LISP 2022 Flash Fiction Finalist 'Tinnitus' by Ali J Prince
Raymond cut pieces of moss using nail scissors and fitted them into the ice-cream box. A pond was the small round mirror his wife had prised from a compact, it smelled of stale, perfumed powder.
Twigs and lollipop sticks formed the first fence. They have to be the right kinds of twigs; too supple and you have willowy vines, too frail, and they risk snapping.
The next bit was controversial - cat litter for a path. Some say this is cheating because a path should be made from stones painstakingly picked for their uniformity. But the litter was already in the cupboard under the sink. He was just utilising his resources, and it was redundant since the cat died. His wife had always bought the fine grain, which was elegant. Larger grits could look like a school car park.
Boxwood, lamb’s ear and false cypress were favourites, and his signature piece was a washing line. Swings could over-egg the pudding. Not that he wasn’t experimental. He’d once made a miniature garden within a miniature garden and deliberately broken one of the four reproduction antique ceramic tile walls. He suspected foul play when awarded third place but avenged himself the following year with a reconstruction of The Potters Field - Judas Tree and noose included. Perhaps they just weren’t ready for Penjing veritas in New Malden.
He hummed and tapped his skull. A trick an ENT specialist taught him. She’d said he was lucky - most people don’t know what they’re distracting themselves from.
Later, standing on a motorway bridge, traffic competed with the dreadful echo of sharp inner-ear interference, and he wondered: if he was distracting himself from tinnitus, what was the tinnitus distracting him from?
It was rush hour. His ears still rang. Stale perfumed powder still lined his nostrils.