Good Neighbours Make Good Fences – Michael Loveday

Denholm stands on the utility’s flat roof, knuckles dug into his hips, legs set shoulder-width apart. He studies his neighbour Faith’s garden: his wife Joan is concerned about rats. There is the sun lounger (a pristine tongue of white; Faith is not bronzing her body upon it). The heat today is intense and his blue shirt is gathering sweat in unseen places. Perhaps he shouldn’t be out in this weather. Still, he picks up his binoculars.

Pink petals skitter across sculpted gravel paths, a plastic bag from Iceland flaps in a chestnut tree, two police traffic cones huddle in the corner by her patio. No evidence of rats. But down at the end of the garden, on his side of the lime-green fence, which the council has confirmed is Faith’s responsibility, and whose wood he has watched slowly sag during her ten-year residence next-door, is a small, unfamiliar rectangle of colour. How could he have overlooked it? He zooms in further: a playing card is stuck to the top of one plank. He clambers back down to investigate.

An old Top Trumps Marvel Super Heroes card: yellowed now, worn at the edges, and pinned by a gleaming nail to the wood. A silver Adonis poised on a surfboard, muscles rippling, right arm stretching for balance, left hand pointing languidly skyward.

High o’er the roof of the World he soars… the restless streaking Stranger from the farthest reach of space, whom Man shall call forevermore the Silver Surfer!

He looks back to the house, where the back of Joan’s bobbing head can be glimpsed through the French windows, as she scrutinizes the TV, snacking on Pointless. A pot of tea brews on the trolley (Lady Grey, her favourite, no doubt). Up on the roof, their spindly TV aerial reaches out across slate tiles, steadfastly collecting its signals from the troposphere. Everything seems as it should be.  He slips the card discreetly into his pocket.

 

 

***

This piece forms part of Michael Loveday’s ongoing novella of flash fictions / prose poems about three characters in Rickmansworth on the Hertfordshire-London border.

Michael Loveday‘s debut poetry pamphlet “He Said / She Said” was published by HappenStance Press (2011). His short stories have been published or are forthcoming in Cease, Cows; Flash Frontier; Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine; Ink, Sweat & Tears; The Jellyfish Review; Litro; Spelk; Sonder; and Stand. He lives in Bath, UK, and teaches in adult education. Website: www.michaelloveday.co.uk

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