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September 29, 2005

Hedge Commandos

"Hello Bill." he said, his voice dipping slightly as he said my name.

It was the neightbour from behind, Tarquin Front. He sounded like a vicar; friendly but stern, as if he was about to inform me of some grave transgression. Perhaps raise the issue of my casting Mount Rushmore like genital shadows on the curtains. Or to chastise me for putting out my recycling bin: "Bill," he would pause thoughtfully "we're all retired in this neighbourhood, we'll be long gone before the supply of plastic runs out."

"Hello Tarquin" I replied, feeling a little nervous. I knew that it was about the hedge. He had come to the door a week before, asking if I could get it cut. I explained quickly "I've got quotes, and I've chosen someone to do it. He hasn't called me back yet." I was out of breath, "I'll call him right now."

After some pleasentries, Tarquin was gone. I went staight to the phone and called Dan Carpetright. He was there and had a cancellation for the next morning at eight. I called Tarquin back and checked that it was alright for Mr. Carpetright to come into his garden in the morning.

"Oh Dan Carpetright, I know him, he does work for me." The pitch of his voice rising slightly with recognition "Good man he is. An army man." The approval in his voice was palpable.

"Is he?" I said. I wondered why knowing how to kill someone with a gun and lay clothes neatly on a bed would have any bearing on his ability to do gardening.

He continued, "He's very reliable and very well equipped."

"Oh good!" I responded, remembering the three unreturned calls that I had made in trying to contact him. I knew how to kill someone with my bare hands, this guy was clearly an equipment freak.

As the second hand ticked into its vertical position at eight o'clock, Mr. Carpetright's van pulled up by the curb. I watched from inside as four guys alighted from the white Ford Hummer and laid out their hedge cutters in a neat row on the lawn. Mr. Carpetright walked to the front door.

A little over five feet tall and in his late forties, Dan Carpetright was clearly an army man. Short cropped hair and a face that had been well excercised by shouting, he sported the traditional barrel chest. Perhaps he was still wearing his bullet proof jacket, I thought. Maybe they surgically implanted the barrel chest on completion of boot camp. If so, did they have problems later in life, as with breast implants?

I was wondering if kevlar would trigger an immune response when he interrupted me, "Good morning Mr. Marsby, could you unlock the side gate so that we can get round the back."

An hour or so later, I strolled around the property, inspecting its tidy perimeter. The hedge was cut efficiently and precisely. As I slowly closed my front door, a subtle smile on my face, I felt safe in the knowledge that the world was still as unsurprising as had been the day before.


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