Are you all sitting comfortably, children? Good, because you’re about to hear a story. Once upon a time in a land far, far away– well, actually it was about thirty minutes away from where I’m writing this from, but that sounds better– there was a little girl. That little girl was me, obviously. Because what else do I write about on here? Write what you know and all that. I had pretty lonely summers as a kid. I’m an only child, and both my parents worked, so I spent my summers with my Nan in a little residential area surrounded by old people. Occasionally another old person would have their grandchild down and I would have someone to play with, or maybe sometimes my best friend’s family would take me swimming or to the cinema. But most days I spent my time talking to teddy bears or running around the driveway and sneaking into the bin area because that’s where the monsters lived. I got to know a lot of the old people throughout my time there, from the nice ones who gave me chocolate to the mean ones who shouted if I dared to venture too close to their garden. But one of the regular inhabitants of the street wasn’t an old person, he was just a regular adult. He was The Gardener, and he wasn’t my biggest fan.
I’m sure The Gardener didn’t have a problem with me at first. In typical only child fashion, I was quiet, polite, and shy. Pretty much any grownup’s dream. I never usually did anything wrong. So to this day, I still have no idea why I did what I did. It all started when my Nan had gone to talk to someone outside; even though she was ridiculously overprotective, she’d finally gotten to the point of leaving my indoors by myself without thinking I’d choke on something or set myself on fire. But something in me snapped that day, that or I was possessed or something. I went to the front door, I took the chain that locked it, and I slid it into place. My house didn’t have one of these chains and I usually wasn’t left alone long enough to experiment on this one, so really I had no idea how to use them. You’d think it would be pretty simple, right? You just unhook it, it comes right out. Apparently this was too much for me to grasp. When it came time for my Nan to return, the door was jammed on the chain. She called me from upstairs and asked me to unlock it. I couldn’t. I physically found it impossible to get this chain to unlock. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was so scared about getting in trouble for touching it that I just went into a state of shock. I don’t remember much about being this young, but I do remember crying uncontrollably and squawking ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’ over and over again.
After about ten minutes (a lifetime in crying child years) and attempts from multiple people coaxing me into trying again, they all gave up. There was only one thing that could be done. They went to get *dramatic music* The Gardener. The Gardener arrived, and once again tried to talk me through how to open the latch. I don’t remember much about him, I think that he was bald and tall and he definitely added to how terrified I was in this situation. I was absolutely sure that this was it, I was going to be stuck in this house for eternity. They couldn’t get in, and I couldn’t get out. Then things started to turn dark (for poor Baby Me, anyway). The Gardener took out his tools. I don’t remember what he did next, I just remember being told to get away from the door. I crawled onto the stairs, still crying, and just watched the chain be cut to pieces. This made me feel even worse. Not only did I do something bad, but now my Nan’s door didn’t lock properly and she might get burgled and it would be my fault oh God.
After they got the door open, I don’t remember much about what happened. I presume that I got in trouble. And I had to look at that broken chain for like the next ten years whenever I visited my Nan. A constant reminder that I was such an inept child that I couldn’t even unlock a door when asked. But that wasn’t my only encounter with The Gardener. A few years later, we met again.
One of the aforementioned grandchildren, Holly, was at my house. We were waiting for my mum to get off work and take us to one of those giant ball pit places where a bunch of my other friends where. When my mum finally arrived, she decided to torture us even longer by needing the toilet. Now, the lock on my Nan’s bathroom door was a weird one, and if you stuck your nail into it you could easily lock the door from the outside. I’d done this dozens of times to people in the past, and had it done to me, you just unlocked it from the inside and everything was fine. I did my usual trick of locking my mother in, and shortly after the door rattled and she announced she was stuck. Everything that happened after this gets blurry, because I love my mum, but I’m also terrified of her. And she was not happy. I told her that I’d locked her in and that she should just unlock it normally, I probably laughed a bit because I’d scared her. She then claimed she couldn’t unlock it. She was stuck. Queue various attempts at opening the door from both my Nan and my mum at either side of it. I was probably crying because I could not handle the rare occasions where I did something wrong. Holly was probably just stood around awkwardly. Nothing worked, she was definitely stuck. My Nan went to get him. The Gardener was coming.
This whole memory is even blurrier to me, and I’m not entirely sure how he got her out. I know that the tools were used again, and that after this you could never lock the door (another painful reminder that I should just live in a bubble). I’m positive that I must have gotten in trouble, but I remember that I did get to go to the giant ball pit place. Although, I’m still 80% convinced that my mum just wasn’t opening the door right, there is no way I could have broken it. I was about eight. Still, the blame was put on me. And that meant the blame in The Gardener’s eyes too. He must have thought I had a vendetta against the locks of the house. Maybe I did. Maybe it’s some weird Freudian thing. Or maybe I was just a very inquisitive child who always wanted to push the big red shiny button.
I didn’t have any more run ins with The Gardener. And as I got older I spent my time away from the old people and the locks, and celebrated my new found summer holiday independence by hanging out at skate parks and getting the bus into town. But although I stopped hanging out where my Nan lived, and even though she eventually moved out, I still imagine The Gardener as some sort of dark hero of the street. There with his tools, ready to right the wrongs of every mistaken child. Because he’s the hero that street needs, but not the one it deserves.