Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Right Tools

This is a story originally published in the Static Movement anthology 'Caught by Darkness' - an anthology that also includes stories from my fellow Brits Lee Hughes and Mr Paul Brazill.  Well worth a gander.  

Anyway, here was my entry.  Hope you enjoy it.

PS.  An allotment is a sort of collections of strips of garden with a shed at the end, rented out by folk to grow vegetables and stuff. And an ASBO is an Anti-Social Behavioural Order - a legal wotsit to keep ne'er-do-wells away  from town centres.

The Right Tools
    Quietest place in the world, this allotment. Finest place on God's earth. But things is changin. The kids have found us.

    Been comin here forty year, I have, growin me lettuces and me spuds and me onions. And me old man, he were here forty year before that. And never a hint of trouble. Nothing. Tell a lie, there was a bit of bother a few year back when old Tom's brother-in-law took over his plot when he was in hospital with his dodgy ticker. But we soon sorted him out. Geezer thought he knew it all, tellin us how to do this and how to do that and slatin the place every chance he got. We're an easy going bunch here. Live and let live, that's our motto. Each to their own, you know. But if you over-step that mark, like he did, cross that line in the dirt what only we can see, then you're out of here. No questions asked. I had a quiet word with the gentleman, you know, man to man, one cold day in March, and he never caused no more trouble after that. 

    So, like I was saying, we don't take no nonsense here on the allotment. Specially not from littl'uns. Ain't a place for kids. But it's like they just found us. Every night you see em, hangin about, fag ends glowin in the dark, vodka bottles smashin against the sheds. And the language, I ain't never heard the like. Not since I was in the army when you had a ruddy good reason to swear like a trooper. Not that I ever did. Got to keep a steady head in the face of the enemy, see.  Keep your eyes as sharp as your bayonet and do what you gotta do. 

    Whatever it takes.

    See, the trouble with these ASBO wotsit things, it just moves em on. The kids. You don't let em in the town centre, so they just find trouble further out. Where the decent people are. And that ain't right. And now they've found their way up here. To our allotment.

    And last night, they went too far.
    Me and Tom's havin our tea, just gettin dark, you know. Dusk.  Cheese and pickle in a doorstep and a cuppa. Perfect. See, after a day on the allotments there ain't nothing better than just sittin, sittin and watchin the world go by. Bein with nature. And these kids, there's only two of em, they start lobbin stuff at us.  Stones and lumps of dirt. 

    We didn't do nothing, me and Tom. Not straight off. Give em a chance to blow emselves out, get it out their system, you know. But then they start shoutin. Obsceneties. About the allotment and me and Tom and, you know, our generation and that. Now, I'll give anyone a chance. I mean, we can all have a bad day every now and then, all got problems, you know. And that probably ain't no different to these two what's throwin this stuff our way. Just troubled souls, that's all.  

    But that line, that line in the dirt, they've have gone way beyond that. I'm lookin at Tom and Tom's lookin at me. Tom's ex-army an all. So we both got that sort of knowin between us. Like you get when you been in the forces. The knowin where you don't have to speak, where you just know what's gotta be done.
We let em get closer, till we can see the whites of their eyes. And when you can see the whites, you don't see nothing else. And your instincts take over. You're on auto-pilot. You become a machine.

    And before they know what's happenin, I'm comin at em with me spade, and Tom's got his fork and he's chargin through the lettuces. And they scarper. Try to, anyway. But they ain't got the focus me and Tom's got. They've let fear take over. And you can't do that. Not here. Not with me and Tom.

    The thing with keeping an allotment, see, if you want to do it proper, is you got to have the right tools. If you ain't got the right tools, you're just headin for trouble. And for diggin, a shovel ain't good enough. Has to be a spade. A sharp spade. Like a razor.
    Cuts right through bone, if you got a good one.


  1. My Grandpa had a spade like that, which I inherited...

  2. Nicely done, Ian. I imagine the nasty pair of blighters are now underneath the allotment - good for the vegetables!

  3. You don't need to dig deep to find the jewels here. See what I did then?