Shed

for Peter Fallon 
I bought the shed, for a song, off a neighbour
who'd stopped using it after he paved the garden.
He’d inherited it or got it somewhere he couldn’t remember,
not that I gave a second thought to its origin.
 
It was heavier than it looked so he helped take the roof to pieces;
after an hour prying out each crooked nail and tack
we’d levered off the roof’s grey-green sandpaper stiffness
and rested it, on the drive, like a book stranded on its back.
 
The neighbour, looking at his watch, said, ‘Let’s push’,
and the four walls and floor did move – a little.
We got it in front of the garage, sweating, feeling each
ounce of the previous night, and seeing too late
 
it was too big to go through. We counted the nails but couldn’t,
they were like stars, more the more we looked; ‘Heave it over,’
over the garage and through the back yard, down, he joked
the garden path to its resting place under the magnolia.
 
No joke: we made a ramp of the ladder and slowly inched
this half-tonne crate of pine up out of the road.
The scraped-flat garage roof pitched
under our careful feet. Two euphoric beers later, after we’d lowered
 
it into its corner, we agreed on twenty quid.  Every so often
he still calls in: today he’s selling up and getting out.
He asks about the shed.  I say it’s fine, so half hidden
by the April gusts of leaf and petal you wouldn’t know it’s there.
 
But work makes work: paving it, he volunteers, makes more sense.
I’m on the point of offering him a cup of tea
when, before he can collect himself, he starts to resent
the twenty quid and leaving the shed behind: ‘It was’, he says, ‘almost free’
 
as we look, out the window, at its unlocked door
behind which, we’ll take it, the lawnmower edges grass with rust
a garden fork’s sunk to its handle in the  compost
and a can of petrol evaporates into the cooped-up air.

from The Way In (Gallery, 2015), John McAuliffe 2015, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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