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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Open Garden

George sat in the deckchair at his garden gate. He was about to count the money in his collecting tin when a male voice interrupted:

‘Excuse me, is this one of the Open Gardens?’

‘Yes,’ replied George, glancing up at a middle-aged couple.

‘Only you’re not on the map of Open Gardens they gave us in the village.’

‘No,’ George agreed. ‘I was a late entry, and there wasn’t time to add me to any of the paperwork. It’s just a pound each to look round,’ he continued, lifting his tin.

His visitors contributed their admission fees, and George directed them to the rear of his bungalow.

He looked up and down the lane and saw no sign of other visitors. It was late in the afternoon and it was likely these would be the last. George painfully rose and limped to join his guests.

‘It’s rather different from other gardens we’ve seen today,’ ventured his male visitor as George reached the couple.

‘There aren’t any plants,’ noted the woman.

‘The old arthritis stops me from doing too much gardening, these days,’ George explained, ‘so I went for a simple, low maintenance theme of just grass and SPIS.’

‘SPIS?’ queried the woman.

‘Self Planting Indigenous Species.’

‘You mean weeds?’ she said.

‘A weed is just a name for a plant growing in the wrong place,’ replied George. ‘My SPIS all carefully harmonise to construct a natural, uncultivated effect.’

‘And the grass is three feet tall,’ observed the man.

‘I like to think that it forms a counterpoint juxtaposed to the manicured greenery, characteristic of the other exhibited gardens.’

The three looked out across the rusting mattress springs and other discarded household equipment, to the fire-gutted shell of an old motor car, beyond.

‘I’m particularly pleased with that modern art installation,’ announced George with pride. ‘I may enter it for the Turner Prize.’

Before the couple could comment, the grass on the far side of the garden began to ripple, tracking the path of some hidden, approaching creature. The sound of growls and snarls reached their ears.

‘Ah, that’s Rufus, my Rottweiler,’ said George. ‘I don’t know what’s got into him today. He’s bitten four of the visitors, and one had to be taken away by ambulance.’

George looked round to see his guests fleeing, panic-stricken, from the garden.

‘There’re serving tea and cakes in the Village Hall,’ George helpfully shouted after them, before his voice was drowned-out by the savage barking of Rufus.

George sat down in his deckchair, and Rufus, having seen-off the intruders, laid quietly down on the ground beside him.

‘Let’s count the day’s takings, boy,’ George said to his companion. ‘I reckon we’ve got over sixty quid here. That’ll pay for getting all that rubbish taken away from the back garden.’ He patted Rufus on the head. ‘With any luck there’ll be enough money left to have the grass cut and to get you a nice bone.’