Welcome to Story Chat
Friends, I want to welcome both YOU and this month’s author, Doug Jacquier, to Story Chat. This month’s Story Chat, a “who done it” and “how did they do it” mystery, will leave you with a Mona Lisa smile at the end as you vow to keep the protagonist’s secret.
When you’re done be sure to click on Doug’s links to read a prize winning story he wrote in January.
Meanwhile, find a comfy chair, prop your feet up and enjoy this month’s Story Chat. Chime in and tell us what you think.
It was not the way that Geoffrey Owen Davies had envisaged his retirement working out. A career public servant, he’d not just survived but thrived with the arrival of technology and the privatisation of government services via the anodyne sounding PPP (Public Private Partnerships). He made it to the finish line with his home paid for, a secure income from his superannuation for life and some untraceable accounts in the Caymans. His wife had left some years ago and was now shacked up with a mutual colleague who apparently offered more excitement and sense of adventure. That suited Geoffrey just fine.
Never a keen gardener in the past, growing had now become an obsession, albeit one with an emphasis on orderliness and strict boundaries. Over time, his wife’s penchant for eclectic planting had turned much of their modestly-sized garden into a jungle; a riot of randomness that offended his eye and troubled his soul. After she left, for the sake of not appearing to go senile, he retained some of the roses and the odd agapanthus but the rest he unmercifully uprooted and replaced them with what he saw as useful raised beds of vegetables and fruit trees in large pots.
Of course he could not eat even a small proportion of the seasonal harvests, so he gave most of it away to initially grateful (and then later inwardly groaning and discretely binning) neighbours. Having used every square inch of arable land he owned (including what had previously been lawn), he had now taken advantage of the street gardening movement to colonise the verge in front of his home. He grew mostly herbs that he imagined passers-by would gratefully snip off to add to their evening meal. He even had a pair of scissors on a string hanging from a street tree. (Geoffrey had failed to observe that most of his neighbours still worked, rarely cooked and never walked anywhere.)
When Mrs. Kafoops at No. 23 was taken into a nursing home, her grandson moved into her house, along with a few of his mates, allegedly with the brief to maintain the house and garden until such time as the house was sold. As vision-impaired Freddie could have predicted, that part of the contract was never met. The parties until dawn started and most of Mrs. K’s armchairs and couches ended up permanently residing on the increasingly weed-infested front and back lawns.
Geoffrey had never been comfortable with conflict and, unlike his neighbours, he hadn’t called the Police and he had refused to sign a petition that was circulating, designed to have the lads removed.
However there came a fateful day when a line was crossed and Geoffrey would never be the same again. One morning he was doing his rounds, inspecting his crops, when he stopped in his tracks. He stood gazing in horror at the carnage in his herb bed on the verge, clearly created by vehicles possessed by those attending the latest booze-and-drug-driven bacchanal at No. 23.
He walked briskly back inside and, as he sipped a cup of chamomile tea to calm his rarely disturbed nerves, he began to coldly map out his dish of revenge, followed by world domination (or at least that part of the world that comprised the street on which he lived).
Well aware that even the most meticulously planned strategies rarely survive the first exchange with the enemy, he allowed for some flexibility on the sequencing but he knew that success depended on two key factors: contacts and anonymity. He congratulated himself on not having engaged in the mob rule tactics of his neighbours, including their futile attempts to seek firm Police action. That would potentially have left a trail to his door.
Crucial to his plan were his contacts within the building industry and local government. Mysterious deliveries of gravel and sand began appearing in the driveway of No.23, blocking their cars in (or out as the case may be). The Council health inspector discovered an infestation of rats emanating from the premises. A ‘routine’ visit from the building inspector discovered termites were threatening the structural safety of the building. Police responded to an anonymous tip-off from union sources that the body of a victim of a factional dispute was buried in the backyard.
When Mrs. Kafoops’ lawyer was contacted by the representative of a buyer (protected by commercial-in confidence) with a half-way reasonable offer, they hastened to accept (while quietly wondering who this nutter could be). The grandson and his mates vanished from the scene.
Over the next few years, Geoffrey picked off his less desirable neighbours one by one. After the party boys came Cactus Man, with his front garden resembling the Mojave Desert and, shortly afterwards, the young people who believed the perfect garden involved red tanbark and gravel and a ‘classic car’ parked on it while it awaited restoration that never seemed to commence.
With each acquisition, he transformed its garden into the orderly and productive space it should always have been. His shelf-company corporation engaged agents to let the properties to people screened for their green fingers and their lack of desire to split asunder what God (or Geoffrey in this case) had put together. Any transgressions were met with instant eviction, encouraged along by men with many tattoos and few teeth.
A decade from the commencement of his Crusade, Geoffrey felt confident in claiming victory. He had created a miniature planet which was quiet, ordered, productive and civilised. His street verge gardens fed and flavoured the surrounding streets, which had now become highly desirable moons orbiting around his world.
More than one PhD has been written about this phenomenon and various theories have emerged as to how this had been achieved. Needless to say, none of them ventured down the path of speculating that this may have been the work of a benevolent dictator, drawing on the detritus of social democracy to create a new branch of social hygiene. Meanwhile, Geoffrey just smiled, confident that he would take his secrets to the grave, and returned to his plans for the neighbouring streets.
Doug Jacquier lives with his wife, Sue, in Yankalilla. He writes stories and poems. He’s a father and grandfather, an avid cook, vegetable gardener and incurable punster, as well as an occasional stand-up comedian. He’s had over 30 jobs (including rock band roadie) and has lived in many places across Australia, including regional and remote communities. Doug has travelled extensively, especially in Asia, the US and UK. He’s a recovering social worker and former not-for-profit CEO and has now retired to the real world. He’s had his work included in several anthologies, including New Poets 21, Indigomania, Ship Street Poetry and On The Premises. He contributes regularly to writing blogs, including Carrot Ranch and Blog Battle. His aim is to surprise, challenge and amuse.
Now it’s your turn.
Don’t be shy. Say what you are thinking and respond to the others taking part in Story Chat. You have two weeks to come back again and again before the summary post.
” It was not the way that Geoffrey Owen Davies had envisaged his retirement working out. “Doug Jacquier “Miniature Planet”
- Why did he choose that path, then?
- Do you like him better because he chose it, or less?
- Do you know someone like Geoffrey?
- Do you know communities like this? Like them? Don’t like them?
He walked briskly back inside and, as he sipped a cup of chamomile tea to calm his rarely disturbed nerves, he began to coldly map out his dish of revenge…Doug Jacquier “Miniature Planet”
How do you feel about “map out his dish of revenge?”
what questions do you have about “miniature planet?”
Friday is Lucky #13 in the series of Challenge Host Interviews with Natalie the Explorer, hostess of Weekend Coffee Share. As you read Doug’s story, let me tempt you with a cup of New Orleans coffee and beignets from Natalie. All calories have been removed for your unmitigated enjoyment.