When it got dark I went out to the garden to talk to the mole. He was usually by the greenhouse or garden gate then.
I said, hey, Gary – my son’s choice of name, not mine – you there?
The soil by the garden gate began to shuffle. Then Gary emerged, first his nose, then his blind eyes. He said, hi, Larry, how are you?
I squatted to see him better, not bad, not bad. But, look, I thought we’d agreed about the hills and everything. Gary winced. I’ve got no problem you making them by the vegetable patch, or here, or by the greenhouse – you know that – so what’s this one in the middle of the lawn?
I turned to look at the grey mound sat in the middle of my freshly-mown lawn like an unsightly spot on my son’s face. Gary wrinkled his nose, I know. I’m sorry. It’s my son, you know, he just went and did it without thinking. It won’t happen again, I promise. I nodded, okay, fine then, see you around, yeah, and going over to the mound, nudged the soil down and spread it back between my carefully cut blades of grass.
But two days later, another mound appeared close to the patio, and a second right in the middle of my son’s football nets. That night I went to find Gary again. He said, yes, I told him, but he didn’t want to listen. He said the lawn’s ours just as much as it’s yours. I said, I know, but I thought that was why we came up with the rules and everything. I leave your space alone, you leave the lawn alone.
Gary nodded, I know.
I said, I can move the football nets for now. I’m sure Lee can play someplace else, but please tell him.
Gary sniffed and a grain of soil fell off his nose, I will.
The next day, however, the lawn was covered in hills. It looked like an explosion of acne. The moment the sun went down I went out to the garden again to find Gary.
He said, he won’t listen to me.
I said, make him. I’ve got a barbecue this weekend, and Lee wants some friends over for the afternoon to play football. How can they play on this?
Gary nuzzled his nose into some soil. He said, I can’t. I explained everything, but he told me the rules were wrong. He said you built a house where we used to have hills. You can’t go round making up rules after something like that.
I said, and what am I supposed to do? Knock the house down? There’s a field beyond the garden gate. Can’t he put his hills there? There’s plenty of space.
Gary scratched at his nose with a paw. He said you’d say that.
Yes – and?
He said we were here first, years before you came. I don’t know where he gets these ideas from, but –
I stopped listening and went back to the house. I told my wife what Gary had said. She tutted, I don’t why you bother talking to these moles. I shook my head, yeah, and what would you do? She didn’t skip a beat, kill them.
The next day I asked my son if he preferred basketball to football. He said, not really, but I went on as if he’d said yes, how about we get rid of the lawn then and extend the patio? We can put a hoop or net up, whatever it’s called. He shrugged, whatever.
The following day we cancelled the barbecue and got the landscapers in. They dug up the garden and began extending the patio. For the next few days no hills appeared, no moles either. I felt happier. I bought my son the basketball net and a ball; he liked their novelty. My wife just sighed, this is not the end of it, you know.
The night the landscapers finished I went out to the garden to speak to Gary. I thought we’d better hash out some new rules, but when I called his name, he didn’t reply. The next day the vegetable patch had been destroyed. My wife smiled, I told you so.
That night I went out again to the garden. I said, look, Gary, I’ve left you space. Your son can’t just go around destroying the vegetables. They did nothing to him. Or you.
I saw some soil move down by the garden gate and headed towards it. A mole appeared, not Gary. It said, you’re going to have to do more than patio the entire lawn to get rid of us.
I said, oh yeah?
Yeah, and with a flick of soil it disappeared back underground.
The next day there were more hills in the veg patch. I concreted it over. A week or so later a window pane in the greenhouse was smashed. I tore it down and replaced it with a wooden shed. Next, the garden gate got dug up. I put barbed wire around the wood. My wife said, this is never going to end. I said, isn’t it, and went out to lace the hedges and fence and soil with poison.
For a week nothing happened. Then the basketball net crashed to the ground.