from Pantperthog to Knockando

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The selfish gardener (a short story)

Once there was a man who was a very keen gardener. He spent many hours working in his garden to make it look beautiful. His flower-beds were immaculately weeded, with many rare and exotic blooms. There were always some plants and bushes flowering, no matter what the time of year, around the exquisitely manicured and perfectly flat fresh green lawn.

The man was very pleased with his garden. The only thing he didn’t like was the way his neighbours and indeed anyone who happened to be passing would stop and stare at his handiwork. Sometimes people would even stop their cars on the road that ran next to his house, get out and admire the beauty he had created.

‘They haven’t done any of the hard work, and yet they get to enjoy the colours of my garden,’ he said to himself.

So he built a high fence around his garden. But that wasn’t enough. If anything, it made things worse, because people would jump up and down to catch a glimpse over the hedge, or sit on each other’s shoulders. Some even brought stools to stand on and one fellow even carried a stepladder right up to the fence so he could look over.

The gardener was even more annoyed by this and so he hatched a plan. On the other side of the fence he dug a wide ditch. And then he threw some sprouting brambles into the ditch. Within a year, the brambles had grown into a wide thicket. It was impossible to get near the fence, let alone look over it.

The gardener was able to enjoy his garden all by himself.

This lasted a while, but a few years after he had dug the ditch and planted the brambles the man fell ill and was unable to leave his bed. Fortunately, the people who came to care for him realised that he missed his garden, so they moved his bed to the window so he could look out on at the flowers.

But the people who cared for the man were not interested in the garden. So the man watched as first the exotic plants that needed the most care died, and then other plants started to wither and fade. The bushes that needed careful pruning grew knotty and stringy. Weeds began to appear in the flower beds, and moss made dark patches in the lawn. A mole made a little hill right in the centre of the lawn, and soon other hills of dirt marred the surface and the lawn began to get bumpy as the mole tunnels underneath it sagged inwards.

And way out beyond the fence the brambles grew high and dark and threatening.

That winter the fence was battered by a gale and fell inwards. The brambles that had been pressing against the fence toppled into the garden, a dark mass of grasping thorns. As the days began to lengthen and the iron hard ground began to thaw, the brambles put out green suckers, reaching beyond the fallen fence towards the enriched earth of the flower-beds and the lawn. The brambles plunged into the welcoming earth, taking root, nestling and putting forth more and more suckers.

By the end of the summer the garden was awash with cloying briars. The remaining flowers struggled to bloom among the thorns and the lawn had disappeared.

The carers still came to the house every day to look after the man, and they noticed that when he looked out of the window he would usually start to cry.

And nobody outside stopped to look at the garden any more.

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