Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Green Zone - Flash Fiction

I'm standing at the French windows giving out on to the rear garden. My view fettered by iron bars of security. Only I of all the householders here, have the right to step out into it. But it seems like far too much effort to draw back the barred gate. My parents used to own the whole house as a single dwelling. But as the slow burning fuse of senility consumed them, we converted the building into four flats in order to fund their fumblings towards a dignified death. That was back when it didn’t take long to throw up a dividing wall and double your money, though predictably enough we bucked the trend and garnered very little return. Mum was finally released from her declension before we’d flogged the final unit. I press my nose against the cool steel bar. Its chill admonishment serves to abort a tear.

The garden beyond is overgrown now. Untended. Rampant. My Father would be turning in his self-generated humus if he knew. Nature has wreaked a swift and full vengeance, for all those years held in check at his horticultural hand. She has reclaimed what was rightfully hers.

For I notice how in the mornings, there are now plenty of birds in the larch trees at the back of the garden. Too many, were a fearsome Nimrod of old still prowling. But of course she too has long since departed the scenery. The beauteous song, so sweet to many, merely posts a mocking braying to my ears. Since next door’s cat from years’ gone by, was truly my Siamese twin from whom I had been separated by birth.

For, as part of his campaign to streamline Nature’s offshooting growth, my Father’s pride and joy was ever his two-tone manicured lawn. The type you might imagine only exists in airbrushed adverts. Every god-given minute he had, he was out on that turf, patrolling against any local incursion. Entreating with the larches not to casually shed their leaves like devil-may-care, litterbugging teenagers. Negotiating with the worms to tidy up their casts after themselves. If the fires were ever to be momentarily extinguished, this I’m sure would be the pattern of the disco floor in Hell.

Only with the distance of being squirrelled away at university, finally could I clearly observe my parents locked into their own separate cloisters on my infrequent visits home. That the lawn really did represent a life-sized chequerboard. Only he moved along the dark squares and she along the light. I had spent my childhood trying to straddle both.

The biggest threat to this finely calibrated arcadia came not from native insurgency, rather from untameable domesticated life. How Father cursed the she-devil of a cat raiding from next door, for sweeping our garden clear of birds and their joyous music. Species cleansing it might be dubbed today. My father actually believed he could creep up on this lithe predator and surprise her into a salutary lesson she might never forget. The cat invariably maintained her haunched poise, head cocked not in the direction of my Father, but at some target monitored on a low branch. How Father would grope for whatever hand-held tool he could seize upon, thereby stripping it of its nutritive function at a stroke, as it sliced through the air.

The cat would nonchantly pick herself up off the grass and continue a skulking progress somewhere out of sight. For she reaped from my Father functioning as a kind of inverted scarecrow. Misdirecting birds into believing it was safe within the confines of his fences. Re-engrossed in his work, Father would only ever turn to catch sight of the cat dragging away some crumpled carcass in its jaws. Apoplectic with rage, another steel instrument would trace a flat trajectory, that almost always forced the feline to abandon her trophy in flight. Leaving a crushed avian spume disfiguring the crisply mint lawn. Deuce. Father and cat had fought themselves into another stalemate, leaving the gladiatorial arena to be swept clean by the carrion crawlers on the ground.

Confronted with the limits of paradise. Ripe only in those not bound in spirit, nor weighed down by prohibition. Such as a cat crawling serpent-like on her belly. It became clear to me how the array of implements laid out on the lawn, intimated that he had swapped me for the cat. Deep down, he was happy to be continually outsmarted by the beast, for somehow it encapsulated a relationship of sorts. A rough and tumble, wily battle of wills. The likes of which he could not indulge with me, a female of his own species.

13 comments:

Skycycler said...

Dense, deep, fecund prose - like the re-established 'red-in-tooth-and-claw' nature it describes.

I have a lawn fascist in my family. This made me smile. Thanks.

Jim_Wisneski said...

You just gave a perfect description of my father! I remember him (and his still has his summer battles) and the stray cats always duking it out over the yard!

Great story with amazing decriptions!

Jim
www.writersnwriters.blogspot.com

Amy J Taylor said...

Deep and heady prose! Very enjoyable! Almost makes me wish my father had a lawn to police, but he's always been more of a 'garage' guy!

shannon esposito said...

I'm not sure if this is what you intended, but as a daughter what I got out of this is a deeper understanding of the large gulf that so often happens between father and daughter. Men are much more at home with a small piece of property they can control (be it grass or garage) rather than living flesh with feelings. :-) Or maybe I'm just projecting. Nice job.

Marisa Birns said...

Lush language dotting the landscape with humor and poetic description!

Very enjoyable.

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks guys. And Shannon. That's exactly what I feel. The male urge to possess everything within touching distance (and even beyond), to make it theirs and part of them (war & conflict for example); whereas for women, it is far more ambiguous, because through pregnancy, they can have something actually inside their bodies, yet which is not them but other.

Thanks again people. I especially liked 'fecund' language - highly appropriate!

Laura Eno said...

I think this describes men well, be it lawn or garage. Loved the sneaky cat!

Anne Tyler Lord said...

I relate to the father character so much! My dad was one of those gardeners! And he was always waging war with someone or something that might threaten his garden and yard. Made me laugh, and made me feel deeply for the members of this family.

This is a well-written piece - you have quite a skillful use of words! The descriptions were beautiful. There are so many sentences that leaped out from the story. Here are a couple of my favorites:

"That the lawn really did represent a life-sized chequerboard. Only he moved along the dark squares and she along the light. I had spent my childhood trying to straddle both."

That is absolutely beautiful, and speaks volumes for their life together. For me, this is an example of how skillful flash fiction writers can say so much in a few sentences.

"Deep down, he was happy to be continually outsmarted by the beast... The likes of which he could not indulge with me, a female of his own species."

Another amazing example of saying so much about the characters, their history and their relationships in a few beautifully sculpted sentences. And, it ties the entire story and imagery together!
Well done!!

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The Block House said...

"Only he moved along the dark squares and she along the light. I had spent my childhood trying to straddle both."

Whoa! Love that.

Oh yes, this is wonderful. Your writing is musical and smooth, smooth.

"The male urge to possess everything within touching distance (and even beyond), to make it theirs and part of them (war & conflict for example)"

What I love about this piece is that you show this urge, but you also point to the ultimate futility of it all because nature (time) will simply take back what has been taken. And this, "Nature has wreaked a swift and full vengeance, for all those years held in check at his horticultural hand. She has reclaimed what was rightfully hers," is speaking truth. Truth in metaphor? ;-)

Anyway, I found this to be ultimately enjoyable and will be back for a second read.

Sulci Collective said...

Thank you very much Blockhouse. Appreciated

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

My father was like that about his desk :)
This was a glorious read, by turn humourous and poignant (and often at the same time)

And I love that you didn't delete the spammer's comment!