The Small Town Rake

A short story ....

Try to imagine my astonishment when sales for this, my originally-entitled The Life and Times of a Garden Rake, soared to top the all time bestseller list. And not only in this country. Although banned in most of the Middle East, plus Tasmania of course, black market sales in these sternly pious regions have also knocked the socks off all previous records. For this I can only thank the publishers for their suggested alternative title. Why, even a prominent Hollywood director, although admitting to not having read my work, is already speaking of an R20 stickered film. Such a rating, he confides with a sly wink, is a sure-fire guarantee of box office success, especially with the under twenties.

My story begins with an earliest memory of being hand picked from a range of gardening tools by a man named Mate. I knew this to be his name when the hardware shop assistant said, “Yer can’t go wrong with one of those, Mate, it’s got hardened steel teeth and a dinkum hickory handle.” I suspect he was Australian, possibly from Tasmania. In no time at all, Mate had me hung on a nail in a shiny metal shed alongside one who was to become my very best friend. When asked, he replied he was spade, and strongly believed in calling himself one.

On my first day of work, Mate had me gathering up freshly cut hedge clippings, a job which I enjoyed and fancy did rather well at. It was disappointing, however, to be returned to the tin shed without first being properly cleaned. A mere trifling, I hear you sneer, but let me ask you this. How would you feel after relaxing and chatting with colleagues at the end of a hard day’s toil only to later discover your every smile had been liberally garnished with a side salad of hedge clippings? Apart from the aforementioned failing of Mate’s, he was a kindly employer and following a first encounter with the lady of the house, one who gained my sympathy. As to her name, I noticed Mate only addressed he as either Yesdear or Nodear, so in this matter I followed Spade’s lead in labelling her Yesnodear.

With the onset, a few months later, of winter, Spade and I whiled away many happy days just hanging around in our shed. “See that evil-looking contraption on the floor below?” Spade said on one such occasion, “He’s a rotary hoe, name of Howard, and is my sworn enemy.”  When asked to elaborate, Spade continued, “he’s after my job and plans to render me obsolete, but so far I’ve managed to outsmart him,” he explained. “You see, when Mate slams our door, I swing about on my nail. With a little extra effort I can reach and flick the cable off Howard’s spark plug.”

He allowed himself a congratulatory smile, “Mate’s hopeless with machinery. So when Howard refuses to start, he takes him away to be repaired.” Spade paused then added, “The garage owner promptly reattaches the cable then bills our boss heaps for imagined parts and labour.” I regarded my earthy colleague with admiration before asking, “Does Mate get angry?” “You betcha,” replied Spade, “he’s threatened to sell the blankety blank heap of junk for scrap if it ever breaks down again.”

Of the tool shed’s other occupants, none presents a more depressing spectacle than that of my presumed predecessor. This rusting, gap-toothed and handless rake head lies abandoned on a high dusty shelf, with only old, part-empty paint tins and their congealing contents for company. Come the day when I, too, am parted from my wooden handle, I expect to join the ghoulish relic on its lofty precipice, for Mate throws nothing away. There, cocooned in shrouds of dust and cobweb, we’ll cling to our faith, our belief in a promised resurrection with the second coming of new and improved hickory handles.

I’m abruptly woken from these melancholy musings by Mate’s sighed, “Yesdear, right away dear,” followed by an angry slam of the tin door. At the end of our subsequent wild swing, Spade’s a little more prodigious than was strictly necessary, he sneered down in triumph at Howard’s again disabled spark plug, while I came to rest somewhat skewed on my nail. You might say, I suppose, at a rather rakish angle.


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