Banging Gardens of Babylon

Brenda has embarked upon what appears to be some sort of Ramadan for lapsed Catholics, except instead of fasting she doesn’t do the shopping and I don’t eat or have sex.

But while I am wasting away, she seems to be putting on weight. It is clear that she has some alternative food source of which I am unaware. I searched the house for hidden caches but all I found were the remains of our cat which went missing seven years ago.

It was an ideal opportunity for me to get back on Brenda’s good side, such as it is, so I burst into the lounge and told her that I had found Mustafapuss. Brenda gasped and dropped her tea into her lap. She jumped up screaming and began dancing crazily around the room. I joined in, thinking she was overcome by the wonderful news.

In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to wait until her scalded thighs had cooled down before showing her the little pile of bones that was once her precious pussy.

Since then, things have become pretty dire on the gastronomical front. My emaciated frame and refined digestive system can no longer cope with junk food. Just the other day my body rejected a giant, greasy hamburger onto Brenda’s favourite Turkish prayer rug. She walked into the room before I had time to dispose of the evidence, but I managed to throw some doubt on the matter by telling her that a small woodland creature must have been hit by a fast-moving truck and flung through the open window to die a horrible death right there on the mat. I tried to look as shocked as she was. Then she made me take it outside and bury it. Now I can’t look another burger in the face without thinking of roadkill.

I am left with one alternative. Grow my own food. I have cleared the weeds from the bottom of the so-called garden and on Saturday I headed out to the nursery for all the essential ingredients. If my old friend, Theodore Kaczynski, could live off the land for all those years, then so could I. However, I was unprepared for the level of hostility and suspicion that met me when I went foraging at the nursery. My plan was to sneak through the succulents and hug the northwestern perimeter until I reached the edible zone.

I once had a nasty experience with a nursery. A burly type with dirty fingernails and devious demeanour followed me into the shrubbery sector and watched while I fingered the leaves and sniffed the flowers and when I asked him some or other plant was a fruit, he said, “No, but I am” and before I knew it I was rolling around in the perennials fighting for my reputation.

This time I knew to steer clear of the pansies, so I moved swiftly through the foliage until I came across a place that was full of beetroots and cabbages and radishes and something called Allium Schoenoprasum, which reminded me of an infection I once picked up at the Munich Beer Fest.

I had no idea what to buy. A scraggly thing with pale leaves and no energy leaned against my leg and sighed heavily. I looked at its tag. It said ‘tomatoe’. Sure. You can’t even spell and you want me to take you home. Think again, pal.

I briefly considered giving peas a chance, but they aren’t much good when it comes to self-defence. A carrot, on the other hand, is genetically designed for stabbing. This attractive orange fruit is far more effective when it comes to dealing with a wife who is trying to starve you to death. I was about to take the biggest of the bunch when I saw, behind the lettuce and shielded by a cauliflower, a plant bearing a hand-scrawled sign saying ‘mentha spicata’.

Parts of my family come from Palermo. I know what this means. Go up to an Italian and say ‘mentha spicata’ and see what happens.

I moved quickly towards the exit, stopping only to pick up eighteen bags of fertiliser that were on special. And that’s when the trouble started. I knew something was wrong when the poison dwarf behind the till asked for identification when I was clearly paying cash.

She must have pressed some kind of silent alarm because three hermaphrodites wielding sharp garden implements suddenly appeared behind me. The leprechaun asked what I intended doing with the fertiliser. Her eyes narrowed. The dendroids closed in. Somebody made a sudden move and all hell broke loose.

Once the paramedics had left, a man wearing a soiled T-shirt took me aside and gave me a free Busy Lizzie and a cup of tea. With fear upon his face, he explained that the department of national intelligence had put all nurseries on red alert. Anyone who comes in wanting to buy unusual amounts of fertiliser should be treated as an enemy of the state.

The Boeremag, he said, had changed the face of gardening forever. Some people wanted this stuff to blow, not grow. They want to sow the seeds of revolution. Plant landmines. Mushroom clouds. Boom time.

I reckon I’ll take my chances eating roadkill.


19 November 2002


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