It was almost two years Larry had been back home, but only now had he finally managed to get his hands on an allotment. Like hen’s teeth, they were. It was a lovely spot, five minutes’ walk from his house, and even better, you could get your car in and up close to your spot. The bylaws even allowed permission for a small shed. It would have been perfect, if not for Jack. They had been in school together, and wouldn’t you know it, the guy was chairman of the allotment association. He was stood waiting for Larry. He gave him a gurning smile, shook his hand, and said, in his best foghorn bellow, ‘Lairy, my man. How has it been, all these years?’
Larry tried his best, but hard as he squeezed his hand, he couldn’t make any impression against the full force of John’s handshake.
Larry said, ‘Erm, actually, just Larry’s fine.’
Jack snorted. ‘For old mates, like us? You will always be Lairy. Lairy Larry, me old mate. Now come and meet some of your new pals.’
A couple of other old duffers were waiting with a gift box of seeds and natural fertilisers. Jack’s booming voice introduced them: Shorty and Tiny. Following much hearty back slapping, Jack begged away – Very Important Allotment Business was calling, and he wasn’t known as Allotment Jack for nothing.
Larry accepted the welcome box. The other chaps looked to be a friendly enough pair, both of them with the look of quiet, self-effacing types.
‘Just call me Larry. Lairy’s some stupid nickname, from school.’
Shorty shook his head gloomily. ‘Don’t try and fight it. Look at me. I got caught short one time, and now I’m Shorty, forever.’
‘Tell me about it,’ Larry said. ‘Paisley shirt. ONE TIME. And I’ve been Lairy Larry ever since.’
Tiny scowled, and stomped away, muttering.
‘Don’t mind him,’ Shorty said. ‘He’s got it the worst of all. He used to raise miniature Cornish game hens.’
Tiny stopped and turned to face them. In a taut, low voice, he said, ‘The male bird was proportional to the size of the females! But that bastard, Jack…’ Tiny turned and resumed his indignant stomping.
‘Poor guy,’ Shorty said. ‘But you own one tiny cockerel and let slip to Jack…’
‘We should come up with a nickname for him,’ Larry said. ‘Something humiliating.’
Shorty chuckled. ‘Way ahead of you, Larry. We don’t call him Allotment Jack because he’s bullied his way to the head of all the committes. It’s actually short, for A Lot On Meant Jack wasn’t at home much, so Shorty and Tiny and Mrs Jack had a threesome. That wife of his, hooo-eeee. She has a thing for giant marrows, and put that together with old cheapskate Jack and his love of fake flowers…’
Shorty put his arm around Larry’s shoulders.
‘Now come along with me. There’s some marrow seeds in that box, and some specially formulated fertiliser…’