Fine

“Men?” I said to myself with a mixture of wonder and fear as I hesitated and then closed the front door and walked down the three steps into the garden. “Can I help you?”

“No need to worry, sir. I’m Ian Ecobichon and this is Ted-“

“I’m not worried,” I said a bit belatedly because I was worried. These men were wearing shirts. Lawyers from Spar or Slush Puppie, about copyright infringement?

“That’s fine, sir. If you let me finish we’re from, Visites du Branchage, and unfortunately I must inform you there’s a problem with your hedge.”

Fuck, the Branchage dicks!

“Hedges are fine, aren’t they?” I asked, looking as innocent as the day I crashed the work van into that lady’s tail-light and lied about it. I’d trimmed them some time, possibly this year. Hadn’t looked at them since. “I trimmed them in Ma… September.”

“That may be, but no, sir, they’re not fine. Not fine at all. Your hedge is encroaching on a public footpath and that means you’re liable for a fine.”

Say fine again, I dare you, I thought as I walked out to the pavement and saw what Ian was pointing at. He was pointing at Ted who in turn was pointing at my hedge that was indeed, as he’d said it would be, encroaching on the public footpath. It was about five inches over the pavement. I looked at Ian and then the hedge with a face that said, I don’t even know how things grow!

“How much is the fine?” I asked Ian who was clearly running the operation.

“Sixty pounds.”

“Sixty pounds? For that?”

“You should have received the letter, and there have been notices in the Jersey Gazette,” said Ian. Ted didn’t talk.

“Gazette? I don’t even know what that is,” I said blowing my cheeks out and standing with my hands on my hips and looking at the hedge. I had an Ice Cream Social to prepare. Had to get Paula to wear roller-skates. I didn’t have time for this. “Can I do it at the weekend?” I asked. The weekend is tomorrow and the next day.

“No, it had to be done by today, I’m afraid.”

“Come on,” I said, just keeping it out of a whine.

“I’m sorry but you’ve had fair warning and as I’ve said the notices were pos-“

“You don’t sound sorry.” Fuck. What was wrong with me? I was losing my cool. “Can I do it now?” I asked while going over the logistics in my head. I do that, agree to things then think about them.

I’d run to the garage get the trimmer and the extension lead. I’d need to grab a bin and a brush for the clippings. Try and carry it all back in one go. Need a shovel too. Drop the bin and the brush. Plug the extension lead in in the socket in the hall, run out, plug the hedge trimmer in. Trim. Brush the pavement and just fucking throw everything in the garden. How long would that take. Seven minutes? “What?” I asked because he’d answered while I went through all that.

“I said we can come back this way in half an hour. But if it’s not done-“

“Give me seven minutes,” I said.

“We won’t be back for half an hour.”

“Okay,” and I was off.

Enrique’s stuff was boxed up and I looked at the boxes for maybe twelve seconds. Half of my garage is… was Enrique’s house, the other half has my treadmill and turbo trainer in it. At the wall on the end of my side is the garden shit. That’s where it always is. The garden shit.

Hedge trimmer, check.

Extension lead, not check.

The fuck was the extension lead? Keep calm. I looked around the garage without moving my feet and then looked again at where it should be, if I hadn’t been cursed. It still wasn’t there. Where was my extension lead? I asked myself. I don’t fucking know, it should be here! I told myself. It’s fucking not, is it?

Well, clearly.

It can’t be done without the extension lead. The extension lead is only there to power the trimmer.

This was fucked. How long had passed since I began looking for the extension lead? No idea. I went over to Enrique’s half of the garage and looked around. I opened a box. The fucking Rubik’s Cube was on top of some papers.

I opened another box. Nope. Not in there. Don’t lose it. I didn’t lose it. Me losing it completely wasn’t going to get the hedge trimmed. I thought about taking my phone out of my pocket and checking the time because I don’t have a watch but I didn’t bother. Knowing I didn’t have much time wouldn’t help me. I knew that already and it wasn’t helping. No, I was actually looking at my phone. Fuck! Already?

I went over the the gym side and looked around. Fucking amazing. It had literally just disappeared into thin fucking air. It’s fucking there every single day I don’t need it but today it’s literally vanished.

Fucking world.

Fucking God.

Fuck off.

I got my phone out again and found the number for the shop. I’ve got three numbers stored in my phone. Never dialled any of them. It rang.

The fuck are they doing?

“Hello, Enrique? It’s me, where’s-“

“G’hello?”

“Enrique, it’s me, the-“

“Hold on please.”

“No-“

I heard Enrique shout for Paula. I then, between trying to whistle to get his attention, heard them talking. Enrique was telling her to go and get me.

“G’hello?” Said Enrique loudly, on the phone.

“It’s me! Jamie.”

“Hold on please.”

“No, it is me.”

I heard him put the receiver on his desk. I tried to whistle again but couldn’t. I looked at my handset and pressed end call. I had about seven minutes left. Still enough time, as long as I’d at least started when they came back I’d be okay. If only I could find the fucking extension lead. I couldn’t and the time for thinking was over. It was time for doing.

I pulled his couch forward, noticed a box. Opened the box and saw a pad but no extension lead. I logged it, that there was a hidden notepad Enrique hadn’t yet packed away under the old coach he wasn’t taking with him and then found his only plug socket. I took the plug out and traced the cable to where four more leads were plugged into it. I unplugged those and traced them etc. Eventually after unplugging everything I had seventeen small household multi-plug adaptors, each with at least twelve inches of cable. Enrique’s small fridge was now not receiving power. Fuck it.

There was cable actually on the trimmer itself and it was pretty long so maybe, just maybe… I held the ball of cables to my chest and grabbed the trimmer and left the garage, opening the door with my hip. No fucking way was I going to be able to pick up a bin and a broom too. No way.

I got back to the front garden and dropped the trimmer and went to get the bin and then I stopped. I’d get that later.

Had to make a start on the hedge.

I started plugging the leads together. I put some plugs in the wrong sockets. I put them in the socket nearest the cable rather that the socket at the end. I did this three times before I got into a rhythm.

“Hey, you said!” Said somebody behind me. It was Ian.

“Two minutes.”

“But you said you’d do it in seven minutes and here we are twenty eight minutes later and you still haven’t started.”

“This is ridiculous,” added what must have been Ted. He could talk. Good for him.

“I’m ready now.” I lied. I still had a few more leads to join together. I joined them and then hopped up the steps and opened the door and plugged the snake into the socket. Walking down the steps I still didn’t know. It looked possible. I grabbed up the trimmer and unwound the long orange cable that was wrapped neatly around the handle. Enrique had done that. I just lob the trimmer in the garage and then next day find the cables all wrapped neatly. Prick. It was taking me ages to unwrap it.

I’m gonna kill Enrique.

I just pulled the last few coils off the handle and then found the end of my daisy-chain of cables and plugged the orange plug in.

“That’s not long enough,” said Ian, unhelpfully.

“Let’s see, shall we?” I said walking slowly, holding the trimmer like it was a shotgun. I got to the pavement before the cables pulled tight.

“Not even close,” said Ian

“It’s not, is it?” I replied. I looked back at the line of white multi-socket extension cables whose combined weight was the only thing keeping them on the ground.

“It’s a fine then,” said Ian.

“Fine,” I replied.

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