I pick up the leaflet from the garden table, study it as Tony struggles with nails and glue. I have no idea where he got the gadget from, but it looks like something out of a Sunday newspaper magazine. In the instructions, there’s a photo of a smiling couple and the text next to it is short and optimistic: Protects your home, deters intruders, even animals.
‘You really think it will work?’ I ask.
‘It’s got to be worth a try. Anything’s worth a try.’
And it works. The spikes look ugly on top of our garden walls, but we relish the peace, enjoy being able to laze around in the garden, complete a game of table tennis or finish a novel.
And then, one Sunday near the end of summer when Tony is out playing golf, it stops working. I’m half-asleep on a sun lounger listening to Radio 3 on my headphones when I hear a grunt and open my eyes. Alison is there in front of me, staring. Her dress is on inside out again and her face even redder than usual. I notice a trickle of blood running down one of her legs. ‘I jumped!’ she says. ‘Over the spikes! Didn’t you hear your bell or me calling?’
‘Sorry. I must have nodded off.’
‘I need to go to hospital for a blood transfusion,’ she says. ‘Can you lend me £10? Or 20? Taxis are so expensive.’ She looks wistful. ‘They used to let me ride for free.’
Not quite for free, I think, remembering the taxi drivers I used to see leaving her house at all hours. ‘I’ve not got a bean,’ I say, lying like I always lie.
She crumples and flops down on to the deckchair. Within seconds she is snoring. I contemplate adjusting her dress to make her decent, but instead, escape.
Once indoors, I lock the back door, grab my purse and bolt out the front. I keep walking until I reach the café overlooking the river. As I sit sipping pink lemonade, I worry a little how Alison will get back to her own garden. But I figure if she’s managed to jump over the wall once, then she can do it again. It’ll take more than a few spikes to stop a woman emboldened by a pint of gin.
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