The Japanese Garden by Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin's character is thinking about his Japanese garden when he should be paying more attention to his wife.

It's a beautiful summer's evening and we're having dinner out on the patio. We love dining outside, Wilma and I; it's like being on holiday. That's why I made the patio with its ersatz York stone paving and the raised beds for the herbs in the corners. Who needs the Mediterranean, I always say, when you can have a garden like ours? And gardening is such a healthy hobby for a couple of a certain age; soothing the mind while toning up the body.

Tonight we're having roast chicken and a green salad and the Jersey Royals I dug up less than an hour ago, with a rather elegant South African semillon. Everything is perfect, apart from the fact that I'm still a bit tense from another crazy week at work, so I'm pouring myself another glass of wine to help me put into practice what the doctor said about relaxation. I'm gazing across the lawn to where I'm planning to get started on the Japanese garden this weekend, wondering how long it will take to clear off all the turf, and whether I'll have time to dig the hole for the pond as well.

I want to ask Wilma whether she fancies one of those bamboo water-features where the water goes round in perpetual motion, but she's intent on telling me about some woman at work who was having an affair with a neighbour right under her husband's nose. It would be rude to interrupt her, so I'm filling the time by trying to remember where it was we saw the stone lanterns on special offer. A couple of those would look really classy alongside the bamboo water-feature and, as with everything in the Japanese garden, there's a spiritual aspect too, apparently. Fire and water: the male and female elements side-by-side in perfect harmony.

Wilma's prattling away about how this woman's poor husband didn't have a clue, even though the woman was texting her lover while she was sitting with her husband watching Digging Deep, even though the lover used to pop round every now and then to admire the husband's latest project in the garden. It's not that the story isn't interesting, but I'm eager for her to finish so we can discuss whether to go on Saturday or on Sunday to the Garden Centre to look at the koi carp and put in an order for the gravel I'll be putting down once I've got the ground cleared.

Suddenly Wilma is putting down her knife and fork and staring at me like I'm a weed that's just sprung up among her camellias. "You still don't get it, do you?"

"What?" I'm wondering if she's still not convinced we've chosen the best position for the Japanese garden, and whether we should postpone the work till we can get a feng shui expert to come round and advise us.

"Are you completely blind? Haven't you been even the tiniest bit suspicious?"

My chest is feeling heavy as if one of the stone slabs from the patio is pressing down on it. I'm trying to think of the good doctor in his surgery unwrapping the cuff of the BP machine and telling me about letting things go. I'm trying not to think of Wilma packing up her kimono-style dressing-gown and her collection of oriental teapots and carrying the whole lot down the road to Derek's bungalow.

"Don't you know that when people tell a story about a friend, they're usually hinting at something nearer to home?" She's sobbing now and I'm reaching out to touch her, but then I'm thinking that that's not my place any more, so I'm taking hold of my wine glass instead. So then Wilma's pushing away her plate and scraping back her chair and running into the house.

Which leaves me sitting alone at the table, finishing my wine, looking out beyond the patio and thinking what a haven of peace and tranquillity the Japanese garden would have been.


  1. there is an awful lot of truth in this Story
    don´t take anything for granted in life

    very good

    Michael McCarthy

  2. The obvious is sometimes the hardest thing to see.
    Nicely done.

  3. Made this character so true to life, very nicely done!!

  4. Thanks for your very kind comments. Interesting that my story has come out next to Michael's lovely piece on getting carried away with writing success as I'm asking on my blog if writing is like gardening – if these two stories are to be taken as examples of the respective activities then they should come with a health warning

  5. An amusing and well-crafted story. This subjective narrative, the scene interpreted though the protag's self-absorbed thoughts, a distorted lens, is perfect for the revelation that follows. I wonder if their reaction at the end might have been stronger? Very nice story