Continuing the short story started last week while I consider other options for revising the blog. Where does the time go?
The allotment. Part 2
Some readers were surprised last week at the turn the story took, expecting it to be a romantic love story. Read on. 😀
I totally lost it. Grabbing Jason by his jacket collar I spun him round and threw him against the wall, spluttering with rage.
‘How dare you!’ I yelled. ‘You think you’re such a big man? You’re nothing but a cheap, nasty coward. No real man ever, ever hits a woman. I might be an old man but have a go at me if you must. That’s just about your style isn’t it? Women and old men. Well come on then, let’s see what you’re made of.’
I was so mad I angrily brushed off the hand that lightly touched my shoulder and swung round to have a go at them too. ‘It’s OK, Pops, calm down. He’s not worth it,’ and I realised it was Adrian, the gentle giant, holding me back.
Feeling ashamed of myself for losing control I reassured Adrian, and turned back to face Jason. To my surprise he looked almost in tears and as terrified as a little kid facing the bogeyman.
‘I’m sorry, I really am sorry, I didn’t mean it. Please forgive me, don’t kick me out, please. I’ll do anything you want if you’ll only let me stay.’
For a moment I almost felt sorry for him, then it occurred to me that if someone as big and strong as Adrian was threatening me, I would be scared as well.
‘First, young man you owe the lady an apology, and then I would like you to come into the other room with me, just the two of us.’
‘Paula, sorry. I swear I didn’t mean to hurt you. I promise I will never, ever do such a thing again. It’s just, you’re so pretty and clever, and I wanted you to notice me, and I wanted to ask you out, but I knew you could never go for a loser like me, and I didn’t know what to do, and I just…I’m really sorry. Please don’t hate me. I’m not really bad, please don’t let them send me away. I’m so sorry.’
Feeling a bit surprised at the emotion in his apology, I walked into the other room and found he was following me, looking like a little lost sheep.
‘Pops, er, I mean Mr Jackson, I wouldn’t have hurt her. Honest. I was trying to make her see that I really did want to help, but she turned on me and accused me of stirring trouble and all sorts of things I didn’t do. I was trying to explain, but with my reputation it’s not surprising she thought it was me, but I’m innocent, honestly, I never did it.’
‘Did what? What was she accusing you of?’
‘Haven’t you seen it? That patch we had ready for planting. Someone has tipped some cans of paint all over it. There’s no way we can grow anything in it now. I wouldn’t do anything like that, but she thought it was me.’
That was all I needed after so much hard work, but for some reason I believed Jason when he said he wasn’t responsible. ‘Show me,’ I said as I followed him outside. The torrential rain had become a steady drizzle, and he led me to the area which had been the closest to being finished. Bright blue covered the earth which had been dug and prepared with such care by my team of volunteers. It was soaking wet, but whether it was because the paint had only recently been put there, or because of the rain I didn’t know.
I took some photos but said nothing as I went back inside the hut, called everyone together and asked them to take a seat. In silence I set out some of the early pictures of the derelict site as it had been when we first started.
‘Last night,’ I began, ‘I made the decision to leave you all and get someone more suitable to run this group.’
‘No. You can’t. No way Pops. It wouldn’t be the same without you. You can’t leave us.’
These were some of the responses that greeted my announcement and brought an embarrassed smile to my face.
‘Thank you for your support, and sorry, but you don’t get rid of me that easily. The point is, I started looking at these photos and thinking of my wife. She would never give up, no matter what the problem, and I would be letting down her memory if I did. I want you all to come up and take a look. See what your dedication and hard work has achieved. You’re a motley bunch, which is only right with an old codger like me trying to organise things, but I’m proud of each and every one of you. You’ve overcome your differences, worked together and found a true team spirit.
‘This is what we started with, and these are some I took yesterday. The blue paint is a minor set-back, but in the greater scheme of things it hardly makes a difference to the transformation as you can see. We’ll just need to rake it over, turn the soil a bit and add some good top soil, and we might even be able to grow some blue plants.’
A burst of laughter greeted me.
‘Yeah, that’d be good. We might even get a reward like scientists,’ Paula teased.
‘The thing is, it’s made me realise we’ve come too far to give up now. If you all desert me, I’ll carry on by myself and to hell with the deadline. I’d just like to thank you all for giving me back a purpose in life. Rose would never give up, and I intend this garden to be a tribute to her. That’s all I’ve got to say. Thank you. I see the weather is clearing up so I’d better get on with it. Anyone care to join me?’
There was a shuffling of chairs and the group went out to carry on the work of clearing the site. The only one remaining was Sapphire, the girl who had joined with Jason as part of their community service.
‘What about you, Sapphire? Do you want to carry on, or should I tell your probation officer you’d rather do something else?’
‘No, you’re good Pops. I like it here. There’s something I want to ask you.’
‘Fire away. What is it?’
‘Well, I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re an old geezer, and not all that steady on your feet. Jason could ‘av beaten the crap out of you. What would you have done if Adrian hadn’t been there?’
