The dirt was soft, almost welcoming the sharp edge of my spade. That’s the reward for gardening the same patch for generations; the earth stops fighting and starts helping. It was thick and black, and worms appeared with every spadeful turned over, wriggling around before diving back into the earth.

I was actually enjoying the digging. Technically, it was a chore, but it was one of those jobs where you could see the results, feel them in your arms. It was pure, and simple. The earth demanded nothing of me, unlike some people.

Seriously, man. I thought those two were going to be together for, well, at least until the end of the year,” James told me, leaning over the gate to our garden, “Drop things at a natural time for dropping things, going to different cities for uni, so sad, you know?”

I think Hannah had the same idea,” I replied, lifting another clod and flipping it back into its hole, stabbing it with the spade to break it up into loose earth.

So now she’s heartbroken and that dickhead is shagging the new exchange student,” James continued.

Who you wanted to shag yourself, of course.” I wasn’t accusing him, as such. She was an American, from western Wisconsin, and a striking example of what happened when Scandinavian genetics set out to propagate themselves.

Well, yeah, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

I just think it’s a little hypocritical for you to be calling someone else a heartbreaker. You have slept with just about every girl in our year, with neither fear nor favour.”

I didn’t promise any happy-ever-after, either. He’s messing with her feelings, and I don’t like it when people do that to my friends.”

Plus it would leave the American girl partnerless on the most romantic night of the year.”

That has absolutely nothing to do with –“

I didn’t say I wouldn’t find something! Just let me think for a minute.” I figured the best way would be to humiliate him. Beating him up was the simple solution, but though we’d been in a lot of trouble before, neither of us was especially violent. Something deniable, yet devastating… a memory floated up, something my father had told me about a while ago. He wanted me to follow his footsteps as a doctor, so he was making sure I was aware of the basics, and the kind of thing you might have to deal with on the job, which was steadily increasing my resolve to study philosophy.

Get your car, we’re going to the pharmacy.”


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