Before The Gardeners Came

There are two men working in the garden next door.
One young, one older – fifty or more.

The garage window has frilly curtains
So I thought it might have been converted
Into a little annex, fully furnished
For people to come and stay.

But in went the men, and out they came again
With a hedge strimmer
And a lawnmower
And a leaf blower
And a hefty sack for all the grass.

So it must be just a tool shed.
Still, how often do you see a tool shed with frilly curtains?

The garden is finished now, they’re packing away.
The older man talks to his mother inside.
I crack the window but their voices are muffled.
‘Are you staying for dinner?’
She might be asking.

‘See you in a fortnight,’ I hear more clearly
As her son and his boy emerge from the house.
Then mower and blower and strimmer and sack
Are hefted and carried around to the back
To a gate in the wall, right next to the shed
And all of a sudden it clicks in my head
How this family scene has been sorely misread.

For as the gate opens, I vaguely remember
The van that pulled up half an hour before.

With a grumble of diesel
And the crackling of gravel
My story unravels.
I shut the window.
There I was, thinking of asking to borrow their mower.

A while later, I wonder if she’s lonely
Looking out over her garden
With its perfect purple flowers
And its lawn so freshly mown
And its little flock of stones
And the bushes which had grown
Over the wall
Into our garden
Connecting our worlds
Before the gardeners came.

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