• Graham Watkins

The Feud

It began on show day when pensioner Arnold Hopkins, a little man with an inflated opinion of himself, won a prize. Arnold who regarded the village show as an amusing nonsense wasn't expecting to win a prize and had only gone to the show because his wife insisted. He had no interest in cake competitions, flower arranging and the very idea of growing three identical runner beans was absurd.

'Well I never,' said his wife. 'You didn't tell me.'

A big red card and a 'First Rosette' had caught her attention. Arnold, who was short sighted, bent down and read the words. Mr A. Hopkins, First Prize, Class Agricultural, Awarded for the Longest Bramble, Nine feet Eleven inches - a New Show Record.

Arnold frowned at his wife. 'I need a drink.'

Drinkers in the beer tent queued to tease Arnold.

'Didn't know you were a bramble expert,' sniggered one.

'You should write to Blackberry Weekly. It might be a world record.'

Arnold blushed. 'It wasn't me,' he cried.

'The Guinness Book of Records should be told. You'll be famous.'

'What's your secret? asked another. 'Is it Baby Bio?'

'No. He sings to them.'

'What, like Lee Marvin?'

'That was trees.'

The more Arnold denied the bramble was his the worse the teasing got until he could stand no more. Arnold pulled himself up to his full five foot two inches, finished his beer with a pompous flourish, scowled at everyone and stomped from the beer tent pursued by laughter and more jibes.

'Are blackberries a profitable crop Arnold?'

'Do you get a government jam subsidy?'

'Well I never,' said Arnold and wondered who had impersonated him to play such a cruel trick. It could only be one man, his neighbour, that nasty clown, Joseph Williams. It had to be Joe.

Joe denied it of course. He smirked and said he'd had nothing to do with such a heinous crime but Arnold was convinced Joe was the villain who'd embarrassed him so. He'd disliked Joe ever since Christmas when the miserable sod had accused him of putting empty wine bottles in Joe's wheelie bin.

Arnold feigned ignorance of the bottles but didn't see what the fuss was about. He'd only put twelve bottles in. So what if the bin man refused to take them. It wasn't a big deal.

Now, after this latest embarrassing episode, Arnold hated Joe. The humiliation of the longest bramble was a declaration of war and Arnold knew he had to retaliate. Honour demanded it.

The following morning Joe discovered a neat pile of brown earth on the bonnet of his car.

'Moles,' called Arnold from across the road. 'Nasty little things. They tunnel through anything these days. I can lend you a trap if you like.'

Joe cursed Arnold. He was particularly proud of his car and polished it religiously every Sunday.

Arnold watched through his kitchen window and smiled as Joe carefully removed the earth with a dustpan and brush, and buffed the paintwork until it gleamed again.

A week later, Arnold noticed a sticker on the back of his car. So that was why passing motorists had honked and waved as he drove, and why some strange woman called him a Trumpian gun-toting redneck in the supermarket car park. But it didn't explain why a man had told him Bean was guilty.

Support President Trump said the sticker in big letters.

Arnold fumed as he scraped it off. Bits of paint were coming away with the glue, damaging his car; Joe had gone too far this time.

Later when Arnold went to fill the car with petrol he found a second even bigger sticker on the back wing proclaiming Mr Bean is innocent.

Arnold had no idea why Mr Bean was innocent or even what crime he'd been accused of but there was one thing he did know - Joe would live to regret the day he vandalised the car.

'You're being childish,' said Arnold's wife and picked up her knitting. 'Two grown men. Really!'

'He started it,' said Arnold.

'Well I never,' said his wife.

'Click clack,' went the needles.

Early next morning Arnold crept across the road and glued a fifty pence coin to the pavement outside Joe's house. He knew Joe always went to the shop and bought a newspaper before breakfast. At eight o'clock Joe emerged and walked down the drive. He stopped, stretched his arms and, as he did so, Arnold grabbed his phone and started to film. This was going to look good on Facebook. Joe would be a laughing stock.

But, instead of bending down and trying to pick up the coin, Joe waved casually at Arnold, made a rude sign, pointed at the money, shrugged and sauntered off along the pavement.

Disappointed he'd been rumbled, Arnold looked for another way to get his revenge and decided it had to be a more extreme reply, a final act to settle the matter; a bomb - yes that was the answer. Arnold would send Joe a bomb but there was a problem. How could he send a bomb without getting found out? Plus there was something else that made his idea improbable. Arnold didn't know how to make a bomb.

