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April Story Chat, “Miniature Planet”

Welcome to Story Chat

Friends, I want to welcome both YOU and this month’s author, Doug Jacquier, to Story Chat. This month’s Story Chat, a “who done it” and “how did they do it” mystery, will leave you with a Mona Lisa smile at the end as you vow to keep the protagonist’s secret.

When you’re done be sure to click on Doug’s links to read a prize winning story he wrote in January.

Meanwhile, find a comfy chair, prop your feet up and enjoy this month’s Story Chat. Chime in and tell us what you think.

Bitmoji coffee cup
I hope that soon I can trade the coffee in for some cool beverages! Those from Australia will soon be happy to have a warm cuppa.

Miniature Planet

by Doug Jacquier 

It was not the way that Geoffrey Owen Davies had envisaged his retirement working out. A career public servant, he’d not just survived but thrived with the arrival of technology and the privatisation of government services via the anodyne sounding PPP (Public Private Partnerships). He made it to the finish line with his home paid for, a secure income from his superannuation for life and some untraceable accounts in the Caymans. His wife had left some years ago and was now shacked up with a mutual colleague who apparently offered more excitement and sense of adventure. That suited Geoffrey just fine.

Never a keen gardener in the past, growing had now become an obsession, albeit one with an emphasis on orderliness and strict boundaries. Over time, his wife’s penchant for eclectic planting had turned much of their modestly-sized garden into a jungle; a riot of randomness that offended his eye and troubled his soul. After she left, for the sake of not appearing to go senile, he retained some of the roses and the odd agapanthus but the rest he unmercifully uprooted and replaced them with what he saw as useful raised beds of vegetables and fruit trees in large pots.

Of course he could not eat even a small proportion of the seasonal harvests, so he gave most of it away to initially grateful (and then later inwardly groaning and discretely binning) neighbours. Having used every square inch of arable land he owned (including what had previously been lawn), he had now taken advantage of the street gardening movement to colonise the verge in front of his home. He grew mostly herbs that he imagined passers-by would gratefully snip off to add to their evening meal. He even had a pair of scissors on a string hanging from a street tree. (Geoffrey had failed to observe that most of his neighbours still worked, rarely cooked and never walked anywhere.)

When Mrs. Kafoops at No. 23 was taken into a nursing home, her grandson moved into her house, along with a few of his mates, allegedly with the brief to maintain the house and garden until such time as the house was sold. As vision-impaired Freddie could have predicted, that part of the contract was never met. The parties until dawn started and most of Mrs. K’s armchairs and couches ended up permanently residing on the increasingly weed-infested front and back lawns.

Geoffrey had never been comfortable with conflict and, unlike his neighbours, he hadn’t called the Police and he had refused to sign a petition that was circulating, designed to have the lads removed.

However there came a fateful day when a line was crossed and Geoffrey would never be the same again. One morning he was doing his rounds, inspecting his crops, when he stopped in his tracks. He stood gazing in horror at the carnage in his herb bed on the verge, clearly created by vehicles possessed by those attending the latest booze-and-drug-driven bacchanal at No. 23.

He walked briskly back inside and, as he sipped a cup of chamomile tea to calm his rarely disturbed nerves, he began to coldly map out his dish of revenge, followed by world domination (or at least that part of the world that comprised the street on which he lived). 

Well aware that even the most meticulously planned strategies rarely survive the first exchange with the enemy, he allowed for some flexibility on the sequencing but he knew that success depended on two key factors: contacts and anonymity. He congratulated himself on not having engaged in the mob rule tactics of his neighbours, including their futile attempts to seek firm Police action. That would potentially have left a trail to his door.

Crucial to his plan were his contacts within the building industry and local government. Mysterious deliveries of gravel and sand began appearing in the driveway of No.23, blocking their cars in (or out as the case may be). The Council health inspector discovered an infestation of rats emanating from the premises. A ‘routine’ visit from the building inspector discovered termites were threatening the structural safety of the building. Police responded to an anonymous tip-off from union sources that the body of a victim of a factional dispute was buried in the backyard.

When Mrs. Kafoops’ lawyer was contacted by the representative of a buyer (protected by commercial-in confidence) with a half-way reasonable offer, they hastened to accept (while quietly wondering who this nutter could be). The grandson and his mates vanished from the scene.

Over the next few years, Geoffrey picked off his less desirable neighbours one by one. After the party boys came Cactus Man, with his front garden resembling the Mojave Desert and, shortly afterwards, the young people who believed the perfect garden involved red tanbark and gravel and a ‘classic car’ parked on it while it awaited restoration that never seemed to commence.

With each acquisition, he transformed its garden into the orderly and productive space it should always have been. His shelf-company corporation engaged agents to let the properties to people screened for their green fingers and their lack of desire to split asunder what God (or Geoffrey in this case) had put together. Any transgressions were met with instant eviction, encouraged along by men with many tattoos and few teeth.

