The Hedge

Once upon a time there was a man who owned a very nice house. He loved the house a great deal, even though the insides were quite confusing and not at all well laid out, and even though the former owner was a lawyer and filled most of the rooms with arcane books in archaic languages and didn’t drink anything except camel’s milk.

Now, when he first bought the house, the yard had some shade trees, the sort of trees that grow upward and outward wildly, and eventually come to resemble shapes that no tree has any business imitating. And because the house was in the middle of the town, the neighbor children would often come around and play in the shade, swinging back and forth on an old tire tied up with a rope.

They became such a nuisance to him that the man decided to build a fence around the house to keep the children from spoiling his lawn and marking their crushes and flirtations with knives in the tree bark and leaving garbage to pile up in the gutters. But since the man had a job and had to be out giving it what for during the day, he couldn’t watch the children or prevent them from slipping through holes that naturally developed in the chain link.

Eventually, some seventeen years of this sort of thing having gone by, the man decided to replace the fence with a hedge. He went out one Saturday morning and bought a bunch of plants of different varieties, ripped down the fence, and planted the bushes and shrubs in its place.

In a few months, the hedge was a wonderful thing to behold. Thick and tall and full of thorns and the sort of insects you need to be a professor of insects to appreciate, it was effective in keeping out all but the most determined of the children. The man was very pleased, as the hedge had been his idea and good one at that, and as he watered and planted and fertilized, he became very enamored of the shrub, almost to the point where he forgot that he had a house, spending days at a time tending to the hedge.

In the meantime, the children found a new place to play, in a cul-de-sac near a polluted and altogether filthy river. They grew up, and a new generation of children was born, most who couldn’t even remember the well-manicured lawn and the tire swing. In fact, by the time these children came along, the hedge was so thick and so high it altogether hid the house and man behind it.

The man grew older and older while tending to his hedge. And before long, he began to collect arcane books in archaic languages, and developed a great affection for camel’s milk.