‘Exactly the same thing. I didn’t realise Adrian was behind me, but I was wrong to lose my temper without finding out the true story first. It just goes to show you should never jump to conclusions. Why do you ask?’
‘Well, my stepdad used to beat my Mum black and blue. When I was little I just stood by and let him do it. Six months ago, he turned on me, and I picked up the kitchen knife and stabbed him. That’s what got me into bother. Did I do wrong?’
‘Well, I can’t say I approve of your methods, but surely they realised it was self-defence.’
‘Nah. He told them I was wild, and said I went for him for no reason.’
‘Didn’t you explain? What about your Mum? Surely she backed you up.’
‘When they caught me, I said I was glad I done it. She was too scared of what he’d do to her to stick up for me. He said I went for him when he caught me stealing from his wallet.’
‘Did you steal?’
‘Not really. He got drunk and smashed up my guitar. My Dad give it to me before he died, and it was all I had left from him. That bastard knew how important it was to me, and he done it deliberate. I found a guy who had one for sale almost exactly the same, so I took the money to pay for it. Only what it would cost. I didn’t want nothing more from that tosser.’
‘What did the court say when you explained all that?’
‘You’re the first one I told. Nobody would ‘av believed me anyway. Do you believe me?’
‘Yes, I do. You really should have told them the truth. It’s not going to look good when you try to get a job if you’ve got a criminal record. It’s not too late now.’
‘He paid some scumbag mates of his to tell lies that I’d done it before. What chance did I have? I didn’t have any money to pay some fancy lawyer to tell it like it was.’
‘I see. There’s a man where I live whose son is a lawyer. Next time he comes to visit his Dad I’ll have a word with him, and see what he thinks. No promises, but it’s worth a try.’
‘Thanks, Pops. You’re alright, you are. It means a lot you believe me. Sorry I was such a bitch when I first came. Guess I was just feeling sorry for myself, and a bit jealous. Right, I’ll go and help the others before you think I’m not pulling my weight.’
With my faith in human nature restored, and harmony returned to the group, the allotment came on in leaps and bounds. My neighbour’s son arranged some meetings with Sapphire, discovered the full facts, and had her sentence squashed. He wouldn’t take any money towards his costs but was delighted when she painted a family portrait for him as a thank you. The girl was really talented, and even though she was no longer obliged to help as part of her community service, turned up regularly and was a driving force in keeping the others motivated.
The project was nearing completion, and although my aching bones would be grateful, I knew I would feel sad once it was over.
‘Well, you lot. Another two or three weeks, and it will be finished,’ I said at our usual meeting. ‘You can’t imagine how proud I am of you all. Rose would be delighted. I’ll think of you when I pop back now and then to remember her special place. Thank you. I’m going to miss you.’
‘Not so fast, Pops,’ Jason said. ‘Nature doesn’t finish so we can’t either. I’ve something to tell you. Thanks to you, I’ve got a proper job, working for the council in their parks department, so I won’t be here every day, but I’ll come at weekends and do some maintenance. You never know, I might even stumble across some neglected paint to give the shed a freshen-up.’
‘That’s wonderful news, Jason. I’m so pleased for you, but don’t fall into your old ways with things falling off a lorry. You’ll get the sack before you’ve even started.’
‘Don’t worry, Pops. I’m sticking to the straight and narrow from now on. It’s all legit. They sent me round to make a list of all the things that needed doing in all the different places, and I put the hut at the top of the list. It’s down to be done next month, and I’ll be there to make sure it’s done right. I hope you don’t mind but it would be good to have an official opening, and the council have agreed. They won’t give us much towards it, but they can get the mayor to attend, if that’s alright with you.’
‘I’m a junior reporter on the local paper,’ Jenny called out. ‘We can do a feature on it, and get some publicity for the opening day. It’ll make a great story.’
‘I can bake some cakes,’ Anne said.
‘How about if I design some banners?’ Sue added. ‘Jill, you’re good at needlework. Could you help?’
‘Sure,’ Jill replied. ‘And you boys can carve some poles to hold them.’
The babble rose to crescendo pitch as they all chipped in with ideas of how they could help. I had to go into the other room for a few minutes to compose myself, as I seemed to have some grit in my eye. I could imagine Rose laughing, and calling me a silly old fool, but I knew she would be smiling through happy tears too.
The remaining weeks passed in a flash, but Team Pops, as they had started calling themselves, had everything under control and the grand opening day drew near. With only two days to go Sapphire turned up with her face looking a mess, and when I touched her arm, she yelped in pain.
‘Sapphire. What have you done to yourself? Are you alright? Do you want me to get one of the boys to take you to the hospital?’
‘NO! Sorry Pops, I didn’t mean to yell at you. I’m fine. The guys helped me sort it out. There won’t be any more problems with him.’
‘With who? Tell me. Do we need to get the police involved? Who did this to you?’
To be continued.
© January 2020
Final part next week, hopefully with some actual progress on new ideas for the site. Thanks for visiting.