Part 6

"And so that night, after all the Smurfs have gone to sleep, I smurfed out in the rain, carrying a basket of food with me to the place where I might find Gargamel," Tapper said. "I smurfed a collection of fruits and vegetables that I knew he wouldn't get sick eating. I found him smurfing underneath a mushroom, huddled together, trying to smurf warm, which was why I also smurfed him a blanket. He didn't notice me at all when I was smurfing him the basket and the blanket. He just simply grabbed the blanket and covered himself over while he smurfed in his sleep."
"Did Gargamel even eat the food that you left him by the place where he rested, Tapper?" Polaris asked.
"I'm not sure if he did, but Greedy and Farmer didn't seem to smurf a fuss over anything that was missing from the storehouse when I smurfed together the basket of food, Polaris," Tapper answered. "Despite what Gargamel did with any of the gifts, I felt like I have smurfed something good for one of my worst enemies."
"'If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you shall heap coals of fire upon his head, and Jehovah will reward you,' as Tapper's holy book would say," Duncan said.
"It's funny how Tapper's holy book rubs off on you, Duncan, for the type of Smurf that you usually are," Empath said. "So when did Gargamel show up again, and how did he get restored to his normal size?"
"That came the day after, Empath, when the rains have stopped and Papa Smurf had smurfed a day of swimming for us all," Tapper answered.
And as Tapper continued his story, Empath and Polaris saw that it was now morning in the Smurf Village, and the sun was shining bright and warm over the forest after the rains have stopped. It was at this point where Papa Smurf stood outside with Smurfette and Tailor, looking out into the forest on what would turn out to be a beautiful day.
"Such a beautiful morning we're having, Papa Smurf," Tailor said. "Isn't it so nice when the rain smurfs everything fresh and beautiful after it ends?"
"It certainly is, Tailor," Papa Smurf said while he was holding onto Baby Smurf.
"Papa Smurf, I was wondering that, since the pollution is now gone from the river, we could smurf a whole day of swimming," Smurfette suggested.
"Why, Smurfette, that would be an excellent idea," Papa Smurf said. "We could surely use a break from our daily routines to smurf a day of enjoying ourselves."
"You know, I still am worried about Gargamel, Papa Smurf," Smurfette said. "Not because that we might be in danger of him again, but that he's so alone out there in the forest with nobody to help him smurf any good."
"I know how you feel, Smurfette," Papa Smurf said. "But as the leader of the village, I have to smurf the safety of the Smurfs first and foremost over our concern for helping the wizard."
"That evil wizard will never change, Smurfette," Tailor said. "If he shrinks himself so small that there's no way to resmurf him because of his hatred of us, there's nothing much we can smurf for him, and that will be all his fault."
"That doesn't mean that I should feel smurfy about it, Tailor," Smurfette said. "Maybe it sounds silly to you, but I'm still hoping that there's the slightest chance that Gargamel might change for the better."
"We can only hope for the best, Smurfette," Papa Smurf said. "That's all we can do."

And so the Smurfs spent the entire day enjoying themselves at the beach by the riverside. While a group of Smurfs lined up to jump off a low-hanging branch into the water below, others spent the time lying on the beach in order to get a suntan, playing games with each other, or eating food provided by Greedy and Tapper.
Brainy was with Clumsy watching over Baby Smurf as they were busy burying Lazy in the sand while he was sleeping. Then Brainy decided that he was going to go into the water for a swim and so got up from where he was sitting. "Clumsy, keep an eye on Baby while I go for a swim, will you?" he asked.
"Uh, sure thing, Brainy," Clumsy replied as he watched his friend go into the water.
Baby Smurf raised up his pail and looked up to Clumsy as if to ask for something.
"Oh, okay, Baby, I'll get you some more water," Clumsy said, taking the pail from the infant and carrying it with him to the riverside. "Lazy, keep an eye on Baby for me."
Lazy did not respond. He just continued sleeping, blissfully unaware of what was going on around him.
Duncan came out of the water and headed for Tapper's refreshment stand to get a bottle of root beer. "Ah, what a bonnie day this turned out to be, laddie," Duncan said as he received his root beer. "You should smurf some time with your friends in the water while you have the chance."
"I will, my fellow Duncan, after I see that my friends have smurfed their fill of the drinks and food," Tapper said, sounding a little less enthusiastic.
