THE SECRET GARDEN

1 Oct

 

YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1960.

Made impassable by netted brambles and choking weeds, a forgotten wheel barrow stands half buried, rusted, and abandoned amidst once cultivated flower beds.  Moss shrouds the dripping stone walls that enclose this suburban Eden, whilst rot and mildew slowly digest what’s left of fond remembrance. Tumbled-down and overgrown, the garden drowns in December drizzle.

At the back of yard runs a lane, beyond that a football field where young lads relive future glories. Yells of triumph and cries of derision as a fat lad, too heavy to play striker, misses yet another easy shot on goal. Wasn’t his fault he didn’t want to play goalie anyway! With the score now standing at fifteen to zero, the boy regrets having answered the earlier knock at the door and his easy acceptance of a quick kick around.

“Move your arse fatso! Come on tubby hurry up,” jeer the players.

Chubby lumbers across the field to retrieve the ball, gasping and wheezing he can see his breath as he exhales. He watches as a car driving slowly alongside the football field stops outside the abandoned terraces.

* 

The car shudders, comes to a halt and backfires, the engine pinks as rainwater finds the hot metal. A door opens and a man in an anorak and bright blue football scarf climbs out of the driver’s side. Ducking his head under his jacket to protect himself from the drizzle, he lights a cigarette. Puffs of grey and a satisfied grunt indicate his success.

 “What were they bloody doing here? How had it come to this?” he thought. Moments later the passenger door opens and a young woman with a tear stained face wearing a flowered headscarf appears; a fragile creature, slight of build, barely in her twenties.

“A slip of a girl. Isn’t that what his grandmother would call her?”

Attempting to shield herself from the weather the woman tugs at her collar and struggles with the car door. Standing stock still she stares into nothing. Third eyed vision focused on a matter of the mind.

Splashing to the rear of the vehicle the man opens the boot and retrieves a shovel and a small box.

“Margaret,” he calls. “Margret, pull yourself together lass.”

Margaret turns and walks to the back of the car, takes the box in her hand and starts to cry. The man returns the shovel to the boot, throws his cigarette hissing into a puddle, and puts his arms around his inconsolable woman. “There, there lass, can’t be helped. Best we just get it done and over with.”

* 

They’d met each other on the number forty seven, the bus that ran the route between the city center and the outlying villages. It’d started with a friendly good morning and as time progressed, became a flirtation and a dinner invitation. Sitting at the back of the pub they’d enjoyed the seclusion of a private table, the candle light softening his years and honeying his words. They’d spoken of the future, perhaps a little house in the village, a backyard, maybe even a dog. A couple of dinner dates were followed by a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast on the coast, true love blossoming amongst post Victorian neglect.

The morning sickness had come as a shock, the stomach wrenching ache, the acid taste of vomit accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of tiredness and panic. Of course being God fearing church-going folk they’d married quickly and kept their baby. They’d made the right decision; abortion in the eyes of the church was an abomination.

They’d met with their priest Father O’leary, discussed their situation and followed his sage advice. After all, in a society that was quickly forgetting an unfashionable God and vacating drafty churches there had to be method in His madness, a sense to His great plan. Thankfully their church was there for them, a necessary crutch through those difficult early days. Together they’d bring their child up the right way, the Christian way – communion and christenings, prayer and devotion. Under the guiding hand of the church there child would be fulfilled, placed on a righteous path, protected by the hand of God.

Her screams and blood soaked sheets were a far cry from the knitting patterns and wallpaper samples they’d spent hours poring over. Indifferent to gender they’d opted for a mix of pink and blue. It hadn’t mattered to them, so long as the baby was healthy they’d love it just the same.

At eight months the fetus was virtually formed, the small hand that dangled pathetically from the blood soaked towel, handed to her by the nurse, did nothing to assuage their loss. Heartbroken they consoled each other, forging from their grief an anchor with which to ride out the storm ripping at the foundation of their marriage – a necessary hand fast that would see them through multiple anniversaries.

She’d watched the frenzied shadows through the frosted glass, heard the angry shouts, her husband’s cries, his expletives crashing around the delivery room. With the priest gone her man reentered the room. According to the Holy Roman Church the baby she’d carried for the last eight months was a none entity, a nothing. Unbaptized and unwanted they were left to deal with the dark side of religion by themselves. No christening meant no access to consecrated ground and so, despite the pleadings of her husband, there’d be no place for their still born son in the local churchyard. Ostracized, a congregation of two, they were suddenly on their own.

*

With shovel in hand the man shuts the car boot and wraps his arm around his wife. Clutching the small box in her hands, the couple step over fallen masonry and disappear from view.

*

The boy watches as the strangers walk into the derelict buildings. Ignoring the insults from the others, he bends down and picks up the ball.

“Bugger this for a game of soldiers,” he thinks.  Next time he wouldn’t answer the door, next time he’d stay indoors in the warm and watch Saturday morning television.

 

 

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3 Responses to “THE SECRET GARDEN”

  1. Jon white October 2, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Powerful and moving, easier to read than some of your other work. Thanks

  2. Steve Green October 6, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    A very gritty and down-to-earth view on one aspect of the “Swinging sixties” that was not too good for some poor unfortunates.

    Powerful stuff Colin.

  3. Deanna Schrayer October 7, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Colin, this is absolutely heartwrenching, and your descriptions are brilliant. Oustanding story!

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