This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 715 words.
When he got the car back to his house near Kings Lynn, Edgar Lexham reversed it under the carport that was over the gap between the house and garage. From one of the garden sheds, he brought out a heavy black tarpaulin, and covered the car, weighting down the corners of the cover with some old bricks. Then he went inside, to talk to his wife.
William Eustace liked to be called Billy. He lived in a caravan behind a closed-down petrol station on the Sandringham Road. It was the only home he had ever known, and this was the first place he had moved it to since his daddy had died. Another caravan was less than ten feet from his, and that belonged to Oliver. He was like an uncle to Billy, though not actually related by blood. But since his old friend Jed had died, Oliver had looked out for Jed’s son.
Oliver was getting old, and in that May of nineteen seventy-three when Billy turned twenty-one, he thought it was time he started to fend for himself.
“You can use my Land Rover pickup, and take that motor mower out back. There are the shears for hedges, and my box of tools too. What you do is drive around some nice streets. Look for big houses where older people live, or bungalows. Old people start to need help with gardens and lawns and such, odd jobs too. You knock on the door and offer to do the job for cash. If they use you, write down the details in a notebook, and book them for the next time you are in the area. You can get started tomorrow, and I will rely on you to pay me a fair cut boy”.
The village of Clenchwarton was Billy’s first destination. He soon found that people didn’t much care for being told that their lawn needed mowing, or the hedge was due a trim. Some of them were openly hostile. “Clear off! I won’t have any gipsy on my property”. Billy wanted to tell the man he wasn’t a pikey, but that might cause a commotion. So he moved on to Terrington St Clement, where an old lady accepted his price to mow her lawns, front and back. She even gave him a glass of lemon squash and some Shortie biscuits. “You look hot young man, and you haven’t stopped for lunch”.
His last stop that day was on the way back, at Walpole St Andrew. He tried the vicarage next to the old church, and the vicar said he could cut the grass around the gravestones in the churchyard. “Make sure it’s neat and tidy, mind. No pay until you are finished, and I have looked it over”. Later, the vicar appeared as Billy was almost finished. “I used to have a parishoner who did this for free, but he had a stroke at Christmas. You can come next month and do it again, as long as the price is the same”.
Billy wrote that down in his little notebook, with the date underlined.
That night, Oliver seemed pleased. “Well you won’t be breaking the bank just yet, but it’s a fair start. Go west tomorrow, try Bawsey. There’s some nice houses down by Bawsey Lakes, boy. Then if you don’t get nothing, you can move on to Gayton. It’s a bigger village and there’s more people living there”.
The houses in Bawsey were a bit spread out, and there was no reply from the first couple he tried. The third one had a big lawn at the front, and it was full of wildflowers and weeds. Backing the land Rover into the driveway, he smoothed down his hair and knocked on the door. The woman who answered looked timid, and peered around the door looking ready to slam it. Billy gave her his best smile.
“Morning lady. I do gardening and odd jobs at a fair price for cash. I see your front lawn could do with attention, and I’m here now with the necessary. Neat and tidy work, and no pay until you are happy”.
She didn’t reply. Instead, she turned in the doorway and shouted down the hall.
“Edgar, can you come and deal with this?”