"You're still worrying about Gargamel being out there in the forest, aren't you, my boy?" Duncan asked, noticing Tapper's reaction.
"I feel that I should have smurfed more for him, so that he wouldn't have left the village the way that he did yesterday, Duncan," Tapper said.
"It's not your fault, laddie," Duncan said. "You've done all that you could for that wizard, and now you've just got to let him go and let the Almighty smurf His work in him, if you truly believe He is capable."
"You're right, Duncan," Tapper said, sighing with realization. "I guess I wanted Gargamel to change so badly that I have forgotten my own limitations as a mortal creature."
"We'll smurf through this together, laddie, because we're both brothers of two different clans," Duncan said, smiling as he put a hand on Tapper's shoulder, which in turn made Tapper smile.

Meanwhile, out in the forest, Gargamel was wandering around aimlessly, feeling miserable and hungry.
"What a terrible night it was out in the forest," Gargamel complained. "I can't even go home with that stupid cat there. And then somebody just left me a basket of those fruits and vegetables that aren't very satisfying. What a terrible situation to be in...cold and wet and miserable and hungry."
And then he stopped as he heard the sound of happy voices nearby. "What's that?" he wondered as he strained his ears to listen, and then he noticed and realized who those voices are. "Ah, Smurfs. Just what I need. Break...oh, that's right, I forgot. I can't even scare the Smurfs anymore."
He continued to listen to the voices until he couldn't stand to listen anymore. "Yuck! How can anything that small have so much fun?" he said as he peered through the grasses and watched the Smurfs enjoy themselves. And then he realized his situation and he became even more depressed. "Yet they may be all that I have left to keep me company. Everything else wants to eat me or stomp on me. Even Azrael."
As Gargamel continued to watch, helpless in his misery, he noticed that the Smurfs were starting to depart from the beach in fear as something was approaching them...something that sounded like a cat. Gargamel recognized who it was. It was Azrael, who had found his way out into the forest and is now seeking after Smurfs.
Azrael seized one of the Smurfs on the beach and tried to eat him, but that Smurf grabbed an umbrella and stuffed it into Azrael's mouth, distracting him long enough to get away.
Lazy woke up when he heard the sound of the cat on the beach and sat bolt upright, shaking the sand off him. "Azrael!" he cried out in fear as he saw who that cat was. He quickly jumped up and ran, leaving Baby Smurf alone on the blanket.
Azrael was on his back, struggling to get the umbrella out of his mouth until he finally pulled it loose. Then he saw Baby Smurf on the beach still playing with his pail and shovel, blissfully unaware of what was going on. The cat slowly and sneakily approached Baby, ready to pounce on the child.
"Oh no, not the little Smurfling!" Gargamel gasped, fearing what Azrael would do. As much as he hated the Smurfs, destroying a helpless child was the last thing he wanted to do.
Papa Smurf, Smurfette, and Handy fearfully watched from behind a tree at what was happening on the beach. "Oh no, Azrael's going to get Baby!" Smurfette cried out.
The three Smurfs quickly rushed out to grab Baby and bring him to safety, but before they could reach the infant, Gargamel bravely stepped onto the beach and put himself between Baby and Azrael. "Stop that, you flea bag!" Gargamel commanded as he picked up Baby in his arms. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"
Azrael raised up a paw and bared his claws, ready to strike at his own master.
Gargamel chuckled weakly as he slowly backed away from Azrael. "But don't look at me, because after all, I'm not your size either."
Azrael continued to approach Gargamel and Baby until the evil wizard soon found himself next to a smurfball on the beach. He then kicked the ball straight into Azrael's mouth, distracting the cat so that he could get Baby to safety.
Azrael bit down hard on the ball, which then popped inside his mouth. But when he looked to find Gargamel or the Smurfs, he could see his master head into a bush with Baby.
Papa Smurf, Smurfette, and Handy were inside the bush when Gargamel arrived with Baby. "Quick, get yourselves and Baby to safety," Gargamel said as he handed Baby over to Smurfette. "I'll deal with Azrael myself."
"Has Gargamel finally smurfed over a new leaf, Papa Smurf?" Smurfette asked as she ran with Baby safe in her arms.
"I just don't know, Smurfette," Papa Smurf answered as he ran with Smurfette and Handy.
