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He stared out of the window. It’s true. You spend the whole time picturing how something is going to be and then when you have it, it’s just another thing that needs servicing. Stuff, things, extensions of yourself, ever increasingly faulty accoutrements. You add it all to the “To Do” list…Along with that ivy that needs removing from the garden fence.


The woman from no.38 had waved the title plans in his face the week before.


“This is not a party fence. It is your responsibility.”


“What the fuck is a party fence?” He’d thought.


Party Fence. Party Line. Guilty Party.

Garden Party. 24-hour Party Person.

Tom used to be life and soul of the party. He used to laugh at people who had problems like unruly back gardens.


“I have the deeds. Look here! The “T” is on your side of the fence. That means it’s your responsibility.”


T for Tom,

T & A

Tom & Andy.


They had carved their initials into the tree at the bottom of the garden when they’d moved in, in a moment of tipsy teenage excitement. They were still there. You couldn’t see them for the ivy.


“Are you listening to me?” The next-door neighbour throttled.


He didn’t want to be listening to her but it was hard not to. She had that metallic kind of voice that seemed to sharpen with every year that went by.


“I’ll get it seen to.” He said walking away mumbling indirectly.


He knew if he didn’t get around to it soon, she’d start all over again.  


Andy left him a post-it on the fridge. FOR THE IVY; 0776465321 - Her aptitude for post-it notes was impressive. They mostly communicated via these notes nowadays. He stuck one to the Nespresso machine in her office saying.




She’d left one on a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge.




Was she ever not?

It was a game they’d have to stop playing once their kids were old enough to read.


He rang the number. No one picked up. But people don’t really "do" phones anymore, do they? He texted the number feeling slightly resentful at his lack of information.


Hi (?)

Got your number from (the fridge door?) Apparently, it’s not a party fence! Can you help?




He received a reply in minutes.


£25/hour Garden Clearance Service. Can do tomorrow - after 10. Where u at?


He gave his full address.


Zone 1 – That’ll be £35/hour.


“That’s taking the piss.” He thought but was too lazy to look for an alternative.


The following day at 10 am (quite a lot after 10 am actually) the doorbell went and it was The Garden Guy from the fridge. He had his kit with him over one shoulder and a bottle of Gatorade in the other hand. 


Tom faltered. Something about this young man standing at his front door was captivatingly nonchalant.


“Are you sitting on the fence?”

“You’ve overstepped the boundaries, I’m afraid. This is not the party line.”


Of late, sex had become an intrusive thought for Tom rather than a physical act.


“Wasn’t it that everyone owned the fence on the left-hand side of the garden as you look at it from the front door? Or was that just fable?”


“Are you gonna let me in?” said The Garden Guy.


“Oh yeah, Come in. Join the party– You’re late.”


The boy shrugged. Tom followed him down the hall and showed him into the garden.

Andy was working upstairs and Tom was told to stay around to keep an eye out.


“What for?”

“Well, Y’know.”

“You know what?”

“Just do It, Tom.”


He brought his laptop into the dining room. The open plan kitchen dining room, with the French doors that had cost an arm and a leg but were a nightmare to stop the kids from putting their grubby paws all over. He opened his laptop and stared at his inbox. It was just a chorus of people wanting something from him, most of them wanted money. He couldn’t focus, he poured a glass of water from the double-fronted freestanding fridge-freezer. It took a long time to pour which afforded Tom a guilt-free 10 seconds of staring.


The sun was shining outside and the light kept glinting off of the boy’s garden tools that were strung on a belt around his trousers. The trousers were sat low down over his hip bones and the tools were weighing them down on the one side to expose that muscular bit that runs down the side of the groin.


That bitch from no. 38 had struck up a conversation. Always ruining his eye line. She was telling the boy that the Ivy problem extended right up into the guttering and that it really should have been dealt with a long time ago.


"What’s your name young man?” she asked. "You know there’s plenty to be done over in my garden too if you’re available.”


“It’s Adam." he said.

You couldn’t quite see his expression behind his sunglasses but that was all part of his aloof charm.


Ah, it was Adam, Tom had neglected to ask. The boy took a swig of lurid-coloured energy drink and then began pulling away at the Ivy, stripping it back from the fence in armfuls. Sometimes the ivy fought back and the boy would tug a bit harder. Sitting back into it with his weight. He trod on the pansies. Tom didn’t stop him. He was liking the boy’s posture whilst he put a leg up on the raised bed. His stance was wide and that gave Tom full vantage of how he looked from behind.


Andy walked into the kitchen.


“He’s stepping on the flowers, Tom! You're meant to be looking out!


Mind you; It’s quite a nice view. Isn’t it? Rachel did say… She laughed to herself. Might have me a Diet Coke moment."


She reached inside the double-fronted freestanding fridge freezer.


He pretended to type. A fly was buzzing into the French doors and then just dropped onto the floor like its batteries had run out. The dining room was getting hotter as the sun passed over his South-West facing garden. Adam was now reaching up into the guttering, his shoulders looked broad in silhouette. He hung off the side of the building on one arm reaching for a tendril that had wrapped itself right around next door’s drain pipe. He treated the foliage irreverently - Just grab and go.


“What did Adam think about?” Tom wondered.


Maybe he was thinking about last night? Maybe about tonight? I bet he had a girl or two around, they’d go crazy for that quiet cockiness, I’m sure. What did Adam worry about? beating his brother at 5-aside? Losing his looks? No, no, not that. Getting old is not something young people think is going to happen to them.


Adam took his phone out of his pocket propping his shoulder against the garden wall.


I bet it’s a girl.


He sent a text and paused for a second, looking unphased.  


Definitely a girl.


Tom watched out of one eye until the job was done. There were 8 sacks of garden waste and an empty Gatorade bottle condensing in the sun. Without thinking, he offered Adam a beer. He just really wanted to see him pop the cap and drink from the bottle. Knowing that it would be ice cold. Knowing that Adam was sweating from the exertion. Knowing that he was thirsty and his throat would make little gulping convulsions as he drank it down.


Oh! Who gives a fuck what side of the fence the T lands on,”


“I’ve said I’ll go next door, so I shouldn’t,” said Adam


“Oh! If you’re going next door then you definitely should – She’s, well, She’s a fucking cunt.”


Adam laughed. Tom liked that he’d made him laugh.  


“D’you have cash?”


He counted out the cash. It was waiting under an empty SodaStream bottle with a post-it note that said:




He didn’t get a receipt; he tipped Adam a tenner and gave him the beer anyway.


Adam took two sips out of it. He wiped the foam off his top lip with his arm. Tom saw him out. But he decided to stay outside in the garden and finish that open beer bottle. There was no good in seeing it wasted.


He heard Adam ring the doorbell. The cunt-next-door answered it reeling off the various problems she was encountering. Tom held the bottle in his hand and thought about where Adam’s lips had just been. Remnants of the foam he’d wiped off from under his nose were staining the papery label. He heard his neighbour’s shrill tones, lamenting what a mess her immaculate garden had become. He licked the top of the bottle enjoying the ever-so-slight grunts of effort that Adam was making in moving a heavy bench from one side of the garden to the other.


Takes two people to move a bench, no?


Adam dragged the bench and dropped it, exhaling a sigh that indicated his zeal for the day was wearing thin. A sigh like he was spent. A sigh like he had better places to be than someone’s unruly back garden.


He looked at the tree. The tree that he and his lovely wife had carved their initials into in a moment of tipsy teenage excitement.


T & A - Haven’t seen that in a while.

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