When first we met we did not guess

Frances Gapper

You trying to make a vegetable plot, digging up lots of big flat stones and staggering across the garden to pile them in a heap, after which you grew leeks, carrots and potatoes, and slugs didn’t eat everything like they had in London, although before you fenced the patch rabbits did. And flowering peas twined around your frame of crossed bamboo sticks and your excavated pile of stones stood cairn-like below the Wych elm abuzz with bees and insects and summer bats flitting in the summer dusk and swallows dipping past our windows.

And the cat bringing in a dead goldcrest, a dead tree creeper, a dead any beautiful or rare species. And her trying to catch a rabbit, and it zigzagging round the garden until at last it sailed over the wall and off down the field. And her burrowing into my unpacked boxes, to shred books and papers. And her bushy-tailed with excitement following stand-offs with the local tom.

And the couple who dropped by while visiting the area, who’d honeymooned here in the 50s and remembered a double netty placed over the culvert, no indoor toilet.

And five types of bird nesting in the barn, including jackdaws, and an owl perched in the rafters. And a patch of hedgehog wee on our kitchen ceiling. And spiders hanging over our bed.

And our postbox on the top road to which the postman had a key, and me running up the track waving and shouting too late to stop Citilink’s little yellow van speeding away. And other delivery vans bumping down the track and getting stuck at the bottom and having to be winched out.

​And the farmer dragging sheep corpses into the mouths of old mine workings. The taste and smell of death, catching in the back of my throat. And crows waiting to peck out a sick sheep’s eyes.

And the bull leaning on our drystone garden wall, which rattled as it collapsed. And power cuts and frozen pipes and flooding.

And me wanting us to break up, then desperate for us to stay together. You shouting at me, you saying we must both go forward into our own lives.

And the woman from the health food shop remarking I was so changed, she wouldn’t have known me. And you feeling everyone could see the sadness rising off you like mist.

And the lumpy ceiling we’d stopped even noticing until the estate agent’s appalled valuer asked what’s that? Our slatted pine bed fed into the wood burner, our orthopaedic mattress dumped in a skip on the top road. It being harder than I’d imagined to smash china into pieces small enough to bury.

And the valuer keeping her coat on indoors, and saying grimly this place has got to be sold by the end of summer. We’ll sell it as the Dream.

And as it turned out we got plenty of viewers, on the Easter bank holiday weekend. Running a bed and breakfast, or extending into the barn, or simply living happily ever after, oh they had all sorts of plans.

Frances Gapper’s three story collections are In the Wild Wood, The Tiny Key and Absent Kisses. Her flash fiction has been published in Under the Radar, Fictive Dream, Ellipsis, Meniscus, Cafe Irreal, Wigleaf, The Ilanot Review, The Citron Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Splonk, Spelk, Spontaneity and Silver Apples.