Soon Azrael jumped straight into the bush and struggled with his master, although in the process it made Gargamel grow so big that he was now back to his normal size again, with Azrael sitting on top of his head.
"I'm cured," Gargamel said as he saw what had happened to him. "I'm back to normal size." Then he noticed that he was now naked, so he lifted up the bush to cover his unpresentable parts.
Azrael mewed, sounding rather confused now that his master is back to his normal size.
Gargamel stared up at his cat sitting on his head, feeling rather furious. "Why, you miserable flea bag," he snarled, causing the cat to leap off his head and start running when his master chased after him. "I'll make a pair of mittens out of your hide. Or maybe a rug. Oh, yes, a pair of socks. Or gloves, or maybe even..."
The Smurfs watched from the safety of their hiding spots as Gargamel and Azrael both departed from the beach. "You know, maybe there's a little bit of goodness in Gargamel after all, Papa Smurf," Handy said.
"Perhaps there is, Handy," Papa Smurf said. "But whether he will change from this point on, we will never be sure."
"Well, at the very least, he saved us from Azrael, so maybe there's hope for him yet," Smurfette said, with Baby Smurf sounding like he agreed with her.
"Do you think that Gargamel could still be a good father to you, lassie?" Duncan asked as he and Tapper joined Smurfette.
Smurfette giggled. "Gargamel only smurfed me into this world, but he could never be my true father, Duncan. He's got a long way to smurf before I would even feel comfortable enough to call him my father."
"However you feel about Gargamel, my dear Smurfette, at least Papa Smurf will always be our true father in all situations," Tapper said.
"And I would be very pleased to call you all my little Smurfs...even you, Smurfette," Papa Smurf said, sounding pleased.

"Sad to say, however, Gargamel was back to his old ways again, as he tried to find the Smurf Village later that night, and ended up smurfing into a hole in the ground that he couldn't see, and blamed his cat for his mishap," Tapper said, sighing as he finished his story.
"This one is disappointed to learn that Gargamel hasn't learned much of any important lessons during his time with the Smurfs, Tapper," Polaris said. "It seemed as if everything you tried to teach him was a wasted effort."
"I'm still of a mind that the Almighty is not finished with Gargamel yet, even if he is far from our forest at this time, my fellow Polaris," Tapper said. "Wherever that wizard is, whatever he's smurfing with himself and his cat and his apprentice, he will never be too far away for the hands of God to smurf out to him and rescue him from himself."
"But there may be the point of no return for that numpty wizard, and I sure wouldn't want to be in his smurfs when he finds himself in that Smurf-forsaken place of being apart from that Almighty," Duncan said.
"Nonetheless, Tapper, this smurf appreciates you telling that story," Empath said. "It makes this smurf feel even more grateful for no longer having that wizard's presence within our forest on a constant daily basis."
"Our true battle isn't with flesh and blood, Empath, but with powers, principalities, rulers of darkness in this world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms," Tapper said. "That's why we must always be prepared to smurf the good fight by smurfing on the full armor of God at all times."
"And it looks like our daily 'spiritual battle' isn't finished yet, if we're still dealing with polluters in our forest," Polaris said.
"Well, this smurf feels fully refreshed and ready to fight that battle anew, Polaris," Empath said as he, Polaris, Tapper, and Duncan got up from their seats. "Let's say we return to the forest and help the Smurfs recover more trash to dispose of."
"This one will accompany you, Empath," Polaris said.
Tapper and Duncan watched as Empath and Polaris walked off to hand off their plates, cups, and eating utensils to the dishwashers before departing. "You think humans will care for our forest just as much as we do when we're no longer part of this forest, laddie?" Duncan asked.
"That remains to be seen, my fellow Duncan," Tapper said. "I just wouldn't want to be smurfed into judgment for not being a good steward of the Almighty's creation."
"You almost make me want to become a believer at times, Tapper," Duncan said. "It's getting hard for me to smurf at you and not think that you have something that I really need."
"That is my prayer, Duncan...that not only you become as I am, but that the whole village will become as I am someday," Tapper said.
"Well, you'll always still be my brother of another clan," Duncan said as he put his arm around Tapper's shoulders.
"And I would be pleased to be yours, my friend," Tapper said, smiling in agreement.