By Carolyn, 75. Adelaide, SA
Rose looked up at the sky. The weather was picture perfect.
Damn, she muttered to herself.
Normally she would have been delighted, but today, of all days, she wanted it to rain. Come to think of it, hail would be better. Anything to put people off coming.
Right little sticky beaks they are, she muttered to herself.
The house and gardens were magnificent. A feeling of pride welled up inside her. She could understand why people came in droves to “ooh and aah”. Rose wished her friend Daisy was still alive. She would have been a real comfort today. Sadly, she’d picked up some sort of bug late last year, and within a couple of days she was dead. The people who owned the beautiful, old home and gardens went around shaking their heads in disbelief. The Daisys of this world were strong and vibrant, meant to live forever. She’d been such a tough little character, telling anyone who would listen that she planned on outliving all of them.
For the last three years, the owners had been opening the house and gardens to the public — a money-making venture. Times were tough. Rose understood the need to make ends meet, but she wished there had been a less intrusive way.
She remembered the first year they’d opened to the public, what a furor had erupted. Someone had gone around and picked most of the veggies from the veggie garden. Bert, the gardener, had been devastated; he resigned, as a matter of protest. The owners spent a lot of time sweet-talking Bert into staying. Rose often heard him mumbling dire predictions as he ambled around. The garden was his pride and joy, next to “wifey” — his name for his wife. The pep talks he gave his more reluctant plants were a pleasure to listen to. They inspired everyone who heard them.
The following year somebody’s child spilt a fizzy drink all over the lovely old carpet in the dining room. Mrs Jones, who came in once a week to dust and polish, threw the biggest hissy fit Rose had heard in years. Everyone talked about it for months to come. Rose wondered what would befall them this year.
Rose could hear Bert’s tuneless whistle as he ambled down the path. He had come for his daily natter. It was part of his routine. Easing himself on to the park bench he pulled out his old pipe and stuck it in his mouth. These days, he never put tobacco in it but he still couldn’t bring himself to part with an old habit.
“Well, old girl, it’s that time of year again,” he said. “Weather looks as though it’s going to stay fine.”
Rose looked over at Bert. She knew there was more to come, but as usual he wasn’t going to be rushed. He took off his old hat and scratched his head. His eyes had a faraway look. It was a look which bothered Rose. Alarm bells started ringing. What’s the old coot up to now? she wondered crossly. He took his pipe out of his mouth and stuffed it back in his pocket.
“Rose, I’m going to retire at the end of the month. I’m getting too old for this line of work, and my arthritis is giving me what for. You and I have been mates along time, and I thought I’d tell you first.”
Rose felt a lump in her throat. She swallowed hard. No, she thought, he’s having me on. Deep down she knew he wasn’t. Bert wasn’t the kind of bloke who made idle statements.
It wasn’t fair. First Daisy, now Bert. Rose felt her security slipping away from her. A bit like a baby losing its dummy.
“They will have no trouble finding someone to take my place. All these young ones who do those fancy courses will be itching to work in a place like this.”
The sun passed behind a cloud. Suddenly she felt cold. Rose felt a tear trickle down her face. It won’t be the same without Bert, she thought. He pulled his pipe out and started to fiddle with it.
Clearing his throat, he said, “the little woman has been at me to take a trip, to visit our daughter, she lives over on the coast. It will give me a chance to do a bit of fishing.”
Rose didn’t give a damn about his daughter, or his silly old fishing. He had no right, walking out on her. They went way back. They were supposed to be mates.
Listen to me, thought Rose. I’m turning into a right selfish old cow, only thinking about myself. After all these years Bert had the right to do whatever he pleased.
“Alright old girl, now I’ve told you my bit of news, we’d better prepare ourselves for the onslaught. They’ll be opening the gates shortly.”
Rose sighed. Yes, she thought. Life goes on, irrespective of what we want. She watched the big fancy gates swing open. The large crowd waiting surged through. A small boy raced down the path towards her. A feeling of panic engulfed her. Oh dear, she thought. My world seemed to be falling apart. The child was heading straight towards her. She heard his mother calling him to slow down. He ignored her. Running up to Rose, he stopped. No, she thought, he wouldn’t. His hand reached out. Oh no. She felt her heart pounding. He’s going to … she felt herself stiffen, prepared for the worst.
The little boy turned and called out to his mother.
“Look Mummy. They have the same Rose you have in your garden. Isn’t it pretty?”