The Retired Gardenerby Gideon Williams / Thrillers & Crime
The Retired Gardener
By Gideon Williams
Copyright 2017 Gideon Williams
Retiring can be pretty hard for some people, others, they can't get enough of it. I was one of the latter.
I was 74, or somewhere 'round there. Not bald. A little deaf.
I've been a gardener all my life. Worked for the countess, I did. The countess never wanted poppies in the gardens, said they reminded her of something, but never said what though. Loved red roses the most. Never could go without them. Never. She had the habit of sending me little one-word notes, like "ROSES", and then I would know what she wanted.
I still have some of my gardening tools if you were wondering. Not that I use them very often now, but sometimes Mrs Ol'owen would have some flowers that needed pruning or Mr D would have another banana tree that needed to be planted.
Oh, I loved the retired life. So quiet and restful. Peaceful. So peaceful.
The mail was always late on a Wednesday. Today they said the postman died. Really, what do these people do? I'm nearly a century old but the postman dies. Poor man, what a pity. Never mind the mail.
Thursday. Since when was the milkman late? Coffee without milk is such a bore. Milk. Milk is the life.
Friday and still no milk. The Duchess of Cawdor doesn't exist. For some reason, they thought she did and then when they found out that she didn't they were so shocked and traumatized that they published it in the newspaper. That's how I heard of it first. In my morning paper. How did I get it you would ask, I hope. See, the deceased (or drowned) mailman had been replaced and so I got a whole lot of mail on one day which meant that I spent quite a lot of time opening and reading letters that afternoon. Henry was finally getting married, but I didn't believe him or the letter.
What a surprise, a letter from the Countess! Loveliest handwriting as ever though a little rushed it seemed. The letter was short and urgent. And in English. - 'Please obey Prince Patterson in every situation.' No receiver address, strange.
I didn't know who Prince Patterson was then. Thought he must have been some friend of the Countess. Would he be coming to see me? I wondered then. Quite a strange letter actually, but it'll make sense when he visits. A good friend of the countess.
There was also two parcels, brown paper ones. I always loved getting mail, but parcels were even better.
The bigger one, from Mr Higgins. Nothing else on the outside except the word FRAGILE in big red letters stamped on the brown paper.
Ah yes, the glass prism he promised me on our last visit, wonderful. I played around with it through the rest of the day. Beautiful.
6 o'clock and the sun was fading. I'll have to put my prism down now.
I'd forgotten all about the other parcel, a knock at the door, interrupted my thoughts. Probably the milkman, finally. But no, the knock is not Jimmy's.
I open the door.
Another replacement, what happened to Jimmy?
"Died sir, Thursday morning."
"Don't honestly know sir."
"Said I don't know sir."
Terrible. And I had always been so fond of the lad. He probably drowned, or something.
I didn't feel like coffee, or even just milk that afternoon.
Saturday. And I felt like I had something to do, but couldn't figure what so I went to have a stroll in the park. I loved the park, still do actually. Like a drop of nature amidst the sea of steel and granite. Pigeons, how I loved the pigeons. They always seemed to recognize me and would fly down to where I was sitting on the park bench. Ah, the park bench, what a character. It was such an old bench, just like me. It had stood there nearly a hundred years some folks told me, others said it was built last year. I didn't really care to know how old it was, just like my own age.
The bench looked different today. Mrs Ol'owen usually say I imagine these things, but being a retired gardener, and not just any gardener but the gardener to the Countess of Charleston herself, I usually pay special attention to the composition and condition of benches, flowers, trees and a lot of other things.
The bench looked different. I stood a few yards away from it and moved slowly closer.
I stopped and started. Someone had planted something under the bench. Who would be so silly as to plant something under the bench? Ridiculous really. It would spoil the bench. I went right to the park manager's office on the opposite side of the park.
"I'll look into it," he said, apparently quite irritated by me.
I left the park.
Sunday morning. I smelled the milk and it was all wrong. Not spoiled but wrong. What do they feed the poor cows these days? I wondered.
After church I usually rest awhile. Mr Greg, the young man with the rag-thing came to visit me that afternoon. My lawyer says he was my 'health advisor'. I never, never, never wanted or hired or requested any health advisor but somehow I had one. I still think it was my son's wife who wanted me to have one for some unknown reason. I offered Greg some coffee but then remembered about the milk. He said he didn't mind coffee without milk so we drank some. The rag-thing looked so thirsty and I didn't want to waste the milk so I gave it some in a plate. It died.
Monday I read about the death of the park manager in the newspaper. They said there had been an explosion at the park and that the park manager was nowhere to be seen, apparently disintegrated by the explosion which was said to have been caused by either an electrical problem with the heavy duty underground cables or a bomb.
Probably some electrical defect in the cables.
I hope he did something about the bench before he died.
The bench was gone when I went to the park on Tuesday. In its place there was a big hole and dirt and broken plants littered the area around it. Whoever dug the hole made quite a mess of it. And everything was black. There were two policemen and a dog there. They seemed to be looking for something in the ground.
I wondered whether they were looking for the bench.
The pigeons didn't behave like they usually do, they were skittish and worried. I also missed the bench.
As I was walking home that afternoon I heard a gunshot and something seemed to brush past my hair quite suddenly. Rather surprising to have a shot fired in town.
I always thought that they should make fly hunting an official sport. More like a fancy of mine really. Now that I think of it, it is really ridiculous.
Ah, I see the new postman is a thorough worker. He delivered on a Tuesday, how wonderful. A few letters and another parcel. That reminds me, I haven't ever opened the smaller parcel I received the other day. Now I have two I can open. Delighted.
Oh. I forgot. The pastor invited me on Sunday to come and have tea with him and his wife on Tuesday afternoon. Said he wasn't busy then. I'm very fond of Ted and Betsy, or rather, I was very fond of them.
I set out immediately in my car with the new parcel (I thought I would open it there) and my big raincoat. I thought it might rain you see. But I didn't take my umbrella. No, in fact I never take my umbrella except if it is raining, and it wasn't raining then.
We had a splendid time. Betsy (I don't call her Mrs Betsy as we had known each other from Sunday school) made the most exquisite cookies. Ted was in a talkative mood and so we chatted till late in the night. Finally we said goodbye and I left. I went straight to bed.
The milkman's knocking woke me up next morning. Milkmen are not supposed to knock. I just stayed in bed. Just leave the milk and go! The knocking stopped. Then continued and then stopped again. I could hear his footsteps as he walked away. Finally. I went back to sleep.
A bee woke me up the next time. And I love bees. Not that don't love milkmen, but bees, well bees are different. Especially Edward.
A photograph of poppies attracted my attention in the morning newspaper. An artist had drawn comparisons between nature and countries' flags. What they call art these days, really. Botswana's looks like a black snake in a lake, Jamaica's looks like a banana peel viewed from above, Albania's looks like a poppy. Absurd.
I love driving. And I have to admit that I love speeding. But when I'm in town and there's a large risk of hitting something I usually go faster as it makes the trip less boring.
Strange. I looked in the mirror. That car is also speeding but driving quite badly.
Oh the joys of driving, you can do as you please and go wherever you want. My pale blue Volkswagen Beetle was the pride of my life. It still is. It was my grandfather's and then it was my father's and now it was...
A flat tire? I never get flat tires, and if I do, they never make such a bang. It disturbs the neighbourhood. When I drive I really don't make a lot of noise, I think.
What in the world?
A bug just made a hole in my back window. And with such a bang too! And that other car is still driving wildly behind me, there seems to be someone with a gun on the roof or something. Really, hunting in town should be strictly forbidden, people might get hurt.