Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Back to School Challenge

Ms R's Back to School Challenge - a bit of a rush in the very short time available but here goes...

6' Under

My neighbours all keep pristine gardens. As a result, I too have become a keen gardener, forever with my hands in the dirt, talking to my babies as they unfurl their soft green shoots to the sun, watering them possessively in the full heat of summer and watching them die, shrivelled and half-eaten as the slug and snail population of my property eat their fill.

I cannot bear to suffer the indignity of a stray dandelion, poking its head between the stones of my parquet-inspired brickwork pathways and spare neither my back nor my fingernails in my quest for the perfect frontage. I am, to put it bluntly, more than a little obsessed with the appearance of my front entrance. I try so hard to keep its lavender bush lining immaculately trimmed and go to peculiar lengths to ensure that the whole area presents the most pleasing aspect to all comers.

So what is it with the fauna in my little corner of Essex? Do they think I look like an animal undertakers? Why do they always choose my garden to breathe their last gasp and spin off this mortal coil? First it was a too close encounter with a dead pigeon which, at first glance, appeared to be headless. I knew I couldn't leave it there on the path even in the hope that a passing fox would take it away for a free supper. Those bastards never do that when you want them to!

So, donning my oldest jeans and tucking them into a long, thick pair of socks before slipping on my paint spattered deckies, a 'has definitely seen better days' fleece with the sleeves firmly buried inside the long armed gauntlets of my stoutest gardening gloves, I armed myself with a spade and proceeded to investigate the corpse more closely.

It wasn't a very old pigeon, the feathers were still quite fluffy but it was big enough to take up the entire bed of the spade as I lifted it up and, wrinkling my nose pitifully whilst holding it at arm's length, started the journey from the sideway to a patch of earth that would be soft enough for me to bury it. You can imagine my disgust as the head suddenly bounced out from underneath it, the neck well and truly broken and, squealing pathetically whilst recoiling in horror, I nearly dropped the lot. Grimacing with the indignity of the whole thing, the bile rising in my throat as I cursed in an unseemly fashion for one performing the duties of an undertaker, I continued the slow walk down the garden where I proceeded to inter the corpse with full burial rites and a prayer before firming the earth over the top and covering it with leaves and a brick to ensure that some vermin didn't dig the damn thing up and leave even less of it lying in the middle of the garden.

You can, therefore, imagine my dismay when I try to return a parcel that I have taken in for my neighbour only to discover that my latest corpse is a fully grown fox which, having caught the son's attention as it limped around in the garden plaintively this morning, has decided to come back and cark it on my front drive whilst I was out at Tesco!

I suppose I should have tried to look on the bright side, at least it was not stopping us from parking the cars - hurrah for the considerate foxy. But my stoic side was not encouraged when my neighbour took her parcel, looked down her nose and said 'I see you have a corpse in your front garden!'

I return home immediately to assess the full extent of the renard problem and realise very swiftly that this is not something that I can just carry by spade and bury in the small but rapidly growing cemetery in my back garden. So I telephone the council and explain the nature of my predicament.

'Oh,' says the lady receptionist, 'the one thing we don't deal with is foxes. But I can give you the number of the RSPCA or, indeed, the Fox Welfare Association?'

'The Fox Welfare Association? I think it may be just a little late for counselling!'

'Well,' she continues, purposefully ignoring my attempt at irony 'the best thing you can do is put it in a black sack and leave it out for the dustmen who will take it.'

Now, there are several problems with this particular course of action, the first being that this is Wednesday and the dustman came for their weekly retrieve and disposal duty yesterday! OK, this summer has not been the hottest on record, but the smell is going to cause me all sorts of problems with my social standing in the locality come next Monday.

Next, I try to explain that this thing is the size of a small pony and, being a very tiny person, I'm going to be hard pushed to lift it up, let alone fit it in a black sack. It's almost as big as me for god's sake!!!

'Couldn't your husband do it?' Terrific, poor Mr Cake gets home from work in the dark and finds himself providing a shroud!

I try arguing the toss but there is no shifting her. A black bag burial it will have to be. Until, at the end of the conversation, she adds as a parting shot: 'Of course, because it's on a private drive, there's nothing I can do about it, but if it was on the public highway, then I would have to make a report'

So, listening to the hidden meaning behind her words, I don my undertaker's outfit once more, pick the corpse up by a front and back leg (taking care to bend my knees so as not to put my back out again) and deposit it under the tree outside my property, before alerting the council to the dead body that I have spotted on the footpath in this particularly highly rateably valued residential road.

'What sort of animal is it?' enquires the lady who answers.

'Not being David Attenborough, I have absolutely no idea,' I reply. 'But I think it is red with a bushy tail...'

When I look, less than an hour later, the corpse has gone and my front entrance is, once again, perfection.


Gypsy said...

Great writing Cake, I could envision the whole scene. Sadly I often find headless rabbits on our property. Damn foxes just kill them, rip off their heads and then leave them there. They don't even do it because they're hungry, just cos they can.

Now you've reminded me that I really should get out in the garden instead of spending all my time on here :)

Jackie Adshead said...

And I was expecting there were hidden meanings waiting to appear when I read of your obsession with your neatly trimmed lavender bush by your front entrance being a pleasing aspect to all comers!!

Anonymous Boxer said...

Oh yay! you posted your story. Wasn't it fun? I loved reading a different side of you, missy. Nicely done and thanks.

moi said...

Loved this. It had me laughing right out loud.

RONJAZZ said...

You're a lovely writer, my dear! A delicate side one doesn't see much out here...

Now...guess who's next in the Harem?

Angela-la-la said...

LMFAO! I remember you recounting these episodes in person and you weren't half as eloquent then! :-)

Kudos to you for bringing your penwomanship to bear on what was a very unsettling period for you, darling xx

George said...

Good one Cake ... I could picture everything ... including somebody standing behind a tree giggling at you.

Gypsy said...

Well I'm a dingbat. I missed the first paragraph and didn't realise it was fiction. It was still a good story though. You are an amazing writer.

Hardin said...

I've had to do this unpleasant duty many times, including burying a dead dog on the vacant lot next to one of my former homes. That incident convinced me I would never become a gravedigger.

bittersweet me said...

Brill. yes - lol at the lavender bush!

excellant move at the end ... i felt quite goose-pimply at the prospect of you having to deal with it.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

LOL! I've never been relieved to live surrounded by concrete before!

Anonymous said...

This was really well written, Cake. Your writing is really getting so good, and it was already quite good in the first place. Can't wait to see where you end up!

having my cake said...

Thank you. And most of it really is a true story, including the bit about the Fox Welfare Association. I was pissing myself with laughter.

There are only two bits that are not true. One is my neighbour getting snitty about the corpse. I have really lovely neighbours :)

And, because my nose will grow if I perpetuate this lie, the other is that my Husband was the one who lifted the fox by its paws and moved it onto the footpath. I expect I could have done it if Id had to but... ewwwwww :(

Fat Controller said...

Fox Welfare, David Attenborough... LMAO!!!!

By the way, did I detect just a hint of double entendre in the second paragraph; something about front entances?...Just wondering.