The answer came to Arnold as he was peeling potatoes. He'd put out a contract. Arnold had seen how it was done in gangster film. A hit they called it. Arnold didn't know if any hit men lived locally and, even if one did, using him or her - lady hit men seemed more popular these days - would be very risky. Arnold believed in supporting local businesses but not this time. Not when it involved explosives. No. The hit man needed to come from somewhere else, from as far away as possible. America seemed to be a good place to start looking because, as Arnold reasoned, lots of gangsters lived in America and it should be easy to find one. That was what Google was for; finding things and that is where he looked.

Of course sending Joe a real bomb was out of the question. Arnold didn't want to kill or actually hurt Joe and Arnold knew it was against the law to post letter bombs unless it was a bomb that would never explode.

Twenty dollars, said the website, and the bomb will be delivered anonymously. Your victim will never know you ordered the hit.

It was excellent value, an offer, as Don Corelone might have said, Arnold couldn't refuse. Arnold paid the twenty dollars by credit card completed his details, added the name of the target and the delivery address. As he selected United Kingdom from the drop down box a pop up window opened. United Kingdom delivery by air mail is ten dollars extra. To complete your order click here.

'What a cheek,' muttered Arnold and clicked.

Another pop up opened, Special offer. For just five dollars your bomb will be signed for on delivery by the target. You're guaranteed satisfaction the contract is closed. To complete your order click here.

'Closed?' said Arnold and clicked, no thanks.

Do you have other targets? asked the website. Save money. Sign up for our multi blast, mega bomb, super deal.

No, clicked Arnold.

Are you sure? This is a one in a lifetime explosive offer.

'YES,' shouted Arnold and clicked.

Recommend a friend and earn five dollars.

'NO. I don't want to,' shouted Arnold and clicked.

Order completed, said the website. A confirmation email is on its way. Please check your spam folder. Thank you for ordering from Bomb by Post.

Days later the postman pushed a padded envelope through Joe's letterbox. It was a tight fit and got stuck in the door. Joe pulled it out, read his name, saw the American postmark and wondered why someone he didn't know in North Carolina had sent him a strange lumpy letter. Joe took the letter into the living room, picked up a paperknife and inserted it.

Suddenly, the letter disintegrated, with a pop, covering the entire room in a fine layer of glitter dust.

Glitter was everywhere, in the curtains, the carpet, down the back of the settee, in his crystal glass cabinet, in Joe's hair and even in the turn-ups of his trousers. It took Joe days to clear up the mess.

As he vacuumed behind the television he found scraps of envelope, a spring and a plastic card with writing on it. Do you have an enemy? it asked. Bomb by Post is what you need. We have a great selection, glitter, stink, paint, klaxon... Check out our website at....

Joe logged on, selected a klaxon, perma stink combination - an ear busting blast followed by a foul eggy smell guaranteed to linger for months - on special offer and pressed buy.

Do you have other targets? asked the website. Save money. Sign up for our multi blast, mega bomb, super deal.

No, clicked Joe.

Are you sure? This is a one in a lifetime explosive offer.

Joe clicked complete order.

Recommend a friend and earn five dollars.

'No thank you,' said Joe and clicked send.

Order completed, said the website. A confirmation email is on its way. Please check your spam folder. Thank you for ordering from Bomb by Post.

Arnold never received Joe's stink bomb. It triggered in the hold of a Boeing 747 at thirty thousand feet. Economy class passengers at the back of the plane heard a strange distant hooter and were the first to notice the rancid smell. It spread slowly forward, through the

plane, asphyxiating passengers. Opening air vents made things worse, blasting foul air into the cabin. There was, no relief; no windows to open, nowhere to hide. By the time it reached the first class cabin oxygen masks had been deployed. The captain diverted and made an emergency landing in Greenland. Passengers, scrambling to get away from the stench, evacuated down escape-slides. They stood on the tarmac, eyes watering, coughing and gasping in the cold arctic air.

Because it was never delivered Joe heard nothing from Arnold about the stink bomb. 'I've had the last laugh,' he chuckled to himself. 'Taught the old codger a lesson he won't forget.'

Which is exactly what Arnold thought, when he heard no more from Joe. Although the two men never spoke of it, the feud was over.