MRS BUNKERTON’S HORTICULTURAL DILEMMA
A short story by John Saunders.
(Audio version read by David Shaw-Parker)
Something should be done about the hanging garden, but who was going to get up there to mow the lawn?
This conundrum woke Mrs Emily Bunkerton from her afternoon nap on the garden swing, troubling her greatly!
Mrs Bunkerton’s garden was the most beautiful garden in the whole village of Vernham; there was no argument about that! Nevertheless, the thought of neighbours seeing this overgrown eyesore was a great worry for Mrs Bunkerton.
The hanging garden, approximately four feet square, hung at a height of six feet from a sturdy and gall infested branch of a French Oak tree. Complete with a miniature fishpond and rockeries, the hanging garden needed regular maintenance; there was always the beautifully lush lawn to consider.
The lawn itself had had its own problems in the past, micro-moles would create their little micro-molecular brown, finely sifted soil hills to mar the soft green grass; a scar on beauty’s face!
Mrs Bunkerton often mused how the tiny little moles had gotten up there in the first place, but as she took her daily stroll around the garden one cool and clear late summer morning, the wrestling of a garden spider and a crane fly distracted her.
Watching this cruel but necessary act of nature with voyeuristic intrigue, Mrs Bunkerton accepted that this must be the purpose of crane flies.
It’s a sad and seemingly pointless life to hatch from a little egg, to spend most of one’s eating life under the root of a dandelion, looking like a severed elephant’s trunk as a grotesquely grey leatherjacket. Then only to turn chrysalis, to hatch again as a clumsy lanky legged procreative aircraft who eats nothing except for the odd drop of nectar if energy levels are low, to live for not much more than a day to mate and expire, or whichever comes first.
There were squadrons of crane flies in Mrs Bunkerton’s garden. At one time, she feared that they may be secret spies for Hitler’s Luftwaffe, but World War II was over, so there was no need to worry!
“Yes, daddy longlegs are merely manna from heaven to spiders!” Mrs Bunkerton conceded.
She also noticed the odd cheeky blackbird with a moustache of writhing crane fly legs in his beak, but there aren’t that many spiders, so someone’s got eat them!
It was during this battle with insect and arachnid, that she heard David Attenborough’s voice in her head.
“The spider sinks her venomous fangs into the crane fly’s flank. Overcome by intense pain and poison, the crane fly commits himself to Valhalla as the spider wraps his body in a silk sarcophagus cocoon, leaving him there to return for a later lunch!” said David softly inside Mrs Bunkerton’s imagination.
Impressed by the construction of the spider’s web, Mrs Bunkerton observed that the woven net formed a link between a twig in the ground and the hanging garden.
“So that’s how the moles get up there, the spiders make a ladder for them!” said Mrs Bunkerton to herself.
As wicked as it may seem to vex one of God’s creatures, she implemented a daily morning web-wiping operation to prevent the migration of moles to hanging garden. It never occurred to Mrs Bunkerton that removing the twig, which impaled her lawn would have sufficed.
However, that was then, this is now! What was she to do about the hanging garden’s lawn? A cutting device was needed to trim the grass.
Rummaging through some old OXO tins in her late husband Gerald’s shed, amongst the tap washers and rusty nuts and bolts, Mrs Bunkerton found a Dinky Toy Lawnmower.
Mrs Bunkerton had a warm and cosy flashback of little Tommy Perkins playing on the lawn one hot summer in 1969.
“I wonder how his toy managed to end up in this OXO tin?” she wondered.
Mrs Perkins had asked Mrs Bunkerton if she would be kind enough to look after Tommy as she had an important appointment at the medical surgery in the neighbouring village of Velstrum.
Mrs Bunkerton obliged and doted on little Tommy, orange squash with lashings of ice cubes and malted milk biscuits were the order of the day.
Tommy was playing with his toy lawnmower on the lawn, mowing down the odd daisy here and there. Unfortunately, a hapless woodlouse got in the way and became severely injured by the lawnmower; Gerald saw this.Gerald loved all creatures, no matter how bizarre.
“Kill one of God’s little ones with your instrument of torture would you?” roared Gerald, swiping the toy from Tommy and placing it in an OXO tin for safekeeping.
Tommy was so afraid of telling Mrs Bunkerton that he had killed the woodlouse, he never returned to claim his lawnmower back from Gerald.
Tommy was much taller and older now, and as he hadn’t been able to find another job since he was made redundant from the Velstrum bakery, it made perfect sense to employ him to mow the hanging garden lawn.
Mrs Bunkerton telephoned the Perkins’ home and asked Mrs Perkins if Tommy would like to help mow her lawn.
Mrs Bunkerton offered to pay Tommy £10 for his work. For Tommy, it was an easy choice to make!
Tommy arrived at Mrs Bunkerton’s home; they chatted for a few hours and enjoyed cups of coffee and malted milk biscuits. They spoke about lovely memories of Vernham summers past.
Eventually, Mrs Bunkerton took Tommy out into the garden to show him the hanging garden; but first there was a visit to the garden shed to present him with his long lost Dinky Toy Lawnmower.
“There you are Tommy, do you remember this?” said Mrs Bunkerton as she opened the OXO tin.
Tommy was delighted; he’d completely forgotten his lawnmower.
“Now, the hanging garden is quite high up and you’ll need to use this stepladder to reach!” explained Mrs Bunkerton.
Mrs Bunkerton took Tommy to the hanging garden.
“There you are Tommy, show that unruly lawn what for with your miniature lawnmower!” she said.
Tommy looked around the garden in dismay and then looked back at Mrs Bunkerton; unfortunately, only Mrs Bunkerton could see the hanging garden!
Nevertheless, Tommy was a kind boy and obliged by climbing up the stepladder to go through the motions of mowing a lawn that wasn’t there.
“Don’t forget to mow close to the fishpond!” ordered Mrs Bunkerton.
“That’s alright, I’ve already done that bit Mrs Bunkerton!” said Tommy.
“Oh you are a good boy Tommy!” said Mrs Bunkerton.
Mrs Emily Bunkerton was very pleased with Tommy’s work; it was also the easiest, even if a tad embarrassing ten quid Tommy had ever earned!
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