And now- The Shed Incident.
Tommy Kennedy is building a shed up their back garden. It’s going to be a lovely shed when it’s finished; he’s building it out of concrete blocks and plans on painting it a nice shade of green. It’s about twelve feet by twelve feet and when it’s done it will house all the assorted junk that’s cluttering up the closets in the house, and lying around the back garden. The kids will finally have somewhere to keep their bikes.
It’s a grand project, The Shed; I’d say he’s about a quarter of the way through it, maybe. The only problem with it is this- Tommy started building The Shed just after their second child, Simon, was born. Simon is now eleven.
The Shed is a big bone of contention between Philippa and Tommy, as you can imagine. She can’t understand why it’s taking him so long. He can’t understand what her hurry could be. This unfinished pile of concrete blocks has become like Moby Dick- a Great White Whale beached at the top of the garden, stinking up the place. The smell goes away a bit in winter, with the wind and rain, but come the fine weather you can start to get a whiff of the poor thing, and you know the rows will start.
Danny and I are sitting in the Pole with them one Sunday night. The Regatta is only two weeks away now, and the lads are being very conservative in their drinking these days, trying to save up because during the Regatta they’ll be out day and night as long as their money holds up.
Phil has been organizing extra bedding and air mattresses in anticipation of all the company they’ll have for the fortnight- Tommy’s relations who come over every year from England.
“I hope the weather is fine, we could even put the kids in the tent up the garden if it doesn’t rain,” Phil says. “Of course, there would be more room if I didn’t have huge piles of blocks laying all over the place.”
“Oh, here we go.” Tommy rolls his eyes. This scene has been rehearsed so many times that I believe he could play it in his sleep.
“Well, honest to God, Tommy, what do you expect? Every year you promise me you’ll finish the bloody thing and then every year at the end of the summer there it still is, sat like a big ugly fuckin’ monster up my garden. I’m surprised the neighbors don’t complain about it.”
“They’re too afraid we’ll complain about the horse they have in their back garden,” Tommy confides to Danny and me. We know we aren’t supposed to laugh here, so we bite the insides of our cheeks.
“I mean it, Tommy, I want the damned thing finished or hauled away this year.”
“Right then, Philippa. You’ve got it. I’ll finish the bloody thing then. Happy now?”
Phil doesn’t look convinced at all, she turns to me and shakes her head. After all, this has been promised more times than a fifty-year-old virgin.
“Maybe he just needs a bit of incentive,” Danny offers, suddenly changing the script. We, the other players, perk up our ears in anticipation.
“What do you mean by incentive?” she asks.
“Well, you know, like a deal. If he finishes the shed then you give him something.”
“Other than the hell she’s been givin’ me for years?” Tommy says. He’s happy for the chance to add a new joke.
“I’ll give you a box on your head, is what I’ll give you,” she tells him.
“They say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Phil,” Danny reminds her. I look at him and narrow my eyes. I know something is going on in that head of his- he has that innocent, guileless look that I’ve learned not to trust.
“Alright then, I will make you a deal, Mr. Kennedy. If you finish that shed by the Regatta opening, I’ll give you a hundred pound of the money I’ve saved and you can pour it all straight down your gullet, I won’t say a word.”
“Only if I can help him finish it,” Danny says. Uh huh. I thought I could smell something like this coming.
“What are you, his agent?” Phil asks.
“Take it or leave it, Phil, do you want a shed or not?” He gives her the cheeky grin.
“Okay, deal. But I mean finished- painted, and the mess all cleared up, before opening day.”
“Deal!” says Danny, and they shake on it.
Poor Tommy hasn’t apparently been allowed an opinion on all of this, but he’ll be spending his spare time for the next two weeks building a shed, just the same. He’s a hardened old pro- he just takes it all like a sport. Phil turns to me and says, “They’ll never do it.” This should be good. The Clash of the Titans revisited. This is even better entertainment that I had counted on this year.
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