It’s Saturday morning and Peter’s at home marking assignments. Staring at his desk mirror – he sees a balding, banal, forty-three-year-old college teacher. He misses his youth. His perceptions quickly change though – when he picks up a rolled banknote – clenches it between his thumb and index finger – snorts a fat line of cocaine. Temporary relief. A brief fling with his younger, insouciant self. Peter minimizes the file on his laptop and finds his music playlist; cranking up the volume – he blasts out his carefully chosen list of heavy metal classics and cuts up another line. The work can wait he decides.
Looking out of an upstairs window, Peter catches a glimpse of his gardener – Jim: sat on the edge of his raised swimming pool, shirtless, smoking, chatting on his phone. He can’t expect much though – Peter still owes him for previous work, and the colossal cocaine tab he owes makes him nauseous. He glares at Jim’s light brown abdominals, formed in a six-pack, like defined rocks. Peter finds him intimidating and he feels used; it was supposed to be a small job – it’s become a neverending project.
Jim’s voice has amplified – ‘I didn’t sell you washing powder bruv’ he shrieks. He has a fake-sounding accent; from an English country town – but sounds like a Londoner. This seems to be most apparent when he’s on his phone – trying to impress anyone nearby who may be listening. Deep down Peter despises him. He only hired him as he met him in the pub one night and found out he’s a (cheap) gardener, who also supplies cocaine.
Peter pulls the curtain shut, deciding to hide from the sun and the abhorrent gardener; he cranks the music up a little louder and flicks a light switch on. He re-opens the file on his laptop, snorts another line, and gets back to marking his students’ work. Peter feels focused and skims through the assignments, marking them with the speed and dexterity of an efficient robot. He knows the feeling won’t last though and dreads the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday blues which are always imminent after his drug binges. He’s tried many times to kick his habit, but Jim always seems to message when Peter’s motivation is at its lowest.
Peeking through a slit of curtain – the swimming pool resembles a shark attack scene; a mushroom cloud of dense blood hangs on the surface, and scatters into fine speckles, like bloody needle pricks. Jim is slumped forward – his bottom half still on the grass – bent at 90 degrees; top half hinged into the water – with a pair of garden shears protruding from the side of his neck. Peter decided to look through the curtain to see if he had finished; he got his answer. In a moment of panic – Peter grabs a baseball bat from his bedroom, rushes downstairs; there’s no one there. He hurries outside to look around; the back gate is shut – nothing appears to have been taken – just the life of a drug-dealing gardener.
Was it an accident? Will the police believe me? I’ve got drugs in my system, I’m alone in a remote country house. These are just some of the thoughts that drive Peter into a state of uncontrollable vexation. He is struggling to think clearly and through an aberration of fear and paranoia, begins to clear up the murder site. Peter tentatively pulls Jim from the pool leaving a trail of sticky blood down the wooden panel. He rolls him onto his back and begins to rinse him down with deep buckets of bloody water. The shears don’t move an inch and spear Jim’s neck like he’s a hunted wild animal; Peter cries out ‘what am I going to do’ as paranoia takes over.
Peter spends the rest of the day cleaning up the aftermath of the murder: draining the remaining water from the pool, running the hose at a perpetual rate. He clears his cupboards practically empty of cleaning products, and the strong smell of bleach replaces the sickly tang of hot blood. Nevertheless, Peter is still overwhelmed by the insurmountable situation. As he stares at the soulless, deteriorating body – reality kicks in and he’s violently sick on the floor; until only a dry heave remains – causing his lower stomach to tighten up and ache. The drugs have worn off and Peter begins to feel overwhelmed with emotions; ‘what have I done’, he mutters to himself, gently sobbing into his palms.
The body’s been wrapped so well, the flesh is indistinguishable; Jim’s tarpaulin has come in handy Peter thinks in a morbid, unhumorous way. Jim had no vehicle as he was on a drink driving ban, so Peter waits until dusk before deciding to take him to a remote and desolate part of land. The spot is roughly four miles from his house and is always quiet, he thinks he can safely find somewhere to bury him.
Peter reverses his range rover to the side gate and finishes his bag of cocaine, he doesn’t bother cutting it up, just stuffs the bag into his nose and sniffs like a powerful hoover. He looks down at his phone and notices three missed calls from his friend; ‘he knows I’m busy – I’ll call him back tomorrow!’ After a struggle, Peter starts the engine and cautiously drives to his destination. He prays.
Two weeks later Peter is rounding up his English class; ‘great work everyone, I hope you’re pleased with your results. If anyone has any questions – please feel free to speak to me’. One of his students takes him up on the offer; a well-spoken, young Indian man named Sin. ‘I just want to say thanks for the results, sir’. ‘No problem Sin’ Peter retorts. ‘So, I’ll be getting top marks every time now’ Sin slyly chuckles. Peter fakes a smile as Sin heads for the door, turns and mutters – ‘you’re gonna need a new gardener’.
A.T Hawthorn – 6.8.19