Zen Gardens and Gingerbread

I’m going to leave my wife. It won’t happen today though as we have the great dog drama to deal with. Achilles is alright, slight concussion the vet says, nothing to worry about. Still enough to warrant Sam’s mother moving in for moral support however. Sam sent me down to Waitrose for some salmon fillets and gingerbread biscuits. The salmon is for Achilles and the gingerbread for Sam’s mother. At least, I think it’s that way round. To be honest I think Sam just keeps sending me on errands to keep me out of the house whilst her mother’s there. Not that I object to that as a general strategy of course, we’ve never got on that well. Not since the incident with the Zen garden. Not a real Zen garden you understand, just one of those miniature ones that you buy at the novelty store. They consist of a small tray of black sand and three stones that you are supposed to arrange in some profound pattern and stare at for three hours in contemplative bliss.

Anyway, how was I supposed to know that the black sand had been replaced with her dead husband’s ashes?

We had visited her mother to drop round an organic fruit box Sam had picked up at a local farmer’s market. Sam and her mother were busy in the kitchen, making hemlock tea or something and I’d grown bored. I poked around the lounge and noticed the miniature Zen garden on the mantelpiece. I pushed the three stones around for a moment making different patterns and eventually settled on a position resembling two eyes and a nose. I drew a smiley face and eyebrows in the black sand then let my attention wander to the snow globe next to it that contained a model of the pyramids inside. Snowy pyramids, now there’s a thing. I shook it a few times fascinated by the incongruity and thought no more about the Zen garden.

Sam said her goodbyes to her mother and we were just heading down the path when there was a terrifying scream from the house. We rushed back in to find her mother collapsed in the armchair by the fireplace. Her face was ashen and every part of her body shook. Her hand reached out pointed at the mantelpiece. “He’s back!” she said.

I eventually owned up to Sam a week later, but not before there had been a stream of visitors to her mother’s house including a Catholic priest, even though she’s only tenuously Church of England but apparently they don’t do such a nice line in relics. There had also been a Feng Shui practitioner and some chap I’m sure I’ve seen on daytime television who investigates haunted houses by poking around at night and shining a green tinged torch into his own face at strategic moments.

After that, Sam’s mother rarely spoke to me and even when talking to Sam, I was forever after known as ‘That Idiot Husband of Yours’.

I returned to the house with my errands only partly successful.

“I couldn’t find any gingerbread biscuits, so I got gingerbread men instead. It’s the closest they had.” I placed the gingerbread men on the table in front of Sam and her mother. The happy smiling faces on the biscuits beamed through the plastic bag at them.