Obsession and creativity can take many forms.
Have you ever carried a story inside you for years and promised yourself that, one day, you would take time to write it down, to get it out of your head before it drove you mad? Some of my stories are like that. Like the poles in the story, this one took about fifteen years before it felt right and I was ready to commit it to paper. Then, it was shared with a few trusted friends who gave me their feedback and criticism. I love that part of the writing process, the sharing of an idea and seeing what other people make of it.
So, here, for you, it is finally published for the first time. I can see every element of the garden described in this story since I spent many hours there as a child. It was the home of my uncle and it became Alex and Meg’s house in this story with almost no effort.
Alex stepped back from his workbench. One sphere on the pole was almost in the right position. Almost..
He was sure that all the other spheres on this pole were positioned perfectly, each to within a fraction of a millimeter. The two cross-bars were perfect. Four other spheres were exactly where they should be on the pole.
It would come; it always did.
He moved another sphere up by the smallest fraction and smiled before walking the pole out into the garden, past the vegetable patch. He stopped at the far fence. It was warmer this autumn and he blinked as he searched for the perfect place to plant the pole. Patience. As he had done before for each of the other poles, he pushed this one into the ground and stepped back. Perfection.
His wife Meg had watched from the kitchen window. Alex was sitting on the porch now, looking at all the other poles reflecting the last of the evening sunlight. If this was obsession, she thought, at least it was not as costly a vice as those of his friends. Alex was always home when he was not at work. Distracted, deeply focused but always at home.
She had asked him once what the poles were for and he smiled, replying that he had no idea. “But what do they do?”. “Nothing.” he replied. After that, there seemed to be little point asking again. With each new pole, he seemed calmer, more relaxed she thought.
There were now thirty poles in their garden.
Alex woke up when he heard Meg scream. She was in the kitchen, looking at the pole that he had screwed into the kitchen floor late last night while she was asleep.
“Why? Just a simple explanation is all I asked for. But no..I have let you put the damn things all over our garden but no, not inside. Not in my kitchen.” she hissed. She reached over to pull the pole out of the hole he had drilled through the tiles when he stopped her.
Alex stood between Meg and the pole. “It has to stay there. It’s important. It’s the right place for it.”
“Remove it….. Now.”
“Alex, please remove the pole. Move it now. Plant it anywhere else in the garden. Put it in your study. I don’t care. Anywhere else. But get it out of my kitchen. Now.”
“I can’t. It has to stay there. That’s where it was meant to go.”
Alex was still standing in the kitchen guarding the pole half and hour later as he watched Meg through the kitchen window. She was storming down the driveway with the the key to her mother’s flat in her hand.
He sat calmly on the porch again, alone, twelve days later. Fourteen concrete garden gnomes had appeared in the shrubbery since Wednesday.
There were now forty-one poles, including two on the roof and one more in the kitchen. Pole forty one was in the center of his bed. Pale blue gossamer threads of light now connected each of the poles into a fine lace sheet that stretched across the whole garden like shade cloth. Two stone-faced gnomes with spades and pitchforks had just appeared at the far end of the garden. As Alex watched, a small man in green clothing stepped out from behind a pole near the vegetable patch, looked around and then walked towards him, shimmering.
“Tráthnóna maith chun tú ró”
“Sorry?”, said Alex.
“Tráthnóna maith chun tú ró….. T’will you give me but a moment and I am sure dis all will settle down.” He was half Alex’s height and stood, catching his breath, looking up at him.
“That’s better… Hello Alex…. T’will you give me but another moment?”. The leprechaun pointed his pipe at the nearest gnome and effortlessly took its head off at the neck.
“That’s better. Shall we try this again? Good evening, Alex. T’is truly, truly nice t’finally be here and seeing you face-to-face, as we say.” Four more gnomes lay shattered in the rose garden before he had finished speaking.
“Now, I am sure that your head is completely full o’ questions but if you grant me some patience all t’will be clear by the morning. I’d kill for that can of Coke-a-Cola there, if you are not wanting it for yourself.”
Alex passed the can to the leprechaun, then asked: “What happens next?”
“Well, I need to sort out these gnomes before the rest of my boys arrive. There are scores to settle with that lot for stranding us on the other side. It’s going to get a wee bit messy here, I’m afraid, very, very messy. I hope you have a bottle of.. ah… concrete cleaner?”
Alex turned away calmly and looked out into the garden again: “Will you be needing more poles from me?”
“No, no, surely no.” said the leprechaun. “What you have done, t’is perfection. T’is all complete now. Such a wonderful head you have inside there, wonderful. You saw it all, you did. T’is perfect, marvelous and perfect. A gnome disguised as a stone hedgehog climbed onto the porch as they spoke. It imploded as the leprechaun pointed his pipe over his shoulder without even turning to look.
“You spoke about ‘the other side’. I’ve had that idea in my head for a while now. It makes my brain hurt sometimes. What’s on the other side?”
The leprechaun looked deeply at Alex. He could see only one thought in Alex’s head: “There’s poles there, my boy.” he said. “Lot’s of them. Tall and small, everywhere…”
“Yes, lot’s and lot’s of poles, Alex, stretching across fields like barley in summer, as far as yer eye can see.”
He watched as the leprechaun got up and trotted away down the driveway, wiping out the ornaments in the neighbors garden without a word. Alex stood too and walked towards the furthest pole at the back near the potting shed.
He knew exactly where he was going.