A decade from the commencement of his Crusade, Geoffrey felt confident in claiming victory. He had created a miniature planet which was quiet, ordered, productive and civilised. His street verge gardens fed and flavoured the surrounding streets, which had now become highly desirable moons orbiting around his world. 

More than one PhD has been written about this phenomenon and various theories have emerged as to how this had been achieved. Needless to say, none of them ventured down the path of speculating that this may have been the work of a benevolent dictator, drawing on the detritus of social democracy to create a new branch of social hygiene. Meanwhile, Geoffrey just smiled, confident that he would take his secrets to the grave, and returned to his plans for the neighbouring streets.


Biography

Doug Jacquier lives with his wife, Sue, in Yankalilla. He writes stories and poems. He’s a father and grandfather, an avid cook, vegetable gardener and incurable punster, as well as an occasional stand-up comedian. He’s had over 30 jobs (including rock band roadie) and has lived in many places across Australia, including regional and remote communities. Doug has travelled extensively, especially in Asia, the US and UK. He’s a recovering social worker and former not-for-profit CEO and has now retired to the real world. He’s had his work included in several anthologies, including New Poets 21, Indigomania, Ship Street Poetry and On The Premises. He contributes regularly to writing blogs, including Carrot Ranch and Blog Battle. His aim is to surprise, challenge and amuse. 


Now it’s your turn.

Don’t be shy. Say what you are thinking and respond to the others taking part in Story Chat. You have two weeks to come back again and again before the summary post.

” It was not the way that Geoffrey Owen Davies had envisaged his retirement working out. “

Doug Jacquier “Miniature Planet”
  • Why did he choose that path, then?
  • Do you like him better because he chose it, or less?
  • Do you know someone like Geoffrey?
  • Do you know communities like this? Like them? Don’t like them?

He walked briskly back inside and, as he sipped a cup of chamomile tea to calm his rarely disturbed nerves, he began to coldly map out his dish of revenge… 

Doug Jacquier “Miniature Planet”

How do you feel about “map out his dish of revenge?”

what questions do you have about “miniature planet?”

Upcoming

Friday is Lucky #13 in the series of Challenge Host Interviews with Natalie the Explorer, hostess of Weekend Coffee Share. As you read Doug’s story, let me tempt you with a cup of New Orleans coffee and beignets from Natalie. All calories have been removed for your unmitigated enjoyment.

coffee and beignets
 Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, USA  by Natalie the Explorer, hostess of Weekend Coffee Share.

70 replies »

  1. Geoffrey (great name btw) has an intriguing back story. His cayman Island accounts, his access to and use of ‘encouragers’ to get his way leaves me wondering who this ‘grey man’ really is. A career public servant could be a contract killer for the secret services with a little sideline in assassination funding his sociopathic retirement.
    Because I have this questions I’ve ended feeling a little short changed. Is he some sort of horticultural Walter White driven to excess by the callous obliteration of his beloved tarragon?
    Sorry, I seem to have come out whinging. This is a well constructed, character driven piece that fulfils the reader. Will Geoffrey succeed in creating Stepford for vegans? Part of me hopes so… well done Doug

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great analysis, Geoff. I was wondering as I read if you might have been his muse or inspiration??? I puzzled about how I felt about this character. At first glance, a clean organic neighborhood seems ideal, but so did some of the episodes of the Twilight Zone. There was something just a little off and very controlling in making everything perfect. I’m thinking of two episodes in particular. The first one was when every 19-year-old had to go in for plastic surgery to become their ideal of beautiful. One girl did not want to go until she was coerced. The other episode was about parents who had created a robot daughter. They wouldn’t let the girl into the real world. She found out she was a robot and all chaos broke lose. Then I remembered the movie, The Truman Show. https://youtu.be/dlnmQbPGuls

      I wonder what would happen if Geoffrey’s secret got out and people realized they were manipulated?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting story. Geoffrey has done pretty well with his neighbourhood. It sounds like a lot of hard work to me. I’m surprised a lot of the neighbours didn’t leave of their own accord.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This story reminded me of an episode of The X-Files where Mulder and Scully investigated horrible going-ons in a neighbourhood where even one blade of grass was out of place, got something horrible happening to the house owner of the garden said blade of grass was. Even a flickering street light outside a house was seen as not acceptable. I can’t remember the episode’s outcome, other than some kind of monster came out of the floor at night to take away the resident who had not fixed the fault.
    Maybe Geoffrey is that monster from the X-files which has been able to transform itself into a human?

