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Gillian Barnett

On rainy nights Louisa Carrick crept around her garden, squashing pests by torchlight. On this night she nailed ninety-six snails and fifty-seven slugs. She stomped harder than usual, hoping to work off her anger. I’m giving you a good death, she muttered as she brought her foot down on a snail posse heading for her petunias. No slow poisons on my patch. She stamped again. Now you’re breakfast for early birds!

Her tally should have been higher, but even her recent run-in with the law couldn’t inspire her to attack the giant leopard slugs. Apart from their demise being nauseating to behold, their carcases could act like a proverbial banana skin. They might revenge themselves by skidding her straight into a nursing home. She hoped the chap on the 3CR Gardening Show was right, that leopards mostly ate dead vegetation.

Focussed on search and destroy, her head torch failed to warn her she was on a collision course with a short metal stake topped by a clay tablet that read: I Buried my Heart in my Garden. She pulled a wry face at the corny sentiment as she straightened the stake. She had not buried her heart there, but something almost as important.

At her back door she executed a flailing, lop-sided dance as she tried to shrug her skinny shanks out of her gumboots. Why was it always so hard to get out of the wretched things when it was easy to slip them on? As she stumped inside, she became aware that her heart was going pitter-pat. Poor old heart, a far cry from its glory days.

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