Wednesday, 16 May 2012

'The Cucumber Plot' by Perry McDaid


 Always thought I would remember this in faultless detail. Over time it has become blurred. I’ll pretend it hasn’t and continue:
The plot of land he cultivated was trim and organised. The owner invited no conversation, and denied introduction. Everyone wondered, therefore, at the amount of traffic.
            "What's he at?" Mins asked.
            "Cucumbers," I responded.
            "I don't like it," Bill asserted, automatically reaching for the pipe he'd had to eschew on doctor's orders. "Something's to be done," he pursued irritably as his hand meandered, devoid of comfort. "I'm getting the police," he declared, and stalked off.
            Another car crawled up the pot-holed, gravel road to stop at the far side of the plot. A young woman opened the driver's door, stared miserably down at the muddy surface, and withdrew. She sounded the horn, gesturing through the windscreen. The man blanked her.
            "Skoda's fairly changed," Mins commented close to my ear.
            "Very," I agreed, eyes fixed.
            "Think she'll bother?”
            "On her mobile now."
            "Isn't that an offence?" Mins grumbled.
            "Car's stationary," I refuted.
            "Never seen him with one."
            The girl's language seared the morning air through a window just cracked and no more. Eventually, she capitulated. Barefooted and minus leggings, she squelched towards her target.
            "Expensive shoes. Only pair of tights with," Mins explained.
            "Didn't lock the car," I countered.
            "That's," Mins snorted, "stupid-angry."
            The girl reined in her irritability as she neared the man. Cash flashed. A gadget was passed back and forth.
            "Touch-screen receipt record," Mins whispered. "I'm doing a course," she declared, smugly.
            The young woman gingerly retraced her steps, slid cucumber-less into the car, and revved, tyres spluttering and coughing as she pulled away. Bill re-emerged from his hut, dressed, looking determined.
            "Mins?”
            "I'll stall. You nosey," she smiled.
            I grinned, stepped over my demarcation, and approached the cucumber man.
            "Excuse me," I shouted. He started out of his skin.
            "Fanstabluk," he replied, retrieving dropped banknotes. "Not deaf, you know."
            "Sorry," my arm waved at the disappearing vehicle, "I thought . . ."
            "Think they own me. Ring, ring. The only place I get a bit of peace." He paused, extending a big hand. "Terence."
            "Me too," I shook.
            "I'm a writer, see, but hate exposure. Like my own pace, don't I, but literary agents want, want, want; hand me all this rubbish when I'm incognito. I declare it all, you know," Terence energetically assured me. I coasted around his extended tirade, returning to the shores of reality with a sincere appreciation of the idioms involving sleeping dogs and curious cats. I don’t think he’d taken a breath. Inwardly frantic, I searched the intellectual ether for a ‘decoy topic’, something to drag him away from thedreadful travails of being a successful writer.
            "Why cucumbers?" I asked; or something very like that. Terence gave me an odd look, surveyed his little haven and shrugged.
            "I like cucumbers."
Now that I do remember.

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