This morning I had to dig up my shovel again. The tool I use for serious digging was itself buried under six inches of rich and fertilised flowerbed top soil. I had to use my old hand trowel in order to unearth it. The shovel was underground because I had to exhume my favourite garden gnome again yesterday and I’ve been forgetful man ever since I caught a noggin of shrapnel upside my head in the first Gulf war and I have a habit of leaving the shovel leant up against the shed when I’m done digging rather than stowing it away safely behind a padlock like I ought to.
My next door neighbour’s dog comes into my garden and buries my things. I hate that fucking dog. It’s a monster, hell bent and relentless on punishing me.
It’s smart. It knows I’m absent minded and it waits for the right time. It watches from the neighbour’s bathroom window which overlooks the back gardens, and I reckon it must climb up on the toilet, or the side of the bathtub, to be able to stare out of the window like that. It’s creepy how it seems to leer at me from the window. I think that maybe it isn’t really a dog at all, rather a sorcerer of dark magic that somehow got trapped in the body of a bouffant Poodle.
As I say, it’s clever beast. It watches and it waits for me to fuck up. And because I’m an old doofus, inevitably I end up leaving the shed door unlocked, or forget to put the hosepipe away, or I oversleep and miss the newspaper kid throwing my daily rag over the back fence. He doesn’t leave it on the front yard anymore because kids used to snatch it and make a shredded mess in the road, but now it gets buried if I’m not up like a shot and out to collect it before the next door neighbour’s dog gets put out for its morning toilet. And then, maybe worst of all, even when I do remember to lock down the rest of my stuff, the little monster goes for my gnomes.
I can never catch it red-handed, or red-pawed, or whatever. It is sneaky and only brings the mischief when it knows it won’t get caught. Either it has figured out a way to get over the fence between my garden and the neighbour’s or it goes right out to the street and round the side somehow. I couldn’t say for sure which. Also it knows to only bury the stuff amongst my flowerbeds or in the rockery, it doesn’t mess around on the lawn where it would leave behind the evidence I need to expose it. The shit-bag must even know to clean his paws in the birdbath. Which means when I spot my neighbour in the street or at the shops and I confront him about my buried property, he shrugs and says, -I never saw him in your garden, did you see him there? To which I can only reply, -well, no, I didn’t see it but I know that goddamn animal did the burying. I mean, how else would my gnomes end up under the ground? No one else on our street even has a dog. Then my next door neighbour always dumps the same dumb spiel on me, he clicks his tongue and says, -nuh-uh, I don’t think it was my poochie who did that to your things, old man. You have no proof and you even say yourself that you didn’t actually see him in your garden. My dog is well trained, mister, he’s a good dog. Now, if you’ll excuse me.
Then I get home and go out in the back garden and look up to next door’s bathroom window, and sure-as-shit, there it is, staring down at me and I swear to God and the little baby Jesus that sometimes it licks its lips.
This has been going on for months now. I never had any kind of trouble with old Mrs MacFindlay. She had a pet rabbit, and it was a cute little thing. No dogs. But she passed away at the beginning of last year and the house went up for public auction because she never wrote a will and anyhow her kids were all dead from a car accident except for one, who was dead from a bad cocktail of diabetes and an ignorant lifestyle.
So a stranger got the house at the auction and now I live next door to a daemon dog that wants to drive me up the wall. Well, I’ve had about enough of it. Scratch that, I’m far gone past having enough. I’ve had so much of this shit that I think maybe I might have gone properly crazy for a few moments back there. Earlier today, I’m talking about. I zoned out a little after I found the newly upturned top soil this morning, entombing my shovel again. I stewed on it a while and things just built up and then it got a little intense in the old noggin early this ante-meridiem. Things got weird. I don’t actually remember fetching my old army greens down from the loft, but I’m wearing them now and there’s fresh dirt stains on the knees so I must have had them on since before my little mission. I do hazily remember cutting my thumb with my whittling knife and standing out in the back yard and looking up at the dog and making the sign of the grudge on my forehead in fresh blood, just like we used to do for those goddamn sand people when I was out in the desert, and I remember rambling like a man gone wrong, shouting up at the mutt, -this is it, war is officially declared. No prisoners will be taken. You fooled me once, fooled me twice, fooled me a hundred fucking times now and the shame was on you the first time, maybe it was on myself the second, but now it’s got so the shame is just pooling up everywhere and it’s drowning my flowers and surely, for the love of God and the baby Jesus, sometime soon there’ll be no shame left to go around anymore.
Must be, my mental elastic snapped. Or at least, it got tugged hard enough for it to fray a little more than it had done already. Because right now it’s not long before midnight on the clock and it’s my turn to watch from my window, watch my neighbour look for his dog. I have the lights turned off so that if he looks over here he won’t see me spying on his pacing in front of our houses and calling for the blasted animal.
He’s been at it a while. He won’t find the beast though. Maybe I’ve been fooled a hundred times but the score sheet will never reach a hundred-and-one. My neighbour’s dog will never bury my things again. Maybe I am a little crazy, and maybe things did get a little weird today, but the presence of monsters in this world, daemons like that fluffy little shithound, means that maybe every know and again we are supposed to get a little weird. That’s what the grudge marks were about, back in the Gulf with the desert men, because of course there were monsters there too. The blood marks on our faces were a way of saying, -you have wronged me and you are evil and you are my enemy. You will fool me no more though and you will bring me no more shame. For I am allowing myself to become what I need to be to defeat an evil being like you.
This evening I had to become what I needed to be to defeat the evil. Out after the early evening gloom had set in and crouched in my neighbour’s bushes waiting for him to put out the dog for its last piss of the day, its wicked, feral mind full of plans for a fresh bout of trouble making, no doubt. I became that. I had to become my trap—a slab of cheap steak loaded up with a huge dose of that fast-acting stuff the doctor gives me for when my poorly-healed, shrapnel-blasted skull decides to afflict me with a fresh bout of brutal throbbing—all planted in my neighbour’s back yard where he wouldn’t notice when he opened the door, but where the dog couldn’t miss it. I had to become the big, patched-up sack I used to use to lug barbeque coal around and I had to become my trusty shovel. And finally, with the grateful gaze of garden gnomes upon me, I had to become a hole in the ground and a healthy pile of rich and fertilised top soil.
I became all of those things and, -come on then, daemon dog, let’s see you fool me now.
Martin Garrity is one half of the team behind Solarcide. This story is an excerpt from Corridors, a collection of short stories and flash fiction that will one day finally see the light of day (boo, hiss, kill the sun etc) we promise.