    In any case, the neighbourhood in Doug’s story reminds me of those I often see in American TV shows of the 1950s and ’60s. You mentioned ‘The Twilight Zone’ Marsha. There was an episode that featured the perfect street where the residents all turned on each other. I won’t give away the twist, but Rod Serling said it was one of his favourite episodes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Marsha, Doug, This story did leave me with a Mona Lisa smile. I think I’d be afraid if Geoffrey was my neighbour and I knew of his plans. Was it intentional that his initials are G.O.D.? I looked up Yankalilla. I know a few bloggers from Australia but none of them lives in South Australia. Thank you, Doug, for the story and Marsha for featuring it here. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The initials of Mr G O Davies are interesting. Is this the author’s general impression of career public servants or just this particular one? I have to say that as a career public servant myself (in libraries) I came away with my local government pension after forty years but, sadly, no Cayman Islands accounts.

    With the advent of the party animals, I felt quite sorry for colourless, unimaginitive Geoffrey, content to bring order to his home surroundings with no ambition to upscale – although I did wonder what he planned to do with all that money. Then the worm turned. And who would blame him?

    Why did he choose that path, then?
    Because he could? It was just an expansion of his retirement hobby, wasn’t it? And think of all that rent coming in…

    Do you like him better because he chose it, or less?
    ‘He thrived with the arrival of technology’ and, ultimately, what turns me off him is the lack of humanity in his robotic reactions. Like the toy cars my children had in the eighties, he trundled along the path he was set on until he hit a barrier, at which he turned and trundled along a different path. He could have moved out and escaped the nuisance. His actions had nothing to do with concern for the neighbours he clearly wasn’t close to. Revenge was most important to him, which is never an attractive motive.

    Do you know someone like Geoffrey?
    Sadly, no. With a little human support, I imagine he might be easy to redirect towards one’s own purposes, if only to lean on for a sub.

    Do you know communities like this? Like them? Don’t like them?
    I know housing estates that try to be, but the rule-makers rarely live on them.

    How do you feel about “map out his dish of revenge?”
    Something of a mixed metaphor.

    An interesting character. Perhaps all control freaks would go to such lengths if they had the wherewithal. In spite of the understandable anger that triggers his dictatorship, he doesn’t become more human. Nevertheless, as controller of his own little world, I’m sure he would be, on the whole, a benevolent deity and missed by his subjects on his demise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many thanks for your detailed comments, Cathy. As someone who was once a public servant myself, I certainly don’t see Geoffrey as typical but he is of a type that we call in Australia ‘mandarins’. He was used to being in control of his working environment and he saw no reason to discontinue that practice in his retirement. I know some Geoffreys (but, as far as I know, not quite as extreme) and many housing situations are peopled by those determined to have the environment exactly as they want it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ah, but often their partners manage to keep their more extreme ambitions in check (I had a line manager like that once – dread to think what she was like at home). And, of course, their finances.
        (But we can all dream our revenge…)

        Liked by 2 people

        • I worked for a dentist who was detailed oriented. Demonstrated to me in great detail how to dust cabinets on his days off. I’ve been fortunate that most of my bosses were not quite that controlling.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Try being in an HOA (Home Owner’s Association.) My mother was in one that was very contentious and had lots of control-types in the same organization. YIKES! Geoffrey, would never let his miniature planet be subjected to other views. He might have created CC&Rs, which restrict and necessitate activities that you can do in and with your home. Without enforcement, these can be ignored, but home owners know about the restrictions before they buy and sign the agreement to them as part of the purchase. I can see Geoffrey taking this step without even being monsterly. If you don’t like the rules, you don’t buy the property. If you like them, you’ve got a nice-looking and sounding clonish neighborhood.

        Liked by 1 person

    • WOW, Cathy! You must have been a fabulous librarian. You dive right in and see all the nuances. You are gifted. When I read a book, I let it wash over me and enjoy it – or quit reading it – sometimes struggle through. But rarely do I take the time or have in native insight to catch more than the basic nuances. I love that you not only caught on to the initials, but you completely analyzed Geoffrey’s character and the effects of his actions including that “he would be, on the whole, a benevolent deity and missed by his subjects on his demise.” Thank you for your superior contribution to the chat in STORY CHAT. I always look forward to what you have to say each month.

