Title: Apex Landscaping

Author: GEOFF COCHRANE

In: Sport 31: Spring 2003

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 2003

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Prose Literature

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Sport 31: Spring 2003

Apex Landscaping

page 39

Apex Landscaping

i) Barrett and Kiszco were digging a hole. Barrett dropped his shovel and went for his tape-measure. ‘Hold this end, you fool. I want to get an idea.’

Said Kiszco, ‘I've got a couple you can have.’

‘An idea of how we're getting on. Of how much of this mother we're yet to dig.’

Measuring. More digging.

‘How come you never get any sex, Barrett?’

‘I never hit on anyone, and no one ever hits on me. It's a Law of Nature.’

Kiszco was Barrett's labourer. Shaven head, rings through the eyebrows, boots with scores of eyelets and metres of lace.

ii) Already the hole was huge, a vast excavation. Sometimes Kiszco pissed in it. And Kiszco wrote songs, one of which he dedicated to his employer.

‘Oh where has it gone my life
But down the friggin’ pan?
Of what has my life consisted
But bread and marmalade jam?

‘Oh where has it gone my life
But down the friggin’ pan?
Of what has it consisted
But lettuce and cold ham?’

These were the words Kiszco sang to Barrett, strumming his rattly guitar in the smoko shed. ‘Do you like it?’ he paused to ask.

page 40

‘It's absolute shite,’ said Barrett. ‘It's a truly, awfully, deeply terrible song.’

‘Hey but dude,’ said Kiszco, ‘this is you own tiresome plaint I'm iterating here.’

iii) ‘There was a woman,’ said Barrett. ‘I sent her certain letters. I wrote to her professing certain sentiments.’

‘Fatal, man. A big mistake,’ said Kiszco.

‘She didn't want my letters, nor yet my moony, heartfelt sentiments.’

‘Predictably enough. Predictably enough.’

‘Do we know what they do want, women?’

‘Do we hell,’ said Kiszco. ‘I'll swap you a sardine for a peanut-butter.’

iv) Kiszco and Kate were entertaining Betty. Kiszco and Kate and Betty had smoked a little shit and drunk a little ouzo.

The flat had matt-black walls, articulated lamps like giant grass-hoppers. There was also a coffee-table with books and magazines: Four Quartets, Rolling Stone, Flowers for Hitler. American Rifleman.

Barrett arrived bearing chocolates and wine. He was sporting a ten-cent tie with Eiffel Towers. ‘Hi. Apologies. Public transport's a wonderful thing, until you have to use it.’

‘I've heard so much about you,’ Betty said.

‘Really?’

‘Perhaps not. I'm given to exaggeration.’

v) Dinner was served: spaghetti Bolognese. Brought to the table in a crock, Kiszco's sauce suggested a cloacal sort of lava.

Betty seemed to have quite an appetite. ‘So you're Kiszco's boss?’

‘That's right,’ said Barrett.

‘And what do you two do all day?’

‘We dig bloody holes. And then we fill them in.’

‘?’

‘We're Apex Landscaping. We're godless improvers of the Earth's unsightly bits.’

Said Betty, ‘I myself paint forceful wee abstracts.’

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vi) Barrett waited for three days before ringing Betty. (A lot can happen in three days, but not much happened to Barrett.

The smoko shed. Kiszco. ‘Have you ever noticed that when we move on to a section and begin to carve her up with our picks and shovels, it isn't long before all the birds clear off?’

‘I have indeed,’ said Barrett.

‘It's like we sort of poison and pollute.’

‘It is. Lamentably.’

A pause. Presently, Kiszco broke the silence. ‘Shall I sing you my latest song?’

‘Shit no. No need for that at all!’)

vii) Barrett took Betty to the Winter Show. The would-be lovers went for a ride on the Ghost Train, enjoying its corny thrills. They watched a Chinese magician (naked to the waist) snatch from his armpit a laden goldfish bowl.

‘Seldom have I seen such a yummy physique,’ said Betty.

Hot dogs. Candyfloss. Rising through the night in the Ferris wheel's chill gondola, Barrett and Betty were grateful for one another's warmth.

Barrett gave Betty's mittened hand a squeeze. ‘We're all in recovery from having been children,’ he told her. ‘We must learn to desire with guile and without hope.’

viii) Barre4tt received a letter from Jones of Zenith Drains.

Dear B.,

Can I interest you in a small mechanical digger of purple and green? Come and take a look and make me an offer. Fact is, I'm off to Nebraska, the ‘cornhusker’ state. It's the home of the Western meadow lark. Ditto the cottonwood and the goldenrod (a tree and a flower, respectively).

Cheers etc., Taffy

ix) Betty took Barrett to a movie. The girl vending popcorn was wearing a T-shirt that read AND THUS I CLOTHE MY NAKED VILLAINY.

The film was the work of a celebrated Indian master. The women page 42 of a dusty Indian village … were being terrorised by something or someone. A rapist? A tiger? Barrett couldn't decide. It was far and away the worst movie he had ever seen, in every respect.

Said Betty, ‘I'd like you to take me to your place and bonk me silly.’

‘I'm not surprised,’ said Barrett.

x) A taxi ride. A scramble. Barrett unlocking a door and lighting a candle.

‘So let me get this straight,’ Betty said. ‘You're living in this hut we're standing in?

‘More or less.’

Betty surveyed the clutter of picks and shovels and wheelbarrows in Barrett's smoko shed. Beneath a mechanical digger of purple and green, Barrett had installed a mattress and an alarm clock. ‘But how do you cook?’ the lady wanted to know.

‘I eat out a lot,’ Barrett conceded.

‘I'm shocked,’ said Betty, ‘that you should bring me here.’

‘I don't know what came over me. Can I take it that that fuck is out of the question now?’

xi) With freshly shaven head and new tattoo, Kiszco took advantage of the open mike at a blues club to make his début as a singer and songsmith.

Barrett had drunk thirteen tequilas. ‘Break a neck,’ he said as Kiszco rose to perform.

‘Oh hear me comin’ baby,
My love's a big choo-choo,
I'm aimin’ down the tracks a mile
To couple nice with you.

‘Oh hear me comin’ baby,
My heart's a big freight train,
I'm figurin’ you're hot to pop
My whistle once again.’

page 43

This was the song Kiszco sang to the folks at the Blue Mushroom. Barrett sculled tequilas fourteen, fifteen and sixteen … in rapid succession.

xii) No more Betty, no. But Barrett was the lucky and sentimental owner of one of her forceful wee abstracts (oil on board). He hung it in the gloom of the smoko shed, where it blazed like a single lambent sunflower.

The purple-and-green digger proved to have been a canny invest-ment. It could brew a pot of tea and iron shirts, and it ate its baked beans nicely, using chopsticks.

A single lambent sunflower.