Ulysses Plot was thinking about his book. This meant walking around in the garden and staring at plants. The sunflowers were doing well, a few leaves had been nibbled by snails but he could live with that. The beans were in a similar state, a few shiny slug trails crossed the lower leaves, nothing drastic. A few minutes wandering brought him to the scruffy end of the garden, past the compost bins and the bramble hedge. Somewhere along the way he’d picked up a bamboo stake and he idly swished at the nettles, knocking the tops off.
I should get some gloves on and pull them up, he thought. He’d do it later, this was writing time, even if, to an outsider, it looked like nothing more than a middle-aged man wandering round in the garden.
Right, back to work, Ulysses told himself, tucked the cane under his arm like a sergeant’s baton, and marched back to the house.
The march, the cane – all at once he was back in the USA, reliving the most miserable year of his life, when he had been seconded to the American army. Lonely, out of place, young and eager to please, he was the Limey, the one who played cricket instead of baseball, and who drank his beer warm. He’d learned a lot, and most people were friendly, but one drill instructor had gone out of his way to make his life an absolute misery. What was his name? Hareman… Cartman, something like that. Came to a sticky end, Ulysses recalled. Pushed his men too far.
Ulysses glanced at the vegetable beds and stopped, rooted to the spot with horror. Where was the broccoli? The broccoli he had carefully grown from seed in the greenhouse and planted out only yesterday. It was gone, every single plant. Apart from a few leaf scraps and nibbled-down stumps all he could see was bare earth – bare earth and slug trails. Ulysses ground his teeth. ‘Bloody slugs,’ he seethed. He felt his heart grow cold, murderous cold. You should never push a man too far.
An hour later more broccoli had been planted (you should always have reserves), the beer traps were set (never send in troops without support). Ulysses remembered his training.
The best thing is always to do something. Once again Ulysses’ mind drifted back to America and the Drill Sergeant’s forced marches and the scatological jodys, or marching calls, he used.
Sound off! 1,2
Sound off! 3,4
Ulysses decided to make up his own:
I don’t know, but I’ve been told,
Gardening’s good as you grow old.
Pulling weeds and bending low,
Helps the aging process slow.
Slugs are best killed when they’re runts,
Before they grow to greedy-
‘What are you doing, Ulysses?’ Philomena asked.
Ulysses half jumped out of his boots. How did she do that? His wife could move as silently as a panther. ‘Nothing, dear, nothing. Just having a think. You know, stories and stuff.’
Philly looked him up and down. ‘Good. I was worried you’d gone a bit..’ She twirled her finger beside her head. ‘You know.’
‘No more than usual. Look at the bloody broccoli! Slugs had the lot.’
‘They look fine.’
‘That’s the second lot. Contingency.’ Ulysses showed her the chewed down ruin of the first crop.
‘Well done, Lissy,’ Philly said. ‘Fancy a cuppa?’
‘Splendid idea! Any cake?’