      Liked by 2 people

      • To be honest, I scan when reading for pleasure. I’m re-reading Discworld at the moment and I might almost be reading them for the first time. It’s only when I’m expected to comment (or when editing…) that I read again and look for clues. I’m sure the impression the story makes is there all along, but having to give it words makes me look deeper.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I probably read my Story Chats 4-6 times before the month is out. Maybe even more when I’m doing the summary post. Definitely once or twice when I’m replying to comments. That’s why I appreciate your amazing involvement in and commitment to this blogging event each month. It is an event that relies totally on others, which is a little scary to step out and do. If no one steps up with a story, or no one comments on the story, then it is all over. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you, Cathy. I hope so too. It might be a good follow up to have a chat with some of the authors as to how you all felt about the process. Did it have ripple effects in your writing, in your relationships with other writers, are there other writing communities that we might tap? What about publication of the stories? Has anyone published their story after the initial exposure on Story Chat? Was there enough exposure to make it worth the while? Was it fun? All kinds of questions.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Marsha and thanks for the invitation to join in the action here. I hope I understand the rules enough to play a round correctly.
    I enjoyed this story as a simple read. I too like to let the story unfold as the author chooses and completely missed the G. O. D. reference, but going back later to reread it, even if I had caught and wondered about it, I would have dismissed it as there were many very flawed-human references that built the character in several fun ways but they would have completely dismantled any notion that Doug was trying to weave God into being this character. That said, watching Geoffrey grow through this story, I could see him at each step descending into a weirder life first as nurtured in his own yard but slowly finding power in quietly crushing those who disturbed his notion of the perfect neighborhood. It was fun.
    I would have loved for some of the story points to have come from Geoffrey rather than the narrator / story teller, but this is a personal preference and technique I use to make my characters more real and compelling.
    Finally, I appreciated many of the comments and discussion above because the final paragraph confused me because I had missed the God clue and felt like I must have missed something. I was sure that was the problem because I was trying to finish the read in time to make a family appointment and didn’t have time then to go back and search for missing pieces.
    All that said, this was a fun, tight read that sent me on a fun train of thought to answer my outstanding questions.
    Nice work Doug! Count me among those who would welcome the chance to read more of your work.
    Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary, thank you kindly for your long and thorough response to the story. I missed the GOD reference at the beginning, too – after several readings. I think Geoffrey may have had a God-complex which doesn’t predicate any perfection or god-like qualities on his part, if my understanding of the mental sickness is correct. I love how this gave you questions. All of the short stories have had that quality about them. Thanks again for stopping by and chatting. You can ignore my last comment.

      Like

  7. Hello again Marsha,
    Here’s the part I’m sure I don’t understand. You very kindly invited me to submit a short story and I think I have one that fits your criteria of less than 1000 words and unpublished (outside of my story blog).
    Here’s the link so you can review and correct my process of submitting it. It looks like I send you the text with a bio, but please clarify.
    https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/teeter-totter-floor-boards/
    Thanks for the fun way to start my day.
    Blessings

    Like

  8. Have to say I have any LOT of sympathy for Geoffrey. Noise from neighbours drives me nuts and I have fantasies of forcing everyone to do it MY way! I think it’s always the case that when we try to create the perfect system it backfires. We need that variety even when we hate it.

    I missed the GOD reference but enjoyed it when it was pointed out. I’m wondering if there’s any way that could be emphasised for those of us who glosses over the deep meanings?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your comment as a fellow glosser, Anne. And I agree, it’s frustrating to have noisy or otherwise irritating neighbors. We had one who let his dogs out and they killed at least one of our cats. We got the dogs on camera when they came on our porch about six inches from our house and chased the cats who were at our table outside. Vince called the sheriff who gave him permission to shoot if they ever came over again. Then he paid them a visit and told them that Vince had permission. They came over again. Vince shot a round to scare them, and the sheriff came back and took them away. Within a week they had new puppies. We moved. The local police chief bought our house. I’d loved to know what’s going on!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. At one point we had terrible across the street and next door neighbors. Up the block there are some feuding neighbors who can’t see eye to eye. And we’ve got some on the creek side who allow those not on the creek side to toss their grass clippings into the creek (illegal).

    We’ve got some odd cats that don’t have homes that some neighbors feed. And then there is the neighbor who let’s his nice cats out to do their ‘business’ in my gardens. When I see ‘that’ kitty in my yard I clap and ‘he’ jumps back into his own yard. When I find ‘his’ presents… I scoop them up and toss them into ‘his’ yard. The same neighbor is good about picking up after his other four legged family so some extra shouldn’t be a problem. And weather it is debate able or not – in our area any pet that leaves your home if you don’t have a fenced in yard is supposed to be on a leash. As long as they stay in their yard I’m good.
    Some think that only dogs need leashes… and most are good about cleaning up after their ‘family’.

    As for gardening… I pretty much rearrange what the bird gift me. And I attempt a small raised garden.
    Once and only once I attempted corn. It got a fungus… I later read that the corn fungus might have had some value. Like birds nest soup. I only eat fungus from the grocery store… mushrooms that I know are safe!

    Marsha, thanks for hosting Doug. And Doug thanks for a fun read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had the same thing happen to corn. I tried it once, too! What a disappointment and a jolt to unwrap it and find what looked like brains instead of corn! YIKES! Thanks for reading the story and leaving such a wonderful comment, Jules.

      Liked by 2 people

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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