Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more


Name’s Trevor.  Builder.  And landscape gardening.  Paths, driveways, laying.  And that.  Aye.  That’s me.

Don’t feel too good at the moment.

Been working on a job near Wentworth.  Posh house.  Big place: right big: right, right big.  Stables, horses and that.  There’s a big renovation of an old lodge to do: messy job: lots of damp to deal with.  New floors, new ceilings, new skirting.  Re-do damp course.  Strip all walls down to brickwork; repair damaged brickwork; re-board and skim throughout.  New electrics.  New plumbing.  New roof.  New windows.  Rebuild conservatory in hardwood double-glazed units.  And the pond.  Outside the conservatory they wanted a pond.

I dug it by hand.  It would have been much quicker to do it with the digger, but I costed it as if it had only taken the same amount of time as the digger would have done, but I think you can control the shape much better if you dig it by hand.  A good pond needs a mixture of depth and shallow.  They asked me – and I’m glad – that they wanted a natural pond.  No aerator.  No koi carp.  No fish at all, in fact.  Just a big container full of rainwater.  And let the frogs and toads and newts just find it for themselves.  If it’s deeper than about eighteen inches, they’ll breed, once they’ve latched onto it.  I smoothed the inside with a trowel once I’d finished the spade-work and shifted the soil.

I had finished digging it, and lining it, and spoken to the gardener about planting round it.  He was an all-right bloke.  He told me I could use two of his water-butts to fill it with, to get it going while the weather is dry.  I got some water-lilies and elodea to go in it, and some periwinkles and other things with over-hanging foliage to go round it.  They always look too new for a bit after they have been freshly-planted.  It takes a year or so for everything to bed in properly, but I was pleased with this one, though I say so myself.  It looked almost as if the pond was as old as the surrounding garden and buildings.

When I looked up, when I was rinsing out my flask and getting ready to go, I thought I saw a face at one of the upstairs windows of the main house, but I didn’t recognise who it was.

When I went back on site this morning, first thing I went to check it.  I wanted to check there were no leaks in the new lining.  As I walked along the gravel path round the back of the lodge, I could tell that some-one had been there.  I had left an iron lattice over the top of it – one of those things we use for strengthening ferro-concrete bases – but it had been moved.  I had put it there to make sure kids or pets or hedgehogs didn’t fall into it, because it was new and people wouldn’t know it was there.

The lattice was lying on the grass near the pond.  Vandals would have just chucked it somewhere, but it looked as if it had been deliberately placed.  And then I looked into the water, and I saw her.

She was wearing a dark green, silk dress.  She had long hair.  She was very pale.  Her skin was as white as a Belfast sink, except for a few freckles.  She had her arms by her sides.  Her hair was spread out in the water.  Some of the elodea had got tangled up in it.  She might have looked like a water-creature if she hadn’t been dead.  She looked very peaceful: I’ll give her that.  She looked about eighteen or nineteen.

She turned out to be the householder’s niece, who was visiting from Cambridge.  I wonder why she did it.  I wonder why she had to do it in my new pond.


2 responses to “Ophelia

  1. Paul Sharratt November 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    You know too many goths, clearly. Was this inspired by the painting of Elizabeth Siddal?

  2. wthirskgaskill November 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    In part I think it must have been. I wrote it in response to a flash fiction exercise that was set among some of my OU colleagues. The prompt was devised by a fellow student and included “a green silk dress”.

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