I am the new Bob. Bob retired about a month ago at sixty. Apparently he had agoraphobia and couldn’t move around too easily, especially to parks other than on Hospital Hill where he’s been for forty years. I mean he was the sole gardener on the Hill. June says that, until recently, he’d never been outside Napier, maybe not further than Taradale, which is about a mile or two away. He lived (and still lives) a couple of hundred yards from the park. She says he had the visor permanently down in his truck so that the world might appear smaller. He’d also filed the edges off the lock on his park shed as he believed sharp edges on everyday-handled objects, such as padlocks, give you cancer. The lock is still on the shed. When I ask Sam about this, Sam says Bob had the knack for putting two totally random ideas together. For example, Bob felt certain that people who visibly resemble one another must be related. “I saw your father in the supermarket yesterday,” he’d say matter-of-factly. “Bobservations,” as Sam put it.

Every now and then Bob would freak out completely and, shaking all over, dive into his bag for his pills (he never went anywhere without his bag). After that, he went home and slept for two days. Over the seven or eight years that Sam worked with him, Bob (according to Sam) slowly began to overcome his phobia, to the point where he could conceive of traveling to Hastings, or even, as Sally told me, to fly one day. “What would the world look like from the air?” he asked Sally from the top of the Hill. “The same as me looking from here to Clive?”

Anyway, I got Bob’s job.

On the other hand, Bob and his wife own four houses, all bought on a gardener’s wage.

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