The Cucumber Man

P. S. Gifford

© Copyright 2006 by P. S. Gifford


            Harry Smith sat contently in his small allotment and poured himself another cup of steaming tea from his flask and admired the site in front of him. His tiny council garden was full of the most beautiful vegetables you could ever wish to see; Carrots, onions, radishes, cucumbers-they were all there vibrant, healthy and peculiarly large. He smiled to himself satisfied as he examined his favorite- a giant cucumber resting beautifully in the middle of his plot.

            'That is going to be my first place victory at the county fair' he reflected as he sipped on his tea. 'See if Alfred Jones can beat that one!'

            It was a typical Yorkshire Spring morning and the rain was gently drizzling from the sky. Harry slowly got up from his garden chair and ambled over to his trusted garden shed. He fumbled with his keys for a few moments before managing to disengage the rusty old lock.

            "Must get myself a new one," he grumbled to himself. "Everyman must have a private secure place."

            He proceeded to turn on the dusty forty watt light bulb and glance about. There were seven caps hung neatly on hooks by the door, all in various shades of gray. He picked up one that was obviously very well worn and placed it on his balding head.

            "That'll keep me 'ead warm," he chirped as he continued looking about and performed a quick inventory: A sack of compost, half bag of fertilizer , his old axe, two well used watering cans, his trusted wood chipper, a water hose, and his collection of spades and shuffles up, shears, clippers, his battered tool box and his old trusted old radio.

            'Yes, everything is still there, you can't be too careful.'

            Harry turned the old radio on and was happy to hear Terry Wogan's familiar voice, his favorite radio personality. He sat there contently for about thirty minutes sipping on his tea and listening to Wogan's whimsical patter.

            Little did he know he was not alone on that rainy April morning as just two allotments down Alfred Jones was also drinking his tea, listening to his radio and also planning...

            'Harry won't beat me this year' Alfred pondered to himself. 'No… Not this year.'

            He looked at his allotment 'fine vegetables' he thought methodically "Very fine indeed in fact they could be described as quite magnificent even. But they were no match for bloody Harry Smith's.' He shook his head in disgust.

            Now Alfred Jones was a mild mannered man, in fact a more gentle and easy-going man you would be hard pressed to find. Yet deep inside this kind faced chap was a fierce rage burning. He had retired nearly five years ago after 37 years at the civil service. 37 years of saying "Yes sir" and mundanely going through the tedious motions that is work in the British civil service. When he was not working he had got to spend all the days' hours in his little council house, with his wife Hilda. That is when he had decided to take up gardening… Not for flowers or anything like that, but to grow vegetables and to escape Hilda's constant nagging! He had become quite an expert on the subject now having spent hours pouring over books from the library. Every year he proudly took his prize beauties to the county show and every year he left clasping onto a silver medal.

            Now, Alfred in his entire life had never once lost his temper. Yet, as he was sitting there, hatred started to fester inside him. The rage was slowly transforming him, finally he could stand it no longer and he suddenly jumped up…

            "I'll flippin' show him!" He cried, "I'll fix that Harry Smith once and for bloody all!" Alfred quickly walked to his shed, surprised by the sudden extra bounce in his stride. He quickly undid his rusty lock, and excitedly went inside and switched on the light. As the bulb rocked back and forth on its chain, he scanned about for the perfect tool for the planned brutal task at hand.

            'This was exciting' he thought as his attention was suddenly drawn to a rusty old chopper hanging amongst the cob webs in the rear corner.

            'Perfect' he pondered to himself 'Absolutely bloody perfect. I will finally show that Harry Smith once and for all.'

            Alfred grabbed the weapon and proceeded to march deliberately towards his neighbors plot. As he marched he proudly whistled to himself "Colonel Bogey" and as his pace quickened even further still the whistling also intensified.

            'I haven't felt this bloody good in years!' He pondered as he reached his destination. 'This is grand I should have done thus ages ago!'

            As Alfred got close to Harry's plot his pace slowed down and the whistling stopped. He stealthily examined Harry's lot as sweat starting to glisten on his brow. Then his old grey eyes opened wide in delight as he spied his target. He took a deep breath and began to creep closer -silent and deadly. As he was finally upon it he raised his blade high above his head. He was feeling completely and strangely unconcerned about the consequences of his wicked actions and was now grinning from ear to ear.

            However just before the axe demolished the giant cucumber he felt an abrupt and sudden thud on the back of his head then Alfred Smith fell to the damp ground with a thump.

            'Tch Tch' Harry Smith muttered sadistically under his breath as he gawked back and forth at the bloody hammer in his hand and the body of Alfred lying at his feet.

            Within moments Harry had dragged Alfred's limp lifeless body into his shed and closed the door. He affectionately removed Alfred's cap, straightened it out and placed it securely next to the rest of his collection.

            'Another keepsake' he mused grinning to himself frenziedly.

            Then he started up the trusted old chipper and he rubbed his hands together gleefully as it shook and groaned into action. From one of the tied bags he pulled out several black plastic sheets and meticulously and efficiently covered every inch of his beloved shed. Finally when he was satisfied that the shed was dutifully prepared he reached down to his tattered tool box, opened the lid and removed a rusty hand saw.

            Harry examined the well used saw and squinted his eyes -'One of these days I must get myself an electric one' he moaned. Then he cheerfully set about his grisly task.


            Two weeks later the county fair arrived.

            Harry Smith glowed with pride as he is once more presented his first prize place.

            After the judge placed the gold medal about Harry's neck he looked at him in appreciation.

            "Fifth year in a row!" He exclaimed gleaming at Harry." So is there any chance that you might divulge the key to your success?" The judge inquired hopefully.

            Harry grinned wickedly, leaned in and whispered into his inquisitive ear.

            "Secret fertilizer recipe!"

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