened to a case in a car trunk, that day they made their way to the Odds and Ends furniture store. The wide room littered in odd octagonal mazes perused by hundreds of shufflers, the passersby. Very little to guard there, though they knew that was their job. They took their posts so very seriously, despite the lack of actual work. Destined for greater but willing to wait, they held their territory until that fateful day when she looked up. She wore red from head to toe. Her shoulders, slight but strong, cascaded down into long, long arms ending in clanging bangles at her wrists. Her long fingernails pointed up toward the mock fireplace where the two guards sat, and that was that. 

The season in a kitchen holding up unopened French cookbooks next to the weathered, spilled-on, tattered Betty Crockers was a low point for the two. One lion’s mane colored over again by sprays of batter and pitched flour while the far friend remained pristine. But before one could wink a this-too-shall-pass glance, it was on to the study for educational purposes. 

The thick-spined knowledge placed so solemnly between the guards spoke lofty thoughts in Aristotelian Ethics and Einstein’s Relativity. It made the two feel more important somehow. By protecting book-bound brilliance, they somehow became the protectors of great minds. Important by proximity to importance. They held these volumes up and in turn felt the power of the world’s words. 

The two knew each other well enough, they guessed. One looked left slightly, the other right. One had a tufted mane which billowed a bit higher than the other’s. But for all intents and purposes, they were brothers, twins with serious looks and the same stern faces. They knew their purpose. They knew their task. They were meant to hold others up. Their foundations firm and steadfast, they knew to maintain their ground. The red woman’s man took pride in their placement there. Until Christmas when everything changed. 

They knew Christmas as a dangerous time. New lights, tiny, colored and flaring alerted the lions to new dangers, new potential hazards at every corner of the room. Then the small ones brought cataclysm and chaos. The lions became playthings taking rides in red wagons and on pillows down the stairs. Eventually rescued and given new posts, the two knew better than to get too comfortable.

They both admittedly missed their station in the side room during the year of the television. The History channel, on perpetually for the tiny growling monster, entertained to say the least. One lion remembered feeling overwhelmed with gratitude, with grace, and with a sense of purpose when he watched the long documentary on Buckingham’s palace guards. They would never break post for any reason. No disruption, no emotion, no upheaval could remove them from their place as noble watchmen. 

Then, darkest day brought about a bit of an existential crisis. The two were separated and set in the room behind the house. They feared eternity meant being buried beneath cardboard lids on classic metal Ikea shelves with a menagerie of interior wares, unused goods, and frozen florals. Dank. Dark. Wounding til the day of resurrection. 

Gog and Magog felt the cold rush of air hit their faces. Seeing each other in full daylight was a true awakening of gratefulness. They returned to their stations of prominence, and finally found themselves in a jungle of green and growing things. Sprinkles of rain followed. Later surrounded by cracking colored leaves, then snow to their noses, they admired the changing of seasons as they had never known them in all of their lives. Odd neighbors joined them there, gnomes and birds and bugs and bees. Their retirement community was complete and hopeful together resting in the garden. Gog and Magog, home to stay.  One noticed a lift in the other’s countenance but didn’t dare say it for fear of ruining the moment.

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Stephanie Platter is a teacher, writer, film critic,

and coffee lover who believes in the diligence

and grandeur of book end friends.

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