My Back Yard

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt


Fiction Inspirational

My Back Yard                                                                                   

It’s not big but it is manageable and, at my age, anything ‘manageable’ scores big points. After all, retirement should be enjoyed.

I have always loved to potter about a garden. Even as a child, I can remember tending a flower bed that dad had donated to me, mainly to keep me from under his feet while he did the major jobs around our suburban plot of land. Mum encouraged my interest and occasionally bought a packet of seeds for me to plant and tend until the flowers were ready to grace her crystal vase on the dining room table.

Fast forward sixty years and when I was looking for what I was sure would be my final abode, a small back yard featured on my list of wants along with numerous other requirements: Somewhere central with easy access to the shops, all on one level, as stairs and steps were out of the question with my rheumatic knees, and low maintenance, preferably solid brick construction. I was also keen on having two bedrooms and two bathrooms - bugger sharing ablutions with any visitors I might find myself lumbered with! I was also hoping I could find a place with decent sized rooms since the modern homes I’d inspected so far all seemed to specialise in promoting claustrophobia!

With a budget that in no way matched my dream home, I began the search. It took almost twelve months but I finally found a place that looked promising. Having recently returned from a trip overseas, I was trying to get myself back into Real Estate Hunter mode when I happened to pass a small realtor’s shop not far from the rented accommodation I’d been calling home. Naturally, I stopped to browse the offerings and was surprised to see a property that I remembered had first been listed at the time I’d begun my quest almost a year before.

Solid Brick Home in Central Location – walk to everything.

This two-bedroom, two-bathroom duplex (no stairs) will satisfy the most fastidious buyer. Lovingly cared for by the current owner, the generous-sized living and dining areas are warm and welcoming. An original kitchen offers built-in pantry, dishwasher, stainless steel sink and wall oven for the aspiring chef. The internal laundry with loads of storage, gives access to a small private courtyard/drying area, an ideal place to grow your herbs and flowers. The attached garage with roller door offers secure parking for the family car.       $480,000

This was the only place I’d seen advertised that ‘ticked all the boxes,’ to use realtors’ parlance, however, the last line of the blurb contained the reason I hadn’t even enquired about the property twelve months ago – the price!

At $480,000 the place was about a hundred grand more than I could afford, taking into account all those sneaky extras like conveyancing fees and stamp duty. I sighed in resignation and turned to go but couldn’t help scanning the blurb again: ‘Solid brick… central location… two bedrooms… two bathrooms… no stairs…generous sized living area…private courtyard... grow herbs and flowers. ‘No!’ I heard myself declare. ‘This is it.’ I pushed the shop door open and marched inside.

Three months later, after lots of bartering, offers and counter offers, I couldn’t believe my luck when, using a ploy I remembered an old friend teaching me years before, I secured the purchase of my dream home. And at a price I could afford.

What is this clever ploy I hear you ask? Well, I’ll share it with you and maybe it will work for you one day. With the price of no more than $400,000 firmly locked in my mind, I proceeded to make very low offers in the mid-300s – in writing, to show that I was genuinely interested. As expected, the vendor rejected each offer one after the other. I impressed on the agent that I really wanted this property but could simply not afford what was being asked. Finally, the piece de resistance: I calculated the amount of fees the agent would charge the vendor based on a selling price of $380,000 which worked out at approximately $11,000. I then wrote my final letter with the heading: Final Offer in which I explained that although my offer was well below the asking price, the property had been on the market for more than twelve months and so I was prepared to pay the agent’s commission meaning the vendor would get exactly what I was offering without any fees being deducted. This psychological ploy proved successful and the vendor agreed to my proposal.

Now, I sit here in my little courtyard under a small but beautiful flowering Jacaranda tree.  My fifth Christmas in my ideal home is approaching and I lean back and soak up the late afternoon sun. Sure, I’m getting older and thank the stars I got a place with no steps. I can still hobble down to the shops, just five minutes away and that second bedroom really comes in handy when friends and family come to visit. But best of all, I love my little back yard. There’s not much in the way of flower beds, in fact it’s mainly gravel, but that’s what makes it manageable and I need something manageable.

Anyway, I’ve found that plant pots are a great substitute for garden beds and can be moved from one location to another, rheumatism allowing!

I bought some jonquil bulbs yesterday and now I’m enjoying the almost sensual pleasure of planting them in warm soft loam in the big pots I’ve had stored in the garage. The sweet-smelling jasmine growing up the wall will give months of pleasure with its heady perfume. I especially want these perfumes in my back yard because soon the joy of seeing the flowers will be gone. The doctors tell me that the tumour in my head is eventually going to affect my eyesight. It will happen gradually over the next few months. I’ll start seeing black spots in my field of vision and these will gradually grow until my sight is totally gone. I have become resigned to this dark future but the feel of the foliage and the blossoms, the warm sun on my skin and the heady perfumes from my favourite flowers will compensate in some way.

Nowadays I take note of how many steps it takes from my kitchen door to the back gate, I close my eyes and feel where there is gravel and where the pavers are and I memorise where I have planted the herbs and where the flowers. All these little exercises will help me find my way around the back yard so that I can enjoy the peace and quiet I find in this place, among my sweet-smelling flowers and away from the traffic and noise of the outside world, beyond the high garden wall of my special retreat - my little back yard. 

March 26, 2021 09:19

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David Target
09:35 Apr 20, 2021

Being a keen gardener myself I enjoyed this simple story Mike. I suspect that it is not totally fiction.


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Tatiana Claudy
03:34 Mar 29, 2021

Thank you, Mike, for this story! I liked it because I can relate to this flower-planting experience. I like your description of "sweet-smelling jasmine"! Your story has a certain charm and stirs many memories ... Thank you!


Mike Henry
08:07 Mar 30, 2021

Thank you Tatiana, I'm so happy that my story appealed to you.


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