We met up the next day, dismayed that there hadn’t been any strikes on the news the previous night. We had to make the slogans up ourselves.
“Builders go away,” suggested Elvis.
“Stick your houses up your bum,” said Bumper.
We all laughed at this one. Except Gilbert who was a bit concerned at the logistics of it all.
“Keep off the Grass.”
It was inspired, it was my idea and everybody loved it. Better still, I knew where I could get some signs that were already printed up. We were off to the park.
The park keeper wasn’t pleased to see us stood on the grass.
“Get off there,” he shouted. I thought it was a good idea to do as he said. Bumper had other ideas.
“Because you’re not allowed on the grass, that’s why.” He was going red.
“Where does it say that?” asked Bumper.
He had a point. There were no signs. We had them all in our bag. It was time to run.
The whole house shook as the door slammed, making the windows rattle as if in the beginnings of a Los Angeles earth tremor. Gilbert was trying to ignore the row that was coming from indoors. They had become more frequent recently and however hard it was for him to do so, he tried to switch off. He created a little hole with his trowel and lovingly took the flower from its pot and placed it in the soil.
The clouds were gathering and he wanted to get this finished before the rain started.
He surveyed the garden, his garden. Gilbert had been working here for nearly two years now and he was proud of his work. He knew he was never going to win Mastermind but when it came to gardening, he had few equals. Yes, this was truly a great garden and it was all his creation, except for the fountain and the lions of course. They were Kev’s idea, then again, he who pays the piper and all that.
Gilbert took a step back and took a photo with the camera he always had around his neck. Maybe one day he would get it into one of the gardening magazines. He only bought them for the pictures although Claire would sometimes read a couple of the articles for him. She was good like that. She hadn’t changed that much since school, despite what other people said.
He heard the crash and turned to see Kev storming through the door, slamming it behind him and nearly taking the glass out.
“What are you looking at, you fucking retard?”
Gilbert had grown used to the insults by now. After all, he’d been getting them since school. Best just to say nothing. Kev was coming towards him now, his face scarlet, the vein that ran across the top of Kev’s head was now more prominent than ever. Gilbert hadn’t seen him this angry in a long time.
“I said what are you looking at?”
Gilbert realised he was staring and tried to avert his gaze. It only succeeded in making him off guard when the blow came. The punch knocked him clean off his feet.
“Think you’re better than me, do you?” Kev aimed a kick at Gilbert’s stomach. Gilbert’s mind was racing now, trying to think what he had done.
“I don’t know what possessed me to employ a fuckwit like you in the first place. Look at the fucking state of this garden. Flowers everywhere. Are you trying to say I’m queer or something? Do you fancy me? Is that it?” Kev ripped out a handful of roses, the thorns piercing the flesh of his hands, and threw them at Gilbert.
“I’m going to have the fucking place concreted over. I should put you beneath it. As from now, consider yourself unemployed.”
Kev ripped out a young tree and thrashed Gilbert with it; blood was now seeping between the fingers of Kev’s right hand and down the bark of the tree.
Gilbert realised he hadn’t done anything wrong at all. This was normal Kev behaviour. Something goes wrong and he blames anyone but himself.
Fuck you, you fucking arsehole. Gilbert wished he could say what he was thinking. He now realised he was in pain as well. He wasn’t sure whether his jaw was broken; he couldn’t, or didn’t want to move it. Kev was now systematically destroying the garden, Gilbert’s garden. That hurt more than anything else.
“What’s this for? You haven’t got any family you haven’t got any friends. What do you need a camera for?” He ripped the camera from Gilbert’s neck and threw it against the fountain where it smashed into little pieces. Gilbert forced back the tears.
“Fucking retard.” Kev jumped into the Shogun and reversed, full speed down the drive, hitting the gatepost and knocking one of the lions to the ground.
“Gilbert? Are you all right, Gilbert?” He didn’t want turn round. He didn’t want Claire to see him crying.
“Don’t take it personally. It’s me he’s angry with not you.” Gilbert picked up the remains of his camera and headed for the gate. The tears were now rolling down his cheeks.
Why did you have to marry a prick like that?
“Take care of yourself, Gilbert.”
He could tell Claire was also crying. As he passed the fallen lion, the rain started to come down again.
After a pretty fruitful trip to the park we painted the remaining banners. We decided against Bumper’s idea on the grounds that our parents would definitely kill us and stuck with Builders go away and Football not Houses. We got to work painting the banners then hid them in the bunker. We needed an early night, as tomorrow was strike day.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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