Rodney gazed through the rain streaked window, mentally landscaping his small plot of land. Still deeply saddened by the death of his mother, but mature enough to realise life must go on, Rodney felt sure he’d made the right decisions. It was a small comfort to know he’d have a little more time between shifts to devote to his favourite hobby. Gardening suited his quiet, gentle nature.
Chestnut Grove lay in a secluded area just outside town; Rodney felt confident he’d be happier here. Too many memories lingered at the old house where he’d spent his entire life. From potty to middle-aged paunch, his lovely widowed Mum had been there for him, but now it was time to face the future alone.
Following the aftermath of his loss, Rodney decided change would help him cope best with grief. This new residence and a much needed career move, he hoped, would be the start of a totally different existence. On Monday he’d start his new job and he prayed his Mum would smile down on him with pride from wherever her tender soul now resided. If heaven existed he knew she’d be welcomed with open arms; she’d been a good woman all her life and had always kept his best interests at heart, even if she did have an annoying habit of always knowing what was best for him. Well now, he’d make his own decisions.
Just as he visualised the cabbage patch at the bottom of the garden, his doorbell rang. He’d only moved in a few days ago and was surprised that anyone should call so soon.
A frail, tearful old lady perched on his doorstep, frozen like a small bird on the edge of a precipice. Rodney felt a fresh stab of grief as he observed the similarity to his dear, departed Mum. The same watery blue eyes, the gentle laughter lines and the damp silver hair straggling round her delicate face like a fuzzy halo.
“Can I help you?” he enquired in the soft tone he’d reserved for his mother.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” her quivering voice replied. “I’ve locked myself out and I wondered if you could help.”
“I’ll do my best. Where do you live?”
“Just down the road, number sixteen. All my neighbours are out so I didn’t know what to do.” Rodney smiled; how vulnerable and easily flustered the elderly are.
“Well, don’t stand there trembling, come in where it’s warm. Here, I’ll help you with your shopping trolley.”
“Thank you, you’re very kind. I was just off to the shops when I realised I’d left my key in the house. If you could help me get back in I’d be ever so grateful. There's a bedroom window open if you’ve got a ladder. I’m a bit too fragile for scaling heights these days.”
“Not in a hurry are you? Time for a cuppa?”
“Oh, that would be lovely. I don’t get pampered very much these days. My name’s Gladys by the way.”
Over tea and biscuits Rodney enjoyed hearing Gladys’s little anecdotes and stories from her youth. He was pleased to be able to give a bit of time to someone like his Mum, who was obviously lonely and not very well off.
Rodney fetched his ladder and escorted Gladys to her home. He climbed into the back bedroom of the house, closed the window behind him and let Gladys in through the front door.
“Thanks ever so much Rodney. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”
“No problem, you sure you’ll be alright now?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll just get my key and then I’ll be off to the shops. Thanks again.”
“Anytime,” Rodney replied, squeezing her bony hand; the paper-thin skin so like his Mums. “If you need anything you know where I am. Take care now.”
The following Monday morning, Rodney presented himself at his new workplace. He felt proud of his smart uniform and ready to face his first assignment. His new boss placed a pile of papers onto the desk.
“Okay Rodney, let’s see what you make of this. On Saturday, a house in Chestnut Grove was burgled while the owners were away for the weekend. Here’s a list of what’s been taken. There’s no sign of a forced entrance and no witnesses. All we have to go on is a report of an elderly lady leaving the premises late in the afternoon pulling a heavily-laden shopping trolley. It looks like we may have a pilfering pensioner on our hands.”
The boss seemed highly amused, but Rodney’s voice stuck in his throat and the phrase, ‘Rodney, you plonker’ reverberated around his brain.
It seemed his Mum was right again; she’d always said he was too gullible to be a policeman.