If there's one thing I don't like doing, it's doing things I don't like doing. Washing dishes is something I've never enjoyed, and I don't understand why it has to be done so often. You should be able to go an entire year without washing a mug. Some of the other activities I abhor include dancing at weddings, feigning interest when people tell me about their gardens, and gardening. One of the things I most enjoy doing is receiving money, so when my friend Jeremy offered to pay me five-hundred euros to install a water feature in his aunt's garden, I agreed without the slightest hesitation.
His aunt Ruth had accused him of being lazy and wasteful with his money. He pointed to the fact that he made all of his own clothes, and he suggested that this would contradict both of her claims. Shortly after she had accused him of being a liar as well, his suit blew away in a gentle breeze, and she withdrew her accusation, but she used the poor quality of his clothes as further evidence of his laziness. She told him that if he wanted to prove her wrong he could install a water feature in her garden, and he said he'd be delighted to do the job.
Jeremy's foray into making clothes had nothing to do with a desire to save money. It was due to a dispute with his tailor. He kept asking his tailor if he dyed his hair. After Jeremy had said 'Are you sure you don't dye your hair?' for the twentieth time the tailor lost his cool and called Jeremy a worthless idiot. In the argument that ensued, Jeremy claimed that he could make his own clothes, and that he'd only been using the services of the tailor out of pity for the man.
His laziness and wastefulness with money were as healthy as ever, and it was these qualities that made him pay me to install the water feature while he sat on a deckchair and watched me work.
I insisted on getting the money before I began the job. After he had handed over the cash, I started digging. There was a lot of digging. On such a hot day, sitting on a deckchair looked like a much more enjoyable activity, but you don't get paid for sitting on deckchairs, unless you have the appropriate qualifications. I've applied for jobs that involve sitting on deckchairs, and I've always been told I don't have the appropriate qualifications.
I was working at the back of the house, on a lawn that was surrounded by hedges. When Jeremy heard the sound of a car he jumped up from the deckchair. He was sure it was Ruth. She was supposed to be shopping for curtains that day, but he suspected that she'd come back home to check up on him. He told me to find a hiding place in the garden while he tried to look as if he'd been digging all morning.
There were plenty of places to hide. I chose to sit in the shade behind the coal shed. I thought it was the ideal location to have a rest and to hide in, but after only a minute of steadfast hiding and resting I was found by Imogen, Ruth's daughter. She had just turned twenty-one, but, unlike her siblings, she still hadn't grown out of the belief that there was a butterfly inside her.
When she asked me if I was a thief I responded with a very definite 'no'. She said, "Because I'd be completely supportive of you if you were a thief. I believe that my mother has far too many valuable possessions and she devotes far too much of her energy to making sure they're not stolen. It's unnatural to devote so much of your attention to possessions when you should be enjoying a garden like this. It's only natural that some of her possessions should be stolen. Especially her collection of silver jugs. Some of them need to be forcibly removed from her possession to restore a natural balance. Everything is out of synch because she has too many silver jugs. It would be an act of extraordinary generosity to steal some of them. You'd be doing more for Mother Nature than everything an environmentalist could achieve in a lifetime."
Amongst the thousands of things I've always wanted to do, one of them is to acquire valuables without having to do anything to earn them. Stealing is one way of achieving this, but my conscience always held me back. But when a creature of such purity is telling you that the good course of action is to steal silver jugs, wouldn't it be wrong to choose a course of inaction? She was undoubtedly a higher authority on right and wrong than I was.
She led me to the room where her mother kept her collection. She took out a key and she opened one of the glass cases. "I'll turn my back and count to a hundred," she said. "Take whatever you believe needs to be taken to restore the natural balance. When I turn around again I'll expect to find that you and some silver jugs have departed, and I'm sure I'll feel at peace again."
I knew nothing about natural balances. I chose to take three small jugs because they were easy enough to hide in my clothes. While she was still counting to a hundred, I went back out to the garden to find another hiding place. After I had concealed myself and the jugs at the back of the orchard, I sat down to resume my rest. I dozed off to sleep.
I can't say how long I was asleep for. I was woken by the sound of a click, a sound I was sure I'd heard somewhere before. When I opened my eyes and saw the handcuffs on my hands I thought, "Yes. There's that sound again."
Imogen had applied the handcuffs, and she looked delighted with herself. "Caught you," she said. I congratulated her. I was hoping that this was one of her games, but when she started calling the police I became worried.
"You can't call the police," I said. "You'll only get in trouble. You told me to steal the jugs."
"I asked you to steal them, and you could have said 'no'. Stealing is theft, y' know."
"I'll pay you if you let me go."
"No. I've got too much money as it is... How much?"
"Five-hundred euros," I said. I took the money out of my pocket. Thankfully she felt that she needed another five-hundred euros to restore some sort of cosmic balance. She freed me from the handcuffs, and I returned to my work with a sense of relief, even though my pockets were devoid of silver jugs and cash.
Jeremy found the heat too much in the afternoon, so he sat in the shade, leaving me unsupervised. It wasn't as if he'd been supervising me when he had his eyes closed anyway. After only half an hour of work in the hot sun I had to take a break. I went to find a shady spot to lie down in. While I was searching for an appropriate resting place I saw Jeremy and Imogen in the shade of an oak tree. He gave her a blue feather and she gave him a wad of cash that looked exactly like the money I had given her. I realised what had taken place. Jeremy had promised her the blue feather if she agreed to lure me into taking the jugs just so he could get his money back.
When I accused him of this he staunchly denied it, but he'll staunchly deny anything you accuse him of, no matter how shaky his defence. We got into an argument, and neither of us heard Ruth's arrival. She demanded to know what was going on, and Imogen told her everything. To my surprise, she was delighted with Jeremy. He had shown a frugality he'd never possessed in the past, and she commended him on his resourcefulness.
I heard that familiar sound again as she put one side of the handcuffs on my right wrist and led me away. She took me to where I'd been working on the water feature, and she attached the other side of the cuffs to the deckchair. She told me to sit down and supervise Jeremy as he finished the work. I had a stick to poke him into action every time he took a break. He protested to his aunt. He told her that his laziness was something he should be protecting. His laziness had been the source of his resourcefulness and frugality. Without it his mind would have remained sitting on a deckchair and he'd never have come up with his plan. But Ruth dismissed this argument because if he kept his laziness intact she wouldn't get a water feature.