Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use without permission)
Crushed blades of grass made him almost as sad as the broken daffodil stems. Golden yellow trumpets drooped and withered and his heart sank as he shuffled down the path, his hand reaching down to lift a flower with as much gentleness as his frail body could manage. A tear dropped from his hooked nose, but even that had no more than a moment’s restoration power for the doomed bloom.
He glanced about his garden, turning his arthritic neck and surveying the damage. It wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last, but every time he stood and gazed, his tears welled and his heart froze, just a little bit more.
Emerald grass was battered and churned where feet had converged and turned the small patch into a veritable bog. Mud spattered across blooms that now struggled to stand tall. Scarlet tulip petals, stained with saffron yellow, splayed open and wide, their stamens and pollen laid bare. His orchestra of daffodils slouched, bewildered, petals torn and creased, and stems snapped and broken. Mounds of purple aubretia lie crumpled beneath foot and burgeoning clumps of bluebells were flattened and trampled. Primroses stared at him from rumpled beds and cowslips’ had been creamed, the innocent victims of the garden massacre.
He closed his rheumy eyes and clenched his tired, bony fists, his brittle finger nails biting into his hardened palms. In his mind he saw the feet of reprobates and hooligans dancing in his garden, screaming and whooping while he hid behind his curtains, and his dry, cracked lips pursed tight.
He remembered his body jumping in fear as stones from his path clattered against his window. He recalled his heavy heart and the way his shoulders gently bounced as he wept. He felt the twinge in his back of his neck as he’d bowed his head, and how hot tears slipped down his furrowed face, and slid down inside the open collar of his shirt, soaking his grey, wiry chest hair. He recalled the rage that had built and the tension that had gathered in his old body and the strength his anger had given him.
The boom, as something large hit the window, and the subsequent crack of glass like a frozen lake waking, had roused his wrath and turned it into something terrible and he’d flung open the door and stared.
Now a football lay abandoned in the middle of his swampy lawn and he stared blankly, wondering why the boys hadn’t retrieved it when they’d scarpered. His eyes caught the mud, now dried in a strange circle on the cracked window, and he shook his head.
He hobbled slowly up his path, his joints creaking with pain and age, and he sighed in deep disappointment. As his door clicked shut, curtains from neighbouring home swung back into place, the football quivered as three young toads cowered behind it…and the neighbourhood quietly mourned the loss of three more of their intrepid, but foolish, young boys.